Some Brief, Disconnected Thoughts On Our National Panic Attack
Donald Trump is a fascist. But then, you don’t read this blog to hear me state the obvious or to repeat what every other reasonable person in the world is thinking. He’s echoing the rhetoric of Hitler. He’s saying we should ban Muslims – even Muslim US citizens – from entering the US. He’s reached the point of such absurdity and popularity that many of my fellow Americans are genuinely frightened about the prospect of him as president. He’s President Snow. He’s Hitler. He’s filling a long felt void in American politics – one that’s been building for awhile, and one that evangelicalism’s concentration on the culture wars has allowed for and created.
During the mid-20th century, it became clear that America’s great experiment in democracy was becoming problematic. It was not an incorruptible, pure government with the people’s best interests at heart. Granted, there was no real illusion of that, but following World War II, spirits were high, and the faith in a White American Democracy That Can Defeat the Evil Reds had never been higher. The supposedly blissful time period after WWII has long been mythologized and then deconstructed as a time of constant worry, contributing to the white moderate handwringing and violence over the Civil Rights Movement (it’s no mistake that the civil rights leaders were called “communists”).
The confluence of events in the mid-20th century, culminating in the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, caused white Americans to lose a lot of faith in the workings of their federal government. Since the 70s, the right wing in America has developed into a paranoid, frightened group that sees everyone outside of it as a threat. And much of this is the consequence of the resurgence of hellfire and brimstone and neo-Reformed Calvinism that preaches society has wandered from God and is therefore doomed.
We can’t trust the press We can’t trust the media We can’t trust the government is the string of thoughts that gets voiced and echoed in Trump’s words, even as he is saying things that should cause us to recoil. We know the warnings. We know the parallels. And yet, when the signs are all there, we let our own fear, our own insecurities, our own desire to have control over something more than just ourselves outweigh it.
Fascism is not built out of one evil man. Fascism is built out of a group of fearful people who sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. Fascism is built from you and me and your neighbor and my neighbor, who all think what we’re doing and saying is perfectly reasonable.
Fear is incredibly, deeply powerful. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I feel like I understand fear better than most people – that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you get off the bus two stops early because if you don’t you might just explode right there. That feeling that makes you say “no” to great opportunities and things you want to do because you’re afraid of screwing up. That feeling that makes you stand at your front door with your hand on the knob, completely unable to actually move forward because you’re so afraid.
And I know nationalistic anxiety is almost impossible to overcome. There is so much that says fear is justified, that a reaction is perfectly reasonable – not least of which being a Presidential candidate affirming your fear.
I doubt I have many Trump readers on my blog. And it’s hard to talk about fear while simultaneously feeling fear of the fearmonger. But, as much for myself as it is for you, today I think we need to remember: perfect love casts out fear. Fear and love are not things that can co-exist, whether it be in a relationship or in national politics. These things are fundamentally incompatible and if we are a country – or a church – that is operating on fear, we are fundamentally not operating on love.
And love is first and foremost what I want to pursue – as a feminist, as a Christian, as a woman, as a bisexual person, as a human being. Love is the center. Love is all of it. If I am ruled by fear, I am not doing my best to love and that is a great loss.