Until now I have refrained from calling Donald Trump evil. The very notion implied in the term harkens back to dark religious undertones, perverted Puritan values and persecution to rid the world of heretics, witches and troublesome, sexually-active sinners. But as societal values have changed over the years, leaving the religious right somewhere between the Taliban and Roman Catholicism, we as a culture have become more accepting of what was otherwise classified as sinful behavior. To be a liar is not necessarily evil. We all lie from time to time. Extramarital sex is not uncommon in our society, not that we should condone it, but really… is it any of our business anyway? In this day and age, premarital sex is the norm, not the exception. Is sin evil or is evil something else entirely?
Evil is a judgment that few are willing to make, especially regarding their President, this one or any other. Perhaps it would be easier to evaluate the appropriateness of this word, if we can first reach a consensus of what is meant by “evil.”
Let’s start with a few distinctions—right and wrong, good and bad, sin and then proceed on to evil.
Right and wrong are terms that are used incorrectly within a context of morality. Strictly defined, right and wrong are objective terms. For example, 2+2=4 is right and 2+2=5 is wrong.
Good and bad are also used incorrectly in moral judgements. These terms are subjective in nature relative to, and dependent on, outcome. If I loose $10 playing poker it’s bad for me but good for the winner. The event itself is neither good nor bad.
Sin is a religious rating system, a prescribed moral judgement based on the conscious decision, awareness and full understanding that the action performed by an individual is wrong and has bad consequences for others, including the individual committing the act.
Evil, however, is the systematic adoption of wrongful behavior as a means to an end, one much larger than a single event, rather a way of relating to the world at large as a primary operating system for one’s own aggrandizement.
By this definition, it is quite appropriate to say that Donald Trump is evil. His hateful speech–his all too vocal embrace of racism, white supremacy, misogyny, and anti-semitism, are all obvious signs of a decayed and festering morality at his core. The manner in which he bullies, insults, humiliates and denigrates both loyal allies and perceived enemies alike, knows no boundaries. His executive actions that deconstruct protective measures that otherwise ensure health and well-being, economic justice and planetary survival are all well known. And what of a person who first gravitates to a lie rather than the truth to explain his actions? What does that say about him? All to what end, if not to inflate Donald Trump, to increase his wealth, his power and influence? Any one sinful action does not constitute evil, but rather signals the weakness of humanity. When Trump cheats on Melania, he does it knowingly, with the understanding that it is very wrong and the consequences are bad for both of them as well as all of us. It may be sinful but not necessarily evil. But taken as one element in pattern of behavior that includes tearing immigrant families apart, caging small children, enriching himself and his family at the expense of the American public, and supporting actions and policy that inevitably result in the demise of the ecosystems and the very planet we live on, then yes, I would have to say he is evil.
In a democratic system, it is necessary to create an illusion to muster consent for behavior used to achieve one’s darkest objectives. That in itself is evil.