THE BIRTH OF OUTRAGE JANUARY 26, 2017

The Background

In 1998 William J. Bennett published a book entitled The Death of Outrage. In this text he examines Bill Clinton’s violations of  American ideals.  He discusses sexual misconduct, character weaknesses, flaws in judgment, and disrespect for the rule of law. He bemoans the fact that Americans are able to accept such assaults on our values.

In other books Bennett discusses educating our children in shared values, moral clarity, moral collapse, moral poverty, and honor. An example would be The De-Valuing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our Children.

In a widely-purchased text, The Book of Virtues, Bennett gives us examples of literature celebrating the following core values:

  • Self-discipline
  • Compassion
  • Responsibility
  • Friendship
  • Work
  • Courage
  • Perseverance
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Faith

Since then Bennett has jumped on the Trump train, acting as a significant surrogate for Trump’s election. Let’s look at Trump’s report card with respect to these values: (On a typical 1 – 100 scale.)

Self-discipline

0    No explanation needed.

Compassion

0    Ridiculing women, minorities, the handicapped, and all who disagree with him seems disqualifying.

Responsibility

5    Has virtually never taken full, or in most cases even partial responsibility for anything he has ever said or done.

Friendship

0    May show some loyalty to some “friends” if they are sufficiently and unwaveringly sycophantic, but otherwise in no discernible way.

Work

60    Cannot concentrate; cannot focus; doesn’t read; doesn’t study or inform himself about even the most basic, immediately important topics. Speaks very well and often; works very hard to aggrandize himself, which accounts for 59 of his 60 points.

Courage

60    Is not afraid to be different but is deathly afraid of deprecation.

Perseverance

99    Tireless in his efforts to aggrandize himself.

Honesty

-100    By many country miles the most dishonest human being who has ever been nominated to run for President. Quite literally, Trump wants everyone in the world to believe that the truth is whatever he says it is. NEWS FLASH: “Alternative facts” are not an alternative reality – they are despicable lies. (As to my score, I have to get off the scale here. A grade of “0” would be an assault on the science of mathematics.)

Loyalty

0    Bennett was talking about loyalty to others, not to oneself.

Faith

10    Like most politicians, he pretends, but even his pretensions ring uniquely hollow. He compares his ghostwritten fiction, The Art of the Deal, to the Bible, for example.

As you can see, on something like Bennett’s scale, Trump has earned an aggregate score of 14.4%. Bennett himself would also receive a miserable score, though it would be higher than Trump’s.

Consider this: Bennett has taken to preferring the counsel of Sean Hannity over that of his previously preferred exemplars such as Victor Hugo, Margery Williams, Charles Dickens, and Jesus Christ, to name a few.

So, William J. Bennett, the bloated bloviator from Brooklyn, now publically and loudly supports a man who has spent his life in mortal combat with Bennett’s own oft-stated, repeatedly-recorded, and reputedly deeply-held values. (Any dictionary editor wishing to use this example as the very definition of hypocrisy is free to do so.)

The Point

Bennett, who has taken to lying and denying, ignores and even impugns anything that does not fit the current version of his shamefully amorphous brand, which is consistently and flatulently cloaked in the grandiloquent rhetoric of morality and values.

He has almost completely lost touch with whatever connection he may have had in the past with what is “good and true,” as the philosophers he claims to revere describe axiological considerations about which he is now spectacularly and I must say curiously confused.

This puppy, on the other hand, remains true to the idea that considerations of morality ought to supersede considerations of party, principality, or tribe, and are not to be randomly determined by the exercise of the raw power of the current ruling faction, ethnicity, or class. In other words, Trump’s power ought not to trump the power of moral principle.

To me, this is the key issue in each and every election.

Though virtually all of the details seem to have bedeviled him, Bennett was actually right when he wrote, years ago, that we ought to preserve our outrage over evils existent within and created by our own country. He was right that legitimate moral outrage was dying. But at this point he doesn’t seem to see his own role in facilitating what now appears to be a successful operation on a patient he helped to kill.

So this is my point: I am outraged by the poverty of Trump’s morality and that of his shameless supporters. And so, it seems, is much of the rest of the world.

True outrage has been born again, in the face of Trump and all of his supporters and sycophants, including Mr. Bennett.

May the recent worldwide expressions of this outrage continue and prosper.