I am married to a Muslim woman from Africa. One of my closest friends is a gay man who was born and raised in a small town in flyover country. I am an avowed socialist.
Question: What do I have in common with my wife and good friend? Answer: We are all outliers. There is something about each one of us that is “abnormal.”
I’m not the sort of person who feels comfortable thinking in this way. What, after all, is “normal”? Even using the word, to describe myself and others, is troubling. I don’t think about “normality” when I think of human beings.
Suddenly, though, America is changing. Islamophobia, homophobia, and hatred of “liberals” is on the rise in many quarters. So, even if I don’t like labeling folks, there are plenty of my compatriots who have no problem doing so and then shunning (or worse) those they think of as foreign, deviant, or un-American.
That and the country is certainly more divided than I ever remember it being. I keep hearing pundits say that “tribalism” and “tribal” thinking is on the rise. Actually, tribal thinking is really an oxymoron. Tribalism and primitivism are the ultimate knee-jerks and have almost nothing to do with sober consideration or rationality. Primitivism is a celebration of some mythic past, some simpler time, a time that never truly existed except in the imagination. (When I hear radical Trump supporters say that they “want their country back,” I think I’m hearing a kind of primordial wail by those who believe in fairytales.) I also think of snowflakes and those who suffer from some form of persecution complex.
Trumpism is really an interesting mix of primitivism, nativism, and fascism. Too many pundits use the terms “populism” and “populists” when they describe the movement and its adherents. Populism is a euphemism. Populism sounds innocuous, and the reason many use it is because they are afraid to admit that there is a large fascist movement afoot in America and elsewhere. By referring to fascism as populism, we feel more assured that there is no monster lurking under the bed. The use of populism is us sticking our heads in the sand. It’s our way of whistling past the graveyard.
Not long ago I asked my gay friend if he was ever afraid. His answer went something like this. I used to not be, but now I don’t know.
Could gays ever be scapegoated? Well, we have seen scapegoating in the past, haven’t we? We’ve seen genocide in the past, haven’t we? We’ve seen lynching and cross-burning and bombing. We’ve seen almost everything in the past, haven’t we?
For those who think such horrid things couldn’t happen here, I’d like to remind them that this sort of ugliness has already happened right here. Just Google “lynchings” and then click on the “image” link. It would also help if such skeptics went to the nearest bookstore or library and checked out Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, penned in 1935.
Read the novel and then turn on the TV. Watch for a day or two and then get back to me.