One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions. The people who start the wars do not have bombs dropped on their houses. The people who pass the laws that incarcerate others never have to face the full force of the prison system themselves. The people who design the economic system that inflicts poverty on millions are themselves rich. This sort of insulation from the real world consequences of political and economic decisions makes it very easy for powerful people to approve of things happening to the rest of us that they would never, ever tolerate themselves. No health insurance CEO would watch his child die due to their inability to afford quality health care. No chickenhawk Congressman will be commanding a tank battle in Iran. No opportunistic race-baiting politician will be shunned because of their skin color. Zealots condemn gay people—except for their own gay children. The weed-smoking of young immigrants should get them deported—but our own weed-smoking was a youthful indiscretion. Environmentalist celebrities fly on carbon-spouting private jets. Banks make ostentatious charity donations while raking in billions from investments in defense contractors and gun manufacturers and oil companies. This is human nature. It is very, very easy to do things that hurt others as long as those same things benefit, rather than hurt, you. Self-justification is a specialty of mankind.
A well-designed political system would have a built-in feedback system to ensure that those making the decisions are also subject to the consequences of those decisions. Minor versions of this are floated every now and then: Put Congress on Obamacare! Pay elected officials what their average constituents earn! But in aggregate, of course, we have nothing like this feedback mechanism in America. The titans of money congregate on Wall Street and the titans of government congregate in DC and they all make decisions that often disenfranchise and impoverish and frustrate the dreams of people far away, and then they go to nice restaurants and go home to nice houses and have nice, well-paid careers for decades to come. That is our system. There is little incentive for those who work within that system to change it in a way that might create the sort of negative feedback that can be unpleasant. Therefore it is the job of the public to do just that. Doing so is, in fact, a public service. It promotes good government.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” That is the basic idea underlying noblesse oblige, and though noblesse oblige itself is not as good as equality, it looks fantastic compared to what we have today. Today, we have an ignorant billionaire narcissist leading our government, a man surrounded by a pack of enablers who by now have clearly demonstrated that no amount of racism or xenophobia or lies or warmongering or outright corruption will dissuade them from helping the boss do what the boss wants to do. Rather than detail a laundry list of all the Trump outrages, I ask you simply to consider all of the very real human costs that those outrages have already inflicted on human beings in America and abroad. Some of those outrages, like ripping families apart at the border, show their costs immediately; others, like eschewing the fight against climate change and neutering the EPA and mainstreaming white nationalist ideas, will be manifesting their costs for many decades to come. But the costs are real. We are the ones who are suffering and will suffer them. By and large, the people responsible for these decisions will be wealthy and famous and powerful enough to insulate themselves from those costs. Unless we decide to see to it that they must face them.
It is telling that many of those who make their living in the political industrial complex, whether Democrat or Republican or Washington Post editorial page, find the idea of socially shunning people because of their politics to be abhorrent. Their shudders are a symptom of the fact that DC is indeed a swamp—a friendly swamp, where all the gators and slugs and mudfish meet up at the end of the day for cocktails, because to them, politics is a job. To the rest of us, politics is the use of power in a way that has very real effects on our lives. Poverty is an affliction of history and the failure to remedy history’s crimes, of greed and self-dealing and the tax code. Sickness is often an affliction of the political decision not to build a fair and equitable health care system, so that a small number of people can get rich instead. Tens of millions of people around the world suffer under dictatorships that are supported by America to serve our own economic ends. People die because of political decisions every day. Politics is real. This is what is on one side of our current disagreement: death, and human rights, and freedom, and equality. And this is what is on the other side: wanting to eat at a nice restaurant without having anyone remind you that you are ruining people’s lives. The sides of this scale are not even close to balancing yet.
This is all going to get more extreme. And it should. We are living in extreme times. The harm that is being done to all of us by the people in the American government is extreme. To imagine that Mexican immigrants should happily cook for and serve meals to people who enable a man who is determined to demonize and persecute them as subhuman criminals is far more outrageous than the idea that those enablers should not be served in restaurants. I do not believe that Trump administration officials should be able to live their lives in peace and affluence while they inflict serious harms on large portions of the American population. Not being able to go to restaurants and attend parties and be celebrated is just the minimum baseline here. These people, who are pushing America merrily down the road to fascism and white nationalism, are delusional if they do not think that the backlash is going to get much worse. Wait until the recession comes. Wait until Trump starts a war. Wait until the racism this administration is stoking begins to explode into violence more frequently. Read a fucking history book. Read a recent history book. The U.S. had thousands of domestic bombings per year in the early 1970s. This is what happens when citizens decide en masse that their political system is corrupt, racist, and unresponsive. The people out of power have only just begun to flex their dissatisfaction. The day will come, sooner that you all think, when Trump administration officials will look back fondly on the time when all they had to worry about was getting hollered at at a Mexican restaurant. When you aggressively fuck with people’s lives, you should not be surprised when they decide to fuck with yours.
Stop working for this man. Stop enabling him. Stop assisting him. Start fighting him. The people who are responsible for what is happening are not going to get out of this with their happy wealthy respectable lives unscathed. This is a country that locks poor people in cages for decades for trying to make $20. This is a country that is “tough on crime.” Remember? And the ones who make the laws are not going to like what happens when America starts to regard them as the criminals.
by Hamilton Nolan