Trump is a big baby. There I said it so that you don’t have to. Many will object to this seemingly over-simplistic analysis. Hear me out before you roll your eyes in dismissal.
It takes one to know one.
I spent the first decade of my life as a big baby. Well, now that I think about it that is not entirely true. I spent one year and eight months, basking in the glory of my only child greatness. I was the adored grandchild, the cute baby cousin everyone fought to spend time with. I knew adoration was my birthright.
Until he arrived.
That he would be my beloved brother Malik. He was this angelic baby who ate, slept, and pooped. Objectively speaking he was cuter and sweeter than my crying and fussy self. In those early months, his brief waking hours were spent cooing, drooling, and gurgling in that way that makes all adults swoon. And he was really sweet if a bit too Grandma and Mom focused. Like his father when he smiled his eyes twinkled and his dimples dimpled his cheeks in the most ridiculously cute way. Ugh. He was unselfconsciously kind to everyone, especially me, his mortal enemy. His blind adoration would have been pathetic were it not sincere. Somehow he was born without the normal sociopathic self-absorption of most babies. I was not. Au contraire my friends I was convinced from day one that life was a scam you had to win. The only way to survive was to suss out and beat down the competition.
Not unlike Trump I was prepared to lie, cheat, steal, and scam for the win!
Oh sure, it was fine for a few months but I knew for optimal survival the situation was less than ideal. For my exacting standards thriving was the only option. In order for me to carry on in the regal manner, I was accustomed to there could be only one.
And so for nearly a decade, my life’s focus was to eliminate and short of that diminish the stature of my sworn enemy, my little brother Malik.
My first attempt was bold yet crude. Whilst ensconced in the bathroom with Mom as she changed Malik’s diaper. At two years old I suggested, using carefully constructed hand gestures, that she flush Malik down the toilet. I pointed to his roly poly form and then drew a line from him to the toilet. I repeated this multiple times locking eyes with her to ensure my message was received.
To her credit, my Mom remained calm in the face of this horrifying suggestion.
While my proposition was extreme, Trump’s playbook is even cruder and uglier than mine or any child desperately fighting to maintain center stage. The consequences of his actions are much graver. Aside from his mind-boggling mix of thuggery, intimidation, and tantrums, as an authoritarian leader, he has an army of minions and politicians he can whip up into a frenzy of self-righteous anger at any time. It was this toxic mix aided and abetted by White supremacist polices officers who opened the floodgates on mayhem and destruction.
The full glory of White male power on display.
White Americans have a discipline problem. If Black people skew towards harsh punitive treatment based on their centuries of brutal enslavement, White people skew too lenient, their overly permissive attitude based upon a history of privilege. In fact, the hallmark of privilege is the absolute lack of consequences for bad/harmful behavior.
One of the most striking things about the insurrection was the absence of any plan or agenda beyond throwing a temper tantrum to bully the people into submission.
Nothing says power like breaking laws with impunity.
This unequal standing before the law or social convention defines every aspect of our lives. It is why not a week goes by that we see Black people shot by cops. Black people are socially surveilled, criticized, and falsely accused at every turn. When a White child acts out aside from a few pleas to stop, their behavior is ignored. Unless the child does something particularly egregious or outrageous but even then the focus is only on stopping the behavior completely ignoring the reason for such behavior. That acknowledgment is often followed up with a forced, perfunctory apology where the White parents’ lack of enthusiasm if not outright disdain is palpable. Once done the act is never mentioned again. There is no process, nothing that looks beyond the basic mechanics of the act itself. And so there is no hope of stopping it. How is this different from the inevitable monetary compensation of the slain by police unions? Paid off as if the money was a built-in cost of White supremacy. The ultimate I-am-sorry-you-were-offended non-apology. Without the sincere expression of regret, we do not have a true acknowledgment of the action. We are doomed to repeat them over and over again.
The default practice of White people in the face of White male power is to ignore or downplay wrongdoing in hopes it will go away. The cessation of the action being ideal but since survival is not dependent on ending it letting it disappear will do.
Upon hearing my words Mom didn´t miss a beat. Instead of reprimanding me she gently reminded me that what I wanted simply was not possible. Instead, I would have to learn to accept and love my baby brother. She made it clear that kind of sentiment was not welcome but she did not condemn me, she corrected me. To reinforce this lesson she told everyone the story. When I heard it years later as an adult I only vaguely remembered the incident. I cannot lie, I was completely taken aback by my own callousness. It was the most humbling lesson of my life. It brought me face to face with the fact I was as capable of cruelty and selfishness as anyone. Nothing like a story to show without preaching or condemning to remind us of our own fallibility.
In the US we like to say justice is about fairness. We pride ourselves on being democratic and law-abiding. Yet, in addition to supporting an oppressive hierarchy that prioritizes White lives above and beyond everyone else. Our current justice system with its emphasis on punishment equates fairness with revenge; it is more punitive and shaming than it is healing.
Our actions extend beyond the people we harmed. The trauma they caused reverberates for generations. When we condone harmful acts by either silence or inaction we put our entire society at risk for generations. Our failure to indict the participants in this insurrection will reinforce White supremacy by tacitly approving the irresponsible and treasonous action of a group of straight, White men. Men who, having exhausted every legal option, resorted to Trump’s tried and true tantrums hoping to force us to do what he wants.
If there is to be any hope of true social transformation we need more than justice. We need justice that helps us dismantle the oppressive structures that maintain White male hegemony and help us heal from the trauma of oppression. *Restorative justice seeks “to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.“
Make no mistake all those involved from the GOP politicians to self-proclaimed “foot soldiers” including Trump must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But in administering justice we must be mindful of the restorative practices that will help us heal and move forward. The guilty must face the consequences of their actions and take responsibility. Like the adults we are all striving to be.
- NACRJ, The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice, An Overview of Restorative Justice, https://nacrj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105:restorative-justice&catid=49&Itemid=1114