Growing up in Northeast Ohio in the 1960s and 70s, one thing my mother always taught me was to be polite. Yes, the golden rule is what many call the practice: Treat others as you wish to be treated. I’ve tried my level best to adhere to that mindset my entire life. Maybe I’ve fallen short here and there, but when I depart this earth at some point, I’ll have no regrets that I fulfilled my mom’s hope for her youngest son.
I’m beginning to wonder if the golden rule is slowly slipping away from us as a society. We don’t seem to care for our fellow human beings as we should. When you think about it, we’re not on this earth for a very long time. Why wouldn’t we at least make an honest effort to make it a more hospitable and friendly place?
When it comes to the modern-day iteration of the Republican Party, it seems as though the golden rule is being replaced with: I’m going to be as awful as I can to others because it makes liberals and people of color mad. I think of the 1991 film, Guilty by Suspicion, starring Robert De Niro, where his character is testifying before congress and asks the pressing question: “Don’t you have an ounce of decency?” Sadly, the GOP of today does not.
This past week showed us how bad things are getting these days. One of the most admired Americans of his generation, Colin Powell, passed away from complications associated with COVID-19. Most of the reporting concerning Powell’s legacy has been positive, although, and rightly so, his performance during the run-up to the first Iraq War has been harshly critiqued. Yes, it hurt his legacy. But it doesn’t take away from his lifelong dedication to serving America in multiple capacities.
You’d think a living ex-president would be effusive to praise him for that service and offer diplomatically and professional condolences. However, you would be sadly mistaken because one of the ex-presidents does not abide by such minimal standards. He’s not up to the task, nor does anyone even expect him to be.
The King of Crass, or, more commonly referred to as the disgraced 45th president, weighed in on Powell’s death with his usual smart-ass and despicable rhetoric, calling Powell a RINO (Republican in name only), berating him for his Iraq War mistake, and deriding the media for treating him so “beautifully.” He then ended his “tribute” by whining that he hoped the media would treat him the same way when he’s gone.
Of course, it’s nothing new. He acted the same when John McCain, John Lewis, and long-time Congressman John Dingell passed away. There’s something about people who honorably served their country that seems to get under the skin of the 45th. Perhaps it’s because he, himself, did not?
But that aside, I’m sure his followers loved every minute of it. That’s right, get them, President Trump! Tell them all like it is! Many aspiring and current GOP politicians simply follow suit.
J.D Vance, who’s running for the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat in Ohio, showed his true colors by making an off-handed joke about actor Alec Baldwin on Twitter, not even 24 hours since the horrific gun accident on the set of a movie Baldwin was filming. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who’s also running for the Senate seat, responded on Twitter in kind: “Someone died, you asshole.”
Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert also leveled a low-life crack at Baldwin a mere few hours after the shooting because, well, she’s Lauren Boebert. That’s what she and fellow buddies in Congress Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz do because they’re so damn good at it.
There are other examples, of course. A recent chant associated with the MAGA crowd surrounds an incident at a NASCAR event where a driver named Brandon Brown was being interviewed by a female reporter, who alluded to the “Let’s go Brandon” cheer she was hearing behind them. Only, it wasn’t “Let’s go Brandon.” The crowd was actually saying, “F-Joe Biden.” Classy, eh?
The incident has become a calling card for the Trump crowd, as they’re all saying “Let’s go Brandon” now, whether at football games or on social media. It’s also being printed on T-shirts. Florida Republican Congressman Bill Posey even got into the act by repeating the disgusting “Brandon” euphemism at the end of one of his floor speeches. Senator Ted Cruz, never losing the opportunity to be a jerk, also praised the chant.
The once-proud political party that used to call itself “the family values” party has all but left the United States of America. In its place is a vile and disgraceful group that seeks to destroy anything or anyone who might be associated with the left. If you’re on the left, you must be the enemy. You must be an un-American traitor if you vote for Democrats, especially if you didn’t vote for Trump.
The four years of carnage left by the former president merely accelerated the rapid decline of our social norms and etiquette, which had been steadily eroding for years anyway. But it was his rudeness, his inability to never rise to the moment when America needed decency, that leaves us in our current predicament.
Now, with statehouses across the country suppressing the vote at lightning speed and setting in motion a future where any election victory can be overturned at will, we find ourselves sitting on the precipice of a democracy that may not be able to survive. If indeed democracy is destroyed, what will take over will resemble what the Taliban seeks for Afghanistan.
Oh, it may not be quite as vile or violent. Still, it most certainly will relegate minorities and especially immigrants, to permanent second-class citizens that harken back to the days of slavery. Does that sound too harsh? Maybe so.
But these people in power now, those who call themselves Republicans, are a hateful group. They do not like the non-white among us, and Trump bullhorns have long replaced the dog whistles. They simply don’t think they need to hide it anymore. If a sitting president can be a hateful SOB, why the hell can’t they be as well?
Being an awful and cruel person has now become somewhat of a prerequisite for membership in the GOP. Now, of course, it’s not all Republicans. There are still some decent ones out there, even a few in congress. Liz Cheney should be commended for sticking up for the principles of democracy, as should her lone Republican counterpart on the January 6 Committee, Adam Kinzinger. They’re as close to true Republicans, at least those who existed decades ago, as you can get these days.
Unfortunately, though, they’re nothing more than a distant whisper in the wilderness. Cheney, Kinzinger, and a few others aren’t cruel or awful enough to suit the MAGA folks and surely are getting the usual death threats and insults we see promulgating in America every day. From local school boards to health care professionals, nobody is exempt from the onslaught of ridicule, violent outbursts, and outright hatred we see now.
I’m not so sure what changes the current troubling trajectory we’re on. Perhaps it’s too late. The old saying that the genie is out of the bottle probably rings true in this regard. Maybe an indictment or two against the former president might begin to whittle away at the Svengali-like hold he has on millions of folks in America.
Or, it might make them even more awful and radicalized. It sounds like we’re in a lose-lose proposition if you ask me.