Hubris: exaggerated sense of self often ending in retribution
Hubris has been the distinguishing factor of the Trump Presidency (and how I hate having to use those two words together) since the ridiculous scene of the man and his wife descending a golden escalator to denounce Mexicans as rapists and murderers.
In Greek tragedies, the hubristic protagonist is always brought down by the gods for trying to be a god.
Hubris may well bring down this administration.
But hubris has also been a defining characteristic of this country.
The brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates said on “All In with Chris Hayes” Friday night that white supremacy raises its ugly head when people feel sorrow for tragedies that happen to white people, as if their whiteness should make them immune from tragedy.
In the same way, since 9/11/2001, the US has acted as if terrorism shouldn’t happen here, and the analog is that it’s okay for other countries to suffer daily from terror attacks.
I was born in 1952. In my lifetime there have been genocides in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans. There have been wholesale killings of innocent people in large swaths of Latin and South America. There have been assassinations of political figures in multiple countries around the world, some orchestrated by the CIA. There’s been apartheid in South Africa, famines again and again in the horn of Africa. Soviet and Russian takeovers of sovereign countries. Ongoing effects of nuclear bombs in Japan. Daily killings in Israel and Palestine. Daily suicide bombers pretty much everywhere outside of North America.
And over all, here at home, the ongoing effects of genocide of Native Americans, slavery and failed reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings, unequal rights, murders of black men and women by police, murders of those protesting white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and the list goes on.
Yet still we feel that 9/11 shouldn’t have happened to us. We’re the US. We’re exceptional.
In many ways, the hubris of the present administration reflects the hubris of white America since the 1600s.
In 16 years, I’ve never heard an American public figure reflect that perhaps there was cause and effect in what happened in New York and Washington that day. And I’ve been afraid even to broach the subject for 16 years.
But I can’t help thinking now that perhaps we deserve Donald Trump. White America laid the groundwork for him. Hubris elected him; hubris will probably bring him down, but how much of the US will it bring down as well?