Rick Santorum and Republican Assholery

by Brendan Beery

At Thursday’s five-o’clock juco “debate,” Rick Santorum was asked how he could tell a child in an immigrant family that he or she would be ripped from his or her parents. His answer was a moral abomination, and it illuminated the problem with most Republican thinking.

Santorum waxed about his own family, telling the story of his father, who was born in Italy. It was Santorum’s grandfather (his father’s father) who first came to America. And because the older Santorums played by the rules (it must run in the family), it turns out that Santorum’s father remained in Italy for 7 years after Santorum’s grandfather arrived here. So, the story goes, pappy Santorum endured a fascist hell for much of his formation while his own pappy relished his newfound freedom.

The moral of this story must be – in Santorum’s mind – that what his grandfather did was honorable and laudable. It must also be that since such a horror befell his own father, it should befall all children of immigrants.

It’s interesting how so many pols tell the stories of their parents (my father was a mailman; my father was a coal miner; my father was a barkeep, etc.) as though those stories were their own. Santorum tells the story of his father and grandfather as though those stories belong to him – as though they reflect his experience. (If the stories of our forebears belong to us, mustn’t reparations be in order?)

But all these stories share the same theme: no matter how bad my daddy had it, he worked hard and provided for me and filled my life with the only two things that matter: love and stability. There is always an undertone of injustice or unfairness in these stories, too: my daddy was forced to live a life that was beneath him so that I could have it all. The pols who tell these stories rarely include the necessary implication of what they’re saying. “My daddy had a hard life,” the pol says, forgetting to add, “so that mine would be easy.”

What the mailman or the coal miner or the barkeep could have used, of course, was some good healthcare and access to all the education he could accumulate. So it only takes one generation of privilege, it turns out, for the tragedy of social unfairness to be forgotten. The very first baby born in the end zone will grow up thinking he scored a touchdown.

But more to the point, one must ask oneself – seriously? That is what you’d say, Rick Santorum, to a child you’re about to rip from his family? While the child screams for his mom and dad, wailing and awash in baby tears, you’d be telling the child the story of your own grandpappy abandoning his own kids to fascist misery? That is your justification for the emotional rape of a babe? You, Rick Santorum, are a soulless demon.

Only a person whose life has been largely unchallenged could possibly think this way. Empathy comes from shared experience. Those of us who grew up without stability or without love know the tragedy – the desperation – wrought by social unfairness. The child standing on the curb while his home is emptied onto the street by men with guns can say, why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why do all these grownups hate me? How can it be right that I should be left to starve because daddy can’t pay the bills? Then, later in life, that child might as a grownup say about the injustice visited on other children, I will not tolerate it.

Rick Santorum was one generation behind all that trouble, and empathy is obviously not genetic. Having dodged oblivion by luck, Santorum lost all concern for the unlucky. “I got mine” is the attitude one standard deviation away from the mean of the life unnoticed.

Santorum opined, in a statement remarkable for its betrayal of the speaker, that he would rely on “the compassion of our laws,” as though our laws are any more compassionate than the assholes like Santorum who make them. And as though that would be consolation for a precious child screaming for his parents.

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