“If you’ve been following me for some time now, you’ve likely noticed the absence of optimism & hope. While my wife is at work, and my son is in school, I just cry. I’m trying to hide it from them, but they know. I just want to leave this country before I’m destroyed.” — Twitter user
If you think statements like this are unusual, I can assure you they are not.
Several days ago, Jussie Smollet, “Empire” actor, singer, director, and photographer, was brutally attacked by a couple of Trump supporters wearing MAGA hats (the new KKK hood). The assailants tied a rope around the man’s neck, yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, and poured bleach on him. As the assailants left, they yelled “It’s MAGA country now.” Smollet’s injuries were severe enough to require hospitalization. This was a hate crime and most likely an attempted lynching. Trump is doing everything he can to turn back the clock to the Jim Crow days, and we are almost there.
Indeed, Trump emboldens such violent attacks because of his hateful, racist, misogynistic, and neofascist rhetoric, especially at his rallies. His hostile and bullying bluster contains obvious “dogwhistles” to his supporters, letting them know that attacking or bullying people who are different than they are is just fine in Trump’s America.
Not long before the Smollet attack, four good samaritans left food and water near the Mexican border for tired, hungry migrants (who are almost all women and children, not the caravans of violent MS-13 gang members and drug dealers Trump keeps screaming about). Police arrested the kindhearted samaritans, and charged all four of them with misdemeanors! Why misdemeanors? For showing empathy? That’s insane.
Meanwhile, homegrown terrorists, neo-Nazis, and high school racists are invited to the White House, are interviewed on TV, and sometimes treated like heroes–or at least their actions are dismissed as “boys will be boys” or “well, some of them are very fine people.”
A Trump supporting politician named Greg Gianforte body slammed a reporter last year for asking him questions. He was held up as a hero for attacking a journalist, and even won his state election, while the injured reporter was vilified as an “enemy of the people.” (Gianforte later apologized).
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who very believably and painfully described the way she had been sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, was told she was lying by Fox News pundits and Trump’s sycophants. She was then mocked cruelly by Trump himself at one of his rallies (after Ford said the most painful part of the assault had been the way Kavanaugh and his friends mocked her — I’m sure this was not a coincidence). Ford’s testimony was dismissed as a bunch of lies, while Kavanaugh, clearly temperamentally unsuited to serve on the Supreme Court, was painted by Trump and the GOP as some sort of misunderstood victim who was being unfairly attacked by lying, spiteful women who just wanted their 15 minutes of fame. He now sits on the Supreme Court.
Central American children and their parents escaping certain death in their home countries, instead of being instructed in how to apply for asylum (these families are showing up legally at ports of entry) are being caged and forcibly separated from each other by ICE and border patrol agents, then tossed into concentration camps with only a foil blanket for warmth and inadequate food and medical care. Two children have died in these camps. Unbelievably, some evangelical Republicans are actually calling these cruel actions “biblical.” Meanwhile, Democrats and others wanting to see the children reunited with their families and treated with kindness and empathy are dismissed as misguided or even evil. We are gaslighted and told we just want “open borders,” but that too is a lie.
In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there is a scene where one of the girls is severely punished and returns with her feet bleeding and barely able to walk. The other girls feel empathy for her, but don’t dare show it, because if they do, they too will be punished. The same thing was also practiced in the migrant camps at the border, where siblings and other children were ordered not to hold or comfort each other, even after having been separated from their parents. I don’t know whether or not they were punished if they broke the rules, but the fact such a rule exists is concerning. It’s institutionalized cruelty.
There’s a reason for this besides just being cruel. It’s an effective way populations can be controlled. If you don’t allow people to comfort or show empathy to each other, they won’t rise up or try to overthrow their oppressors. Hitler and other dictators were known for doing this. It’s also a way to fast track the destruction of human beings. Don’t allow them any hope or comfort. It’s an effective form of emotional torture.
Meanwhile, cruelty is rewarded and applauded. At the very least, it seems to be tolerated a lot more than it used to be.
Our values have been turned inside and twisted beyond recognition by a group of men (and a few women) whose only goal is absolute power. Evil is now good, and good is evil. Lies are the truth, and the truth is fake news. Kindness and empathy are now bad and diabolical, cruelty and violence are godly and good. Truthtellers are silenced, and liars are given a voice.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. — George Orwell (1984)
The people having the hardest time under the Trump regime aren’t necessarily the poor (as difficult or even impossible as their lives are), but people with high sensitivity, high empathy, high creativity, and people who are critical, independent thinkers. This regime is threatened by all those things, just as narcissistic parents are threatened and scapegoat the most sensitive, empathetic child or the child who speaks the truth and exposes the family’s dark secrets.
I have heard many people say that since Trump became president, they feel constantly on edge, suicidal, depressed, cry every day, have lost interest in things that once interested them, feel like they can no longer cope, want to leave the country, are constantly afraid, feel constantly angry, isolate from others, feel sick all the time, or feel dead and numb inside. These are all indications of PTSD and C-PTSD. Trump and his sociopathic, cruel regime has triggered or retriggered these disorders in many (if not most) Americans, but it’s the sensitive, empathic, and creative, artistic types of people who are suffering the most, and are least able to thrive under an oppressive, authoritarian regime. At the same time, these are the same people who are most likely to be the truthtellers and whistleblowers we need so badly right now.
What the Trump GOP is doing is institutionalized soul murder.