So much depends on respectable white people. Those are white people who care about appearing respectable to other white people, who themselves care about appearing respectable to other white people. They are the great globular middle of American politics that determines electoral outcomes in this country.
For the longest time, they sided with the Republican Party on account of tax cuts and other goodies. My hope is that, for the foreseeable future, they will side with the Democrats on account of tax cuts and other goodies being a banner for hiding the fact that sadism is the GOP’s point.
Sadism isn’t only about sex, though it can be, obviously. When I say “sadism,” I mean the pleasure derived from seeing other people suffer. The Republicans have no policy goals. Their only goal is creating legal and political conditions in which the in-group is protected while the out-group is punished. But it doesn’t end with punishment. It can’t.
When the out-group gains power, the in-group feels powerless. When the in-group feels powerless, the in-group feels oppressed. When the in-group feels oppressed, it cries out for freedom. But in order to feel free, the in-group must do more than merely punish the out-group. It must derive pleasure from seeing pain and suffering. This is what I want respectable white people to understand. When they vote for tax cuts and other goodies, they are doing far more. They are helping the GOP’s authoritarian base feel a freedom that depends on suffering.
When white police officers pulled a Black paraplegic man out of his vehicle by his hair last month in Dayton, Ohio, on illegal drug suspicion, that might appear to be another case of police brutality. (Body cam footage of the incident was released Friday. An investigation by the police department is underway.) But to the authoritarian base of the Republican Party, what the Dayton cops did was the goal itself. Seeing the man’s pain produced pleasure. It made them feel free.
It is sadism. It is not cruelty. Cruelty is not the point. Sadism is. You can be cruel without meaning to. You can be cruel without taking pleasure in pain. You can be cruel because you can’t help it (on account of repeating past traumas, for instance). But sadism takes intention. It takes the desire to set aside priorities, like tax cuts and other goodies. It is its own cause. It is its own effect. This is another thing I want respectable white people to understand. Sadism isn’t an unintended consequence. It’s the point. When you vote for the Republican Party, when you give money to Republican candidates, you are joining a concerted effort to bring more suffering to more people, and you are complicit in the derivation of pleasure from suffering. You have become a sadist.
This sounds extreme. That’s because sadism cancels equality. If the Republicans had some degree of commitment to equality, they might seek conditions in which the in-group feels free regardless of whether the out-group feels pain. But there is no equality. Therefore, there is no equal protection under law. Therefore, there is a one-to-one relationship between in-group freedom and out-group pain. Put another way, it’s quite impossible for the in-group to feel free when the out-group does not feel pain. Sadism is the GOP’s vital link.
Given the reality of this one-to-one relationship, you can see they don’t mean freedom when they say freedom. They don’t mean the presence of choice. They don’t mean the absence of coercion. They don’t mean freedom in any conventional sense. What they mean is the pleasure of seeing other people’s pain, because their freedom can’t exist without their suffering. Respectable white people need to understand this. Cries for freedom are in fact cries for sadism.
Just as they don’t mean freedom when they say freedom, they don’t mean borders when they say borders. Ten Republican governors went to the southern border to pressure the president to do more about immigrants coming in. Most of them were from non-border states. And that’s the tell. The border they are defending isn’t the border. It is the border between us and them, between the GOP’s authoritarian base that can’t feel free unless someone suffers, like immigrants, and everyone else who can feel free as they share power with others.
This is the last thing I want respectable white people to understand. There is no middle way. There is no neutral position. “Every state is now a border state,” said Wisconsin Congressman Tom Tiffany last week while visiting the border. Every state is a border state. Every issue is a border issue. Every person is a border person who must choose a side. Are you with us or against us. Sadism is the point.
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