After Rick Perry defended his decision to let children of illegal immigrants attend Texas colleges for in-state tuition, he was attacked by Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. Talking heads later called his admission that he had a heart a tactical error. Brutishness has become the standard for this slate of presidential candidates.
Tigers and ocelots run down prey individually, wolves and hyenas work in packs. Humanity has used these, and every other tactic as it toiled out of savagery, from innocence to conscience. Today, we possess knowledge of good and evil, discovered, according to some, by eating the Forbidden Fruit, by others as gradually emerging along with civilization on our way out of the jungle. Yet the brute within has always demanded its due.
In Rome, slaves fought to the death to feed the blood lust of a brutish crowd. Ex-wrestler and governor, Jesse Ventura, calls professional wrestling an “art form.” Wrestling fans know that every bout is fixed, just as Shakespeare fans know who will win the sword fight between Hamlet and Laertes. People are there not to learn outcomes, but for the show.
The 66 years since WW2 have seen profound changes. The USSR broke into its constituent parts. The doomed communist experiment is over everywhere except for the strange capitalist-tinged variety in China, hesitantly followed by Cuba, with North Korea a desperate rotting tyranny. The once warring polities of Europe strive to become a Eurozone. The U.S. has outlawed segregation, sexism, and homophobia, yet struggles with the brutish underlying causes of all three. And now, the Arab Spring. Yet our inner brute pops out when some tormented soul appears on top of a building, and someone below screams, “Jump!” And when Texas was named as leading all states in number of executions, it elicited a brutish chorus of applause.
Bush against Gore pitted ignorance against idealism, and although the Supreme Court installed Bush, at least a majority of Americans had voted for Gore. But John Kerry, war hero, strategic thinker, pragmatist, with a family that would have graced our nation, was rejected in favor of a strutting popinjay. And now the candidates of a major political party seem to have decided that an appeal to thudding brutishness is a winning strategy.