There is a poignant article from The Atlantic entitled, “The Cruelty is the Point- President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/the-cruelty-is-the-point/572104/. 10/3/2018. Adam Serwer. The Atlantic.
I felt moved to express how this writing gave me a new awareness of what defines us as humans. When I looked up a lynching photo in Indiana in 1930 the author referred to I was more jarred from the indifference and smirky expressions of the spectators than the lifeless bodies of the doomed. In fact, if the hanging bodies were removed from the photos, it would appear as a large group of white people were having a good time at an amusement park.
Looking deeper, I imagined if I were in the photo. I imagined the peer pressure of camaraderie and wondered if I would have lifted even a finger to prevent this act of horror. Zooming in on my face, would I have shown a detectable amount of disgust or would there be a trace of joy in my smile that justice was served?
A point of the Atlantic article was to show how the Trump administration is filled with the same type of cruelty. Most would agree that separating a child from their mother without any future plan to reunite them is cruel. The animated mocking of a disabled person is cruel. The public humiliation of a woman who has testified of sexual molestation is cruel.
If humans are similar to every other creature that has walked upon the earth, why are we so different in that we can express joy in the suffering of our same species?
In the research of his book, “Fear”, author Bob Woodward recently said the following about Donald Trump in an interview with Bill Mayer.
“It is part of his being to get power over people—to crush them, to demean them,” and later said, “When I learned that I got a chill.”
The bigger issue is that we cannot point solely at our elected leader for the ills of society. We must first look at ourselves. After all, it is not Donald Trump that chants, “Lock her up!” at his rallies. This is chanted by humans who share our dna. It is also not the “uproarious laughter” of Donald Trump or Brett Kavanaugh that sexual assault victim Christine Blasey Ford remembers that is important. It is more important that there were recorded giggles of amusement by officers who responded to the cries of children being separated from their parents at our southern border. These officers also share our dna.
There is a quote that has been twisted over the years but the end result is the same- Good friends will help you bury a body, but great friends will bring their own shovel and not ask any questions.
As humans, is this who we are? However small, is there a speck of cruelty in all of us in which we derive group pleasure from another’s misfortune? If this is true we must recognize this innate demon, slay it, and begin conducting our lives in the way we would want our kids and grandkids to live.
Wherever it comes from, we may have to agree that even a trace amount of cruelty slumbers quietly in all of us. If our joy of watching others suffer ever supersedes our joy of helping, healing, and encouraging, we may have to accept the fact that our planet will flourish just fine, but us humans will destroy ourselves.