If what’s unfolding in our culture now is not seen as a dire last minute warning, then perhaps it is too late. There is an extreme wantonness to all the gun violence, Supreme Court excess and political tyranny now being exposed at the highest levels of our tattered democracy. It is out of control.
Many of the best in our country are at this moment gripped by despair. Is it the relentless mass shootings? Is it the corruption of the Supreme Court which has turned into a shameless arm of right wing political cunning? Is it the discoveries that the nation was captivated for the last six years by a crook in its highest office having done damage that we don’t know how long it will take, if ever, to undo?
Where do we even begin to set things straight? I don’t have a blithe answer at all. The stain is on all of us, not just our leaders as evil as some of them clearly have been.
Though the steady hand of justice must work its way on those guilty of exploiting our national weaknesses for the commission of high crimes, this current woe can only be redressed with a revived national purpose striking the hearts of the majority of well-meaning Americans.
Trump and his henchmen were driven by a zeal to weaken such moral resolve in our population, to bully their way with appeals to corrupt personal ways, to undermine core values of honesty and self-dignity. Lying, cheating and divisiveness were their methods, and to spread them among the population as if we’re all supposed to buy into this moral rot.
It begs the question that the only way out of this is through a form of personal moral revival, and we’ve seen some of the most courageous examples in the January 6 committee’s witnesses that should be models for all of us.
This includes members of the committee itself, who’ve stood up to a blizzard of threats and attacks, not the least of whom has been Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of only two Republicans on the committee who will be long, long remembered for their moral backbones. Speaking at a campaign event in Wyoming last week, Cheney uttered the words of personal and moral commitment that transcend partisan politics and challenge all of us as citizens. She said, in comments posted on Twitter by Bill Kristol, this:
“I will never put party above my duty to the country. I will never put party above my duty to the Constitution. I swore an oath under God and I will abide by that oath. I won’t say something that I know is wrong simply to earn the votes of people, to earn political support…”
“So, I’m asking for your vote and I’m asking you to understand that I will never violate my oath of office. And if you’re looking for somebody who will, then you need to vote for somebody else on this stage because I won’t. I will always put my oath first.”
What we are experiencing by this and other signs of a grass roots moral renewal are signs of just the kind of sorely needed balm that can heal this grand experiment in democracy. It is not an issue of partisan politics, at all. It is what has been the underpinning of our nation’s success from the beginning.
The moral rot that Trumpism represents perhaps has always been around, too, in figures like Aaron Burr and the Southern pro-slavery seccessionists who caused the loss of over a half million lives on our own soil in an evil attempt to perpetuate their grossly false slavery-based system as an unsustainable stain on out democracy. But it was not until the 1960s, with the stealth invasion of moral and philosophical nihilism into a generation of young minds that it began this current episode causing Trump.
This perversity began to catch on among charlatans of the so-called Religious Right, who were already peddling a putrid form of heresy (from the Christian perspective) of snake oil salvation. Turning these people into political pawns began happening in the late 1970s. It is our hope that the latest Trump menace has involved an overplaying of the hands of these heretics such that their influence wanes dramatically in the coming period.
Then the more “secular” side of things, nihilism in the form of “post-modernism” was foisted onto American and European campuses, a form of radical relativism that was accompanied by an almost mandated hedonistic excess.
Sadly, this move was mistaken as a constructive influence by many progressives, who failed to appreciate the insidious moral rot that was being peddled. “Sex, drugs and rock and roll” were levied as fierce attacks against the very idea of the dignity of the person and against movements inspired to that end, such as the civil rights, feminist and gay liberation currents.
Bury human rights and dignity of the person under an avalanche of nihilistic radical hedonism, and the pathway to undermining democracy was secured.