Friday, March 22, 2019

In The Driver's Seat

My next newspaper column:
Observing the steady and, from right-wing media, deliberate dumbing down of our populace, I’ve often wondered how many smart, informed people our country needs to remain intact. Now I find myself wondering how few white supremacists and people who empower them it’ll take to bring it all down. And, noting how many American high school graduates winning awards and doing great things are immigrants or first-generation, I wonder how long we’ll last if anti-immigration Trumpism gets its way.  
The attacks on New Zealand’s mosques were planned before Trump boasted about the violent potential of his followers, but what he said was sickening: “… I have the support of the police, … the military, … the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” (New Zealand bikers performed a haka to honor their Muslim community.) 
Queen Kellyanne of the Unreachables later pretended, “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.” Yet Trump deleted his tweet referencing it. Why, Kelleyanne? “Shut up and pray,” she told the press. 
An American “president” elbows police, military, and civilians toward violence “at a certain point.” Worse, there are Americans who, rejecting the essence of our republic, love it. Who’ll support America only if it puts aside people who aren’t Christian, heterosexual, white, and, mostly, male. Such toxicity takes nurturing, and not caring by whom, or why.  
The line between here and there isn’t straight, but the White-Power-sign-flashing assassin cited Trump as a hero. So did the murderer of Muslims in Quebec. And the mail-bomb sender. And the Coast Guard would-be terrorist. After the slaughter, Trump offered “Best wishes” to New Zealanders, then said he doesn’t see white nationalism as a problem. Following boilerplate condemnation, he turned to “crimes of all kinds coming across our Southern border.” Of course he sees no problem: white supremacists are the dogs at whom Trump whistles loudest. Formerly decent Republicans shutter their consciences and look away.  
Humanity’s worst had their predictable say: Rush Limbaugh, Trump’s second-favorite liar, called it a “false flag” operation. Fox “news” and their airwave doppelgängers blamed liberals. Praising it with faint damns, right-wingers across the globe and here at home expressed “understanding” of the anger behind the shootings; allowed “the problem” might better have been handled “politically.”  
Trump and his execrable officials, adoring followers, and Congressional white supremacists like Steve King and others may not be directly responsible for murders in mosques. Or synagogues. Or black churches. Or Sikh temples. Or the desecrations. Or the videoed vilifications we see. But they traffic in the same poison. The more they speak, the more those human failings seep from our primeval parts, encouraged intentionally and by dereliction. “This is MAGA country,” a desecrator of Jewish gravestones scrawled, just last weekend. 
White nationalist atavism is increasing. No matter in whose image you believe mankind was created, or under what evolutionary pressures, our species lacks the ability to deal with the problems it has now brought upon itself. Facing dangers everywhere, early humans were instinctive killers. When ancestors discovered the benefits of community, not everyone followed. The paranoia and suspicion that protected them from saber-toothed tigers lost their usefulness. Yet they remain. 
Attacking others for one’s own inadequacies, and the ability to rationalize selfishness when problem-solving requires sacrifices – these weaknesses have long dwelt in our ancient parts. White supremacists, climate-change deniers, and, lately, blamers of the poor for their circumstances in order to justify abandoning them: if the purveyors don’t entirely overlap, they have in common the same residua. Primitive hate exists worldwide, but only our home-grown, right-wing retrogression has the potential to end our democratic republic and render our habitat unlivable. 
Regressives who mock calls for tolerance and for addressing existential problems, if numbering fewer than progressives, have the loudest voices. And, readying for Trump’s “certain point,” they’re armed. As Steve King has reminded us. Potential collapse is hastened by Republicans unwilling to speak out; and by those who like what they see. 
White nationalism, not foreign terrorists, is democracy’s greatest threat. So, by their silence, are its acquiescent enablers. It’s time for Republicans to devolve and try again. Reclaim the humanity they once had. Wrest America’s true greatness back from Trumpism’s empathy-bereft, malevolent bigots. Or acknowledge their complicity.  
[Image source: somewhere on Facebook]

1 comment:

  1. Agree, and right on point here. I also wonder how many rational people we have left. On my optimistic days, I think it's just a matter of us catching up to the bullshit thrown our way every day (I think Jane Mayer's FOX News piece may be the most important reporting this year; also Fault Lines by Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer). My days are mostly not optimistic. Excellent piece, Sid, as always.


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