Point of View Columns

We Have Been Warned

Anyone who is surprised by the vitriol spewing from The Fountain of Hate That is Trump has not been paying attention to what has been going on in this country. Either that or the surprised individuals have been spending too much time in the smoke bars of Denver and are now totally delusional.

At some point during the past six months, too many people were willing to dismiss the Trump presidential candidacy as a passing diversion or, in the alternative, an entertaining intermission until the real campaign started. However, from the outset, with his attacks on Mexican immigrants, drug dealers, murderers and rapists disguised as mothers with children, Donald Trump made it very clear that he was prepared to wade into the American muck of racism and bigotry in a cesspool that has no bottom, and stay there.

Still, many Americans found his misogyny to be amusing in a frat boy kind of way or, at worst, mildly disturbing. His ad hominem attacks on his Teapublican rivals were seen to be either a sign of his strength, power and rhetorical virility or a mildly offensive use of personal invective.

But all along Trump was laying the groundwork for a way to separate himself from the pack and draw from the Teapublican base that always hated President Obama because he is black, from the right wing of the right wing that lived in fear of the demise of the white man’s America and the rise of a truly multicultural United States of America. Black Americans were not a useful target if only because black Americans are always a target for some. Latinos equal immigrants in the TepubSpeak, and in that regard Trump was not alone in his disdain – just listen to Ben Carson.

But the inexorable rise of ISIS gave Donald Trump the target that he, and only he, could use as a hate magnet. The Muslims of America are a small (3%) part of the population and an identifiable group that has enough tenuous links to the global reign of terror to satisfy the haters. And Trump has decided to become the drum major of hate.

In what seems like a twenty first century version of the Nazi playbook in the 1930’s Trump has vilified this American super minority and connected it to the fear and terror that ISIS, Al Qaeda and daily gun violence has created. And when people are afraid a common enemy is a unifying force. And Trump has decided that hatred and fear Muslims is the brick and mortar that will cement his position as the leading Teapublican presidential candidate.

Keep in mind that when Trump called for a “registry” of all American Muslims the general reaction was passing disdain even as his poll numbers rose. Now he is calling for the death of the families of ISIS operatives as well as the banning of all Muslims from the United States (a shout over the whisper of Jeb Bush calling for the inclusion of only Christian Syrians in this country’s refugee policy).

And now, it is not an exaggeration to compare his proposals to the hate policies of the Third Reich. The irony of Muslims now being the Jews of the 21st century American hate theater rerun of the 20th century German tragedy is painful and sad.

What is worse is that we always knew that Trump was a bigot and a pitiful purveyor of hate. What is even worse is that Trump is not going anywhere. And what is worse than that – Trump could become President of the United States.

And that is when fear will become the oxygen of the America atmosphere.

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Point of View Columns

Once Upon A Time…….

For weeks I have been debating with myself about writing this particular column. Two months ago I read “In the Garden of Beasts” by Eric Larson. The book chronicles the experiences of the American ambassador to Germany whose arrival coincided with the rise of Adolf Hitler to power.

The book is particularly powerful in its rendering of the initial response of the German people to the rise of Hitler. He was viewed as being something of a radical but there was supreme confidence that the institutional traditions of the German republic would bring Hitler and his brown shirted followers into line. His rhetoric and writings were dismissed as…..rhetoric and writings in support of political ambition. No great sin. No great crime.

In reading the book a chilling recognition accompanied every page – radical and overheated rhetoric was rationalized even as the authors of this hateful prose were explicit in their beliefs and goals for the coming of the Third Reich. And then…………..it was too late.

Most readers would write off any comparison of the early days of Nazi Germany to the times in which we now live in these United States of America. Except we read and hear the messages every day and any sane and rational person would have to wonder, what is the end game?

Michelle Bachmann is a radical Christian evangelical. This means a lot more than her believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. She believes that the United States is a “Christian country” and that it should be governed according to the precepts of Christianity. It is as if the Taliban joined the G.O.Tea Party and substituted a cross for the star and crescent.

If questioned on the subject, she and her androgynous husband will state that “the American people don’t care about such things, they care about jobs”. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and you will see similar responses from the supporters of the radical movement that ultimately became the Third Reich.

This country has never seen such a powerful doctrine of religious supremacy promoted at the national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry is running for president because God told him to do so. Beware of the zealots, they are always more dangerous than the cynics or the apathetic. And he is already catapulted to being a leading Republican candidate within moments of the announcement of his candidacy.

The battle cry of “taking back America” masks an agenda that ultimately creates an “us-them” scenario that has not been seen since the 1860’s. The G.O.Tea Party circus is about a lot more that making Barack Obama a one-term president. The radical evangelicals are riding the wave of racist-white-hooded tinged hate of Obama into a tsunami of creationism, dominion philosophy and Christian supremacy.

Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons and atheists have very good reason to be worried about the coming days in America. But middle of the road, progressive and tolerant Christians should not feel smug or secure – dominion philosophy does not countenance debate, dissent or difference. After all, evil prevails when good people do nothing.

Michelle Bachmann believes that gay men and women are in league with Satan. Jon Huntsmann and Mitt Romney believe that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri. Rick Perry believes that God has a mission for America (and presumably he is the leader of that mission).

Given the deep financial funk in which the United States is wallowing, the rest of the world must view the opposition to President Obama as being launched from some insane and nihilistic platform. Could the most powerful nation on earth, the planet’s largest economy, be considering the leadership of devout Christian dominion advocates at a time when logic, rational thinking and intelligent strategic planning are the last assets in the arsenal?

The antipathy against President Obama has clearly made a significant portion of this country cross-eyed crazy. In a time of deep economic crisis and global security dangers it is useful to pray. Waiting for miracles may not be such a good idea. Certainly it is written that God helps those who help themselves.

To be fair, the Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing has never openly advocated extermination of anyone. This wing has, however, advocated the reduction of social services that will, in a logical progression, result in the deaths of men, women and children who are denied housing, healthcare, education and a basic social safety net.

The Bachmann-Perry-Santorum right wing of the right wing should be seen for what it is. Read “In the Garden of Beasts” and then look around. And be very afraid.

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Point of View Columns

The Confederacy – The American Reich

In a singularly perverted observation of Black History Month, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour stated last week that he had no problems with a new state license plate that honors Nathan Bedford Forrest. That would be the same Nathan Bedford Forrest who was a Confederate general and one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

The ensuing controversy was nothing short of bizarre, even for these bizarre times. Some Forrest apologists argued that he was only “one” of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan and he shouldn’t be burdened with the entire guilt of paternity involving this consortium of terrorist racists. Others claimed that regardless of his “imperfections” he was an outstanding general, perhaps a military genius, and he deserved honor for his martial accomplishments.

Rather than jump down the rabbit hole with Haley Barbour and the pitiful adherents to this concept of Southern “heritage” and “tradition” I am choosing to stand on the solid ground of history and fact. For too long the flying of Confederate flags, the celebration of the secession of southern states and the glorification of the “Southern way of life” has been the subject of debate. It is time for that debate to end.

The entire way of life in the southern states that seceded from the United States was based on slavery. Unlike the Germans at the end of World War II who claimed that they were unaware of the horror of the concentration camps, every conscious white man, woman and child in the South was absolutely aware of the forced bondage of millions of black men, women and children.

Like their moral bretheren the Nazis, the slave owners, slave masters and slave traders along with their wives, children and political supporters established an awful but efficient system because it was to their advantage. The Nazis chose the Jews, the slave owners chose black people.

Their approaches were similar. The religious and philosophical gymnastics used to justify the enslavement of black people would have sounded familiar to the Nazis as they justified the persecution and murder of Jews.

There was nothing endearing, uplifting or worthy of praise in a system that bought, sold, tortured and oppressed human beings on a daily basis. There is no honor in a “heritage” that accepted the brutalizing of the spirit of the slaves – and the slave masters. The “Southern way of life” embraced and endorsed rape, murder, torture and degradation. There is simply no escaping these facts.

I do not believe that the men and women whose family trees have their roots in the South should engage in eternal penance. I also do not believe that these men and women should blithely engage in the creation of a mythical history that absolves the sins of their mothers and fathers.

This is not only disrespectful of the memory of the men and women who suffered their entire lives as the property of a society as cruel and despicable as any in modern history. It is also dangerous, because by ignoring the facts of history we run the risk of not perceiving its recurrence.

The Confederacy was the American Reich. It was a relatively successful social and economic system that was built on the belief that the supposed inferiority of some people could be used for the benefit of the majority. There were psychic as well as economic values to this system – feeling superior to someone, anyone, anesthetizes the pain of personal insecurity and failure.

Like the Third Reich, the American Reich was worth fighting for, long after defeat was guaranteed. The “way of life” – legal and legitimized bias, prejudice and cruelty was worth dying for, and hundreds of thousands did just that.

Like the Third Reich, adherents of the American Reich continued to guard the flame of their wretched dream. The Nazis took to hiding in Argentina and Paraguay awaiting their return to glory. The Confederates went lurking in the dark woods of the South, wearing sheets, engaging in silly rituals and murdering black people in the middle of the night.

The dreams of the Third Reich have dimmed. There is no United States governor who would give cover to the Nazis. There are no statewide celebrations of the Third Reich (in the United States or Germany) replete with goose steps and brown shirts.

However, the dreams of the American Reich seem to be alive and well in too many places.

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