Early on in Shakespeare's great tragedy Macbeth, the wife of the protagonist—aware that she must match the brutality of her husband in order for him to achieve his apparently preordained greatness—says
"Come, you spirits/that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here/And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty."
Obviously the statement plays into the gender stereotype of the woman being the weaker sex, incapable of the direst cruelty of her male counterpart. And in the end the ruthless savagery actually does her in while her husband fights on against insuperable odds. But remenber also, Shakespearean plays are filled with strong, bold women: Lady Macbeth's fall is more a case of her own weakness than a fault of too many maternal instincts; and her plea to be unsexed is more indicative of her self-awareness than any gender stereotyping.
Enter Kirstjen Nielsen.
I don't know if Ms. Nielsen uttered a soliloquy with a request that she be unsexed—maybe cruelty and savagery are part of her nature. Or maybe she became so enthralled with her boss that she would have done anything to please him, to prove to him that she could be as tough and unforgiving as he. Whatever the case, she will soon learn two important lessons: first, the guilt and ignominy of horrible acts do not stick to the vacuous and morally bereft Trump; and two, they stick to everyone else.
Nielsen's abrupt firing over the weekend came as she was once again ready to prostrate herself before Trump—once again ready to double down on the harsh and inhumane treatment of immigrants. Unmoved by the prospects of 47,000 missing children and the possibility that two years might be needed to reunite families, Nielsen was ready to go further—to follow whatever prescription the malignant mind of Stephen Miller would formulate and the malleable mind of Donald Trump would bend to.
Ceding one's self-respect to the president is the first giant step to shame and humiliation. Sure enough, today Kirstjen Nielsen is another cipher, another victim of the White House revolving door, the one which used to let in reasonable people and spit them out when their usefulness had evaporated. Now with the stockpile of reasonable people all but depleted, the way has been opened for white supremacists like Stephen Miller to settle in at his new job of president while detritus like Nielsen, Kelly, Sessions, et al. are left to piece together the shards of their lives.
But (and this may be a forlorn hope) a part of me believes that Ms. Nielsen will come clean—will expose a presidential staff full of vitriol, vengeance. and an overt and unmistakable hatred of all non-whites. A detailed exposé and many mea culpas might salvage what is left of her name. However, if the unsexing "took," expecting a change of heart or any kind of reckoning would be foolish on my part. The more likely conclusion is that history books that remember her at all will point out a woman filled "from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty." And families separated and severed by her policies will remember her only as the female counterpart of a malicious racist—one who willingly did his bidding and would again if he asked.