Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump’s GOP Enablers Take a Page From the Fascist-Era Vatican

With the ascent of Der Trumpenführer to power, the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party has become complete.  The same holds for the leaders of "family values" organizations and the 81% of evangelicals who voted for this vile and unfit individual, although the behavior of the "godly Christians" is the less surprising of the two groups since they long ago proved that lies and hatred toward others was their stock in trade.  The reality is that dictators and tyrants rarely come to full power without the complicity of others who could have perhaps change the course of history if they had but the backbone to stand up for decency and not put short term personal gain ahead of the national interest and protecting the lives and liberties of all citizens.  A column in the Washington Post correctly compares the complicity of today's GOP with the behavior of the Catholic Church as Mussolini rose to power in Italy.  Advantage has been placed ahead of morality and decency.  Here are excerpts:
Despite his jutting jaw and comical bravado, President Trump is not another Benito Mussolini. The Italian dictator had six children, one wife and several mistresses, the most loyal of whom, Claretta Petacci, chose to die with him and was hanged upside down in a Milan gas station. Most of Trump’s women have fared better.
On the other hand, the similarities between Trump and Mussolini are so obvious that it would amount to journalistic malpractice not to mention some of them. Mussolini was vain, bombastic, vulgar and, while the creator of fascism, he believed in nothing aside from himself. A former Italian prime minister, quoted in David Kertzer’s book “The Pope and Mussolini,” thought that Mussolini’s chief attribute “was his devotion to the cult of his own personality.” Is this our guy or what?
 The most cogent parallel is contained in the book’s very title: the pope. Strip him of his vestments, and Pius XI becomes a politician much like Reince Priebus, Mike Pence or any other member of the Republican establishment for whom, in exchange for something of value — lower taxes, less regulation or, in the case of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a comforting certainty in the loo — a deal can be made. These Republicans and others would accept Trump and gamble on American democracy and world peace.
In Mussolini’s day, the Catholic Church, too, had its demands and grievances. The Italian state had seized church lands, reducing the pope’s realm to itsy-bitsy Vatican City. The state had taken over the schools. It was no longer financially supporting the church. It had permitted divorce. Pius XI wanted to return to the status quo ante. In exchange for recognition of Mussolini’s fascist government, by 1929 Il Duce was willing to oblige.
Mussolini was hardly religious. . . . . Still, he was willing to do business with the Vatican. Mussolini’s only principle was his own self-interest.
As for Pius XI, he had many principles — but none of them stood in the way of making a deal with a fascist whose goons routinely beat up priests, attacked Catholic social centers and murdered the occasional dissident. Violence displeased the pope. What displeased him more, however, were current church-state relations. What the pope feared most of all was the threat of communism and, of course, the entirely hallucinatory power he attributed to the Jews. Mussolini was willing to destroy them both.
Pius XI did not like Mussolini — not his swagger, not his use of violence, not his libidinous ramblings and not his vanity. Bit by bit, however, he came to terms with what he loathed and instead concentrated on what was good for the church. This amorality is often called pragmatism.
In today’s Republican Party, a similar process is under way. The princes of the GOP have elevated business concerns to the level of national interest. . . . . when it comes to Trump, they have managed to overlook his mocking of the disabled, his insults regarding Mexicans, his attacks on the press, his cooing at Russian President Vladimir Putin, his name-calling, his spectacular lying and his daunting ignorance.
“[T]he new Trumpian conservatives have made their peace with their new political master” to those pathetic souls who once found virtue, if not inevitability, in Stalinism. But the billionaires and politicians who sit around Trump’s table and chortle cravenly at the boss’s jokes do not fear for their lives or their jobs. 
It is instructive to read how the Vatican, a moral institution, once put its own self-interest above its moral duty and embraced Mussolini. It is just plain depressing to note how history repeats itself. The Vatican, at least, sold out for church privileges. The GOP business and political class has sold out for greed.

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