What a Privilege

This post-election feels different outside. Inside, the outcome was surprising, sobering, and disturbing, and subsequent days are only confirming many fears. Given the stark demographic contrasts in preferred candidates, there’s a sense that people are more suspicious of each other. As an older white male PoC are justifiably giving me side-eye. I’m trying to appear as disconcerted and troubled as possible (which has been easy to do, because I 9f1179b7924e90a88321d250f59d5015am), stalling for time to find a few t-shirts emblazoned with something that makes crystal clear that I didn’t support any of this. In the meantime, I’m stuck playing the suddenly popular game “Which of You Crackers Voted for Trump?” Nowadays with Facebook, it’s easy to find the proud deplorables amongst family and acquaintances. In the olden days, Know-Nothings would sneak around in the shadows but now they proudly display their ignorance to everyone.

One demographic group that stands out: White Evangelical Christians. Reportedly 81% voted for Donald Trump to be the President of the United States. A higher percentage voted for Trump than voted for (the decidedly more “Christian”) Mitt Romney or George W. Bush. These fine Christian volk didn’t have to vote for the villainous and despised Hillary Clinton; they could have refrained from sullyi07b57bc7dee49196fe66573fd3e39f2cng themselves in this election. Instead most actually voted for Donald Trump.

Many Evangelicals used to steer clear of messy politics, but have long been coopted by the Republican Party. Easily held in thrall by the single issue of abortion allows the expedited, short-circuited, easy-thinking these voters prefer. The issue easily fits into their narratives, allowing the dramatic staged event of decent folks with “values” versus unfeeling, atheistic baby killers. This simple litmus test has required them to defend disastrous Bush policies and compelled them to spend 8 years trashing the Obamas, who by all indications comported themselves as model Christians. These political Christians that are clearly commanded not to hate and slander then lustily spent the past 2 years trashing the Clintons (again), using everything from juvenile ad hominem insults to outright fabrications. I debated people who claimed in all seriousness that Hillary Clinton was possessed by a demon. Where do you go from there?

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason … is like administering medicine to the dead” – Thomas Paine

After all the grandstanding about morality and values since well before Bill Clinton, they disregarded all of that and voted for Trump. They didn’t just vote for him as last resort, but many opted for Trump in the primaries too. Donald J. Trump: exceedingly boastful yet still a fool. A man who has spent his life openly mocking and disregarding their faith, who was only recently pro-abortion (and likely paid for a few of them). He dodged military service, he’s an admitted sexual predator, ill-tempered, and unkind. Imagine Barack Obama running with any single one of these traits. Or if he’d had 5 kids from 3 wives. Trump lacks empathy and is hostile to marginalized groups, and he’s awash in racism and xenophobia. He demonstrably repeated more outright lies than any other candidate, maybe ever. There is no financial transparency and this is coupled with ties to our nation’s enemies. It’s like everything said about Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton was true and rolled into one person and clearly known in advance, and yet most Evangelical Christians still voted for him. They eagerly hopped into the same nasty basket as the KKK, internet trolls, selfish “libertarians”, misanthropic atheists, and outright anarchists, all with a prideful irreverence for our highest office.

Trump-ism is the very culmination of the Religious Right’s abandonment of its principles and convictions.  In the last presidential race, they were happy to shill for a prominent member of a Christian cult, a previously blasphemous splinter group with an ugly racist core. Most never accepted that Barack Obama is even Christian. This election cycle they finally rejected all their ostensible strictures and constraints and elected maybe the single worst specimen conceivable. In their entanglement with politics they have lost the moral high ground they claim to which they lay claim. Even in just my lifetime, American Christianity has morphed into the consumerist-friendly “Prosperity Gospel” and Evangelicals have charged ahead leading the parade. They either don’t understand or don’t care that they and their leaders have become the Pharisees from their holy book.

Evangelicals prefer Trump because he represents their kind of Christianity: nominal, authoritarian, and intolerant. Trump has aligned himself with superstitious charlatans and their dim foot-soldiers against secularism, intellectualism, and science. Trump and his running mat8fdcd9470067c126b66f5ce6a0bff181.jpge and their minions pay lip service to American Jesus to endorse an intrusive state that is anti-women, anti-choice, anti-speech, anti-gay, and more.

Evangelicals are comfortable in our new post-truth world because they are used to living in an alternate reality.  They can exist in an alternate universe their whole lives. They construct alt-Wikipedia. They reject the world’s great museums and construct their own pale, farcical imitations. They exist in the greatest privilege yet claim the greatest persecution. For so many reasons, Evangelicals are a great voting bloc. This is the same state-religion entanglement that our European ancestors traveled here to escape.

These hollow, politicized, husks of Christians likely won’t know shame no matter the outcome of this presidency they labored to bring to power. They will start by praying for Trump to have wisdom and end by praying for forgiveness. And they will justify any outcome, good or bad, as being part of the divine plan, for a God whose teachings they so readily sold for thirty pieces of worthless silver and restitution can never be made.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grieves to bear
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”


Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini's Italy (Studies on the History of Society and Culture)Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy by Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always been a student of history when I read and fascinated by fascism, nationalism, racism, and the like so this year in honor of Donald J. Trump I wanted to learn more about Benito Mussolini. I hear the “Trump is Hitler” chant but maybe I’m in the ‘Trump is more Mussolini than Hitler’ crowd, so this year I made time to read up on Mussolini and Italian Fascism. In the past, I’ve primarily read about the more dominant Hitler along with conflations of Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s Fascism. As I read more, there’s a chance my previous reading has been heavily spiced with um Marxist historian takes on all this which maybe clouds my understanding, something I tried to be aware in my reading selections.

I started with The Doctrine of Fascism by Benito Mussolini himself, describing his take on fascism in his own words. I learned that Trump does not in fact have the best words, in fact he’s got nothing on 100-year-old Mussolini. Sad!

Next this year I read Fascism: A Very Short Introduction. I’m a big fan of the ‘very short introduction’ series. The books are very focused, cover the necessary ground, and lay a foundation for further reading.

“To the old liberal system, Mussolini presented the alternative of a new, “very strong,” and “virile” fascist state”

Next I dove into Mussolini’s Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought. A. James Gregor is no Marxist and makes that clear. The book was a refreshing take and interesting to read right now, watching the struggle in the Republican party over ‘Trumpism’. A premise of the book is that intellectuals and intellectual backing are required for any movement. While Fascism is often represented as an impulsive, physical, unthinking force it does and did not lack persuasive arguments of philosophers and writers.

“By beautifying politics, fascism reaffirmed the value of tradition-a tradition founded on hierarchy and respect for authority and drawing its aura from faith.”

I think last in my #Trump2016 Mussolini reading tour will be this book, Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy. This is most immersive and sweeping history. It was a great read, and considering the content it didn’t take too long, although some of it was a chore because thinking why do I care about all of this? But the book is meant to explore the forces present in Italy at the time, Mussolini and his influences, and the outward manifestations of the party. Eventually I felt I had to care, after getting so far along. The book is heavily footnoted (100+ per chapter) so the material is well-sourced (40% of the book is attributions to sources). The chapters explore art, film, optics, doctrine, and other expressions of fascism in Italy.

“in the wake of the French revolution, the traditional embodiment of the sacred and its institutions (church and monarchy) were defeated, the myth of Christendom was shattered, and the hierarchical model of social relations had been liquidated.”

It was interesting to see how Mussolini’s own ideas and powerful personality shaped a time of rising nationalism, and disruptive social and political changes. Owners and workers in league with the powerful leader would remove the need for weak legislative bodies. Democracy was weak, a strong authoritarian state would restore the masculinity, the movement, the change. Even in the United States, oligarchs and other powerful elites were watching for elements to emulate. National arguments would be resolved by appeal to charismatic authority. The Caesarism, celebrity, and showmanship was fascinating and continues to work today. Being “above party” or outside the traditional party system, obeying hierarchy and unquestioningly performing rituals are all similar elements to movements today. It’s fascinating to learn about the Fascist critique of consumption-oriented, lazy democracy and liberalism 100 years of history later, and in these times.

“Sternhell argues that the revolutionary syndicalists’ Marxist revolt against materialism, in combination with the influence of “tribal” nationalism, prepared the soil for the birth of fascist ideology.”

Taken together my reading this year was an enlightening experience for me about Benito Mussolini and Italian – some might say the original – Fascism, more free of the explicit racial politics of Adolf Hitler. In light of the “rise” of Trump, I feel this has been a useful endeavor. I stand by my assertion that Trump is a third-rate knock-off American Mussolini, of course complete with a fake tan and a limited vocabulary, woefully shallow and ignorant and incomprehensibly proud of it. To call Trump Mussolini is to shame Mussolini. This entire election experience has led me again to doubt my faith in mass democracy.

View all my reviews

Conflicted in Ohio

I’m conflicted how to cast my vote in our upcoming primary. I thought I had until Tuesday to decide but we need to vote early, so I need to make a decision. On one hand I feel like Hillary is the inevitable nominee and I’ll have to vote for her later anyway, and so I’ve intended to vote for Bernie #FeelTheBern in the primaries, because ideology – and to register a protest vote against the two-sides-same-coin choice Hillary represents. But with half the Republicans falling all over themselves to avoid nominating Trump, with a Kasich win in Ohio being their best bet and the polls being close, I feel like I should go vote for The Donald, because it’s a chance to help screw establishment GOP and Gov. Kasich at the same time (who is a moderate, reasonable choice only in comparison to his radical and dangerous competition). Also how hilarious and fun to go vote for Donald Trump (!) for president, for pretend. On the other hand, Trump might be regrettable #understatement if he goes on to win and really is ‘Mussolini with nukes’, so there’s that…  #decisions