Earlier this month I wrote a piece commemorating the one year anniversary of The Satanic Temple’s unveiling of their Baphomet statue and its victory in Oklahoma City. It was a seminal moment in the never-ending battle between liberty, the right to freely express one’s self, and the idea that the state and religion should remain separate against forces that seek to erode personal freedoms and merge governing bodies with religious ideology. In my conclusion to that piece I stated that the statue now exists as a symbol of victory in this fight and should be remembered and invoked wherever and whenever this fight needs to be fought. Well ladies and gentleman, today being the actual anniversary, it appears that this fight is poised to continue on a much larger scale in the months, and perhaps years, to come.
It was Joseph Anthony Wittreich who wrote in Feminist Milton (1987): “History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Last week Donald Trump gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to accept the GOP's nomination that was both terrifying in terms of its thematic material as well as what that speech could very well represent in the grand scheme of the things to come. The speech definitely seemed to exhibit some alliterative qualities, if say, one wanted to compare it against the backdrop of history and recall how Wittreich observed its tendancy to rhyme; the last century and-a-half to be more precise.
The brilliant documentarian, and Democrat shill, Michael Moore made waves recently during his appearance on a special edition of Bill Maher's HBO show "Real Time" when he announced that he believes Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. All things being equal, it's hard to argue with him. The Democratic Party's Hillary-is-our-nominee-come-hell-or-high-water approach to the 2016 election may very well have doomed not just themselves during this election cycle, not just the chance to fix the Supreme Court, but maybe democracy and liberty in America itself. The DNC's choice to nominate an odious neocon like Hillary Clinton as their candidate leaves the door, if not wide open, unlocked for something even worse than a Clinton administration to seize power.
Think I'm making an overstatement? Perhaps. But then again, if history is any indicator as to what might be in store for us in the future, which it always is at one level or another, Americans are at a very dangerous crossroad and things are fixing to get really real really soon. So yet again, on this very special day, let us take a look at history.
In 1868, under Emperor Meiji, Japan underwent the Meiji Restoration which led to massive changes in Japan's political and social structure. As UC Berkeley's Prof. Richard Walker would say, "They saw western gunboats in Yokohama Harbor and they saw what happened to China when Britain defeated them in the opium wars." A new group was now in power in Japan and they wanted to industrialize. It was the only way they could compete with these imperialist western powers. And that's exactly what they did, leading to Japan becoming the world's second industrial power in a very short period of time.
A generation later, in 1895, Japan defeats China in the first Sino-Japanese war and was the new darling on the global scene. In 1905 Japan shocks the world and defeats Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. They weren't just darlings anymore, by 1906 Japan was the most advanced technological eastern super power and rapidly aiming to lay claim to the same distinction for the world.
In 1912 a new emperor ascended, Emperor Taisho. Japan's Taisho period was very interesting. The new emperor in the best of health, so mirroring Great Britain, Taisho divested himself and his council of the oligarchic powers in favor of Japan's democratic bicameral legislature. Japan was now a functioning democracy.
By the end of the 1920s things were starting to slide south for Japan. After fifty years of being one of the most advanced and powerful nations on the face of the Earth, Japan's beautiful democratic period began to erode.
Japan's liberal policies made it too easy for leftist factions, including the Communists, to make waves during the elections. This was naturally something the elities in Japan didn’t want to see. A police state began to develop to force these movements out of the picture (is it starting to sound vaguely familiar?). Right-wing political affiliations which had been formed by the displaced samurai classes, such as the Black Ocean Society in 1881 and Black Dragon Society in 1901, began to bang the war drums louder. These groups had been banging the drums the moment they started, even through the Taisho period, but at this point in Japanese history they could no longer be ignored. An ultra-Japanese nationalist movement began to take shape and these groups were pushing for a Pan-Asian movement with Japan at the helm.
There was the white-face American threat to deal with to their east and a Chinese threat to deal with to their west. And of course there was the red menace to deal with in the form of their old friends the Russians. Foreign enemies lurked in the shadows all around and as far as the ardent Japanese nationalists were concerned they were the reason why Japan's fortunes seemed to be turning. The reality of the situation, however, was that Japan had simply stretched itself to thin after decades of imperialist wars in China and Korea (is it starting to sound vaguely familiar now?).
In 1925 legislation began to be enacted restricting personal liberties in Japan under what the conservatives called the "Peace Preservation Law" (does anyone recall the Patriot Act?). It was legislation sold as a means of keeping the peace. What it really was, however, was a conservative ploy to undermine the growing leftist libertine ideals of its populace.
With all of the ultra-nationalist fervor boiling over in Japan by 1926 the relatively benevolent democratic Taisho period came to an end when the emperor died and the nationalist dictatorial Showa period of Hirohito and the governing right-wing Japanese war machine was established. Everything Japanese was great, everything not Japanese was bad. The rest of the twentieth century and beyond was to belong to Japan just as how it seemed to be when the century opened.
In 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria and sought to establish itself as the number one power in the Pacific. As we know the Japanese continued their war of imperialist aggression up until they had two atomic bombs dropped on them for their troubles. This is not a good playbook to be following. But outside of the rise of the ultra-nationalist right-wing fascist government one could super impose the pre-war history of Japan and it aligns itself very nicely with post-World War II American history.
But it gets worse.
During a second wave of ideas behind the Industrial Revolution crossing the English channel into the European continent, the eastern region of the then German Confederation took to industrialization like a cat to a ball of yarn. They begin promoting modern universities in the 1840s and 50s to help cultivate innovation in their industrialization process. The German confederation becomes the first model of development in industrialization led, directed, and aided by the state under Bismarck. By the time the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1871 there is heavy industry in the Rhineland and the Germans are producing new high technologies so well that the entire world looks at what's gone on in Germany in a sense of awe and wonder.
By 1890 this newly unified German Empire had essentially surpassed even Great Britain itself in so far as industry goes. By 1900 it was only the US and Japan that could compete with the Germans. Then one morning in June of 1914 nineteen-year-old Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archuduke Ferdinand, igniting an industrial war between industrial powers of unmitigated horror. What happened next within the borders of this industrialized German Empire is precisely the type of history that free market capitalists don't like being taught. With the war raging the ratio of wages to the relative cost of living was falling. 1915 saw 137 worker strikes in Germany. 1916 saw 240. In 1917 there were a grand total of 561 worker strikes.
In January of 1918 workers across Germany, some 400,000-500,000 in Berlin alone, took to the streets demanding that the war end. The leftist idealists got their wish not long after (after 150 strike organizers were put in jail and 50,000 were drafted into the army and sent to the fronts of course). Not only were these worker revolts able to put an end to the carnage but they were also able to put an end to the forty-seven year old German Empire and have instituted in its place a representative democracy (American high schools teach that Germany lost the war because they were essentially running out of supplies. No, it was the revolting working class fed up with the war and bringing its government to its knees that was why Germany was forced to surrender).
The Weimar Republic was established and would go on to help Germany rebuild after the war and reform the failing German currency. The new Republic only payed minimal attention to what was required of them as far as war reparations were concerned. By the latter half of the 1920s things were going very well for Germany once again. Less than ten years after losing the biggest war the world had ever before known the Germans were right back in the thick of things- then the global economy tanked when the Great Depression hit.
Ultra-nationalist right-wing Germans in the emerging Nazi party began pointing fingers; at everyone. The party leaders longed to have Germany at the top of the world as far as innovation and industry was concerned, just as they were at the turn of the century. And though Germany was already headed in that direction anyway the democratic Weimar Republic was vilified. The Republic was blamed for losing the war, losing Germany’s colonies, but worst of all losing Germany's prestige. After all, the democratic Republic was born out of a left-wing worker's movement with romantic communist ideas in their heads that had demanded an end to the war. It was an easy target for Hitler and the racist ultra-nationalists seeking a scapegoat for all of Germany's problems; well, the Republic, the Jews and all of the non-ethnic Germans of course.
By 1932 Adolf Hitler was running in an open election to lead Germany into the future as the head of the Nazi party, and by 1933 he was elected into power. Immediately Hitler began to clamp down on dissenters. Hitler was able to do this because his followers were in a trance-like frenzy induced by Hitler's rhetoric. It allowed those who were receptive to it to feel like they had the green light to suppress, persecute or attack anyone or anything they believed to be antithetical to their belief of what it was Germany represented to them. The fact was they did have the green light to do such things and Germany (with the help of some loans from unscrupulous banks in the United States and Great Britain) was on a path to war.
Hitler and the totalitarian Nazi leadership wanted to restore German dominance in Europe and intended to do so by invading sovereign countries they believed rightfully belonged to Germany and then ethnically cleanse them. They went to war on two fronts, were invaded by the Allies in the west and were definitively defeated by the Soviets in the east. For Germany’s troubles they were pillaged and partitioned. It was a rough 55 years for post-democracy Germany, particularly in the East. Incidentally, a wall even went up in Berlin which would go on to become one of the ugliest symbols of the entire twentieth century.
The United States
After World War II, across the board, Europe needed to rebuild. On the other hand, other than its dead and wounded, the US was sitting pretty. It was now the undisputed technological and industrial leader in the free world, as they liked to say. The 1950s and 1960s became a golden era in terms of the US’s economic dominance as the standard of living of middle class Americans grew to become better than it had ever been in its history before or since.
Of course, one could thank the pre-war socialist policies of the New Deal for the growth and success of the American middle class during this time period. The tax rate on the rich was at 70-90% and many families benefited from the GI Bill after the war - so as it's been said by others far smarter than I, socialism, i.e. leftist ideology, built the middle class during the middle class's most successful phase in US history.
As the 60s turned into the 70s something happened to this "golden age" of the American middle class. Nixon had come to power and the American economy started heading south for the first time since the days of the Depression, and it has been slowly continuing in that direction ever since. The "golden age" ended and something new began; the neo-liberal era (neo-liberal is an economics term; don't confuse it with liberal in terms of socio-politics).
During the Nixon era there starts to show up in world trade a glut in cheap shitty commodities trying to be sold in markets. Prices for everything are driven down, which was supposed to be good for the consumers, but this hits the US hard as corporate profits fall by nearly fifty percent. Difficult times were to come as the 1970s experienced a douple-dip recession between 1970 and '75, kicking off the beginning of this economic downturn. One of the immediate results of the double-dip recession in the 70s is that the US has to devalue the dollar. OPEC was the scapegoat of these recessions in the 70s, a truly laughable scapegoat at that. As Prof. Walker notes, OPEC was only responsible for one percent of GDP - nor would it explain what would happen over the next thirty years either. But seeing as OPEC was primarily a conglomerate of non-Christian brown people and because, you know, 'umerica, the people bought it. Nixon normalizing relations with China to the benefit of industrial venture capitalists would only go on to cause this trend to continue.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan came into power and the squeeze on the middle class really began in earnest. Factories across the continent began closing its doors as the US began going through a wave of de-industrialization. Wall Street hardly noticed this, however, because under Reagan everything began to be de-regulated. This gave everyone the illusion that things were just hunky dory when they weren't.
In the 90s Clinton passed NAFTA, the new tech age bubble in dot com companies popped, and after the Enron debacle in 2002 people began to realize that all of the books were being cooked. There was no real wealth, just people passing around shitty bundled mortgage commodities. Then of course 2008 happened. As Vladimir Putin would say, "I don't understand the American economy. They don't produce anything. All they do is buy and sell each others houses." Meanwhile, crappy cheap commodities continue to be mass produced in China to be sold in world markets, American wages remain stagnant in relation to the increased cost of living, imperialist wars are still being waged in the Middle East, costing the economy trillions as the metastasized political elites sit on their hands and do nothing, and those shitty bundled mortgage commodities are still being traded on the open world market. At the same time the American police are turning into para-military outfits, the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, and people are being bombarded by an unrelenting corporate media machine selling fear ever since the 9/11 terrorist attack.
In enters one Donald Trump.
The threat of Donald Trump
If one looks at how history unfolded in Japan and Germany, the history of the United States from 1970-2016 is very comparable. The only difference is that the US has not descended into the black hole of fascism- not yet. But the handwriting on the wall is very sobering. We are right on schedule for a xenophobic racist fascist take over.
There are legions of disenfranchised poorly educated Americans who are looking around and feeling like the America they thought they knew growing up watching "The Lone Ranger" and John Wayne movies on their televisions is fading away. That America was a myth, it never existed in the first place, but these people don't know that. Donald Trump comes along spewing his vile hatred and selling more fear as he talks about "making America great again" by threatening to expel anyone who doesn't fit the parameters and how “[he] is your voice,” and it rings through the halls of history like a most disturbing chime in a bell of doom.
If a fear mongering demagogue such as Trump were placed in power it's not a far-fetched idea to then see the rise of factions similar to Nazi brown shirts or Mussolini's black shirts going around harassing and attacking those who they perceive to be antithetical to their beliefs. They’re already groups chaping at the bit to do so. Potential victims of such lunacy might be people who don't speak a preferred language, people whose skin color doesn't jibe with such groups’ preferences, or just people who have different political ideas, or even people with different religious beliefs. Such groups might be inclined to do this, particularly when you consider that we’re coming off of eight years with a black man as president with the horrific sounding name Barak Obama. They might feel they're doing their country a righteous service; cleansing it of inequity in the eyes of their jealous white war god from Deuteronomy. Would Trump condemn such actions? Possibly, but I don't think it likely. In all probability he'd say (and do) nothing and by default legitimize such actions and such persecutions would continue.
Meanwhile, Trump has openly discussed dissolving NATO - and while I appreciate and understand, and even support, the notion that there should be less active American bases in foreign nations, the idea that the most successful military alliance in the history of the world would be dissolved by someone like Trump doesn't seem like all too swift of an idea. Not when you consider that a second World War occurred when ultra-right nationalists of nations whose power is waning have authority. What might truly be interesting is to see if NATO would expel the US if Trump became president.
Another idea that Trump has said to great fanfare by his rabid frothing fans is the unlikely idea that he will put up a wall along our border with Mexico. The aforementioned Berlin Wall stood as one of the most shameful and divisive symbols of the twentieth century. Something like this border wall with Mexico would trump the Berlin Wall in terms of being a global symbol of shame and embarrassment. The big difference being that the people of West Berlin didn't erect the wall by their choice. A dictatorship erected it without asking permission from anyone. In the case of the proposed border wall with Mexico it would be the Americans voting to have it erected.
When one considers what happened to Japan and Germany in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of their ultra right-wing fascist regimes, it's very scary to consider what could happen here. I wouldn't go so far as to say we'll get nuked or the Russians will take over, but it won't end pretty. In a post-Trump landscape a second civil war and the liquidation of the 240 year-old united republic is not beyond the realm of possibility.
"Cult of personality"
Speaking of Mussolini, it's hard not to notice the similarities between Trump and il duce. How they carry themselves is eerily similar. Like his predecessor, Trump is riding the wave of populist hysteria. Mussolini, much like Trump is being referred to in certain segments of American society, was referred to as the “savior of Italy.” Another disturbing similarity between Trump and Mussolini, aside from the buffoonish histrionics, is this cult of personality that has been erected around Donald. Like any cult of personality its emergence is due in large part to the person promoting it; i.e. Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Mao.
Is there all that much of a difference between images of Red China with pictures of Mao dressing the buildings and streets of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin to that of Trump's faux golden name plastered onto every building he erects? I don't really see all too big of a difference at all. You can carve the turkey in any number of ways, but at the end of the day it's still a turkey.
It is true that the United States has not had centuries of sun emperors ruling over them as in Japan or Holy Roman Emperors ruling over central Europe as in Germany. I don't believe a fascist order would easily thrive on the North American continent. There are just too many people with too many different ideas - that's part of the beauty of a multicultural society. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t try. And it doesn’t mean that it won’t have irreversible side effects that last through history for a long long time.
Does anyone Imam Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111)? For centuries the Islamic world was the crown jewel in terms of science, mathematics, culture, and learning in general. Many of our stars still have their original Arabic names and we still use a superior Arabic numeric system as a testament to this time in world history. Then came al-Ghazali. Out of his work came the philosophy that mathematics was the work of the devil and that nothing good can come of that philosophy. As Neal deGrasse Tyson explains, this anti-intellectual movement began a slow collapse of the entire beautiful intellectual enterprise that had been centered in Islam. It is something which it has never recovered.
As Tyson rightly point out by asking a question: what influences in twenty-first century America are we feeling now? Well, one doesn't have to look too long before the realization that the ultra-nationalist ultra-religious right has been pushing to reform the political spectrum in the image it sees fit in ways it never has before. It's been a snowball effect beginning with Ronald Reagan who saw this demographic as a base to help the GOP get elected. It's been mobilized ever since. The ethnocentric religious fundamental right wants prayers to be said in school, they want to teach your kids that dinosaur bones are a trick that the devil has played on mankind; they want you to believe that the banana is the atheist's worst nightmare. By the way, Dr. N. d. Tyson gave this lecture years before anyone knew Trump would be running for president with popular support.
What Tyson's lecture helps to illustrate is that demagoguery is not so much the direct root problem, it's more so a symptom.
The whole system is shot
One thing that I should also make clear, brutal fascist megalomaniacs and cultural decay is not just a phenomenon that materializes from the right. It can certainly emerge from the progressive left as well; just look at Robespierre. I've written about how we're seeing a disturbing trend coming from the fringes of certain left-wing social progressive movements in the past. It is still coming from the fringes, though. It seems primarily concerned with tailoring the English language to its desires so as certain (very small) segments of the overall population do not suffer the indignity of actually being offended. An eye should be kept on this sort of thing, most certainly. At this juncture in time, however, the real threat is materializing out of the right and it’s anything but fringe. This in turn poses a problem.
Young people in their late teens and early twenties are exponentially smarter than someone like me (presently 37 years and two months old at the time that I am writing this) when I was in my late teens and early twenties. A 22-year-old has lived his or her entire life with the Internet. They simply know more. Consequently, they're not going to fall for the same partisan drivel that kept the nation under wraps for generations.
In 2008 teens and early twenty year olds voting for their first president jumped at the chance to vote for someone different: Barak Obama. He literally represented hope for a change, something Shepard Fairey keyed in on. And yes, Obama was a nice a change of pace compared to the disastrous tenure of W. Bush- he could speak well, he could read in front of an audience, he could give a press conference without sticking his foot in his mouth or have a shoe thrown at him; but to say he was a nice change of pace from Bush is not saying a whole lot.
In actuality Obama turned out to be just another plutocrat. Obama has deported more people in American history, droned to death more people in world history (a record I'm sure that will be broken by the next person to be in power of the US's military-industrial complex beginning in January 2017) and thrown more government whistleblowers into jail than any American president before. To the young twenty year olds looking to make a change Obama is too far to the right for them. Bernie was the guy speaking their language. Meanwhile, they see Hillary as the new boss same as the old boss. Hillary's history of war mongering even makes her right of Obama. The youth vote is not voting for Hillary. They're talking about "third" parties in a way that hasn't been talked about in this country in a long time.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that Trump's opposition, Hillary Clinton, is almost as repugnant a presidential candidate as he is. I don't believe she poses anywhere near the threat that a Trump win would or what it could very potentially usher in, but as Jerry Garcia once quipped, "... choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil."
I'm already seeing the social media accounts on the Hillary payroll pumping out messages transmitting the thought that if you opt to vote for a third party rather than Clinton than you are to blame. Right- the youth is to blame, not the candidate who’s been neck deep in everything that is wrong with the country for a very long time. It's not that wikileaks needed to expose Hillary for everyone to know what a phony inauthentic candidate she is and what a sham the democratic process in the United States has devolved into. It was already known. That it was exposed on paper in besides the point. You can't tell a 20 year old who was primed to vote for Bernie Sanders in her or his first presidential election that they now have to vote for Hillary Clinton, someone who is just as antithetical to what they believe as Trump is simply because she's the lesser of two evils. You cannot do it. It’s wrong both in terms of logic and in terms of ethics. Hillary Clinton has been digging a jole for her political ambitions for a long time. That she is primed to be defeated by Trump is nobody’s doing but her own and her party’s.
Whether anyone likes it or not there is one immutable fact and it is that America needs Trump vs. Clinton right now. A Trump vs. Clinton election, more so than any other potential election, shows how the American brand of democracy and its political process is one big farcical dog and pony show. A representative democracy, i.e. a republic, has revealed itself to be obsolete. Living in the post-Internet age has shown us that corruption will be exposed one way or the other as well as causing the realization that we no longer need to vote people into privileged positions they abuse to speak on our behalves. The democratic process can be streamlined via the Internet and our technological processes. As many people have noted: if we can pay our bills and do our banking online there is no reason why we can’t vote online.
As a result of general apathy and a lack of interest in voting for an unlikable Hillary Clinton it is very possible that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States, as Michael Moore claimed. As a dire consequence we could very well see the continued and increased appearance of vocal religious fundamentalists whose hatred for gays, black Americans, brown immigrants, and all Muslims, whose logic is so polluted (if they ever had any to begin with) that they'd then feel they’re operating under a mandate, much as in most any other place that elects a xenophobic demagogue into power, that would allow them to take certain matters into their own hands. Will it mean that a suffocating fascist tyranny will envelop the nation for a generation? I couldn’t say one way or the other for sure, but another far more likely scenario than a rise of some pseudo-Fourth Reich in America is the idea that the country could fracture and fall into a civil war of attrition. That would be as equal, if not more so, a horrific outcome. And due to the fact that one cannot simply stump for Hillary the reality of Trump being in the White House is something that everyone who appreciates the value of living in a land protected by everything in the first amendment may need to prepare themselves for.
The republic may fall. It is inevitable at this point when you take into consideration the weight of all the bull shit it has manufactured over the centuries. I like to think when it finally topples over mankind will be enlightened enough so that the crashing down to earth of such a monolith will be cushioned. An even better idea might be that it will evolve into something else, something better, before it ever has a chance to crash and burn. But we’re not prepared to cushion its fall now and we’re certainly not enlightened enough as a country to progress into a new era of governance.
Incidentally, July 27 is also the anniversary of the arrest of Robespierre on charges of tyranny in that amazing period of history we know as the French Revolution. With the poor and shrinking middle class increasingly being divided off from the wealthy one percent, something mirroring the French Revolution is perhaps the most likely outcome if such a change in our politics is to occur that takes our technological capabilities into consideration, which it presently does not. We’re operating under a political schematic based on the realities of the eighteenth century. So let’s briefly compare present-day America to France during the Revolution. Clinton would represent the decadent obsolete political dynasties that the progressive liberal youth are disgusted by; Trump, a la Robespierre, would then represent a change (from the regressive right as opposed to a hyper-progressive left). And yes, Trump would be a change from the garbage that’s been accepted in American politics time immemorial - but a change for the worse - perhaps even a change leading to cultural disaster (as what happened to Islam after 1100 CE as Dr. N.d. Tyson pointed out). As for us, the pissed off people of the underclasses, we’re the very embittered Third Estate.
Whatever comes after 2016 it is incumbent on those who hold to the ethics of individual sovereignty that the Temple of Satanism espouses and the initiatives which caused such idealists to commission the statue of Baphomet to remain vigilant in the face of the likely demonic fascist hordes encamped in the shadows on the other side of the hill. Personal sovereignty and collective liberty will need as many advocates as it can muster in these trying times and who better than to play the adversary to this horde of xenophobic religious zealots than the adherers of Satanism and the proponents of humanism. To repeat the words of Voltaire: écrasez l'infâme.