Proper Indignation

There's a passage from Aristotle that's been coming to my mind constantly since the election.  It's about the virtue of proper indignation.
For the properly indignant person feels pain when someone does well undeservedly; the envious person exceeds him by feeling pain when anyone does well, while the spiteful person is so deficient in feeling pain that he actually enjoys other people's misfortunes. (Nicomachean ethics, Book II ch. 7)
Proper indignation?  Yes.  How could Trump be rewarded with the presidency--the highest conceivable honor--after being a racist birther, after a lifetime of being a con-artist and an exploiter of women, after bullying all of his opponents, after demonstrating total absence of relevant knowledge and showing himself unfit for the office in every way, after lying incessantly and in fact showing total disregard for the difference between truth and falsehood, after losing every debate, after inciting violence and bigotry, after using dirty tactics against Hillary and all of his other opponents, after not revealing his tax returns, after Trump University, after .... This is the ultimate in doing well undeservedly, and we're going to be witnesses to this injustice every day for the next four years.

Proper indignation is my primary reaction, and that's probably a sign of privilege. I'm not going to be among the 20 million who lose their health insurance, I'm not going to be deported, I'm not going to be targeted by Trump's white supremacist fans.  But never fear, there is a #2 source of pain, and it's all that--knowing how the policies to come are going to cause problems for lots and lots of people, include his blue collar supporters who are naively expecting him to solve their problems. Knowing the Paris climate change agreement may be undone. Knowing reproductive rights and marriage equality are at risk.  And on, and on, and on.

And then there's #3: Hillary Clinton was qualified, fit, prepared, deserving, and her election would have been thrilling, after a run of 44 male presidents.  When someone does badly undeservedly, it's also a cause of proper indignation, so that adds more pain.  And there's the additional pain of knowing it didn't have to be. She won the popular vote and could have won the electoral college if just one of many things had gone differently: if Comey hadn't gratuitously brought up the emails; if progressives hadn't cast silly votes for third party candidates, because, ohmygosh she gave speeches on Wall Street and knows how to raise money; if people and the media hadn't been so taken in by charisma and slogans instead of substance.

And can we please stop hearing about the very, very, very nice folks in the Heartland who Clinton supposedly didn't understand?  Why must progressives try so hard to stop feeling proper indignation and anger and start feeling guilt and pity?  Many of these Heartlanders aren't so very nice.  For example, the NYT this morning says just 40% of Republicans believe that Obama was born in the US.  That kind of prejudice and disconnect from reality made some of them receptive to Trump's empty messages and hostile to a female candidate.  It does not bode well for us that Clinton's sensible and substantive message for this sub-population didn't fly essentially because she seems too professional, too wonky, too prepared.  Are we really going to have to choose our political leaders from the charismatic class, instead of from the competent class?

Here's hoping Trump's penchant for lying and total obliviousness to ethics will bring him down.  David Brooks predicts (maybe tongue in cheek) that he'll resign or be impeached with a year.  In the meantime, people need to keep loudly talking about Trump's total unsuitability for office.  He was grotesquely unfit before the election and he's still grotesquely unfit.  All the "kumbaya"-ing of politicians might be pragmatic but "we the people" need to keep raising our voices.  Colin Powell was right.  Trump--unbelievably, soon to be President Trump, or maybe just "President" Trump--is a national disgrace.

1 comment:

s. wallerstein said...

I agree with much of what you say.

There is no ethical justification in voting for Trump, even if you lost your great well-paying factory job. I can understand white working class people whose lives have been hurt by globalization backing Bernie Sanders, I can understand them voting for Jill Stein, I can understand them not voting at all because they hate the system, but I cannot justify anyone voting for a racist, misogynous, xenophobic, corrupt clown. By the way, similar remarks in another blog earned me anti-semitic comments by an anonymous (they are always anonymous) commenter and Trump supporter.