So Much for our Norms

Comedians have forgotten to be funny. Or maybe they’ve just lost their ability to be funny and they can’t get it back. In any case, they’ve resorted to shock humor, minus the humor. Colbert’s “cock holster” comment was bad enough, but now we’ve got this picture of Kathy Griffin holding a severed Trump head. Who thought this was a good idea? How many people weighed in on this idea without saying, “hmm, I don’t know… this might be in bad taste”?

I guess that humor is just another one of the many things we have to sacrifice in order to ensure that Trump’s alt-right reign of terror ends swiftly, along with the rule of law and freedom of speech. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we’re in a crisis, supposedly, which means that we are only allowed to care about one thing: ending the crisis. Everything else is subordinate to the goal of getting rid of Trump. Comedy isn’t permissible unless it sends a sufficiently anti-Trump message. ESPN is failing its viewers if it doesn’t report on politics. Judges should treat Trump differently than they would any other president, because we’re not supposed to “normalize” him.

Trump’s presidency seems to be ruining a lot of stuff, but it’s not really his fault. His opponents have taken his lack of restraint and scruples as a license to do and say whatever they want. Ironically, they’re actually imitating him by casting aside all the same norms that he was criticized for trampling underfoot. Good taste? Chuck it out the window. Impartial judging? Not for Trump; he’s a bad hombre. Obeying lawful orders from the president? Ha, as if any order from Donald Trump is lawful.

If we really want to preserve the norms that have hitherto prevented our country from imploding, then maybe we shouldn’t flout them at every opportunity. Otherwise, the Trump-related hysteria will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course, the norms in question are the product of the white supremacist cishet patriarchy, so maybe they’re not worth preserving. Maybe all that matters is who is in power, and we should stop at nothing to oust Trump and install someone whom we like better. If the post-structuralists are right and these norms are merely the means of preserving one of many systems of dominance and oppression, then we might as well give up on civility, the rule of law, due process, the Constitution, etc. Those things, after all, were invented by white men, like Trump.

It goes without saying that I think the position I’ve described in the paragraph above is a stupid position, and that people who hold it are foolish people. But at least it’s intellectually consistent. What you cannot do is blast Trump’s disregard for our liberal democratic norms while behaving as if those norms are not applicable to you. Unless, of course, you want to be a hypocrite. Then you can do and say whatever you want.

Insofar as America needs to be “saved” from Trump, it will not be saved by people who reject Trump’s policies while embracing the illiberalism and indecency that actually make him bad. On the contrary, Americans who strive to uphold the norms and principles that made this country great can keep it great, notwithstanding the idiocy of Trump and his most obnoxious opponents. I just hope there are more of them than you would guess from what you see on the internet.


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