That evil destroys itself is an old motif in literature and in the religious traditions of the West. We can see that being demonstrated in America today.
For more than a dozen years, I have been trying to persuade liberals that operating in the human world there really can be discerned a coherent force of destruction– one that works in ways much like the traditional notion of “evil.” Seeing this coherent force does not require any belief in supernatural beings, or even supernatural forces. But it does require putting a lot of pieces together, and discerning the interconnections among them — interconnection that become visible through the tracing of the dense network of cause and effect operating in cultural systems over time.
(In my series “A Better Human Story,” I recently endeavored to lay out how this “coherent force of destruction — which consistently spreads a pattern of brokenness” can be understood: this was in the 9th installment in that series, “Understanding Evil.”)
The case of Roy Moore provides one entry point (among so many in America these days!) into this transmission of brokenness in a cultural system through time.
One can begin with the fact that the Republicans of the state of Alabama chose this man to be their nominee for the U.S. Senate. I expect most all the readers here know just how much brokenness Roy Moore’s history displayed (even apart from the most recent revelations of his sexual misconduct with under-aged girls).
In a large population, there will always be individuals who embody such brokenness. But for such individuals to be elevated to positions of power and leadership requires some kind of brokenness in the society.
One can thus trace this pattern of brokenness back from that election of the nominee into the surrounding society by asking, “How did all these Alabamans come to have the set of thoughts and feelings — the overall condition of their consciousness and understanding — that would enable them to be supportive of Roy Moore as a potential U.S. Senator?” (Or, for that matter, to have elected him before as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.)
Not that the answer to that question is brief or simple. But anyone with an understanding of the political culture of the Deep South, and of the Republican Party in our time, is likely to have at least an intuitive sense of how it becomes possible for
- people who believe themselves to be patriotic Americans and defenders of the Constitution can believe that a man who has flagrantly shown disregard for his constitutional responsibilities should be sent to the Senate where he will take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
- people who believe themselves to be good Christians can look at a man whose spirit is manifestly the opposite of that in the Sermon on the Mount and think him a defender of their religious values.
- people who have the normal human intelligence to be successfully conned into perceiving Roy Moore to be a paragon of righteousness, when as we can now see he has been not only a sexual predator, but a raging hypocrite.
The list of the relevant symptoms of brokenness in that political culture, and in the human beings who make it up, could be greatly expanded. And each of those trails leads into the cultural streams of socialization and education — growing out of history, going back generations and even centuries — that cultivates a constellation of psychological components in unconscious contradiction with each other, i.e. not integrated, i.e. “broken.”
Brokenness begets brokenness– changing shapes as it moves, but in each incarnation having the property of making the human world less whole.
The case of Roy Moore now also serves to illustrate another dimension of the phenomenon of (what warrants being called) “evil.”
Namely, that it seems to be the nature of this force that it tends to destroy the people and the systems that (out of their brokenness) act as its channels. And it tends to destroy also those things that those people are (consciously) trying to advance.
The national Republican Party did not seek to have Roy Moore as the nominee. But once he was nominated, they clung him to their collective bosom rather than repudiate him. In order to magnify their collective power, they willingly contaminated themselves (just as they did with Trump).
And now, as the new scandal broke and exposed the viciousness and hypocrisy, we have witness a bunch of Alabama Republicans –leaders as well as regular citizens — whose level of understanding of goodness is indicated by their declared preference: better to elect a predator (and grotesque hypocrite) than (God forbid!) a Democrat!
(It’s the same mindset, with the same broken perception of “good and evil,” that made it possible for Donald Trump to be elected President.)
And now we can see how brokenness can undo its carriers.
We can see — or at least I would now bet — that the outcome of all these expressions of brokenness is that the seemingly impossible may well happen: there is a good and growing chance that, on December 12, the state of Alabama will send Doug Jones, a Democrat!, to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.
The Republicans are visibly undoing themselves in Alabama.
And more generally, as that other sexual predator and outright liar who embodies brokenness in more ways than any president in American history, is in the process of destroying the Republican Party on a national scale.
The brokenness of the Republican base drove those millions of people to pin their hopes on Donald Trump to “Make America Great Again.” And the result already seems clear: the greatness of America is being demolished consistently both at home and abroad.
Evil destroys its carriers, and all those things its carriers believe (pretend to themselves?) that they care about.
Once before, I wrote about this. It was the evidence of the W presidency that led me to note this general phenomenon. Here’s that earlier essay.
It was in October of 2005 that I posted this essay on my blog NoneSoBlind.org. (Which now exists as an archive here.)
Evil Leaders Destroy What They Claim to Love
The Bushite record
It is only recently that I’ve noticed that this Bushite regime displays a pattern I’ve seen before in other evil regimes.
The first piece of the picture I noticed wasn’t enough to remind me of the pattern. It was almost two years ago that I wrote a piece called “How Bush Has Played into Our Enemies’ Hands.” After going through a series of points to show how misguided a way of waging the war on terror the Bush war-of-choice in Iraq was, I concluded the piece with the statement: “So it seems that just as al-Qaeda used our own planes to destroy the World Trade Center, so also has it been able to use our own leadership —with its command of the world’s most mighty military force, but also with its ideological blinders, its arrogance, its failure to grasp the nature of this war as well as our enemies do—to transform the world in ways that damage our interests.”
And so it is, still more clearly today, that this group that seized the helm of American power with the declared aim of enhancing “national greatness” has achieved just the opposite. Far from increasing American “greatness,” it seems clear that they will leave the American stature in the world greatly diminished.
And so also –despite all its rhetoric about its compassion and responsibility and taking care of the business of the American people– we see that this regime is undermining the foundations of our society at home. One of America’s special cities is in ruins, in large measure because of this administration’s indifference and incompetence. And then there’s the current TIME magazine cover story on how the collusion of corporate and government powers has led to the plunder of pension programs, leaving millions of Americans facing penurious “golden years.” And this list could be multiplied.
While it is too soon to say that conservatism –that ideological system and set of values so proudly acclaimed by these rulers– will also be left in shambles, it seems entirely possible. The “tax and spend” liberals will look so much more responsible than the “tax-cut and spend wantonly” conservatives, who have the distinction of being the only American government to wage war and cut taxes (for the very rich) at the same time, and who seem never to have met a pork measure (like $200 billion bridges to nowhere) they didn’t like. Then there’s the coming round of perp walks, which will dramatize so vividly the lawlessness, the unscrupulousness, and the corruption of this group of leaders –leaders whom American conservatives so fervently embraced as God’s anointed. How quickly can a movement –or an ideology–recover from such a display of say-one-thing and do-another?
And then there’s the matter of the American economy. I don’t generally pretend to know more than the markets do, having learned my humility on such matters, over the years, the hard way. But with all this red ink in the federal budget, with our utter dependency on foreign governments buying up our debt, with massive imbalances in our balance of trade, and with the engine of growth having relied so profoundly on Americans spending away a “wealth effect” from increased home-prices granted them by what looks to many like a market bubble that can deflate as powerfully as it inflated– well, I’ll just say that I have moved my own nest-egg out of American equities. This outfit might well do to the American economic colossus what they’ve already managed to do to our “national greatness.”
It is surely too soon to deliver the eulogy –or malogy– for these rulers. Far from dead and buried, they remain the most powerful people on earth. But it is not too soon to discern the pattern: that these rulers have been destroying, or undermining, the very things they most loudly proclaim they love.
Where have I seen this before?
Years ago, when I was writing my book Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds That Drive Us To War, I spent a good deal of time studying the likes of Hitler and Stalin– people who, I thought, might offer clues about the roots and dynamics of the destructiveness that had made the twentieth century so bloody.
In terms of destructive passion, these Bushites may not be in their league. But it seems that the forces of evil show similar dynamics, wherever they manifest themselves.
Hitler was of course an extreme German nationalist–Master Race, and all that. “National greatness” was a concept he could relate to without difficulty. Listening to his speeches, who could doubt his love for the German people and the German nation. Yet, while his war-of-choice was coming to its concluding chapter with Allied forces coming at him from the west and Soviet forces closing fast from the east, Hitler gave to his main man, Albert Speer, an order most peculiar coming from a supposed lover of Germany. After having brought down upon his nation such terrible destruction, after having initiated a war that had left millions of German soldiers dead on the battlefields of Europe and north Africa, Hitler told Speer to unleash a campaign of demolition that would leave no stone on top of another in Germany– the virtual annihilation of Germany.
Stalin, meanwhile, presented himself as the “father of the Russians”– cultivating an image of benevolence, and dedication to “the people.” Russia has had, of course, a terrible history. (Ivan was not the only Terrible.) But in all of the tragic history of the Russian people no one has killed so many Russians as Stalin did. Interestingly, Stalin was not a Russian, but rather a Georgian– i.e. a member of a nationality whose rage at the Russians for generations of domination and persecution was part of the young Stalin’s heritage.
When evil rulers declare their love for something, history seems to suggest, that “something” is in profound peril.