June 26, 2017
Stephen Colbert has done us the service of distinguishing between truthiness and Trumpiness. Truthiness depends on some vague semblance to truth, whereas Trumpiness has completely cut loose from any concept of truth. For Trumpy people, what Trump says is to be celebrated, even if it completely contradicts what he said a few hours earlier, which is also to be celebrated. Truth or falsehood are of no consequence. What is of consequence is what Trump says.
This development, which is the key occurrence of our time, makes it almost impossible to forget Hannah Arendt’s description of an essential element of totalitarianism: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between the true and the false no longer exists.”
Increasing numbers of my friends and acquaintances are convinced that the United States is headed towards thorough degradation, and that the question is no longer whether we have become a bad country, but, rather, how bad we will become. I don’t suppose anybody can answer that for sure but what does seem beyond doubt is that we’re in for a thorough dunking in the toilet. How we might climb out and clean ourselves up is a question everyone should be asking.
We used to think that electoral politics always offered us a path towards virtue. But as the nature of the electorate has shifted towards Trumpiness, the ballot box seems less and less an avenue for returning us to health. It’s going to take something more, something probably more radical. To get a majority of the people, at the moment, to give enough attention to our political situation to make intelligent choices appears next to impossible.
I wish it weren’t so, and I still wanly hope it’s not. Yet I think those who can should be considering more vigorous measures, which always insist, as a basic feature of our virtue, on keeping away from violence.
©John R. Turner
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