Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rolando Rodriguez on Trump's Appeal to White Male Fantasy: "The Image of Our Naked Brother Hanging on the Cross Is the Result of 'the White Male Phantasy' "



A week ago, I posted some comments about David Rosen's recent Salon article which argues that Donald Trump is appealing to a group of U.S. voters who long for the resurrection of what Rosen calls the "white male fantasy" of being on top of the world. Rosen thinks that


Many of them [i.e., Trump's followers] still long for that long-gone age when being a white man meant you were on top of the world. And while these voters are nowhere near the bottom of America's contemporary social hierarchy, they don't see it that way. The entire trajectory of their lives has been the experience of relative decline in power, wealth and social status in relation to other groups – as women, people of color, gays and lesbians and other groups have won greater social acceptance and rights to which they were entitled but previously denied.

In response to Rosen's thesis, Rolando Rodriguez has offered the following powerful essay in a comment here

Many can never admit that the image of our naked Brother hanging on the Cross is the result of "the white male phantasy."

Ecce homo!

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled (Lk. 2:1).

That was the state of "the white male phantasy" at the time of Jesus. It was a patriarchal kyriarchy. While that may sound somewhat redundant, as human society evolved and systems of government developed, male dominance based on power and might managed to subdue women into the role of brood mares, to subjugate weak males, and to use or abuse children. The white male phantasy enshrined and ensconced sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, militarism and other forms of exclusive "-isms" by internalizing and institutionalizing the subordination of one person or group to another. To continue its domination, the white male phantasy now decrees that the intellect and will of the whole world should atrophy.

Once more Pilate went out and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, "Behold, the man!" (Jn. 19:4-5).

Hailed by angels, Jesus' birth was miraculous in the eyes of the shepherds. His ministry was among the poor, the infirm, the outcast, and, most scandalously, with women. People of different communities and classes were listening to his teachings,

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mt. 11:28-30).

Jesus was abrogating the white male phantasy by example and deed. Seeing their power and position threatened, the chief priests and scribes sought a convenient way to arrest him and put him to death (Mk. 14:1-2). They pointed out that were it not for a legal technicality, Jesus would be a bastard. He had no status in the Temple or in the community. He gathered with questionable people. Aware that the civil authorities could be misled or intimidated and that the crowds were easily swayed, they enlisted a "friend" to betray Jesus. After the testimony of a few false witnesses, the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pontius Pilate, the rulers who lived by the white male phantasy, collaborated, and induced the crowds to call for an ignominious death on a cross.

The meek and humble Jesus so threatened the collective white male phantasy that the rulers and leaders not only wanted to humiliate the weak male, they hankered to demean, degrade and debase Jesus by hanging him naked in public view, taunting, 

He trusted in God, let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, "I am the Son of God" (Mt. 27:43).

From the Gospel to Life, and from Life to the Gospel

Especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, the meaning of the ecce homo motif has been extended to the portrayal of suffering and the degradation of humans through violence and war. Rosen: "The problem is that the social contract and the economic conditions that once supported the American Dream are now broken."

Writing specifically about the white male phantasy, David Rosen notes,

The entire trajectory of their lives has been the experience of relative decline in power, wealth and social status in relation to other groups – as women, people of color, gays and lesbians and other groups have won greater social acceptance and rights to which they were entitled but previously denied.

The roiling political races are, as he describes them, "a live demonstration of what it’s like to live in a world where you never have to apologize for anything, no matter how much it hurts or offends other people and other groups." The white male phantasy is "the personification of the dark side of our culture, economy and politics, … the symptom of a collective psychosis rather than its root cause."

As Rosen notes, "Most conservatives now live in a parallel reality with their own private set of facts and universal truths, updated daily to enrage liberals." But whether they be conservative or liberal, if "the best they can do is shout louder, fight harder and swear to remain purer than other…stalwarts," then "impotent rage is all they have to offer, but that's no longer enough":
          
Even at their most lucid and reflective … Party politicians and the leading activists, thinkers and media figures are only barely tethered … to the empirical world …walled … off from outside criticism, most … now live in a parallel reality with their own private set of facts and universal truths … but the meanings attached to these objects – and what to do about them – have been twisted beyond recognition in a way that systematically caters to the psychological needs and political fantasies.

And so Rosen concludes, "The … base is summoning a powerful demon to torment and banish their enemies, humiliate and dethrone their rivals and satiate their deepest desires." Many can never admit that the image of our naked Brother hanging on the Cross is the result of "the white male phantasy."

          ~ Miserere nobis, 
con Esperanza, Paz y Bien, Rolando, OFS

The Latin American liberation crucifix I've used as a graphic appears on the cover of Gustavo Guti√©rrez's classic foundational liberation theology work A Theology of Liberation (Lima: CEP, 1971).

No comments: