Adam Kinzinger just referred to fellow Republican congressperson Lauren Boebert as “trash”.
The harsh remark was prompted by a piece of fan fiction Boebert created for the titillation of her base. She had just stepped into an elevator, she says, when she saw a security agent rushing toward her with “fret all over his face”. Boebert says she was concerned until she realized that Representative Ilhan Omar was standing beside her.
“Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,” Boebert allegedly told the officer.
Then, turning to Omar, Boebert added insult to insult. “Oh look,” Boebert sneered, “the Jihad Squad decided to show up for work today.”
Omar says the encounter never happened. It’s not the sort of thing one would forget. So, either Boebert invented the story, or Omar is lying. Who do you believe?
Boebert’s cruel invention immediately brought to mind Adam Serwer’s essay in the Atlantic, “The Cruelty is the point.”
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.“The Cruelty is the Point”
Lauren Boebert has based her political career on being a female Trump mini-me. She understands the appeal of calculated cruelty, so long as the “joke” is at the expense of someone vulnerable, someone who lives outside the bubble.
I learned of Boebert’s remark shortly after listening to an illuminating conversation between Omar and Chris Hayes on his Why is this Happening podcast. “We say race is a social construct,” she says at one point. “And so is clan. And, you know, a lot of the things that sort of force communities to express xenophobia are things that are fermented in society by others that are doing the dividing and conquering.”
Boebert is a divider. Whether or not she will be a conqueror remains to be seen. All we can say now is that her team is flourishing like the green bay tree.
Kinzinger’s tribe, by contrast, is on life support.
This is where we are in America. We are being asked to choose between a pathetic bully like Boebert and a bold survivor like Omar. Which side are you on. Neutrality is not an option. We’re way beyond that.