“Evil” Trump: It used to be thought “simplistic” to divide people up between good and evil
My latest op-ed for the Los Angeles Times:
No “complexity” and “ambiguity” here!
“Manichaeans” was a favorite derogatory way to describe GOP President George. W. Bush and his Iraq war supporters in the mid-2000s. The term referred to the followers of Mani, a third-century Persian prophet who founded a highly successful religious movement that rivaled Christianity. Mani was a dualist who believed that the world was divided between the forces of light and good, and the forces of darkness and evil, both locked in a never-ending conflict. Christians, who believe that despite the existence of evil, God and his creation are good, deemed Manichaeism heresy.
With the speed of a wildfire, the word “Manichaean” spread through the liberal punditry to characterize Bush’s supposedly simplistic and intellectually challenged analysis. Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer promptly ground out a 2004 book about Bush, “The President of Good and Evil.” On a book-tour stop at UCLA, Singer accused the president of engaging in a “childish reading of moral rules.” Singer traced that notion to Bush’s evangelical Christian beliefs, arguing that evangelicals had never managed to eradicate the Manichaean heresy from their primitive mind-sets.
Then 2016 arrived, and with it, Donald Trump’s winning run for the White House. Suddenly the words “complexity” and “ambiguity” — not to mention “nuanced” — disappeared from the vocabularies of the so-called sophisticates, washed away in the swirling high tide of the return of that simplistic word: “evil.”
Posted by Charlotte Allen