Sadism can be defined as gaining gratification and even raw pleasure from humiliating other people and inflicting pain and suffering upon them. Sadism is a personality disorder usually associated with sexual gratification from hurting others.
But there’s a political form of sadism that’s associated with power and dominance in adults that mirrors the bully sadists of the playground, little psychopaths who thrive on picking on victims who are weaker than they are and pose no threat of retaliation.
Political sadists use vulgar propaganda to demonize whole classes of people that they can victimize and use as pawns in their relentless pursuit of power and pleasure. An entire workforce of government employees, for instance, has been turned into a victim of political bullies by decades of government-hating conservative propaganda accusing them of being little better than parasites sucking the lifeblood from the body politic. And recent conservative propaganda has turned them into something akin to poison termites of the “deep state,” undermining rugged individualists and the like.
It’s gotten to the point where a sadistic president can shut down major parts of the government for weeks, terrorizing nearly a million federal employees, their families, and the communities that depend on them for their income, using them as pawns in a political war to humiliate, harass and psychologically bludgeon an entirely different class of victims – Hispanic asylum seekers and their children, as well as people from Latin America desperately seeking a better life. The propaganda of sadism has transformed these immigrants from people forced by violence and poverty to leave their own countries into the fiction of a virtual army of rapists, murderers and thieves swarming over our borders like rapacious insects that can only be stopped by creating a wall to keep them out.
This is the kind of sadistic victimization that results in severe forms of barbarity. Trump’s government is allowing children to die and forcing their families to live in incarcerated squalor for sometimes months on end.
Trump’s wall reminds many of the Berlin Wall, and other examples of sadistic oppression. When Bill Gates bought a section of the Berlin Wall after it was torn down in 1989 and installed it in his Microsoft Museum, he didn’t do it as a symbol of security but as evidence that walls have an inherent danger, one that all humans sense and try to subvert — a stifling, imprisoning, squashing of initiative and inventiveness that no business and no free individual can tolerate or, in the long run, survive.
One wonders if, when Trump’s wall is eventually torn down, fragments of it will join the slabs of the Berlin Wall installed in fifty or so museums, presidential archives, and universities across the country. Trump’s wall could become as iconic a symbol of racism and xenophobia as the Berlin Wall was of boot-heel repression.
The Trump wall and the Berlin Wall both exude the acid sting of the heartless savagery of totalitarian ideology. But there is a major difference between the two. The Berlin Wall was short, some 91 miles long, separating East and West Berlin. And, by in large, it worked. Many thousands of attempts were made to scale it. As many as 239 people were killed when they tried. West Berlin was effectively sealed off despite estimates of as many as 5,000 people still managing to escape.
Trump’s wall, whatever it proves to be, will be part of 700 miles of “fencing” along the 1,954 mile-long border with Mexico, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean south of San Diego near Tijuana. There’s not enough money in Fort Knox to police such a wall and keep it in good repair. In the long run, it will fail and be dismantled. But until it tumbles down, it will, of course, perform its real function with sneering callousness — inflicting pain and suffering on helpless and demonized victims of propaganda and an atmosphere of violence impossible to confront except through escape.
In the meantime, with Trump using a government shutdown to force Congress to cough up some $6 billion to build a mere 200 more miles of wall, a project the New York Times has called “an empty political stunt,” millions of Americans who depend on government services, and families who depend on federal paychecks, are in dire straits. America’s Native communities, including New Mexico’s, appear to be the hardest hit. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has furloughed more than half of its employees, “leaving many tribes without critical medical and social services supposedly guaranteed by treaties,” according to the January 11, 2019 edition of THE WEEK magazine.
The impasse will break somehow. Government will sputter back into minimal action. But will Trump pay a political price for financially traumatizing millions of his fellow citizens? Will a sadistic White House continue to use shutdowns as a form of political torture when it suits them? We better roll up our sleeves and get ready to tough it out with all we can muster. It’s going to be a long couple of years.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it
(Image derived from photo by Gage Skidmore)