Last week, I read an excellent article by Juan Cole of Truthdig.Com on the subject of our entering a new era of beastliness as exemplified by Daesh/ISIL/ISIS abroad and Donald J. Trump at home. In fact, the Arabs have a word for it: idarat al-tawahhush, or out and out viciousness.
As Cole writes about the so-called Islamic State:
Most Muslims are on the fence or perfectly happy in secular societies. They are in a “gray zone.” Drive them into the arms of extremism either by attracting them with spectacles of power or by scaring them or by scaring non-Muslims into attacking them.
The urgency of this strategy has increased as Daesh’s fortunes on the battlefield in the dusty hinterlands of Syria and Iraq have spiraled down. Syrian troops are at the gates of Palmyra and on the cusp of driving Daesh out of it. Russian aircraft are bombing Daesh convoys and positions in Palmyra and near Aleppo, cutting supply lines. Syrian Kurdish troops allied with Arab fighters have taken vast territory from Daesh in al-Raqqa and left its capital exposed. In Iraq, Tikrit and Ramadi have fallen. Kurdish Peshmerga have retaken Sinjar and begun cutting supply lines between al-Raqqa and Mosul. Local Arab tribes are revolting in Fallujah, and the Iraqi military has announced the beginning of a long campaign to take Mosul.
In America, beastliness is one of the main attributes of currently leading Republican contender Donald Trump. His minions attack women journalists; he broadly attacks wide spectra of our multicultural society; and he threatens to “punish” women who have had abortions. (Is he personally going to spank them?)
Cole’s article continues on the subject of the GOP candidate:
If you take out mass violence, moreover, it is fairly easy to see that Trump himself uses the tactic of “beastliness” just as Daesh does. Where there is already chaos or conflict, he hypes it, as with his promise to kill innocent children related to terrorists or to torture people. Or he played on existing Islamophobia by proposing a Muslim exclusion act, which is both beastly and an attack on the gray zone.
He also throws verbal firebombs to stir up chaos where there was calm. He boasts that immigration was not even an issue in the presidential race until he made it one. But that is because immigration is not an issue. More Mexicans have been returning to Mexico from the US in recent years than coming here. Most immigrants are unusually law-abiding. Illegal immigration was a much bigger problem in the 1980s and 1990s and is now a relatively small one. Most immigrants don’t take jobs away from Americans already here: they do jobs other people don’t want to do. (Many small midwestern hamlets depending on ranching and small farming have become depopulated as the young people went off to Chicago, and some have only been kept going or revived by Mexican farm and ranch hands). But Trump tried to tag Mexican-Americans as rapists and drug dealers.
But then, many American voters would be all too willing to fight beastliness with beastliness of their own. And so civilization becomes ever more tattered and frayed as time goes on.