If you’re one of the six people who read this blog, you know that most of the things I post here are stream-of-conscious, marketing-driven stuff designed to move some books. Maybe a movie review, when the mood strikes me. Pug stuff. But hardly anything offensive or controversial. And nothing political. Because, and I have no illusions here, who gives a shit what I think about topics or politics or candidates or what not? Especially today, especially in the Divided States of America, everyone believes what they want to believe and fuck you. You’re wrong and I’m right and you can just fuck off and die.
So, there’s that.
But I feel compelled to write something about the presidential race we find ourselves enmired in today. Let me point out that this is really just to clarify my own thoughts on the subject, not really to win anyone over. But it’s my blog, so my opinions. And if you don’t want to hear them, that’s fine and dandy. This, then, is as good a place as any to stop reading and internet surf elsewhere.
There, now we’re alone…quite possibly, literally.
I don’t want to offend the one or two of you left, but let me be clear about something.
Donald J. Trump is a dangerous demagogue, a personification of a new and curious political paradigm in the United States, that of a malignant strain of authoritarianism that most people wouldn’t have put much credence in 50 years ago.
If you’re thinking of voting for Donald J. Trump, if you’re even thinking to yourself, “Well, he wouldn’t be that bad…,” I really have nothing but a sort of weary contempt for you.
Some people compare Trump to Hitler, but this is a stupid, knee-jerk comparison that just causes his supporters to roll their eyes and move on. And rightly so. Trump isn’t Hitler or even like Hitler. Trump hasn’t strong-armed control of a country, maneuvered it into a globe-spanning war, invaded multiple countries, subjugated their peoples, committed genocide on a truly apocalyptic scale, and nearly resulted in a world the likes of which it is hard to even imagine. He hasn’t done anything approaching this.
No, Donald J. Trump is not like Hitler.
Donald J. Trump is like Mussolini.
Remember him? If you know me, you know that I am a student of history. I read more history these days than anything else, mostly because I don’t like someone else’s horror stories rattling around in my head when I sit down to write my own horror. And the one thing history teaches us–and this is trite, I know, but also a truism–is that cultures that don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.
And if America is anything these days, it is history ignorant. Or pretty much just ignorant-ignorant. There is a growing strain of anti-intellectualism flowering in our country that is disturbing to watch, but hardly surprising I guess. There is a large swath of our fellow citizens that is committed to the idea that God has laid the course for this country, and everything that anyone needs to know is written down in that compendium of Bronze Age fantasy stories known as The Bible. Any departure from God’s Word, as noted in The Bible, cannot be tolerated. The problem, of course, is whose God and whose Bible and whose interpretation?
But I digress…
Anyway, remember Mussolini? Pudgy guy, mugged a lot, had a lot of well-attended rallies back in the 1930s? Whipped people into a frenzy through a mix of nationalistic fervor and race baiting–not Mexicans, back then, for Mussolini it was Slavs and blacks. He built a cult of personality that allowed him to move quickly through the ranks of actual elected officialdom to a full-fledged tyranny. Sound kinda familiar? Yes, he was a fascist, and I’m not suggesting anything of the sort for Donald J. Trump (except, very probably, in his own wicked little dreams), but that’s not my point.
There is a strange undercurrent in much of American culture that we are somehow above history; that the stupid, ridiculous, even horrible things that have happened in the past, in other countries, can’t happen here. To which I can only say…Are you kidding? We’re not somehow exempt from the wild vicissitudes of history. We’re not some different strain of humanity that has been inoculated against ignorance and blind obedience. We’ve managed to avoid some of these things–some–through being careful, through keeping our eye on the ball of the principles this country was founded on. And that, in a nutshell, is freedom and equality for all. Not for a few. Not for some. Not only those we like or agree with. All. Period. End of sentence and end of discussion.
I’ve said before that I do believe the two most profound documents ever written are the Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America. The first one I don’t believe in, but as a document–the New Testament, anyway–it set nascent Christianity apart from much of the other Bronze Age religions by its sheer egalitarianism. Too bad most Christians these days don’t bother to follow its precepts or even note them. They seem more interested in the smiting and brimstone of the far older and daffier Old Testament.
But the second one, the Constitution, I do believe in, and when people these days use either of these documents to discriminate against any group, to deny them freedom or equality or liberty, then they have lost me as an adherent or even a sympathetic ear to their beliefs. You’re going to use a document based on love and another document based on freedom to deny love and/or freedom to people you hate for one reason or another? Nope. Count me out.
There are, however, a lot of Americans who believe, wholeheartedly, that it’s great to use these documents for the purposes of hate. And while I can usually ignore them, leave them to their own beliefs because, frankly, these people, these beliefs are dying out with every new generation, I find it hard to ignore when these people finally find a person to embody, to personify these beliefs and ram them through to the uppermost reaches of our discourse.
I’m reading a great book titled Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics by Marc J. Hetherington, and it posits the growth of a strain of authoritarianism in our country. It’s a fascinating, if chilling book.
What does American authoritarianism mean, though?
It means that there’s a growing number of people who just want someone to tell them what to do. They want someone who can protect them from the right-wing-imagined boogeymen of strange, brown immigrants stealing their jobs or creeping into our country to blow shit up. They want someone who will tell them how special they are, how great they are, while undermining the very things that might make us great or special. They want someone who “tells it like it is,” who isn’t a politician, who speaks to the people.
They want a strongman.
They want a Mussolini.
And they want their elected officials to fall in line with this kind of man; people like Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich and other Republican bigwigs, who, not unexpectedly, have quietly and with a distinct lack of spine called back their earlier criticisms to toady up to this dangerously ignorant man, all in the name of “party unity.”
Wow, doesn’t that term have a distinct, beer-hall-putsch, 193os air to it?
They forget, though, that these types of authoritarians seldom are satisfied by the power they’re granted. Generally, they want more and more and more. And they’re quite willing to take it if it’s not freely given.
If you’re voting for or supporting Trump, I cannot respect your opinion, because I can look down the road a piece and see what it will inevitably lead to. And if you don’t think that what I’m saying is possible, if you don’t think that Donald J. Trump is that kind of man, if you don’t think that something like that can happen in America, all I can say is that you’d be better off reading a little history.
I’m not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. I’m just not. I’d much rather see Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee, mostly because I like what he’s got to say. But also because he beats Trump soundly in every major poll. But it looks like the electorate has spoken, and Hillary will be the nominee.
Fine. I’m not saying that I’d vote for anyone except Donald J. Trump–I’d probably not vote for, say, Hitler or Mussolini instead of Trump. Certainly not Satan instead of Trump. But I will vote for Hillary instead of Trump. I won’t cast my vote with any degree of enthusiasm, but I will also not sit on my ass and not vote and ensure that this dangerous, authoritarian demagogue gets into office.
Yes, I’d rather vote for Sanders as I did in the primary, but, as Bill Maher succinctly said, “If you can’t have the chicken, get the fish.”
So, if the fish keeps Trump out of office, sign me up for the fish.