A scant 180 miles by car from where I’m typing these words was born one of the human race’s most transcendentally brilliant people. The story of an apple dropping from a tree that inspired Isaac Newton’s conception of a universal force governing both falling bodies on earth and the orbit of the moon not only is not apocryphal — Newton himself told the story on four different occasions — but implausibly brilliant. Even for a young man who one summer invented calculus it was a once in a thousand years’ insight. Such is what we really mean by that frequently overworked word “genius.”
So what could be the opposite of genius? An eggplant? The person with the world’s lowest IQ? No, in order for it to be comparable to the opposite end of the spectrum that kind of anti-genius would have to also be equally as human as Newton and as destructive to enlightenment as Newton was advantageous to it. Certainly Flat-Earthers score as anti-Newton candidates for their lack of imagination and laughably naive ideas about gravity. But they are largely harmless fools who hold no real power.
For my money the role of the anti-genius is best occupied today by America’s Republican Party, for whom profound insights are suspiciously too complicated and obvious untruths carry the day. But it’s too facile to dismiss them as fools. They have a kind of primitive cunning that keeps them in power. They are the keepers of the narrative that they never actually come out and articulate but nevertheless manage to deliver: that thinking is bad, and trusting people who should not be trusted is good.
Even so, as George Carlin observed, the problem isn’t politicians but people. Republican politicians come from a seemingly unlimited supply of human scum. Those scum also vote. The factory that produces Republican politicians is the same factory that produces the rapists and murderers among us. It’s little wonder, therefore, that so many Republicans aren’t just moral criminals but actual criminals as well.
It’s a problem so deep that it cannot be solved by one election or even one generation. It can only be solved by education and attrition. Only through education can bigotry, ignorance and jingoism be eradicated. Republicans understand this and that’s why they are opposed to education. Once education has done its job it’s a simple matter of waiting for the remainder of them to die out.
Meanwhile we have one hell of a fight on our hands, and we must never let up. Many of us (including me) naively thought that once Trump was out of office most of our problems would be over. Removing Trump only revealed the true extent of the underlying corruption, and the jaw dropping size of the trouble we face.
So every victory is going to come with its own inherent challenge. For example, the indictment of Steve Bannon means the narrative now coming out of the Republican sewer is that Bannon’s arrest is a travesty, an injustice. It is not. He was subpoenaed and he failed to appear. Failure to appear constitutes contempt of Congress which is a violation of the law for which there is a statutory maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. That is all there is to it. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, contempt of Congress carries statutory legal consequences you can look up.
Isaac Newton understood a thing or two about laws and their objective immutability. For Republicans the law is a thing they can break at will, bend to their own advantage and use as a weapon against their political enemies. But they are outraged when the law is used against them. (Expect a revival of a call for an investigation of Hunter Biden.) Republicans have made it clear to anyone paying attention that they intend to steal America all for themselves and establish a Republican theocracy exclusively for themselves and for their own benefit. We must do everything we can under Sir Isaac Newton’s moon to stop them. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.