Thoughts On “Our Civilization”

Iowa Rep. Steve King has been in a bit of a brannigan since he took to Twitter to endorse the views of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders using explicitly nativist language.

In its bio, Voice of Europe offers the mission statement “Real news from a beautiful continent in danger. Anti EU / Pro Europe / MAGA”.

Liberal Americans were rightly appalled by Steve King’s tweet, and the usual for-shames and this-isn’t-Americas were brandished. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is out for King’s blood — or rather, this being the House of Representatives — his gavel. Pelosi won’t get it. In another day or two some fresh outrage will consume the politerati and the whole thing will be more or less forgotten.

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After the King controversy had been the scuttlebutt of Washington for just over a day, Paul Ryan offered a watered-down admonition.

“I don’t think that statement reflects what is special about this country,” he said. But then Ryan added this: “I would like to think — and I haven’t spoke to Steve about this — I would like to think he misspoke, and it wasn’t meant the way it sounds, and I hope he’s clarified that.”

King clarified that.

“Of course I meant exactly what I said, as is always the case,” King told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Well, that went well.

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Steve King isn’t alone in his thinking. You can visit Right Wing Watch any day of the week for a toxic stew of racism, nativism, evangelical religious fervor, paranoia, outlandish conspiracy theories and militant activity. Recent headlines include Former Trump Campaign Adviser Says God Warned Him About Bugging Of The White House, Jim Bakker: Trump Opponents Bringing ‘Anarchy’ And ‘Civil War’ To America, Peter LaBarbera: The Fight For LGBTQ Equality Is ‘Satanic and Lance Wallnau Claims Milo Yiannopoulos ‘In The Name Of Jesus For The Kingdom Of God’. As uncomfortable as it is to think about, this worldview pollutes the minds of many Americans.

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If there’s anything racists who insist they aren’t racists love to talk about, it’s comparative birth rates. For them, it’s a numbers game based on simple arithmetic. On one side is children who descend from a variety of nations and ethnicities who, through complex social/historical processes, are now considered to be “white”. Membership rules have been modified over time (to allow the eventual admittance of the Irish after they rallied against the Chinese, for example, and depending on the circumstances Jewish people are or aren’t in the club), but the consensus is that when it comes to power, “white” people are the in-group.

On the other side is everyone else. The racial caste system, though weaker than it used to be, still places some people of color above others. It’s generally agreed that people of African descent occupy the lowest level. To complicate this schema, since 9/11 people who have immigrated from the Muslim-majority Middle Eastern countries have been near the bottom as well. In their situation, racism mingles with xenophobia and antimuslimism to create an especially harmful atmosphere. Similarly, “Hispanics” face racism mixed with xenophobia, the sacrificial lamb for the failures of neoliberalism and the perfidy of corporate America.

The arrangement of our country’s caste hierarchy has no meaning except insofar as the in-group has made it mean something. These racists who don’t like the way that word sounds in other people’s mouths want plenty of “white” babies so that the system will, visibly or invisibly, continue to the benefit of their “race”. It’s usually more visible during GOP administrations, but as Jordan Peele’s metaphorization of the black experience in Get Out masterfully showed, white liberals are not immune from racism or benefit from the system any less.

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The caste system has so far been maintained by the numbers. The openly nativist among whites correctly intuit once “somebody else’s babies” outnumber their own, things will have to change. Their fear helps re-elect Steve King every six years, and gave Donald Trump enough electoral college votes to force his way into power.

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“Whatever the outcome of the election today, the genie will not go back into the bottle. People feel misrepresented.” As I write this, polls have just closed in the Netherlands. Exit polling data shows Geert Wilders performed more poorly than expected. Some will say this reverses the lurch towards the far right in Europe, others like myself are keeping one eye permanently glued on French demagogue Marine Le Pen. The Genie is out of the bottle at in America, in Britain, in every place where the frothing “white” masses feel emboldened. Steve King and Donald Trump will still be part of the nationalist international after the current news cycle has ended. It will take more than a Dutch embarrassment to stop the fascist creep in the West.

(Year Zero/Day Fifty-Five)

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