The most salient characteristics of Donald Trump can be summarized using only four of the 26 letters of the English language. He is evil and he is vile.
This occurred to me some time ago, but life intrudes and I put off writing about this troubling insight until now. But when Trump referred yesterday to a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia as an excuse not to confront the Saudis about their suspected murder of a Washington Post journalist … that, as they say, was a bridge too far.
The alleged arms deal is fake news and some speculate that Trump’s real concern is his own financial ties to the Saudis, but that isn’t the issue here.
The issue is the utter evil of the man who holds the position once referred to as “the leader of the free world.” The word “leader” no longer applies. The current occupant of the oval office is not a leader. He has no moral compass. He can bully, prevaricate, insult, create havoc, visit violence on those who seek refuge, and refuse to honor the most basic norms of governance, but he can “lead” only those who are willing accomplices in his madness.
Yesterday in that office, with the fate of reporter Jamal Kashoggi still unknown and thousands of Floridians left homeless by Hurricane Michael, Trump spent his time entertaining a foul-mouthed rapper--or perhaps, more accurately, letting the rapper entertain him with a rambling rant that sounded like Trump had been his speech coach.
The scene was a vile deflection from the life and death issues of the day, about which Trump couldn’t have been less interested.
His lack of empathy is legend. In a normal person, the ability to feel empathy, to imagine and identify with another, increases as one gains experience in the world. But we all started out as children; it’s the one universal experience we know everyone has had. Who among us can’t understand and care about the fear and confusion of a child ripped from parents, locked in a cage with strangers, moved from place to place by grown-ups whose language he or she can’t understand? Whether a parent or not, who can fail to understand the anxiety, helplessness, frustration and anger of the parents of that child?
As I prepared to write this piece, I looked up the definitions of the two words we started with—vile and evil. There was some similarity in the definitions, but I think of them as distinctly different. Evil means malevolent, cruel, corrupt, sinister, unconstrained by a concern for others. Evil is often used to describe not only a person, but a specific act. Vile, on the other hand often describes not only an act, but the condition, either literally or figuratively, of the actor: foul, nasty, disgusting, fetid, stinking.
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Thoughts for Our Time
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future.”