Through the course of this presidential election, there was a great deal of discussion in the public sphere about the problem of 'radical Islam,' and in particular, about the left's persistent refusal to refer to violent jihadism as 'radical Islam'. The idea behind this criticism is that the failure to appropriately name a problem amounts to an inability to combat said problem. In one of the Republican primary debates, noted wordsmith and melting-butter-sculpture impersonator Ted Cruz doltishly quipped: "Political correctness is killing people." And one of Donald Trump's favorite go-to critiques of Hillary was that she wouldn't use the words, 'radical Islam,' (long after she, to her discredit, used the term). So let's consider briefly the problem with using the language of 'radical Islam' as a synonym for violent jihadism.
Had lunch yesterday with my friend and former student, Paul Eppler. He pointed me in the direction of this piece by Umberto Eco, excerpted from a longer piece titled, Ur-Fascism. By ur-fascism, Eco means a basic template, consisting of fourteen bullet points, hiding behind most forms of fascism.
For a fun, family activity, count how many of these bullet points correspond to rhetorical elements of Trump's campaign and presidential transition. I count thirteen!
In the words of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's chief strategist heading into his administration: "Darkness is good... Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power."
In attempting to 'drain the swamp,' Trump is considering and appointing only swamp-people.
What has been the most disturbing element of this presidential election for me personally is contemplating the effects of this election on the treatment of women in this country, as the father of a teenage daughter. In this election, we saw a very clear choice - between someone who is probably the most qualified person to ever run for president (having been the first lady for eight years, a United States Senator, and the Secretary of State, not to mention her foreign affairs knowledge accumulated by being part of the Clinton Global Initiative); and the person who is literally and indisputably the least qualified person to ever run for president, entirely and demonstrably unqualified to hold the office, or qualified only in the constitutional sense of being a citizen of a certain age.
In the wake of Trump's election, I have argued on the side of sanity, on the side of benefit-of-the-doubt cooperation with the democratically-elected president-elect. But to megaphones on the right, please, for the love of Christ, spare me the outrage at these democratic demonstrations of protest across the country, most of which, by the way, have been entirely peaceful. Since the protests began, voices on the right have steadily and increasingly cried foul, on the grounds that 'we didn't do that when Obama was elected.' And that, my friends, is plainly and simply, false.
Let's rewind. There were, in fact, protests in the streets after Obama's election. (See photos above). The difference between those protests and the ones we're seeing today is the following: the post-Trump protests are directed specifically and explicitly at the hate speech that has been peddled by Trump and his supporters over the past two years, and many of the protesters have specifically requested, as their protest objectives, that Trump denounce the racially loaded vitriol of his campaign. The post-Obama protests were mostly hate speech, directed at Obama himself - accusations that he was not a US citizen, accusations that he was a Muslim Manchurian candidate for Al Qaeda, secretly plotting to destroy the United States from within, insistent emphases on Obama's middle name, allusions to lynchings and other elements, such as cross-burnings, from the ugliest periods of US history. There were direct and explicit comparisons drawn between Obama and Adolf Hitler - (and, we should note, these came from pundits and voices on Fox News, not just from citizens in the streets). There was an increase in the numbers of independent militia groups in the United States, preparing for the coming revolution. Stores nationwide sold out of firearms and ammunition, and ammo manufacturers were unable to keep up with sales in the following months. There was an explosion of hate crime in the US and a steady uptick in hate groups with numbers reaching unprecedented levels, followed by the formation of the 'Tea party,' a political sub-party within the Republican party with its primary political goal being the paralysis of United States governance. At one point there was a cry from a radio host for an armed insurrection to overthrow Obama. His entire presidency has been plagued with unfounded public outcries for his impeachment, and as a matter of fact, our president-elect was one of the voices calling for public protest after Obama won reelection in 2012.
So, while I am on the side of healing and have resisted the very real urge to lash out, please, for God's sake, drop the high horse pontifications about how Republicans never protested Obama's presidency. Not only is it radically, wildly, absurdly, comically, and demonstrably false, but it undermines the essence of democracy. Just as elections are the core of democracy, and we must honor the results, protest is central to democracy as well. Spare me the righteous indignation.
The results are in, and Donald Trump's campaign-long message of bigotry and xenophobia is now reverberating violently through America. Now emboldened by Trump's victory, his most reprehensible supporters are acting out in the name of the bigotries that he spewed constantly while on the campaign trail. As noted in this CNN piece, there has been a drastic uptick in hate crimes across the country.
Many on the right seem to be willfully ignoring the facts about Donald Trump's rhetoric over the past (at least) eight years, expressing extreme resentment at perceived accusations of bigotry. But, it cannot be overstated, there are, right now in America, a lot of people who are scared as hell - Mexican Americans worried about being deported, Muslim Americans worried about hate crimes and exclusion, gay people worried that their right to marry the person they love (or stay married to the person they've already married) will be stripped away from them, African Americans worried about heightened police brutality. These fears are not accidental, nor are Trump's endorsements from virtually every prominent hate group in the United States. They are based upon the race- and religion-based invective that has poured out of Trump's mouth in a steady stream for the past few years.
If Trump is to be, as he said, a uniter, he must now, without hesitation, roundly and unambiguously denounce those elements of his message that earned him the support of the KKK, the American Nazis, the Neo-Nazis, and David Duke. He has said to the disaffected, angry, white men, "I have heard your pain," and he now needs to say that to everyone else, everyone he has marginalized through his campaign.
'Woulda, coulda, shoulda', I know... but had this guy been the Democratic nominee, we might very well be having different discussions these days. Or at the very least, if the DNC had not treated him with the elitist disdain with which they did. (More on that at a later time).