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)

The Widening Gyre

The implications of the issuance of the executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” can be grasped instantaneously. A wait-and-see approach isn’t needed, as is often the case when made party to a fateful undertaking. Were one to witness a maniac abducting a stranger off the street, dragging them into their garage, tying them to a chair and dousing them in kerosene, the implication is the stranger will be be immolated unless the maniac is incapacitated.

The Trump administration has doused the “your kind” that “we don’t like around here” with kerosene and is looking for a match. “Enhancing Public Safety” indefinitely barred Syrian refugees from being given asylum in the United States and will block upwards of 500,000 legal U.S. residents from returning home. That’s people with green cards and visas whose futures have been displaced. They already submitted to careful vetting by the federal government. Mainstream liberals would say their dues had been paid.

The alacrity with which these discriminatory edicts have rolled out points to their status as a vanguard to more draconian actions. Here we pause for a reminder, because it feels necessary to keep us in the proper context : Donald Trump was inaugurated a little over a week ago. His initial flurry of executive orders is setting the table, bending the stick… whatever turn of phrase drives home Trump and co. are on page two of their novel (come to think of it, that’s not too bad a metaphor either).

Of especial concern is the re-definition of what constitutes deportation-eligible criminality.

Mr. Trump’s order focuses on anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense, even if it has not led to a conviction. He also includes, according to language in the order, anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” meaning anyone the authorities believe has broken any type of law — regardless of whether that person has been charged with a crime.

Mr. Trump’s order also includes anyone who has engaged in “fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” a category that includes anyone who has used a false Social Security number to obtain a job, as many unauthorized immigrants do. Anyone who has received a final order to leave the country, but has not left, is also considered a priority.

Finally, he allows the targeting of anyone who “in the judgment of an immigration officer” poses a risk to either public safety or national security. That gives immigration officers the broad authority they have been pressing for, and no longer requires them to receive a review from a supervisor before targeting individuals.

Experts on policing and the functions of the American criminal justice system – whether academically or through real-world experience – are quick to point out that if a cop wants to pull someone over or have a “quick talk” on the street they’ll do so without compunction. Not only are there scads of municipal and state misdemeanors that are selectively enforced, terminology like “person of interest” and “reasonable suspicion” give maximal legal C.Y.A.

On top of already established precedent, Trump has given police and immigration officers carte blanche to target any member of a vulnerable population they suspect of thinking of a crime before making them “illegal”. Places like Chicago and Los Angeles are asserting themselves as proud sanctuary cities, and the entire state of California is entertaining the idea of defunding its contributions to the Feds. While admirable, they almost certainly won’t do enough to stop a vortex that’s been growing since June of 2015.


(Year Zero/Day Nine)