I’m not harping on Trump because I hate his politics, or even his stupid face – it’s because he and Milo are highly publicized examples of society mistaking psychosis for toughness. A mistake we make all the time: We idolize the “tough guy” on our side because he ruthlessly goes after our enemies, then act shocked when he’s just as ruthless with us. “I love how this guy goes after anybody in his way and takes no prisoners! Oh no! Now he’s after me … AND HE DOESN’T TAKE PRISONERS!”
We think that grizzled, sex-stubbled Jack Bauer – a man who doesn’t play by the rules – is what we need to keep us safe, but the real Jack Bauer doesn’t shut off when he gets home. He brings that same sadism to everything. Cut him off in traffic, and he whips out Waterboarding: The Home Version!
Human empathy is an all-or-nothing deal. And that’s why all of history is just one big bloody Mad Lib. Somebody takes power with the promise of showing no mercy to _____, and once _____ has been dealt with, something else just takes its place. The French? Get ‘em! Gone? Cool, but now it’s the Germans. Oh, we dealt with those bastards? Well, now it’s whoever’s next in line for the throne. Then the critics. The protesters. Whoever disagrees with the administration’s plan to use unclaimed tax refund money to teach wild bears to say “mama” like those dogs on the internet. It’s only in fiction that Aragorn wipes every orc off the face of the planet, then comes home and rules as a just and kind king during peacetime.
Ruthlessness is never a virtue.