Cruelty In Excelsis

But there is something different abroad in the politics now, perhaps because we are in the middle of an era of scarcity and because we have invested ourselves in a timid culture of austerity and doubt. The system seems too full now of opportunities to grind and to bully. We have politicians, most of whom will never have to work another day in their lives, making the argument seriously that there is no role in self-government for the protection and welfare of the political commonwealth as that term applies to the poorest among us. We have politicians, most of whom have gilt-edged health care plans, making the argument seriously that an insurance-friendly system of health-care reform is in some way bad for the people whom it is helping the most, and we have politicians seriously arguing that those without health-care somehow are more free than the people who have turned to their government, their self-government, for help in this area. In the wake of a horrific outbreak of violence in a Connecticut elementary school, we have enacted gun laws now that make it easier to shoot our fellow citizens and not harder to do so. Our police forces equip themselves with weapons of war and then go out and look for wars to fight. We are cheap. We are suspicious. We will shoot first, and we will do it with hearts grown cold and, yes, cruel.

Sometimes, when an article is submitted for publishing, it's headline is changed before it finally is released to the public. This can be for many reasons, sometimes as small as a hunch by the editor that one will engage with more readers. It generally doesn't have the same auteuristic pull that the text of the article has. However, in some cases (with some CMS') the original submitted title is preserved in the URL. In this case, it was: it's submitted headline was "Cruelty In Excelsis".

I like the double meaning here. One definition of In Excelsis is "of the highest order"; the other is "on high".

I think the reason that so much of the "personal responsibility" doctrine is offensive and cause for ridicule among so many is not that it in and of itself is offensive, but that it is so often communicated with and incredible amount of cruelty. The call to self-ownership and self-determination when our country was founded was uplifting and inspiring: now it's just "get a job and stop being poor if you don't want things to be terrible."

But, still, we make things terrible. I want to think that most of this is the last vestige of the baby boomer influence on politics and society. The generation of takers, of wars of choice, of economic madness and environmental disregard and Why Isn't This As Cheap As I Remember It and I Should Call The Manager is in its last decade or two, which will be highlighted with not only a rehashing of its greatest hits (like any farewell tour) but also new performances like Theres Not Enough For Both Of Us And I Was Here First (which will sound a lot like "we'll make sure to honor our existing commitments to our senior citizens before we enact the reforms we need to keep this country strong", or something of that nature) and Why Are You Pissed If You Have Nothing To Hide (pretty much what most of the non-internet savvy Congressmen think, let's be honest).

Even if some of this is an exaggeration or pointed at a smaller percentage of people than I think, the trend leans toward a majority of people who, guised under the doctrine of Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps and No One Can Give This To You, treat people with astonishing cruelty.

One definition of In Excelsis is "of the highest order"; the other is "on high". Both are true.