I don’t believe in a soul in the spiritual sense, but there is a part of us that is formed of our deepest held values and emotional core and soul is as good a word for that as any.
Fear corrodes the soul. Rage corrodes the soul. Hate corrodes the soul.
It’s possible to polish and patch something that has been corroded and make it look shiny and new, but the corrosion will always have been. You cannot unmake the past.
I am worried about what the Trump years are doing to the soul of the left, that collective sense of purpose and compassion and empathy that is made up by all the individual souls within it.
For decades the people at the top of the right have worked to foment fear and rage and hate in their followers. It’s the new bread and circuses and the stock in trade of Fox news and right wing radio.
I understand why they’ve done it. Fear and rage and hate are powerful motivators. They create a sense of common enemies if not common purpose. It works to keep them in power and to keep them together.
But it is the most corrosive of tools. It eats up those who would use it as surely as it eats up those who follow them. It destroys as it unites, fusing what once was a collective of bright souls into a dark and twisted mass.
The left at its best is fueled by hope, by sympathy and compassion and the desire for a brighter future for everyone no matter their origins or appearance or who they love.
As I have observed politics for more than forty years I have watched the best of the left ebb and flow. I have watched some of us lose our way and give in to despair, to fear, to rage, to hate.
Some of us have always walked that path, but collectively we have abjured the darkness and tried to call back those we have lost. We have striven to be our best selves even when it is terribly, terribly hard.
But this moment in history is different. Trump is an agent of corrosion. He destroys everything he touches. He has accelerated the corrosion on the right to a terrifying degree.
Trump has also corroded the left.
I have never seen so much fear and rage and hate on our side. I understand why that is. Our institutions are falling and failing us. Climate change looms like a colossal wave waiting to drag us all under.
I won’t lie, I feel the pull of that darkness myself. I understand the desire to succumb to the inner demons. I also, to my lasting shame, feel the temptation to feed it, to use it as a weapon that unites the left as the right is united.
I fear that we will let ourselves follow the path the right has taken. I see how we stand where the right stood a few decade back and why people like Newt Gingrich choose to harness the horses of darkness to pull the chariot of the right.
I hope that we will turn away from that path, that this coming election, which is inevitably going to come from a place of fear and rage and hate, is also one of hope, and the first step back towards our better selves.
But, even if it is, the corrosion has already eaten into our collective soul. It has left marks that may be polished out, but never erased.