We often define culture as a “way of life.” Implicit in this definition is the notion that culture should support and value human life.
It makes sense, right? A “way of life” promises, in its very language, to support living, not promote dying.
And yet, as I have written about on multiple occasions (here, here, and here) since last October when Donald Trump effectively aided and abetted Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan in a genocide against the Kurdish people in Northern Syria, Trump’s administration, both in its foreign and domestic policy and practice, can be described as nothing less than genocidal.
When I say his domestic policies and practices are genocidal, I mean to assert quite blatantly that his governing has sought quite actively and hostilely to undermine the lives of Americans.
It isn’t just that he’s careless and callous with American lives. He carefully seeks to promote American death.
As I write, over 160,000 Americans have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only had Trump refused to address the virus, we have also learned that Jared Kushner’s coronavirus team strategically chose not to implement a coordinated national strategy to address the pandemic, believing the virus was poised to hurt traditionally blue states disproportionately hard.
In short, the consciously crafted strategy of the Trump administration was to let Americans die.
Trump’s fervent push to re-open the economy and to send children back to schools also exemplifies his promotion of American deaths, not American lives. As we have already witnessed in Indiana, sending children, teachers, and staff back to schools will certainly lead to more sickness and death. It’s a matter of when, not if.
And, of course, it’s not just Trump. It’s the entire GOP.
They have been quite clear. If there’s choice between life or a “way of life” that entails death, the GOP opts for the latter.
As an example, consider Republican Representative from Indiana Trey Hollingsworth, who has presented the choice in just this either/or way when arguing that the economy must be re-opened or we will lose our “way of life.”
He has been rather explicit about his view of these limited options and also about his willingness to sacrifice American lives to sustain his vision of the American way of life:
“Both of these decisions will lead to harm for individuals, whether that’s dramatic economic harm or whether that’s the loss of life. But it is always the American government’s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life of American lives, we have to always choose the latter.”
But Trump’s facilitation of Erdogan’s genocide against the Kurds last October and his administration’s handling of the pandemic are really just the tip of iceberg when it comes to his efforts to consciously erode the conditions that support Americans’ lives.
Let us count just a few ways Trump and the GOP have behaved with deadly hostility towards their own people:
*In doing absolutely nothing in response to the intelligence that Russia has put bounties on the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan, paying Afghans handsomely to murder them, Trump is basically complicit in this murderous activity, showing no regard for Americans’ lives.
*The Trump administration, even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, has continued its assault on the environment through its agenda of reversing 100 key environmental regulations designed to ensure to Americans have clean air and water and an overall safe environment in which to live. Trump is making the world toxic for Americans. As just one example, consider that last January Trump obliterated key provisions of the Clean Water Act legislated in 1972, threatening Americans’ access to this most basic life support. To get a sense of the devastating significance of this act,, consider the actually informed perspective of Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. In Holman’s expert judgment,
“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen. This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”
*Trump has continued to try to destroy the Affordable Care Act. If successful, 20 million Americans would lose health insurance altogether and another 130 million would lose their lifesaving protections for their pre-existing conditions.
*And let’s not forget Trump’s careful rhetoric that has promoted genocide at home. Even when he doesn’t execute policy, he inspires and mobilizes his racist army to action, as we saw both in the mass shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue and in El Paso. In both cases the shooters deployed Trump’s language of “invasion” to rationalize the mass killing of Jewish people and Mexicans, respectively.
And these are just a few ways we can count of the many ways Trump on a daily basis assaults the most basic conditions of life for Americans.
His “way of life” for America is the way of death.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.