In a pivotal scene in Tombstone, one of the best westerns ever made, Wyatt Earp asks Doc Holliday for a character assessment of Johnny Ringo, their main nemesis.
Wyatt: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?
Doc: A man like Ringo has got a great big hole, right in the middle of himself. And he can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.
Wyatt: What does he want?
Wyatt: For what?
Doc: Bein’ born.
Doc – speaking from experience – calls it “revenge.” My own investigation into the negative side of the human condition takes the seed of human evil a step back to resentment, which, in turn, fosters the desire for revenge against perceived persecutors.
The universal constant is inconstancy – and that double meaning toward infidelity is apropos. Healthy people see the flux and embrace the possibilities. The resentful among us see the uncertainty as a betrayal of their infantile belief that the world should satisfy their whims.
Their resentment of personal impotence and glaring unimportance in an indifferent world ignites and fuels the bonfire of cold, hard-frozen revenge. They lash out with a vengeance.
It is from this resentment that Donald Trump and other demagogues build their political base by providing the resentful with scapegoats to blame for all of their thwarted dreams.
- Never mind that desperate job seekers fleeing Central American violence will be filling jobs that are open because no American will take them.
- The miniscule percentage of LGBTQ people in the country doesn’t make them any less “other” and dangerous to the haters.
- Women controlling their own health issues means a diminishment of patriarchal power.
- People of color just look differently – regardless of how much more beautiful they might be.
- Scientists and other fact-oriented people threaten their comfortable misconceptions today just as they made them look bad in school.
- Extending rights to minority religions infringes upon the right to proselytize and punish on the public dime.
Denied what they consider their due – regardless of how their own failures contribute – the resentful lash out against their designated victims. Small and lost – and ashamed of being small and lost – they hope to transfer their fears to others.
They think that they exact revenge for their rejections and pain. Instead, they verify the verdict against themselves by proving themselves unworthy.
In the Christian tradition in which most of us were raised, envy was the first sin – Adam and Eve wanting to be as the gods, Cain wanting to hear Abel’s acclaim. In Cain’s case, resentment at his limitations led to Abel’s death. Resentment, then bloody revenge.
In March, Xavier Díaz Rodriguez wrote this in Barcelona’s El Punt Avui [as translated by its website]: “Fascism is successful because, like capitalism, it is born on the dark side of the human soul. It is often there, latent, somewhere hidden from the consciousness of ordinary people, awakening when oxygen arrives and growing when it finds food.”
Trump has been feeding this darkness since his first campaign speech. And it has appealed to many people whose resentment reveals their greed and bigotry more than unfulfilled needs. The darkness hides their impotence. They dream of exercising raw, uncheckable power to wreak vengeance on a world that refuses to do their bidding.
Violent destructiveness means they cannot be ignored. It proves their importance.
We know right from wrong from an early age – especially those whose claims at being victims reflects an acknowledgment of the justice which they would deny others.
The evil among us know what they’re doing; they’re fulfilling evil dreams.