Thursday, January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018--Ab-Normalizing

A number of friends have been accusing me of "normalizing" Donald Trump and thereby enhancing his legitimacy both as a person and president. By doing this, they say, I am tacitly accepting his election.

Though I am not quite sure I understand all that they mean, I do know they are angry with me because they feel I am treating him as if he were a normal person, rather than the embodiment of evil. That by doing so I am elevating his status as a human being and thereby contributing to enhancing his power. They would rather me consider him abnormal, an aberration not worthy of serious regard much less acknowledging his humanity.

I am sure there is some truth in these friends' disappointment in me.

But I also know there is significant danger in not acknowledging  Donald Trump's connection to the human race. To not have to deal with who he in all his maddening complexity. Dehumanizing him makes it easier to reject his very being. To be able to simply write him off. And thus delegitimatize him as president and as a human being in ways similar to how he attempted to denigrate Barak Obama.

I think we know enough about human nature to agree that few of us live in a pure state. We are all a mix of contradictions that coexist within us. Most of us, under the right conditions, are capable of acts of self-sacrifice as well as unspeakable violence. There is a struggle within us, Lincoln noted, between "the better angels of our nature" and the dark forces that pull us in the opposite direction

Aeschylus and Shakespeare would be eager to chime in. 

To bring us to a better place, to move beyond dealing in caricatures, we would do well to resist inappropriate normalizing while equally avoiding the impulse to ab-normalize. To impute evil motives to those with whom we disagree and against whom we struggle. To do the opposite of normalization.  

In the current political climate, this will require setting aside some of our anger and fear so we can better understand, with all their own human contradictions, why those who support of Donald Trump are so fervent. 

By now many of my friends feel they understand enough. Even too much. But to them it's simple--he and his supporters are racists and misogynists. Ask no more. Say no more.

I get that but think there is more to consider, including perhaps things about which we can find ways to talk. This is urgent as our fate as a democracy may depend on being able to do that.

Lincoln's First Inauguration 

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