Of Lebensraum and Lapdogs

That idiot, PewDiePie, had the self-awareness to say that the New Zealand shooter’s call out to him made him sick to his stomach. That idiot, our president, has made no such rebuttal to the shooter’s mention of him. A generous soul might think that Trump covered all this when he tweeted, “God bless all people.” But I have no more generosity for Mr. Trump. And anyway, considering that the NZ shooter is just one of a series of white supremacists who have acted in Trump’s name, you’d think Trump would take care to say something that would distance himself. But he won’t do that—at least not without equivocation. And the reason is because 1) he thinks some white supremacists are very fine people, 2) he knows that he can carry this thought without alienating his base of lapdogs, and 3) he knows that this thought can actually win him more lapdogs. I suspect that Trump himself is a bigot. (Okay. I’d put money on the fact that Trump is a bigot.) But I think he refrains from distancing himself mostly because he knows that bigots help him. They keep voting for his platform. They keep mentioning his name. They keep giving him their approval. And Trump is a sucker for approval almost as much as he’s a sucker for power. And this…er… suckage makes him so malleable that he won’t even reject praise from murderers. He is actually that weak.

And really, the NZ massacre isn’t the first time we’ve seen Trump play footsie with terrorists. We saw him grovel for Putin, last July. We saw him praise Kim Jong Un, last month. We talk so much about Russian election collusion that we rarely mention the other risks to national security that Trump’s spinelessness engenders. As a bully, he’s a pack animal. He impresses and dominates the less-powerful. And then he shows his belly to those who impress and dominate him. It’s the same mechanism that got authoritarians to vote for him: If you have money, then you must be strong—and we want our leader to be strong. We want our country to be strong. We want to be great again.

The problem—or one of the problems—is that a pecking order follows a transitive effect. If you bow to Trump, then you also bow to those who make him their bitch. If you bow to Trump, then you bow to Kim, and you bow to Putin, and you at least share words of praise with a white supremacist who killed 49 Muslims. As far as you are concerned, maybe this truckling is worth the big dogs’ approval—their praise of your race, or of your so-called Christianity, or of your so-called heroism in the face of those who are different from yourselves. Or, I could be wrong here. Maybe you don’t care about approval at all. Maybe you’re not really a lapdog, but an actual jackal, where you’ll join any pack that tears enough from the scapegoats that it’ll leave some fat for you too. It doesn’t matter, really. Not in the end. You’re still debasing yourself for scraps.

EDIT: Regarding NZ, there’s another post that somebody should write about social media and massacres. Perhaps it will be more original than this one. I just tire of Trump and his platform escaping blame for crimes that literally invoke him.

And Then Someone Said That My Hands are Small!

I don’t usually find anything to smirk at when I think about the Nazis, but thanks to Michael Farquhar’s book, Bad Days in History, I’ve come across this little beauty:
“I have no friends and no wife. I seem to be going through a spiritual crisis. I still have the same old problems with my foot, which gives me incessant pain and discomfort. And then there are the rumors, to the effect that I am homosexual. Agitators are trying to break up our movement, and I’m constantly tied up in minor squabbles. It’s enough to make you weep!” (From the diary of Joseph Goebbels, Oct. 26, 1928.)
 
I don’t know. It struck a chord. Despot wannabes so frequently find life so very unfair.

Slouching Towards Washington

After spending so much time with the news, I’ve started to think about lies and the people who invent them. A minister friend once gave a sermon about that spooky story set in Gergesa—you know, the one about the demoniac who says his name is Legion*. This minister decided that the demoniac calls himself such because he has no center. There is no constant core to himself. He doesn’t know who he is.

We could probably think a long time about whether Donald Trump doesn’t have a central core. On one hand, he seems so very self serving. On the other hand, he’ll become just about anything to serve that self. Whatever the case, I do believe that most could agree that Trump lies. If nothing else, his lies are Legion. And they swim over one another, and they vie for primacy, and they at least demand that Trump treat them as the truth, if they don’t outright dislodge his sense of it. I don’t know. I’m sleepy from an early morning, and I can’t put all the pieces together. I do think, however, that there’s a link among deception, self-identity, and a kind of hostile (and secular) possession by that deception.

And here’s another thing: In the Gergesa story, the demoniac recognizes Jesus for who Jesus is. In fact, the demoniac recognizes Christ way before any of the people do. And although I don’t ever want to imply that Trump is a demon while his opponents are gods, I do think we can see another pattern where Trump both recognizes the truth bringers—the media, the intelligence community, the protestors—and then spends a great deal of energy trying to send them away.

AND BY THE BY: At the end of the Gergesa story, when the demoniac is back in his right mind and the Gergasenes recognize Jesus as a bringer of sanity (ie. they recognize him as a truth teller), they send Jesus away. They don’t want anything to do with him. They liked the way things were, with their Legion screaming along in the desert. They might not have trusted the demoniac, but they certainly preferred him to the truth. Right? That’s the way it looks to me. Maybe he… uh… promised to block all those dirty Philadelphians who wanted to come up from the south.

*For those of you playing at home, I’m using the Markian version of the story for this post.

Cyruslly: Donald Trump and Cyrus the Great

Apparently, in their own peculiar numerology, some evangelicals have decided that Donald Trump—the 45th president—enjoys cosmic parallel with Cyrus the Great, who is mentioned in Isaiah 45. Cyrus is the Persian emperor who returned the Israelites from Babylonian exile and allowed them to start rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem. Israel’s own Benjamin Netanyahu drew the parallel after Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And since then, the comparison has picked up so much momentum that, last October, Christianity Today published “Is Trump Our Cyrus? The Old Testament Case for Yes and No.”

Honestly, I don’t know what scares me more: The hubris that makes evangelicals yearn so much to place themselves in the center of cosmic events, or the fact that they misunderstand their own history. I don’t know much about Cyrus the Great, except that, for ending the Babylonian exile, Isaiah refers to him as a messiah (or anointed one). Cyrus commands great respect from a variety of peoples (including Iran, who adopted Cyrus’s clay cylinders as one of their symbols). He has a reputation for being savvy in battle, where among other feats, he conquered Babylon. He is best known for deftly managing the largest empire in history, as it stretched from Asia Minor to India. And he eventually managed a collection of quasi-independent states, where he exercised tremendous religious tolerance. Oh. And he released a lot of people from captivity. The Babylonians—the very people he conquered—called him The Liberator.

So… I’m squinting here, and I still don’t see a lot of Trump. Let’s start with “Military hero.” Well, with Mr. T we’ve got bone spurs, and secret leaking, and suggestions to invade Venezuela. 

How about “respect from many peoples, including Iran?” Well, if we look past the trade wars, and the insults to NATO, and the Baby Blimp, we can focus on last July, when Tehran threatened Trump with the Mother of All Wars. And Trump got out his ALL CAPS tweeter to brandish consequences “few in history have ever seen.”

Right. So, let’s look at “deftly managing a vast empire.” You’re kidding. Moving on…

Next, we have “tremendous religious tolerance.” Oh boy. I bet the refugees from the banned Muslim countries don’t think so. I bet Jewish people take exception to Trump’s refusal to to condemn the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. In fact, some of them reject him so much that they requested he not travel to the Pittsburgh synagogue after it suffered an attack—a request, by the way, that Trump ignored.

So finally, that leaves us with “he released a lot of people from captivity.” Dear dear. Since the start of the child detainments, two of them have died in ICE captivity. In total, 22 immigrants have died in detention during the past 2 years. And then there’s the flip side, where in 2018, Trump deported 98 Mauritanians (compared to 12 deportations, a year ago), where these immigrants will almost certainly return to modern-day slavery.

And… that’s what I’ve got. I mean, what am I missing? Trump is Cyrus because Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem? That’s it? That and the number 45?

Oh, wait. This took some digging, and the evangelicals will have to bend a little, because it’s from the Quran. But according to this book, Cyrus the Great finds embodiment in somebody named Dhul-Qarnayn. And this guy’s claim to fame is that he… builds a wall.

There. It all makes sense.

EDIT: After some thinking, I’ve decided that maybe the evangelicals pair Trump with Cyrus, because Cyrus was a pagan who nonetheless became God’s instrument when he restored the Jews from their exile. The Old Testament is lovely in how it’s full of gentiles who do godly things. I mean, there’s the sailors who throw Jonah overboard; there’s Moses’ pop-in-law, Jethro. But the exception is that these guys did God’s will out of decency, or at least outright piety. I don’t see that with Trump—I don’t see it at all. I mean, I suppose that the evangelicals hope that Trump will have a Damascus moment, in the manner of its namesake, Paul. But let’s be honest. Trump probably thinks “epiphany” is the name of a lady he once rented.

When Hatred Has a Young Man’s Face

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 3.40.18 PM.png On Facebook, last week, I said that the photo of Trump grimacing in front of the McDonald’s feast was the emblem of Trump’s presidency. This week, I’d say that this photo is the emblem for his followers. You probably know the story around this image. On Saturday, students from an anti-abortion march surrounded a demonstrator from the American Indian Movement, where they jeered, and chanted “Build that wall!” In this picture, one of our sterling youth wears a MAGA hat, while he taunts Vietnam Veteran, Nathan Phillips.

What new insight can I add to the conversation? Perhaps the best I can offer is the fact that there’s nothing new here at all. That’s why the photo is the very emblem of the Trumper. Long before now, Hatred wore a MAGA hat when it threatened violence at Trump’s rallies: “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, ok? Just knock the hell… I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.” Hatred wore a MAGA hat when it marched in Charlottesville. And Hatred wore a MAGA hat when Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, featured one on his Instagram avatar*.

Back at Trump’s rallies, Hatred has also chanted “build that wall,” at least as often. Hatred chanted it in Iowa City, in a middle-school lunchroom, the day after Trump won the presidency. And as we saw yesterday, Hatred will chant it even when the phrase doesn’t make sense, (such as when some bigot lodges the line against a Native American). As twitter so aptly suggests, the slogan is basically something that Hatred secretes when it wants to single out one of its targets. The phrase is shorthand for the same thing that MAGA itself signifies: Expel everyone except us.

And that leads me to the third non-newness that appears in this picture. Our good “Christian,” in his baseball cap, came to counter the Women’s March, I suppose. I mean, if nothing else, he came to speak for the babies he purports to save. Such a stance isn’t very far from the rationale that the United States adopted in the 1870s, when they forced Native-American babies into boarding schools, as they endeavored to “kill the Indian [and] save the man.” Hundreds of thousands of Native American children matriculated through these schools, which Native-Americans had no right to resist until the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. The white “Christian’s” disdain for the Native American is very old; we know that. But it takes photos like this to show the non-Native how strong that Hatred still is. Hatred is what moved Dakota Access’s security firms to release dogs on the Standing Rock activists. Hatred is what moved those security forces to shout for the protestors to lay down their (non-existent) bows and arrows. Hatred is what allowed the ND governor to authorize those same forces to shoot water cannons at the protestors in sub-zero temperatures. This Hatred happened under Obama’s administration; the sickness indeed goes back centuries. But Trump has owned assets in Dakota Access, and after he came to power, the suppression of the protest increased to the point where North Dakota now prosecutes 800 cases against Standing Rock activists, while the fed also prosecute 6. When Trump came to power, in fact, James and I stopped our trips to Standing Rock. That’s shameful, perhaps, but the Hatred there had just lost any semblance of a federal backstop.

Standing Rock is the first place I saw the media suppression, the official deception, and the vengeful litigation that the Trump administration would later employ though ICE. It’s the same Hatred we see in Saturday’s picture: This expression of malice—this vile exuberance—is what Hatred looks like when it believes it’s winning.

*According to the Miami Herald, he also placed a MAGA hat in the casket with his liberal mother, when she died in 2017.

EDIT: As the story develops, a video suggests that the altercation was not so one-sided. That might be the case, and it might even bear reflection. But the smugness from the MAGA folks is the outgrowth of everything else I mention in this article.

A Gorey-Styled Ode to Trump

A is for Alt-Right, whom Trump primps and goads.
B is for Brietbart where Bannon implodes.
C, oh Covfefe, which flew from a tweet.
D is for Dotard, said Kim Jong with heat.
E’s for Election, long-plotted for years.
F is for Fox News and Fake News and fears.
G is for groping, both public and private.
H is for Hair hockered up by a civet.
I is for ICE Raids, Gestapo reborn.
J is for justices, pressured and worn.
K is for Kim Jong, a-wavin’ his nukes.
L is for lies upon lies till we pukes.
M is for Miller who pines for his fuehrer.
N is for NATO Trump put in a furor.
O’s for Obstruction, the tyrant’s best whore.
P is for Puerto, now Rico no more.
Q is for Quislings, the warts on this wart-hog.
R is for Russia, where Trump is the lap-dog.
S is for Spicer, and Sanders, and Sessions.
T is for Tariffs and brand-new recessions.
U is for Utterly over his head.
V is for Voters whom fraudsters mislead.
W is for Wanting a war where he’s wiener.
X is for Xenophobes—make ‘Murca meaner!
Y is for Yelling. They really should bleep him.
Z’s for the Zoo were the country should keep him.

(Thanks to my husband, James, for helping with everything.)