It is difficult to conceive of forward and backward in the same sentence, as in, going forward using old methods. I wouldn’t choose a horse over a car, or a row boat over a propeller. Nor would I try to fly by strapping on some wings and diving off a cliff.
But that is exactly the plan Republicans are offering us. They talk about “taking our country back” and “making America great again” but they propose to do this by going back in time, not forward. Time, as we all know, moves inexorably forward. Backward isn’t possible.
We’ve seen where Republican policies take us. 2008 was a cusp. We could have lurched forward (as we eventually did) or sunk backward. As with the Great Depression, the Great Recession was a crisis from which Democratic leadership saved us. Saved us by going forward, by putting some original thought into new problems.
We lost a step in 2008, thanks to the policies of the Bush administration. In many ways, we haven’t caught up even now. But we’ve made great strides in restoring the economic prosperity of our country. We didn’t do it by invading countries that don’t need to be invaded or by fighting un-taxed wars.
We did it with a measured, pragmatic approach, not with the Bush “play a hunch” and “shoot from the hip” method.
To hear all the Republican candidates talk, it’s still 2008, and none of this recovery took place. They talk about America as though it is the last days of the Bush administration, not the final year of Obama’s. So skewed is their thinking that they can’t acknowledge the past seven years have even taken place. They have the same difficulty, as we’ve noted on numerous occasions, admitting that the Bush presidency happened.
But it did. They both did. And the results of neither can be ignored.
The country the say they want to take back never existed. We all know that. It’s bad theater and nothing more, about as cringe-worthy as the worst movie you ever saw. As for making America great again, America is great already. We’ve taken some lumps and we’ve been down, but never out.
And what exactly does “make America great again” mean? Trump, who stole that phrase from the past to signify his intent for the future (and that should tell you all you need to know), is vague. He has no clear policy positions, no straight answers. Just a lot of emotive exclamations of “I’ll do this” and “I’ll do that.”
Never how. How always trips him up. Paul Ryan, like John Boehner, says he knows how. His “how” is what got us into trouble in 2008.
In fact, what Trump means is not great, but “white.” He wants to “Make America white again.” Old Racists like Pat Buchanan love this backward approach, with immigration bans and mass deportations. Yet in his syndicated column Friday, Buchanan announced that “The establishment seemed to have become unhinged” in response to Trump’s call for an immigration ban.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) came to Trump’s defense on Breitbart News’ SiriusXM program Thursday, telling Stephen Bannon:
“Well, he’s treading on dangerous ground, because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of religion, that is a major part of who we are.”
“But at the same time, we’re in an age that’s very dangerous and we’re seeing more and more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts and a lot of them believe it’s commanded by their religion…So I think it’s appropriate to begin to discuss this, and he has forced that discussion.”
So we’re to be thankful to Donald Trump now for bringing this backward-looking idea to the table. Collective guilt. Scapegoating. Ethnic and religious profiling. Racism. By deporting people who aren’t white, whether Mexican or Muslim, it’s ethnic cleansing. An ugly word for ugly thinking.
So something good out of the past – religious freedom, something guaranteed by the constitution – should be superseded by something far older and uglier.
Yet if we surrender our values in an effort to survive, we’re not really surviving, are we? I’m not giving up who we are out of fear. That’s surrendering. Might as well stand our military down now if we’re just going to join the enemy to avoid being destroyed by the enemy.
Bryan Fischer hearkened to the Nazi past on Friday when he called Islam the Ebola virus of culture in order to support Trump’s ban on Muslim immigrants:
“We’re not saying all Muslims are carriers of this toxic poison, but the problem is we don’t know who is a carrier and who is not. It’s like the Ebola virus. Remember when the Ebola virus hit? We simply banned travel from any country where there was an Ebola outbreak. We just said we cannot take the risk. Well, Islam is the Ebola virus of culture.”
The Nazi era image above reads “krankheitserreger” – pathogen. Jews, for the Nazis. Muslims, for Republicans. In fact, this thinking predates Nazism: Nineteenth century German ethnic nationalist Paul De Lagarde called the Jews a “bacillus, the carrier of decay … who pollute every national culture … and destroy all faith…” As far back as the 18th century, German ethnic nationalists were speaking of “parasitic” Semitic culture.
Fischer might well have been quoting de Lagarde. It’s the same language. This thinking is a couple of hundred years out of date. The Second World War should have put it to bed forever. But here are the Republicans, resurrecting it while claiming to be pro-life.
But pro-who’s life? And when taking our country back, back to what?
The facts on the ground are buried under a carpet of fear and hatred, xenophobia and Islamophobia and homophobia and misogyny.
How can they know which way to jump away from the little mouse with the ISIL banner when they can’t see the floor? That’s a crude analogy, but then it is no cruder than the thinking it represents.
Clearly, we need more than slogans. Fear and hate are the doors to fascism. We don’t need that either.
If we’re going to go forward, 2030 should be our objective, not 1930.
When you’ve got new problems, like asymmetric warfare or hybrid warfare, you need new ideas, not old. The Islamic State can’t defeat the United States. We can, however, defeat ourselves. The Islamic States knows this, and they know their best ally is the Republican Party and it’s long list of old ideas.
We’re not going to find our answers in the past. The future demands new thinking, not old.
Photo credit: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.