The Evil That Men Do

By Moe White –

The great William Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, wrote these words spoken by Marc Antony—The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

Four hundred years later, there is nothing new under the sun. Good men and women abound, in the United States and everywhere else around the globe. They have done good, done well, done their best, and seen every accomplishment overturned or undermined.

How is this possible? Because alongside them are men full of hate, bile, bitterness, resentment, power-hunger, fear, greed, anger—every weakness of character from the Seven Deadly Sins to the 10 Thou Shalt Nots. They seek power, corrupt their followers’ hearts, revel in destruction, and thrive on the inability of people of good will to know how to combat them. Sadly, there are also those—70 million of them, according to election returns—who grovel at their feet and follow them into their indecent cult.

As a result, the Democrats who won election this month, from President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris, to senators and representatives, to state and local officials, are already faced with the dilemma of how to deal with such men (and women). Many people of good will, including Mr. Biden, want to find “common ground” by “reaching across the aisle”; others prefer to play hardball, as the Republicans do—despite knowing that their opponents are masters of the game who will cheat, renege on agreements, and change the rules at the drop of a hat.

To anyone who can convince a few of their adversaries to compromise, I say “hallelujah.” And for those who are willing to go for the jugular, I wish them the best of luck. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, if it succeeds. But I’m a cynic: when it comes to trusting members of the GOP, I don’t think either plan will work.

A century ago Mark Twain pointed out that “a lie will travel around the world while the truth is lacing up its boots,” and the Republican Party long ago mastered the art of The Big Lie—the technique developed by Joseph Stalin, perfected by Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn, and brazenly, effectively, masterfully wielded by Cohn’s protégé, Donald Trump. No sane person would take those four men at their word; today, all Republicans who remain loyal to Trump’s party deserve to be lumped in with them. They have climbed down into the sty and are covered with Trump’s mud, and they cannot wash it off with mere words.

We must learn from history. We look back and see a long, unbroken line of men here in our own nation who have scorned democracy, undermined human rights, wrought murder and mayhem, and done their best to harm others, rather than help them. Every one of them—and many, many more—has earned the designation “evil”: Benedict Arnold, Andrew Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Huey Long, John Birch, Joseph McCarthy, Roy Cohn, Orval Faubus, Lester Maddox, Strom Thurmond, Richard Nixon, Jesse Helms, Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump.

Some of them—the last four named—are still among us, still wielding power or influence for their own aggrandizement and against the best interests of the United States. To counter them, it will be up to the rest of us, as people of good will, as patriots who love what our nation has been, should be, and might become again, to stand against them. We must all work together for democracy, for one nation, and against any and every purveyor of lies and bias and hate.

To return to Shakespeare, we can answer Hamlet’s rhetorical question: Truly, “’Tis better to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.”

Because we can, and we must.

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