Trump Jr.'s Candy Covered Cruelty

Donald J. Trump, Jr. has compared Syrian refugees to poisoned candy. Really.

This is extreme prejudice against suffering people wrapped in candy. It is a calculated cruelty designed to dehumanize refugees. And typical of the Trump family it wasn't even original.

Calculated cruelty toward many groups has been a theme of the Trump campaign since the beginning: Mexican Americans, Muslim Americans, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities and many more.

Candy covered cruelty, however, is a new low in my view because it takes a child's treat and turns it into a weapon to promote moral callousness against children and families who are hurting often through no fault of their own. This helps create moral callousness, the insensitivity to the pain of others.

Moral callousness is how people can be staggeringly cruel and yet justify it to themselves. It is rooted in the "absence of empathy" so well documented and analyzed by Robert Jay Lifton, the famed psychiatrist who has studied human behavior under extreme circumstances over many years.

In his work based on interviews in The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide for example Lifton shows that the vast majority of people are not innately evil and cruel. What happens to create a situation like the Nazi genocide is that a culture develops in which a group or groups of people are portrayed as lacking "ordinary human qualities."

In other words, certain groups of human beings are robbed of their basic human dignity and made into just things, inanimate things that can be safely discarded.

A piece of candy is just a thing, isn't it? Have you ever discarded a piece of candy you thought you might not like? Did you feel any guilt about it? Of course not. It was just a piece of candy.

Refugees from Syria are not candy. They are not inanimate objects that can just be thrown away. They are human beings, Mr. Trump, and they deserve your respect, even as you expect to be treated with respect.

In fact, treating others as you want to be treated is called "The Golden Rule" or the ethic of reciprocity. This ethic is found in virtually every religion and humanist philosophy around the world and has been, over millennia.

The Trump campaign exhibits a stunning lack of ethics when it comes to how other human beings should be treated.

But as a Christian pastor and teacher, I cannot only point out this ghastly lack of ethics.

I have to say this as well: Jesus wept.