You can confront someone about their addiction; but, until they reach a point where even they can’t recognize themselves, the addict will always maintain that they are rational and fully in control. They’re choosing the thing or behavior that’s harming them, so back off. It’s not until they reach rock bottom—after losing friends, family, and self-respect—that most addicts realize the harm they’ve caused to themselves and others.
I watched and briefly became addicted to Fox News and post-Clinton Republican politics. It’s easy to be a young white man and see yourself as a self-made bastion of Libertarian ideals—not racist, just wishing everyone could have the strength to pull themselves up by the bootstraps their parents bought for them. I mean, what did your parents buy you after bringing home a Gentleman’s C-report card?
9/11 made it even easier: we were at war, have you forgotten? There’s no time to pal around with potential terrorists! What, do you hate the troops?
Abu Ghraib was my rock bottom. Seeing Americans gleefully chomping on a cigarette butt while tugging literal choke chains on naked human beings was an unrecognizable low for me. That wasn’t Enduring or Iraqi Freedom; that was the logical endpoint of when we let our anger lead us from capturing Osama Bin Laden to trading pictures of Saddam Hussein’s dead sons online and watching his hanging on Youtube.
Obviously, that wasn’t rock bottom for everyone, but each addict has their own depths to explore. The current Republican politics addict has now endured the following and still sees themselves as fully in control, mind your own business:
- Vandalizing, sophomorically defiling with bacon, and attempting to burn down a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. because of “creeping Sharia law.”
- Countless public executions of black men and other abuses of police power against people of color for “resisting arrest.”
- Nominating and then electing an unserious rich buffoon for president because “fuck the libs.”
- Arresting everyone who comes to our southern border and locking up their kids (some still in diapers) because “illegal immigration is illegal.”
This latest development is the logical conclusion of plumbing those depths deeper and deeper on the topic of immigration (“they’re using our welfare”), and you’d think we’ve reached rock bottom. After all, the United States has now officially made any form of asylum-seeking a crime, even when fleeing gang-related or domestic violence. As a consequence of arresting everyone who approaches our southern border, we now keep their kids in cages, indefinitely, while their parents wonder if they’re even alive.
This is an action that, if it were in a movie, would be used to telegraph just how over-the-top evil a government is. If we also made those kids work in mines, we’d be the bad guys in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Conan the Barbarian, and actual World War II. (Technically, I guess I’m conceding that we haven’t truly reached rock bottom yet.)
And it’s obvious that we still haven’t reached Republican rock bottom, because now we have pedantic arguments about what is and isn’t a cage and accusations about child actors. Which makes sense because, in the addicts’ mind, everything that calls their behavior into question isn’t fair or accurate. These are the same tired tactics we’ve seen play out when addressing our nation’s addiction to guns.
At some point, the remaining Fox News faithful will either reach rock bottom or die, angry and alone. The terrifying part is how much worse our country’s actions will have to be for them to notice the squalor.