Since politics and culture are inextricable from each other, it’s easy pickings for any number of thinkpieces on just why thing X is responsible for the present fall of the republic. Here’s a half-baked observation, including spoilers for some things.
As our increasing appetite for darker, more complicated stories and more complicated, conflicted, flawed heroes gave way to movies, books, and tv shows about antiheroes and actual villains, we became blase about legitimately bad people in real life.
How are we supposed to decry torture while applauding Jack Bauer?
Even though he was a sociopath and an asshole, were you really glad Walter White didn’t get away, or were you rooting for him and his big pile of money, an everyman’s badass?
Isn’t it great when Frank Underwood subways, er, subverts his enemies to his own corrupt urges?
Weren’t we thrilled when Darth Vader showed up in Rogue One and slaughtered good guys mercilessly? Didn’t we want more of Heath Ledger’s Joker?
Batman and Superman have to fight each other, hell, even Captain America’s conscience isn’t clean; so many of our good guys are kinda assholes, too.
Are we desensitized to evil? Enough so to not recognize it on the nightly news?
When prison guards boil someone in the shower?
When frat boys laugh with excitement over sentencing Americans to death-by-bankruptcy?
When CBP tricks visitors into giving up their visas via coercion?
When Congress tells ISPs they can finally sell you out.
When ICE ambushes people trying to become citizens and deports them?
When the guy responsible for awful things done in Iraq sets up a meeting between our government and the awful government of an adversary to talk about helping each other do awful things?
When the Department of Justice takes a look at the detailed investigation of systemic racism on the part of police departments nationwide and hard work to fight it and says ‘never mind‘?
These aren’t just horrible things, these are transparent, cartoonishly evil things being done in broad daylight and being bragged about in a lot of cases. Swaggering, cackling, excellent evil showing up and doing whatever the hell it wants, for reasons ranging from deep cynicism and greed, to racism, to just straight up petulance. Forget the problem of a third of the country endorsing and cheering on these things. Ask so many of the rest of us why there aren’t so many more of us in the streets, why we aren’t seizing a moment in real life to join a battle of good and evil.
Ask why there aren’t more Princess Leias and Harry Potters. And wonder if it’s because we all secretly wouldn’t rather be Kylo Ren.