It’s a type of murder, “depraved-indifference murder,” a type of murder where an individual acts with a “depraved indifference” to human life and where such act results in a death, despite that individual not explicitly intending to kill.

(Thanks, Google.)

The term came to mind just now, as I stopped for moment to consider the policies of our current president. Perhaps it’s mistaken to address them as policies, I thought to myself — the antic public rantings and thrashings that go into establishing this administration’s record, what will ultimately be its place in history. There is indeed a consistency as to pattern, there’s no arguing that, but it is hard to name a unifying theme, a core principle or set of principles. There is the tired quandry — just what the hell the man means when he uses the word “Great” — as in “America Great Again.”

(To my knowledge there has never been a definitive stipulation from the President as to when it was, when it stopped, and when and if it is as yet — again.)

Depraved indifference. One of the most rewarding aspects of writing is when that apt language arrives to name what you hadn’t yet named.

Recall this president’s very first reaction to the reported murder of Saudi dissident ex-patriot and American resident Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi — it wasn’t horror or indignation. It was calculation. First let’s apply some fractional factor, he pointed out — this man Khashoggi is an American resident, not an American citizen, at least not one born here. Next reconcile with the dollar volume to be protected in Saudi dealings. Billions in arms trade. Admirably deep pockets. That was the first blush. Subsequent handling of the affair hasn’t been particularly more acute. The President has complained the “plan” was “poorly conceived” — the coverup botched. The murder at last has come to be recognized as a problematic situation. Ask yourself if you have heard the President even once speak to the meaningful implication of murdering someone for no other reason than their dissident opinion.

Instead you will find depraved indifference.

The news this past week added horror to horror, quietly. It was reported the administration had floated the notion of bartering another ex-pat dissident American resident into the mix. One big reason the murder of Khashoggi has been so public a problematic situation is that Turkey has raised that matter to worldwide public attention. The man was murdered in Istabul, in a Saudi consulate. Turkish leader President Recep Erdogan took offense. Mind you, President Erdogam isn’t up for any awards from Amnesty International. First thought of as an enlightened reformer when he came upon the scene, he’s become increasingly autocratic and repressive, especially after the recent attempted coup, which he blames at least in part on the ideology and advocacy of a certain American resident ex-pat. Reports had it that the administration would consider handing over their Turkish dissident if Turkey would only dial back the volume on its very public investigations into Khashoggi’s murder.

We all got our dissidents, y’know what I mean?

Reports that this bargaining away of American asylum for the Turkish dissident cleric have been greeted with what has become an almost routine round of responses. Past administration officials voice horror, current officials voice carefully worded denials that are in substance not so much denials as shrugs. Some other trivial Trump atrocity will take up our attention soon enough. Meanwhile we move along on our path, the president’s coming legacy begins to come in view. Before this president came along it would have been nearly impossible to imagine an American president so openly lavishing praise on repressive dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, conflating brutality for supposed strength. The facile accounting of a murdered journalist, an American resident. The wheeling dealing dangle of another American-resident dissident’s fate in the bargain. These all do combine to depict a consistent vision, I suppose. There is a pattern. As promised, the man has had a profound and changing effect on our country.

After a while the outrage becomes exhausting, the indifference contagious.

Tom Driscoll, poet, essayist and opinion columnist lives/works in Framingham, Massachusetts. https://tomdriscollwriting.com/

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