Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Weaponization of Christmas and What Trump's White Christian Supporters Want: Selections from Recent Commentary

PRRI, " 'Merry Christmas' vs. 'Happy Holidays' "

A pre-Christmas smorgasbord of items I've read in the past few days, in which you may be interested:

The so-called alt-right may have grabbed most of the attention since Donald Trump's victory, but it's the Christian right that got him over the line. And experts say they are much more likely to influence how he governs. . . . 
Trump owes evangelicals, and the early signs are that he will deliver. He will need them again in 2020, and again they might be crucial to the election result.

[T]he bulk of white evangelicals' political efforts have always veered to the right, often to the extreme. From Civil Rights to Vietnam to abortion to gay rights, from national defense to tax policy to climate change to health care and on and on, white evangelicals have solidly and consistently championed the most conservative positions. Where some white evangelicals have at times been found on the other side of these issues, they have only served to highlight the enormous evangelical majority that remained firmly to the right. If exceptions prove the rule, progressive evangelicals have done so categorically. 

Many white nationalists apparently believe that Putin — thanks in part to the deep alliance he has formed with the Russian Orthodox Church and his support for laws aimed at repressing Russia's LGBT community — stands alone as a defender of traditional European Christian values. 
"I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now," white nationalist Matthew Heimbach recently told Business Insider. "Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination."
Similarly, notorious white nationalist Richard Spencer — who is married to a Russian scholar who publishes pro-Putin propaganda — has declared that Russia is now "the most powerful white power in the world" that should be seen as a model for other white-majority nations to follow.

As Zachary Crockett notes, citing Southern Poverty Law Center, 60% of America's hate groups are rooted in white supremacist ideology. But these groups are now attracting men (they've always been driven by men) who are explicitly attacking women and LGBTQ folks — though there are noted examples of LGBTQ people who are drawn to these ideologies, too, like Milo Yiannopoulos.

The reason they are thriving worldwide right now is that they appeal to the (manufactured) grievances of white men who believe that advances in women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and black rights take rights from straight white males, in some zero-sum game in which there are only so many rights to go around. At a global level, many religious groups — including a lot of white U.S. Christians — now equate "the" Christian cause with slamming women, LGBTQ folks, and black folks, reasserting the dominance of straight men over everyone else. The angry worldwide "religious" backlash against women's rights, in particular (and LGBTQ rights as a facet of women's rights) is driving the hateful, anti-democratic political mood now taking over the planet.

And this will only grow worse in the age of Trump-Putin.

What do these statements tell us? That Team Obama defines the struggle against terrorism as a conflict pitting countries of all religious and ideological types against a common stateless foe, while Team Trump defines it as a conflict between Christendom and Islam. (That's how ISIS defines it too. The Islamic State also views the world in terms of religious civilizations rather than nations). The natural implication of Obama's worldview is that preventing terrorism requires cooperation between very different nations. The natural implication of Trump's is that preventing terrorism requires keeping Muslims out. Neither of Trump's statements acknowledges the possibility that Christians might perpetrate terrorism or Muslims might be victims of it. (Indeed, on the very same day as the attacks in Ankara and Berlin, a gunman opened fire at a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland, injuring three.) The message to Muslims in Germany and the United States is the same one Trump has peddled for more than a year now: You are the enemy within.

Note the "in" group and "out" group structure of Trumpian discourse. The in-group is implicitly or explicitly white, straight, male, and Christian, or holders of what Ta-Nehisi Coates recently called in the Atlantic, a "badge of advantage." Others may be accorded honorary status (there are black, female Trump supporters), but only through identification with or fealty to the true members of the in-group. Out-group members, those who do not hold the badge or do not appropriately wield it ("cucks" in the lexicon of the alt-Reich), must be subjected to extreme vitriol, thus reinforcing in-group membership on the part of the aggressor. The crisis inflicted on the psyche of the Trump supporter is magically solved by the ceremonial or ritual humiliation of the out-group. The litany of the Trump rally, "Lock her up!" and "Build the wall," its call-and-response, re-affirms and celebrates membership in the cult of whiteness/America/Trump. . . . 
All of this is in keeping with American tradition, in which some people have always been more equal than others. And yet gains have been made in the 20th and early 21st centuries, by women, the labor movement, African Americans, LGBTQ people, indigenous people, and environmentalists. Trump promises to turn back the clock on these gains on any number of fronts, making his sect into the state religion and making his cronies into high priests. By a bait-and-switch, his followers will be left with nothing to show for their fidelity to this religion: in fact, they will be left with less than nothing, because the shell game, the collection plate will take their wallets as well as their wits.

[Mark] Lilla’s broader premise [in his recent attack on "identity politics"] for identity abandonment is an affront to liberals who are not white, male, and straight, because it asks them to subjugate their political goals to the larger group, a presumably heteronormative one focused on that group's economic needs—very similar to how Donald Trump campaigned. . . .  
Further, "white working class" seems to be the identity that matters when considering how Trump won. I hear continually this is the group we should concern ourselves with understanding to the exclusion of others. How absurd. I cannot recall any of those who exhort us to empathize with the white working class asking us to question their racist or sexist motives, as if this group's decision-making occurs in economic isolation. Additionally, white supremacists who outright advocate for an all-white state supported Trump's candidacy. If that is not identity focused, I’m not sure what is.

This is not to say that all homosexual men are sex-crazed perverts. Neither is it to assert that every homosexual is sexually attracted to every man, nor is he repulsed by all women. 
It is simply to observe that a homosexual's masculinity is incorrect and therefore his masculine-feminine relationships must also therefore, by definition, be distorted.

And then, having defined the masculinity of "a homosexual" as "incorrect" and having stated that all "homosexuals" must "by definition" engage in "distorted" male-female relationships, Father Longenecker (whose straight, white, male identity is obviously not "incorrect" or "distorted," but is his rule of thumb for passing judgment on "a homosexual" man) goes on to state, according to Montgomery, 

The key to the successful integration is for the Catholic homosexual to accept his tendencies as "intrinsically disordered." Only as he understands his attractions as inconsistent with the natural order of human sexuality will he be able to integrate them successfully and move beyond them.

Since I gather that Father Longenecker is unashamed to define himself as the standard by which others are judged "incorrect," "distorted," and "disordered," I'll offer to feel ashamed on his behalf. And ashamed on behalf of all the Catholics who still swallow this immoral, anti-scientific tripe about binary gender roles and a "God" who set those roles into place in "natural law."

Somebody's "incorrect" and "distorted" and "disordered" here. But it's not "homosexuals." 

Finally, a Christmas-themed concluder by Ben Mathis-Lilly

So now the phrase Merry Christmas, thanks to the long-running far-right 'War on Christmas' conspiracy theory—which was invented by the white-nationalist John Birch Society in 1959—has been officially weaponized into the partisan slogan of a president elected on a wave of hateful rhetoric about, among others, refugees. 
Truly, it's what a Middle Eastern Jew who was born in a barn because no one else would take his parents in would have wanted.

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