“That’s Why I Love Mankind”

As the New York Times has reported about the insurrection of January 6, the far-right Proud Boys, before they joined the fray, “stopped to kneel in the street and prayed in the name of Jesus.” And then, “they invoked the divine protection for what was to come.”

Christian symbols could be seen everywhere in the seditious mob because “the most extreme corners of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from some parts of white evangelical power in America.”

Over the years, I’ve noted—initially with amusement, now with real alarm— that many of his supporters refer to him as their “God Emperor.”

And yet, “The people Trump despises most love him the most,” according to Howard Stern. Trump would not want them in his hotels or golf properties. “He’d be disgusted by them,” Stern said.

Stern’s words have been echoed by Olivia Troye, who was once a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She has revealed that, during one meeting, Trump said the pandemic had at least one benefit: now he had an excuse to physically distance himself from his followers: “I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.”

No surprise, then, that last week while Trump gleefully watched on television the destruction being wreaked in the Capitol Building, the only downside, in his opinion, was that so many of his followers looked “low class.”

All of which reminds me of one of Randy Newman’s most cynical, excoriating compositions, “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind).” It’s the final song (what could possibly follow it?) from his third album, 1972’s Sail Away.

Newman begins the song’s lament with his barrel-house piano slowed to a painful, piquant blues, as the Biblical figure of Seth asks God why humans must die, and receives this divine reply:

“Man means nothing, he means less to me
than the lowliest cactus flower
on the humblest yucca tree
he chases round this desert
cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
that’s why I love mankind.

“I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
from the squalor, and the filth, and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why I love mankind.”

By the end of the song, as the world begins to spiral out of control from several crises, religious leaders band together on “satellite TV” to beg God for help. This section of the lyrics, written in the 1970s, seems uncannily prescient about today’s ills. They could easily refer to the unchecked Covid pandemic, the rising seas of global warming, the burning cities of protest and counter-protest in America this summer, and children being forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border, all glaring examples of Trump’s current incompetence, inaction, malevolence or failure:

The religious leaders plead:

“Lord the plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Are tumbling to the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please, please let us be?”

And the Lord said

“I burn down your cities—how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say, How blessed are we
You must all be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind”

Now when I listen to these last lines that Newman attributes to God, I see in my mind the image of Trump standing before the White House in that video he released in the middle of the attack on the Capitol, saying to those “low class” fervent supporters, “We love you, you’re very special.” How they must have basked in his false affection.

The blindness that God relentlessly, even gleefully celebrates in Newman’s song is clearly echoed today by Trump’s followers. No matter what Trump does, no matter what principles he shatters that they previously espoused, no matter what lies they willingly believe, no matter what contempt he shows for them, they blindly follow. Because, with all their grievances, real and imagined, with all their inner wounds, they really need him.

Even though their “God Emperor” won’t take care of us, and he won’t let us be.

 

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