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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

One nation, under thumb

June 7, 2024

A wise man said: “The essence of a nation is that all of its individual members have a great deal in common and also that they have forgotten many things.”

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

The man was Ernest Renan, in “What is a Nation?”, an 1882 speech at the Sorbonne.

Some century and a half later, half of the office-holders in the United States, our political “leaders,” are going Renan one better — actually, three worse: They are trying to make us forget many things; to prevent us from ever learning them; and to make us forget the things we have in common.

For eight years and more the salient feature of Republican politics has been based on an old football formation, the flying wedge: The team holds hands and plows together into their opponents, maximum carnage intended. The formation was prohibited in 1894, due to the injuries it inflicted.

Today’s Republicans, who anoint themselves with greasy oil as the party of freedom, are the flying wedge behind the plague of book bans across the United States. More than 4,340 books were banned in 23 states and 52 public schools districts in the last six months of 2023 alone, according to PEN America.

In “That Librarian,” a memoir to be released in August, a librarian in Louisiana recounts the stalking and death threats to which she was subjected after she spoke against censorship at a meeting of the library board in July 2022.

After the threats made news, hundreds of other librarians told her of similar threats, according to a June 2 story in The Guardian. Other librarians have been fired for refusing to take books off the shelves, in one case, a book about critical race theory, which book-banners equate to pornography. (Many of these bans have been challenged as unconstitutional.)

Republican Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, an abortion opponent, has introduced a bill to “create a federal database to collect data on pregnant people.” Did she do this to help provide prenatal care for expectant mothers? No, she did it to make it easier to track them down.

That ought to make women feel safer.

Governor Ron DeSantis hath decreed that no bridge in Florida may display any colored lights other than red, white or blue, lest rainbow colors promote homosexuality. I kid you not. DeSantis calls this moronic order “Freedom Summer.” (Freedom is slavery. War is peace.)

Day by day the Republican Party becomes more like China, where it is illegal to publish or utter anything about the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, or the vast gulag of Xinjiang Province, where Fearful Leader Xi Jinping has detained and terrorized more than 1 million Muslims for what he calls “vocational training.”

Terror = vocational training; Critical Race Theory = pornography.


(By the way, do you and I have anything in common? It’s hard to think, amidst all this howling.)

Now, in the flying wedge formation, one man holds the ball, while the rest of the team tramples the enemy — excuse me, I mean the other team. And we all know who’s holding the ball in the Republicans’ goose-stepping flying wedge.

In a May 22 report, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) analyzed more than 13,000 Donald Trump posts on his mouthpiece Truth Social, and found dozens of unconstitutional threats against his political opponents — threats he swears to carry out should he regain office. According to the CREW report:

• Trump threatened at least 25 times to use the powers of the federal government to take revenge on Joe Biden and his family, through the FBI, indictments and jail time.

• He made similar threats to senators, judges and nongovernmental organizations.

• In a New Year’s Day post, Trump wrote that should he regain office, Biden “would certainly be Prosecuted for his many ACTUAL CRIMES …” which, Trump claims, include taking “massive” bribes from China, Ukraine and Russia.

Trump’s punctuation alone demonstrates his demented grandiosity.

Back in the days when Ernest Renan described a nation, Mark Twain refused to join any political party. He wrote that he did not trust any of them but would vote for the best man.

It’s difficult to make the case today that Donald Trump is a better man than anyone outside of a prison, or on the lam.

I believe he is insane.

He meets all nine standards of narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by doctors throughout the United States and the world:

• A grandiose sense of self-importance

• A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty or idyllic love

• A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions

• A desire for unwarranted admiration

• A sense of entitlement

• Interpersonally oppressive behavior

• No form of empathy

• Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her

• A display of egotistical and conceited behaviors or attitudes

(A patient need display only five of the nine traits to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Donnie meets them all.)

Trump also meets the Mayo Clinic’s definition of a sociopath: “A mental health condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to purposely make others angry or upset and manipulate or treat others harshly or with cruel indifference. They lack remorse or do not regret their behavior.”

We report, you decide.

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