Over the weekend the husband and I attended the 15th annual Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond, Virginia. The event is Equality Virginia largest fundraiser of the year and includes numerous elected officials - Republicans uniformly boycott the event - and LGBT activists and supporters from across Virginia. At the event, one sees LGBT individuals and couples of various generations from Virginia's urban areas as well as those from rural areas that are less than LGBT accepting. In addition to a uniform desire to make Virginia a more open and accepting state, the attendees have one other thing in common: we are all uniformly hated by white Christian nationals and their gun loving neo-Confederates. Indeed, if one follows both self-styled: Christian" family values organizations and the the NRA and its strident supporters one thing is almost immediate observable: almost everyone in these groups is white. Another common characteristic is that these people insanely believe that they are being subjected to persecution and oppression by those they deem "other." The Trump/Pence regime has courted the underlying hatred of these far right whites, but, in truth, the racism long predates the rise of Trump as noted by a piece in Religion Dispatches. Here are article highlights:
The idiosyncratic pantheon of Trump administration staffers continues its exodus, a stream of comic book villains exiting stage right. The combination of venality, incompetence, and pathological narcissism, however, remains. And the world lives in the Trump era’s bubble of strangely dilated time: everything agonizingly slow—and bewilderingly fast.But for all the post-mortems on the 2016 election, for every Hillbilly Elegy that says to white rage “I feel your pain,” or every column wondering how evangelicals can tolerate Stormy Daniels, there’s a larger diagnosis that Americans need to undertake. A frank assessment of the conditions enabling Trump’s election—and I’m not talking here about Russia and the UAE—means that we look squarely at the tendency of Americans to invest more in “authenticity” than capability, and to combine this with a paranoia that long predates Trump. At the center of this venerable right-wing fantasy (and it does provide the right with subversive pleasure) is the idea that without a “straight talker” to cut through the BS, the state will come for our guns and our freedom of religion.
It’s a capacity for offense, outrage, and embattlement which provides most Americans with their surest sense of authenticity these days. . . . . Nothing outrages Americans more, of course, than religion. What characterizes our moment is the literal and metaphorical weaponization of such outrage. And both depend on the unhinged imagination that too many citizens imagine is superior to dull facts.
And in Trump’s America, solid facts—the lifeless bodies of school students, the realities of institutional racism, the norms and laws hourly flouted—are commuted into things that can be ignored, as if their hold on us was mere fantasy. The “again” that is central to the MAGA phenomenon is a yearning for the not-realness of black bodies, women’s bodies, Muslim bodies, or the dead who bear the marks of our complicity.
But what needs to be acknowledged is that while Trump is truly exceptional in his disregard for laws, norms, and institutions, he’s also a recognizable product of a half-century’s con game.
Significantly, it was with Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of conservative evangelicals that the link between personal religion and politics was cemented firmly in ways we currently recognize. Rather than simply a lens through which people decide to support particular laws or policies, with Reagan religion became central to what we might call Politics as Personal Radiance. In a time of shrinking public resources and uncertain futures, we began to bathe willingly in the light of charisma, hoping that its warmth would sustain us where the state no longer would. . . . . This focus on the personal, on the sincerely held belief, on personality and inner piety all combined into a vertiginous atmosphere in which everyone could become offended by everyone else.
Voters didn’t want someone who was experienced and efficient as much as they wanted somebody who looked at the world the way they do. . . . . Trump is in no small part the product of this combination of vanity and imagination. He will fight for us, we hear. He tells us we matter, they say. At least he says what he means, the mantra goes. But however hollow these rationales ring, behind the phenomenon is a toxic mix of white-guy swagger and religious exclusivism.
Armed white citizens appearing in public came partly to define the Obama era and the resurfacing of aggressive white supremacy. . . . . Groups held “open carry” church services and warned about Obama’s anti-gun conspiracy. In the age of false-flag tweets, bots, and Breitbart, America’s politics became increasingly about displaying our vehement opposition to a thing that has not happened. What counts as truth is confirmed in our fearful anticipation—we can’t trust an expert, but we can trust what we feel.
A failure to question such fantastical narratives of embattlement and persecution allowed the chief Birther to ascend to the Oval Office. Who could possibly profess shock at the massive increase in American hate groups since 2016, or at the rise in public violence, after years of open carry racism, of hoarding bullets before Obama can tax them, or of attempts to intimidate crowds at Black Lives Matter marches. At the end of the phrase “Make America Great Again,” there may as well be an “Or Else.”
The fearful times we live in didn’t just drop out of the sky. Trump just turned up the volume on what’s been cultivated for at least a half-century: a steady, shrill white noise that drowns out other voices in America. It’s much easier to double down on the idea that we’re embattled, especially when we’re not, than to admit to ourselves we need to rethink certain fundamental realities: like who “the people” are.
While white racists, defined through imaginings of their own heroic resistance, indirectly acknowledge the erosion of their historic privilege, now there are skyrocketing rates of African-American gun owners, gun clubs, and more. For all that Richard Spencer or Stephen Miller might wish otherwise, for all the fearsomeness of alt-righters in the streets, for all the pieties about “our way of life” and the whiteness of its religion, ours is a time of things refusing to conceal themselves, to be swept under nostalgia’s rug.
It’s still possible that Americans might make it through this bleak time with an increased readiness to listen and practice a politics of humility, rather than indulge in carnival, braggadocio and self-serving fantasies of persecution. But if privileged Americans keep drowning out the voices of those who actually, materially suffer, new noise will get louder too
White the white Christian nationals - the Christofascists, if you will - want all of the rest of us to conveniently disappear, after the Commonwealth Dinner gala, it is clear that the LGBT community is not going away and we will not quietly allow the haters to go unchallenged. Women, Hispanics, blacks and others need to do the same. Being denied the ability to persecute others does not amount to persecution of the would be persecutors. Would that the legitimate media - which excludes Fox News, a/k/a Faux News - would underscore this reality.