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Beware The Pleasures Of Humiliation 

President Trump is introduced during the third inning of Game 5 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
President Trump is introduced during the third inning of Game 5 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

For the majority of Americans who disapprove of our current president, the video of him being roundly booed at Game 5 of the World Series felt like a jolt of long overdue karma. Even more so, the chants of “Lock him up!” that rained down upon Trump.

Finally, the cowardly lion had ventured outside the safe space of his rallies and Fox News sycophants, and faced the judgment of those not within his cult of white grievance.

I disagree with the pundits who claim that chanting “Lock him up!” is somehow un-American. In fact, Trump’s crimes have been copiously documented by prosecutors and federal investigators. They range from covertly paying off a porn star in violation of campaign finance law to obstructing justice.

This is to say nothing of the manner in which he has abused the power of his office, actions for which he will almost certainly be impeached. Trump has eluded justice, at least in part, by installing an attorney general whose sole agenda is to avoid indicting his boss.

The “lock him up” chant, in other words, is grounded in the objective reality that Trump is, based on court documents, an “unindicted conspirator." The angry mobs who chanted “lock her up” at Hillary Clinton, by contrast, were inspired by baseless propaganda and a desire to criminalize female ambition.

So I get why people booed and chanted — I would have done the same thing if I were in that stadium.

But I also would have hated myself for doing so.

... indulging in the pleasures of humiliation serves the Trump agenda, which is to divide and distract.

Not because it’s un-American, but because deep down I know that indulging in the pleasures of humiliation serves the Trump agenda, which is to divide and distract.

Mocking the president (or watching him get mocked by various cable TV wags) gives us a squirt of sanctimonious glee. But it also creates the false impression that we’re somehow vanquishing Trump, which is nonsense.

While we jeer and laugh, he continues to reshape our judiciary by appointing reactionary radicals. He continues to roll back environmental regulations. He continues to run up our national debt by cutting taxes on billionaires. He continues to crater the booming economy he inherited with a chaotic trade war. He continues to sell out our allies by doing the bidding of Putin, Erdogan and other the despots he so admires.

When we make a man as small as Trump the center of our discourse, we’re not having the larger discussions our democracy requires and deserves: about how to address climate change and income inequality and health care and immigration. We’re pouring our passion into the sinkhole of one man’s frail ego.

We’re also making the same mistake that marred 2016: turning the election into a reality TV spectacle rather than a contest of ideas.

The way to rid ourselves of Trump is not to revile him, but to deprive him of the oxygen that sustains him: our attention.

The way to rid ourselves of Trump is not to revile him, but to deprive him of the oxygen that sustains him: our attention. To the extent possible, we have to turn away from our desire for emotional revenge.

We should focus on the ongoing impeachment inquiry not because we hate Trump, but because we cherish democracy and want to protect the rule of law. We should pressure senators to convict Trump not for being a “human scum,” but because he has so blatantly abused the office of the presidency.

Our last president, faced with partisan rancor, was fond of telling crowds, “Don’t boo — vote!” Given the threat Trump poses to free and fair elections, this exhortation no longer feels sufficient. As citizens of good faith, we have to focus on the candidates we plan to support in 2020, and the actions — beyond merely voting — required to bring them into power.

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Related:

Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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