Charles Brian Orner
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The Sostenuto Blog

On Finding Common Ground


I have written at some length about this business of supporting Donald Trump - most of it satirical, and none of it kind - and there probably isn't much more to add at this point that hasn't been said repeatedly by better writers and thinkers than I. But I remain mystified as to the mindset that could possibly facilitate anything beyond revulsion at this regime. It is no longer a question of assessing the good vs. the bad, or weighing the preponderance of evidence, or giving the benefit of the doubt to things yet unknown or unseen. We're way past the normal boundaries of conventional political calculation. At this juncture, support of Donald Trump is nothing more than some kind of deranged tribal idiocy. It requires of us the subjugation (or the absence) of our intelligence, our conscience, and our compassion. It requires that we dispense with our confidence in the rule of law, the separation of powers, the system of checks and balances, and any notion that our nation is, or might be, an exemplar of anything aspirational in the civic or moral realm.

The human animal is possessed of the capacity for exceptional intelligence and self-direction, but neither of these is guaranteed, and to the extent that they may be present in any given individual, they are frequently overridden by our capacity for delusion and suggestibility. I feel so strongly about this, and am so convinced of it's truth, that I wrote an entire novel to explore the subject. Suggestibility is the bane of human existence, and we are all of us susceptible, all the time, even as the best among us work to counteract the tendency with the practices of self-awareness, civic engagement, scientific inquiry, and journalistic enterprise.

We live in a society now in which these pillars of the American experiment are under attack by forces that simply cannot tolerate their success, and to a large extent, we are ourselves responsible for the conflict. American capitalism has evolved to deprive the masses of their wealth, rather than the other way around, and we have been programmed by the wealthy to believe that this is somehow in everyone's best interests. American politics has developed to perpetuate power among those who already possess it, and we have been taught to believe that this is altogether fitting and proper. The entire business of organized religion (and it is, first and foremost, a business) is predicated on the insidious power of suggestibility, especially when its unfalsifiable narrative is inculcated early and often in our impressionable youth. Broadcast journalism has devolved into content-free squabbles among shiny people who compete with motion graphics and targeted advertising on the basis of volume and glint, and we have decided that this is somehow entertaining, if not actually informative. Social media is the opposite of social, and anathema to media. Fox News and its ilk, as Edward R. Murrow predicted, is nothing but wires and lights in a box.

This is not a portrait of a healthy society. This a portrait of civic disease, and Donald Trump is the personification of a decades-long vector that has metastasized in our midst. Supporting him in any way is the equivalent of deciding that the patient is beyond repair, and not worth the efforts needed to irradicate the infection. It is an act of giving in to our worst fears, and our ugliest impulses, and our nascent, but ever-present capacity for mindless self-immolation. It is, in the final analysis, an act of supreme cowardice.

I find no common ground with such people, and I wish to find none. Supporters of Donald Trump have dispensed with their finest impulses in favor of their worst. They have embraced fiction over fact, exclusion over inclusion, and fear over fealty to the rule of law. They have succumbed to mob psychology in lieu of the capacity to think for themselves. They have decided that virtue is equivalent to victory, if not to vice, and that convictions borne of tribalism are preferable to those borne of reason.

At best, these are the attributes of medievalism. They have no place in post-enlightenment modernity, and no place in American society. I find no common ground with such people. There can be no common ground. One does not negotiate with cancer; one excises the cancer, or dies.
I am not ready to abandon the patient. I will not be silent, I will not equivocate, and I will not find common ground with Fascism. There is no common ground. There is no compromise.


Brian Orner