TYRANT: AN ESSAY ON THE NEW AMERICA
A year before the start of the second World War in Europe, Methodist minister and professor of theology Halford Luccock said at a gathering in New York that, “If fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany;’ it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, Americanism.” “Americanism” in 2016 is Make America Great Again and the ideology is not as subtle as Professor Luccock envisioned.
We learned in the last week that the arrival of fascism in America is actually attended by swastikas. The spasm of celebratory racial violence across the country has been punctuated with the appearance of swastika graffiti in both the nation’s “out of touch liberal enclaves” and in the “real America.” More than 200 racially motivated attacks have been documented in the seven days since Donald Trump was elected president. Chants of “white pride” in the halls of American schools, hijabs being ripped off the heads of Muslim women, Hispanic families being being gleefully informed of their coming deportation by their white neighbors: this is where we are now, this is where we live.
Even though Donald Trump is a compulsive liar, we must take him at his word. The conventional political wisdom (how particularly feeble that looks these days) holds that a candidate move closer to the center in order to win a general election. Trump did no such thing. His campaign was as racist and reactionary on November 8 as it was when he descended the gilded escalator in June 2015. If anything, it got worse when he named white-nationalist propaganda entrepreneur Steve Bannon CEO of the Trump campaign. Bannon, whose influential right-wing news site had a whole category dedicated to “black crime,” will be serving as chief strategist and senior counselor to the president in the Trump Administration.
What is to stop him now? With the limitless resources of the presidency and two Republican houses of Congress ready to rubber stamp his every wish, he will have the power to persecute every group he denounced for the last 17 months. He will go after his personal foes, amassed over a lifetime of being the most repugnant human being in New York City, with a ruthlessness not seen since the days of Nixon and his enemies list.
The use of torture, the most shameful practice (in a crowded field) of the last Republican administration, is back. Trump’s lifelong infatuation with inflicting humiliation and punishment on whomever he thinks deserves it will truly blossom once he has the U.S. military and CIA at his disposal.
Since winning the election, he has promised to deport 2 to 3 million “criminal” immigrants who are in the country illegally. The remaining illegal immigrants will have to wait until a “determination” is made about their status.
We are now one act of violence perpetrated by someone with a traditionally Muslim surname away from state sanctioned discrimination against an entire religion. Internment may not be out of the question. Some form of registry will be almost certain. Newt Gingrich has spoken longingly about bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Republican party has a willful ignorance of Islam and a general hostility to Muslims in America and around the world.
One hopes that the internecine struggles within the Democratic party and the larger American left will be brief. A bloody civil war will stymie any successful opposition to the evil on the cusp of power. Though perhaps the people who advised Hillary Clinton to appear on Broad City and not in the State of Wisconsin should play a minimal role in the opposition.
The Trump Administration will be a carnival of sadism and incompetence without parallel in modern American history. The repeated demonstrations of hostility to democratic values shown by Trump and sycophantic inner circle coupled with their utter lack of preparation for actually holding office will lead to chaos and real, human suffering.
Trump succeeded where George Wallace and Huey Long failed. Bluster, fear, hatred and racial division triumphed in ways not seen in the lifetime of any living American. We found out that It Can Happen Here. The only question remaining is how long will we put up with it?