Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Children of Trump" in America: ugly racist attitudes showing

On the 30th of December, my very pleasant one-semester sojourn teaching in the Czech Republic, which had afforded me many wonderful opportunities to travel to other places in Europe from Stockholm to Zagreb, Vilnius to Istanbul, Kraków to Kiev, came to an end. I returned to my homeland, the United States of America, just in time to observe the Donald Trump phenomenon in full swing. I had already been somewhat aware of this while in Europe, while continually hoping that the bubble would burst and the American people grow tired of this mean-spirited charade, but being back in America has made the Trump juggernaut all the more vivid and distressing.

To me, this seems nothing short of the rise of an American form of Fascism, with a charismatic leader who promises to "make America great again," blames foreigners, immigrants and the president, whose American citizenship Trump once questioned as a ringleader of the "birther" movement, for the currently less-than-great state of the nation, and rouses wildly enthusiastic crowds of supporters with promises to ban Muslim migrants and deport Mexican ones, restore Bush-era "waterboarding" of Muslims under suspicion of terrorism, the "enhanced interrogation" program that many condemned as torture, and erect a huge wall on the US-Mexican border to keep out the dirty, criminal foreigners who keep America from being "great." Trump has also displayed an immense capacity for vitriol and vindictiveness by insulting and attacking rivals, protesters and journalists in cruel, petty and personal terms that have generally been understood as "un-presidential" in past electoral cycles, a single incidence of which would have been enough to cripple past presidential campaigns. Sadly, this sadism has not damaged Trump's standing, but only enhanced it, by appealing to what seems a bottomless thirst for sheer aggression among his followers.

Trump's policy proposals are laughably vague, but this does not seem to matter. What appeals most to his devotees is not what he is for--obviously, his goal is to "make American great again"--but who he is against--Mexicans, Muslims, liberals, elites. Considering that he receives his most thunderous applause for his anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim statements, and that his audience is mostly comprised of white Americans, it seems to me that the not-so-very well hidden inner meaning of Trump's "make America great again" slogan is a racist call to "make America white again." The revelation that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists have expressed their support for Trump bolsters this interpretation.

In this context, Trump's miscellaneous proposals for harsh actions from deportation to torture to mass bombing against racial, ethnic and religious Others become distressingly coherent, a politics of hate whose most skilled and successful past practitioner was none other than Adolf Hitler. It is not clear if Trump is fully conscious of the ugliness that he is tapping into and the dread spectres he is conjuring, or if he is simply an attention-craving opportunist eager to please his audiences with whatever they want to hear, but either way, the appeal of his message demonstrates how far America is from closing the door and healing the wounds of its history of violent racism. If the "Children of Odin" in Finland represent a right-wing response to the Muslim migration crisis in Europe, then surely the "Children of Trump" are the American counterpart.

Having recently finished an article on political viewpoints in Ásatrú, I am conscious of how the Trumpian call to "make America great [and white] again" has a certain echo in some ethnic-oriented forms of modern Paganism. To the extent that such Paganism may be fueled by a desire for ethnic validation among white Americans who feel threatened by the increasing acceptance of diversity in American society, the parallel is clear. AFA founder and prominent conservative Heathen Stephen McNalllen's past statements opposing Mexican immigration as a threat to white European social and political dominance would probably be very well-received at a Trump rally.

This raises the interesting question of how Pagans in America are responding to the political choices offered by the current presidential campaign in the USA. Are the more left-wing and universalist Pagans lining up behind the Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, and are the more right-wing and ethnically-focused Pagans leaning toward Trump? If anyone has seen information on this, please send links or reports to this blog through the comments section.

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