A book faces me across the room from a bookcase in my office.  It has a blood-red and black cover.  The author’s name is printed in black down the upper part of the spine and the title in white below that.  The title is Io Uccido—“I Kill” in Italian.  I’ve meant for some time to begin reading it, without having looked further than the textual quote on the back cover from which I know that the novel’s protagonist is a man unable to sleep at night because the urge to evil that rides him like an incubus is sleepless, too.  He has only one way to satisfy it: “Io Uccido.”

As a title, this stark sentence seems to me perfect for the title of a novel: clean, arresting, graphic, brutal, and horribly concise.  It came to mind this morning as I was reading a page by Christopher Dawson, where he speaks of

the masters of this world, [who] find themselves left with nothing but their own sterile lusts.  For this “leisure civilization” in which people sit down to eat and to drink and rise up to play is the dark world which has turned its face from God and from which God’s face is hidden.  It is terrible not only on account of its emptiness but because there is a positive power of evil waiting to fill the void, like the unclean spirit in the parable that came out of the waste places into the empty soul.

This evil, the “male” suffered by Giorgio Faletti’s fictional character that is also the spirit of our time, though it is murderous, kills only on occasion.  Otherwise, restrained by the awareness of its own raging futility, it stays its hand from impotent hatred: Io odio.

Since 1789, “I hate” has been the implicit motto of the left, never more so than today.  Leftists, who see “hate” everywhere they look, are guilty of what psychiatrists call “transference”: the imputation of one’s own thoughts to other people.  Christianity teaches that only in loving do human beings feel fully alive; for leftists, to live, truly and as they say “authentically,” is to hate—Io odio, never Io t’amo except in the abstract, impersonal, ideological sense of loving one’s tens of millions of unseen, mostly imaginary comrades.  Leftist hatred is as ideological as leftist love—hatred of the world as God made it, and of people as they came from His hand—but it can also be terribly personal.  Since Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, life in the United States has become a preview of Hell: a place of perpetual anger and strife, loud with curses, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth.  For mentally and emotionally sane people, the national atmosphere today is stressful and extremely dispiriting.  For people who are historically minded as well, it is easy to imagine how it felt to be living in France in the 1790’s as events built steadily toward the Reign of Terror.  I do not think this is an exaggeration.  I was an undergraduate on the Columbia campus throughout the riotous, nihilistic events of the student uprising of 1968, when as a frank and shameless conservative I came in for my share of abuse by the leftists.  Time may have dulled my memory in this respect, but looking back half a century I do not recall the mood of that time and place as having been as emotionally deranged and morally vicious as the one the Resistance has created today.

There is nothing comparable to it in England (against Brexit), in Hungary (against Orbàn), in Italy (against the coalition government of La Lega and 5 Stelle), in Germany (against the rise of Alternative for Germany and resurgent conservatism), or in Europe as a whole (against Trump’s election, despite his intense unpopularity there).  Why this should be is an interesting question.

The first answer that comes to mind is the symbolic affront to liberalism and the left in general that Donald Trump and his political agenda represent.  Trump himself is aware of the fact, and he has been gleefully exploiting it and rubbing it in since November 8, 2016.  In everything—his ideas, his opinions, and his policies; his language, his carelessness of protocol, his manners, and his mannerisms—he expresses his contempt for liberalism and everything it represents, including the liberals themselves.  No previous American politician (with the possible exception of George Wallace, to whom he bears no resemblance otherwise)—not Goldwater, not Nixon, not Reagan—has committed such egregious lèse-majesté against America’s long-reigning dominant political philosophy and the Establishment that guards the temple and preserves the flame, previously assumed to be eternal.  For now, in the international context, Trump is almost the sole David standing against the Goliath Flannery O’Connor called the governance of “tenderness”—which, she predicted before her death in 1964, would eventually end in “terror.”

A second answer is the broad and deep streak of sentimentality in the American people that Europeans largely lack.  Europe is a very old civilization which, despite its revolutionary tradition of the past two centuries and its devotion to the welfare state, remains after three millennia a deeply disillusioned one in ways that are both good and bad.  In modern Europe, only deranged mass murderers have believed in what Jefferson called a new age of man—one initiated, he thought, by the American Revolution and the American Republic founded in Philadelphia in 1789.  The lessons taught by historical experience and 2,000 years of Catholic teaching inoculated the Old World against sentimentalism of the American kind, which believes in historical perfectionism, trusts America’s ability to achieve infinite progress in every area of life, expects its public figures to renew the promise every day, and calls for heads to roll when the promise is imagined to have been betrayed.  As R.R. Reno over at First Things has remarked, it is unfair to hold the Frankfurt School, transplanted to the United States in the 1930’s, responsible for all of our subsequent ideological corruption: There was always present in American life and thought a native Marcusian strain.  When I was young, I believed that the left was dishonest in claiming the United States a liberal project from its inception.  I think now that it was, though obviously this liberalism was not the New Deal liberalism of the 1930’s nor the advanced liberalism of today.  Millennial movements in European countries before the 19th century were extremely narrow and fanatical ones.  Not so in the United States, where millennialism became widespread in the 19th century.  What Europe has contributed to American sentimental liberalism since 1789—most importantly during and since the late 19th century, when the country was swept by a tsunami of non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants bringing with them a revolutionary political tradition hitherto unknown to Americans—is the terrible, perhaps indelible, stain of violent nihilistic hatred characteristic of the left and leftist politics that has blotched native American sentimentality and produced the crisis in American government and society today.

The left has always been prepared to enforce its political will by violent means if necessary, though in America it has always preferred stealth to accomplish its goals—until now.  Thus its violent response—rhetorically and, as in the case of Antifa, physically—to Donald Trump’s first year and a half in office and the policies he has been pursuing since January 20, 2017.  Liberals and more extreme leftists (they are rapidly coming to be one and the same thing) tolerated “restrictive” laws on the books so long as those laws were lightly enforced, or scarcely at all, and when the government in charge of executing them was a liberal government.  An obvious example is immigration law: laws meant to address the security of the borders, the rebellious sanctuary cities, and terrorism.  President Obama was known, almost affectionately, as the Deporter in Chief among liberals, who nevertheless refrained from losing their minds over it, since they knew whose side the President was ultimately on.  The laws permitting the separation of families at the border date from before Trump’s time in office and were administered by Obama’s Homeland Security and Justice Departments.  Now, with President Trump and Attorney General Sessions enforcing the same laws, the liberals are in open and often violent revolt against them.  Amazingly, they have doubled down on their earlier lax approach to immigration by denying the validity of borders at all, demanding an end to the arrest and deportation of illegal aliens, including criminal ones, and advocating the extension of the franchise at every level—local, state, and federal—to allow noncitizens, legal and illegal alike, to vote.  In other areas of the law too, including those concerned with abortion, voting rights, local autonomy, sexual identity, secularism, and so forth, the left is insisting that no existing law or body of liberal law should be subject to any sort of change, adjustment, challenge, or even reconsideration.  The left never forgets, gives up, or gives in.  For liberals and other leftists, any law, however settled, they disapprove of is always fair game for repeal or alteration.  On the other hand, law of which the left approves, that serves its purposes, or was passed by leftists is written in stone.  It exists forever, blessed with eternal life.

In no other Western country does one half of the country loathe the other half.  This includes the United Kingdom, which is increasingly reconciled with herself more than two years after the referendum on Brexit—unlike the United States, where, less than 24 months after Donald Trump’s election, the animosity and hatred are growing, not waning.  Probably the dangerously mistaken idea, promoted in recent decades by Democrats and Republicans, that America is a nation dedicated from the beginning to a “proposition”—an ideological construct that demands unthinking intellectual loyalty and a powerful theoretical commitment as substitutes for the outdated and pernicious thing called patriotism—is responsible for this.  And after postmodern ideology there is the American obsession with race that only deepens the further the War Between the States recedes in history and the closer the country moves toward becoming a Third World, multiracial, multicultural society like Brazil or Indonesia.  These two major, perhaps now defining, forces operating in the United States in the 21st century—ideological theory and simple tribalism—chiefly distinguish American society from the societies of Europe.  The first requires a large intellectual investment that is also an emotional one; the second appeals to basic and visceral human instincts.  Both promote intense disagreements that tend to be politically nonnegotiable, and are therefore prone to resolution by rhetorical, and eventually physical, violence.

Last July, Tucker Carlson remarked on his show that verbal violence on the left, having reached its limits in this country, has nowhere to go but to physical violence.  The recent week-long attack on the local office and personnel of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency in Portland came almost immediately after his warning.  I think he is right, and that something dreadful is in store for America.  Racial and ethnic balkanization, and the hostility that accompanies them, is an accomplished fact here, and the political divide—or divides—seem insuperable.  The so-called Deep State is profoundly undemocratic, dictatorial, and criminal.  There is no reason to doubt, in the face of its continuing coup in slow motion to remove a legally elected president from office, that it is capable of anything at all.  One day, whether that day comes sooner or later, the Democrats will retake preponderant power in Washington.  What follows after that is anyone’s guess.  Unfortunately, the range of informed guesses is very, very limited.  The next political wave, when it arrives, may be neither red nor blue, but brown.

Tenderness, indeed, leads to terror. 


Io odio.  Io uccido.