Against the backdrop of devastation in Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis, the thousands of dead and wounded, and as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky described to Congress his land “soaked in blood,” the reliably toxic Donald Trump Jr. recently tweeted that “Zelensky is basically an ungrateful international welfare queen.”
Donald Jr. has never scrambled under sirens. He has never dodged a bullet. He has never felt a bomb concussion or the sting of shrapnel. He has never wiped blood from the face of a wounded or murdered child. Yet as the leader of a besieged ally was asking Americans for help, DTJ’s first instinct was cruelty.
No, more than cruelty. This was psychopathy.
Yet for an alarming swath of Republicans (almost 10 million following him on Twitter), Donald Junior the Psychopath is embraced as a fearless antihero, the no-bullshit “leader” who, like his father, gleefully speaks snark to power. This cult of cruelty blasts Parasite Zelensky while cheering DTJ’s election fraud retweet from someone calling himself Catturd.
Donald Trump Jr. is definitely his father’s son. In my 2020 book, “Confessions of a Former Fox News Christian,” I explored shallow Trumpian dominance displays usually expressed in childish insult. President Joe Biden is sleepy; Trump is alert. Former personal attorney Michael Cohen is “not very smart;” Trump is a genius. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are “weak and insecure”; Trump is strong and confident. And then, of course, we have the spoiled rich kid of another spoiled rich kid shouting “Taker!” at the leader of a free nation under siege.
As moral people, you and I wait for the indignant rebuke from the GOP. Yet those pushbacks are rare…the conspicuous silence of 21st-century Republicans allowing catcalls of cruelty to fill the air. One of the more pathetic rationalizations echoes the excuses for his father: “Yeah, Trump Junior is a jerk, but he’s beholden to no one, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind.”
There are few frustrations as intense as watching evangelical MAGA conservatives claim inhumanity as moral high ground. The greatest teachings of their Bible promote kindness, rejection of greed and charity for the poor, not coveting or lusting, not judging, always turning the other cheek, forgiving, staying humble, and loving your neighbor. Cue the greedy, grifting, judgmental, vengeful, cocky, hateful man-child yelling invective from his inherited castle as American Christians gleefully wave Trump Jr.’s family flag.
I’ve spoken a lot about flags as markers for tribal lines and dominion, and cruelty culture’s embrace of flags exemplifies that. Dominance requires the marking of territory. Defending claimed territory requires force. And DTJ is so forceful (swoon)!
Further exposing the root rot of MAGA evangelicalism is Trump Jr.’s speech at 2021’s Turning Point USA conference. Rallying the crowd, DTJ said the quiet part out loud, declaring that Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” had “gotten us nothing.”
Leave it to a Trump to elevate his own opinion above the Christian deity, and watch again the implied violence in his words. Literal war must be waged upon the Others. War is cruel, so the warriors must be cruel. This is how the raging righteous excuse their bigotry, hate, and lawlessness. After all…if you want to make an omelet.
If there’s any silver lining, perhaps it’s that this Trumpian culture of cruelty serves as a black light, exposing the rot that could sink the ship. As Donald Trump Jr. maligns Zelensky (while insulting the poor as a bonus), moral Americans can respond in contrast. Watching almost all our congresspeople stand and cheer Ukraine’s president gave me hope.
As bigots and zealots refuse to share this world with all they deem weak, unlucky, or unworthy, the rest of us can wave a banner under which we all can rally, including those in foreign nations who share our planet and our humanity. In their lands and in ours, cruelty is weakness. True strength thrives in love.