Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
The warmup act for a full-blown American fascism and orchestrated race war is taking place in immigrant and marginal communities across the United States: Racial profiling. Random police stops. Raids at homes and businesses. People of color pulled from vehicles at checkpoints. Seizures of individuals with no criminal records or who never committed a serious crime. Imprisonment without trial. Expedited deportation hearings and removal proceedings that violate human rights[.…] Parents separated, perhaps forever, from their children. The hunted going underground. The end of the rule of law. The abandonment of the common good. The obliteration of a social state in which institutions and assistance programs—from public education to Social Security and welfare—make justice, equality and dignity possible.
White Europeans who are undocumented are not being targeted. The executive orders of President Trump are directed against people of color. They begin from the premise that white Americans are the true victims of neoliberalism, deindustrialization and falling living standards. The Trump orders are written not to make America great again but to make America white. They are an updated version of the Nazis’ Nuremberg race laws, the Jim Crow laws, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Naturalization Act of 1870. They are intended to institutionalize an overt racial hierarchy in the United States, one already advanced by the miniature police states in which marginal communities of color find themselves. In these impoverished enclaves there is no right to trial or due process. Militarized police kill with impunity, and the courts lock people away often for life. Rights are treated as privileges that can instantly be revoked. The poor, especially poor people of color, have been exempted from moral consideration. They are viewed as impediments to social cohesion. And these impediments must be eliminated. This is the template for what will come. Jews—their community centers under threats of violence and their graveyards being desecrated—will be persecuted. American fascism will be cemented into place by uniformed and heavily armed paramilitary squads clutching the flag and the cross and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer.
Presidential chief strategist Stephen Bannon, in his public comments and his films such as “Generation Zero,” has embraced a historical determinism worthy of Karl Marx. He posits that Western culture has been contaminated and is being destroyed by darker races and barbaric religions and belief systems. His conspiratorial view of history and society sees a global war between the white race and the lesser breeds of the earth as not only inevitable but one that will reinvigorate and purify America.
I share Bannon’s distaste for globalization, free trade agreements, the failure to put Wall Street bankers in jail, the bank bailouts and crony capitalism and would even concede that Americans wallow in the moral swamp of a culture of narcissism[….] But his solution to the purported crisis—total war by the white race to regain its ascendancy—is insane, as are the causes he cites: a New Deal that turned citizens into whining dependents; the permissiveness of the 1960s; white guilt that made the country cater irresponsibly to African-Americans by giving them social service programs and undeserved mortgages that led to the 2008 financial meltdown; an intellectual and a liberal class composed essentially of traitors; and the “new barbarity” of “Jihadist Islamic fascism.”
Racism, misogyny, the inherent cruelty of capitalism and the crimes of empire, from Wounded Knee to Vietnam and Iraq, simply do not exist in Bannon’s mystical nationalist worldview. He insists that the white male aristocratic elites who formed a republic that enslaved African-Americans, exterminated Native Americans and denied the vote to women and white men without property created “a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind.” This is what he wants to recover.
Trump is stoking the darkest and most destructive strains of the American psyche. Congress, controlled by the Republicans, is unlikely to use impeachment powers to stop him. The courts are spineless subsidiaries of the corporate and security and surveillance state. The elites will not save us. If we fail to build mass protest movements, ones that cripple the ability to govern, we will be enslaved.
Copyright 2017 Chris Hedges. These quotations are from an essay published February 26, 2017 in TruthDig. Read the full essay here.