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The Politics of Cruelty

Our Enlightenment Legacy On the Ropes

The element in this story that made me think of McCoy’s book on US torture is the part where President Trump threw up his stubby hands and began insisting over and over that it was “the Democrats’ law” that made him do what he did. This is a borrowing of the idea of self-inflicted pain from the realm of torture. “The Democrat Party made me do it.” The president’s logic (if one can call it that) was that, since the Democrats are opposed to funding his boondoggle border wall, they are somehow responsible for whatever current law he’s enforcing to lock up and abuse (torture?) families fleeing violence in Central America. As with much of Donald Trump’s logic, there’s just a glimmer of something in it that, as you listen to the words, makes you doubt what your lying eyes are seeing. Those with good critical thinking skills get over this moment; while Trump’s base revel in it and hoot for more. “Punch him in the face!”

There’s two things going on, here, that are important: One, there’s the ridiculous logic that suggests Democrats are responsible for Trump’s cruel decisions. And, two, there’s the long American tradition of selective enforcement. There are so many laws on the books, every one of them becomes susceptible to selective enforcement. In this case, the elite, autocratic real-estate tycoon who somehow became president of the United States is using the laws like a “hammer-blow” (McCoy’s term) against emigrating Central Americans, holding them to the letter of the law in one area and ignoring the law and pleas for compassion in another.

Meanwhile, this same president is using his great bully pulpit to facilitate selective enforcement for himself and his cronies-in-crime. That is, he’s employing Rudy Giuliani to argue the case on TV for selectively dropping enforcement for crimes of collusion, obstruction of justice, money laundering etc. Giuliani’s thrust is to present corruption as Exhibit A in a cultural trial. During the 2016 campaign, Trump told us he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it. He’s now working the amoral Giuliani to establish what Richard Nixon told David Frost: “If the president does it, it’s not against the law.” In other words, corruption is so prevalent in our political culture, it’s unfair to nail the president for it.

This president with very real roots in world-class corruption is playing the selective enforcement game to the max. Go easy on power and wealth and go hard against the weak and powerless. Republicans in Congress, of course, are the enablers. This plays out immorally when Trump uses the politics of cruelty to enforce laws against poor, powerless people fleeing violence in Central America. I spent a lot of time in Central America in the 80s and 90s, and I’ve read a fair bit. As many know, the United States had a huge stake in creating the mess we’re now dealing with on the border.



story | by Dr. Radut