Impunity is Soulless*

Trump has lived a life without consequences, without accountability, slathered in privilege and autarchy. We are supposed to be a nation governed by the rule of law in which everyone agrees that no person receives privilege of exemption, where acts of impunity are shamed and then prosecuted. But why we have learned from Trump is that Republicans don’t care about any of those values or concerns. He’s “telling it like it is” by breaking norms and setting new precedents. They don’t even seem to care that they have awoken the Balrog from the depths of darkness, the genie is out of the bottle, the toothpaste outta’ the tube—there may be no going back, the path ahead only more abuse, more impunity and disregard for decency and law.

Heather Cox Richardson here quotes Norm Ornstein who works for the conservative American Heritage Institute, which has never been a friend to progress and rarely indulged in honesty when it comes to Republicans abuse of power (or anything else):
“People have been fired for sending flyers around for a municipal election that was partisan,” Ornstein says. “Every time Kellyanne Conway in her official capacity made a statement that was partisan, it was a violation of the Hatch Act. Every cabinet member, every border patrol member, every federal employee participating in the activities at the White House tonight violated the Hatch Act. This was the most blatant abuse of power and legal authority for partisan purposes by far than anything we have ever seen by a president or an executive branch.” Violations of the Hatch Act are supposed to result in removal from office, but punishment for the numerous violations in this administration has been minimal.”

Machiavelli ain’t in it, not even the more radical claims to the exercise of monocratic rule that Kautilya legitimizes in the name of security and order. What is before us is the choice between law and lawlessness, some form of accountability and outright tyranny. Who in the world is going to stop a Trump who wins a second term? Do Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley really believe they can manage this mad king or is it that they aspire to be his heir in his own image? We are looking down the barrel of democracy and the gun is, as it always is in America, easily available, locked, loaded, and ready to be used with…impunity.

With great power comes great responsibility but America’s toxic privilege, rooted in the hypocrisy, duplicity, and impunity of its origins in white supremacy, cares only for power, privilege, wealth, and domination. “Individuality” is now liberty defined as selfish disregard fora anything but one’s own needs and wants. Freedom is no longer shared commitment to each other but was it ever?

When Reagan was elected I thought we could still recover, push the oleaginous charlatan evangelists to the periphery and make a way forward despite them. Like Falwell, Jr. we know who they really are even without the Pool Boy’s tell all. Hubris and hypocrisy has its get outta jail free card in the phony soporifics of repentance and absolution—so he’ll be back, they all are so long as there’s a dime to steal and a sucker to be duped. Fox knows this every single hour of its “news” programming. That the likes of Hannity, Carlson, and Ingrahm have their loyal audience reveals in plain sight that America’s white nationalism is as much a kleptocracy of greed and stupidity as it is racism.

That the majority will disagree—Biden will win the popular vote by perhaps 5 million or more, more than Obama had defeating Romney—well, this is what gives me even a shard of hope. But that I’m neither hopeful nor hopeless means that I am still not wholly resigned. Only a Trump re-election could accomplish that.

King, Lewis, Obama, and I am sure Biden all believe that our day will indeed come, that we will arrive at the mountaintop, that America will fulfill its promise. I am wholly unconvinced, which disqualifies me from any public office, perhaps even from patriotism itself. What I hope is just that on November 4th or whenever the votes are finished being fairly counted, there is even the shard of an America worth saving at all. I resist the cynical in favor of the ordinary strife that comes with candor. This battle for America’s soul will reveal if we ever had any at all. 

*with apologies and exception to our Buddhist no-soul pals, of course, I demur from polemics here to invoke Tubman, Douglass, Truth, Parks, and James Brown for a definition of soulfulness.

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