The bully state

President Teddy Roosevelt coined the phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Former president Donald Trump has shortened it to “Just carry a big stick! And use it frequently!” The former bully-in-chief is warning of “potential death and destruction” if he is charged with a crime for paying off his alleged lover and porn star Stormy Daniels. If charged he wants his supporters to protest and that might involve death and destruction. It certainly did for five people killed as a result of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. It’s not even a subtle wink-wink nudge-nudge.

Trump governed as a mafia chief. He might as well have said, “Nice judicial system you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” It’s gotten so explicit that U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who will be overseeing a civil suit between E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump, is going to require an anonymous jury. The names of jurists will not be released because no one believes Trump’s rabid supporters won’t do everything possible to out them and make their lives a living hell.

This is not surprising, but it should be. Trump has no morals or ethics whatsoever. He’s a sociopath. He literally can’t conceive of taking any action that won’t benefit him. Anyone with half a brain would know how utterly stupid it is to threaten unlawful actions against a system charged with equal enforcement under the law. So clearly Trump doesn’t have even that. But his words are revealing: he’s scared out of his mind that for the first time in his life he might have to answer to the judicial system for a crime. He’s clearly not deterred to the point of not sticking his foot into his mouth, but if you are a sociopath it won’t occur to you that you are working against your self-interest.

It would be nice if Trump were a rare exception, but the bully state is clearly on the rise. It used to be you would think twice before trying to impinge on our constitutional liberties. These days, Republicans in power largely don’t care. Liberty now means depriving others of opportunities to experience some. You are only allowed those freedoms Republicans want to grant you. The only place where freedom is expanding is in the ability to possess unlimited firearms and use them indiscriminately.

Red states are tripping over themselves to see who can take away the most freedom. A scorecard doesn’t even help anymore because there are too many states with too many chess pieces in motion to know the state of play. In general though, abortion is largely outlawed in red states, and where it is technically legal it means little because at six weeks most women don’t even know they are pregnant. A federal judge in Texas is examining if the FDA properly approved mifepristone, a drug with twenty years of testing and which is safer to take than a Tylenol. It just happens to be commonly used for medically-induced abortions. That’s right, one judge in Texas may soon make this drug unavailable nationwide, restricting the freedoms of millions of women to control their own bodies.

It gets comically absurd at times. Some Florida parents want a school principal dismissed because she did not first notify parents that a class on Renaissance art would feature Michelangelo’s David, which includes David in the buff. God forbid that our tender students should see a marble statue of a naked man and his uncovered penis. They will be scarred for life somehow, even though about half the class is intimately familiar with penises because they have one of their own. At least David has normal size genitalia, something that should comfort most men. I get the feeling that if Michelangelo had made David well hung, that would have been perfectly okay.

Oh, they’d probably still be offended. They don’t call them naughty bits for nothing. These neo-Puritans see sin everywhere so it’s better to hide the realities of being human rather than confront them in, say, an honest sex education class. Just keep them away from kids and no doubt they figure no one will be the wiser. Don’t expose kids to factual information and they won’t get the information elsewhere. I’m sure none of these kids will discover masturbation if they never hear about it from parents or in schools. It never worked in the past; in fact suppressing information like this makes it more lurid and forbidden, actually increasing interest in things prurient. Republicans seem intent to create a society in which sexuality doesn’t exist because no one will acknowledge it. The curious thing is that the more you make it a taboo, the more it is desired. Shipping kids off to nudist summer camps is probably the most effective way to turn teens’ attention elsewhere.

Let’s keep doing more of what hasn’t worked. Crime is down mostly in cities and states where marijuana’s recreational use is now legal. Being tough on crime is good at filling up jail cells, but not in actually fixing crime. It doesn’t seem to fix bad policing, but to make it worse. What it does accomplish is to generally leave rich white people in charge, which is how these people figure God wanted it. You can tell by looking around and seeing how well it’s working.

These days, the motto seems to be: just go for it. Book banning of course is anti-freedom and is an explicit attempt to keep minds closed to different thought. The staggering first amendment implications of these actions don’t bother these bullies, and certainly don’t seem to bother Donald Trump. Make it so and sort out the resulting chaos later. And break a few eggs along the way. Actually break lots of eggs. That’s the whole point.

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