From TheWrap.com comes this story of yet another incident involving Donald Trump and his supporters abusing the holy hell out of someone. This story illustrates the rage of right-wing Christians about their rapidly-mounting losses in the public sphere, but also their certain collapse of power. And in the latest little drama-fest he’s provoked by skipping the debate, this seems like a good time to examine that rage and what it is doing to others–and what it demonstrates to us about a religion that is failing fast.
It seems that Mr. Trump has not yet recovered from the drubbing he got from Megyn Kelly last year in one of the debates. If you hadn’t heard about the incident, the Fox News presenter and moderator asked him about his habit of referring to women as “pigs” and “disgusting animals,” saying that a President ought to be above such speech, and he apparently did not like being challenged like that. The fundagelicals’ favorite graceless boor validated her concerns by responding to her concerns by implying afterward that she must have been menstruating to say such a thing to King Him, which is the excuse sexists the world over have used to silence women they think are getting uppity. Then he lied about having implied any such thing.
Leaders set the tone for their followers. Donald Trump is no exception. Long ago he raised a banner telling sexists, racists, and classists that slurs against the people they hate and fear are perfectly acceptable to him. He blew a horn whose resounding tones told them that their behavior was not only condoned but encouraged–not only allowed but expected. He told them without words that nobody will stop them, allow them to be criticized, or take them to task or punish them for saying whatever is in their shriveled, blackened little hearts and doing whatever they think is necessary to punish those who refuse to comply with their demands or stop them from hurting and marginalizing others.
Terrible people all over our fine country heard that horn and saw that banner.
And they came flocking to his call.
The more shockingly nasty he is, the happier they are–because it gives them permission to be the same. There’s a lot of hatred in the United States right now, and he loves every second of it. He glories in it, feeds off of it, panders to it, magnifies it, and then throws more fuel onto it. The worse his behavior gets, the more his fans revel in their mutual and shared nastiness. That’s a big part of why terrible people love Donald Trump. He is their id, and more importantly he is their permission slip. He is the bully punching down, and fundagelicals do love a good rousing punching-down.
Sometimes that punching takes a sinister and literal form.
When a black protester at a Trump rally was attacked recently–on video–getting kicked, punched, and shoved, Donald Trump himself supported this blatantly racist hate crime, excusing this violence by saying that the Black Lives Matter protester was “disgusting” and “looking to make trouble,” because obviously that totally excuses excessive and life-threatening violence used against someone who was not actually violent himself. And Mr. Trump has condoned and excused other racist crimes in the past, as that post outlines. This support tells racists he’s one of us; he likes us and he’s like us. It’s okay to keep acting this way and even to act worse.
Heartened and emboldened by the adulation he has received in turn from his fanbase for his behavior, Donald Trump demanded that Fox News change moderators for the most recent debate, which he was scheduled to participate in because (as the rest of the world likely thinks) Americans are nuttier than fruitcakes and will rally around absolutely anybody as long as that person can yell loudly enough. Megyn Kelly was moderating, you see, and he’s still quite upset with her and hasn’t finished trying to punish her for her crime of not bowing deeply enough to King Donald. So he began rallying his troops, pretending to ask on his Twitter whether or not he should even go to the debate at all, and ordering or at least allowing his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to issue veiled threats about how the Trump campaign “would hate to have her go through that again,” which referred to the “rough couple of days” Ms. Kelly had after the last time she locked horns with Donald Trump.
In the wake of his apparent dithering over attending a debate moderated by a woman who might for all anyone knew be “bleeding from her wherever,” Donald Trump’s supporters, emboldened by his support of their various bigotries, decided to be his personal army and attack Ms. Kelly for, apparently, being female while doing something they don’t like. In the last few days, hundreds upon hundreds of his supporters have taken it upon themselves to fling all manner of vile misogynistic abuse at her and a variety of obscene slurs. Numerous others have torn her apart for her appearance. I refuse to repeat them here.
For their own part, Ms. Kelly’s network, Fox News, ignored the fact that if their journalist did have a “rough couple of days,” it was largely because of the misogynistic attacks that Donald Trump and his supporters waged upon her after that debate, and merely concentrated on laughing till they snorted coffee out of their noses at the very idea of complying with such an unreasonable demand and then coming up with a suitable retort to the pompous, self-important buffoon who’d made it.
If they’d ended their response with a photo of all the Fox News anchors and top bigwigs mooning Donald Trump with “DEBATE THIS, ASSHOLE” written one sparkly, multicolored letter at a time across each of their bare cheeks, it could not have sounded one iota more derisive.
(And really, gang, wouldn’t we be just a little disappointed if such a reply did not exist somewhere in their corporate email system?)
Mr. Trump ended up
flouncing away skipping the debate entirely, which might or might not actually have hurt his campaign. Wonkette’s writeup is especially interesting.
Where These Attacks Fit in With Fading Christian Power.
Donald Trump is the fundagelicals’ hero and darling of the moment. He’s one of their top choices for President (and second choice in this poll) and they form a substantial part of his fanbase. So it goes without saying that at least some of the abusers in his midst are Christians–I’ve seen Christians on my social media talking exactly like some of these people cited attacking Ms. Kelly, so I know that the self-appointed (and failed) ambassadors of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love are well-represented in the unruly mob that attacked that black protester and hurled abuse at Megyn Kelly for Being Female While Uppity.
Fundagelicals are very fond of perpetuating rape culture, which is a culture in which rape is normalized and implicitly condoned, in which rapists are excused and even protected at the expense of victims, and in which victims themselves are often blamed for having been raped. Misogynistic Christians particularly use threats of rape to threaten other people to comply with their demands and to silence critics, and they are very quick to haul out these threats under very specific circumstances: when they feel their control over women is diminishing, when their male dominance is threatened and challenged.
They maintain rigid expectations of acceptable behavior, dress, and speech for women. If women violate those rules (even if this transgression wasn’t their choice at all), then they move outside the umbrella of men’s protection. Such a woman has either eschewed male protection or is denied it, and can therefore be attacked at will.
Megyn Kelly, by defying Donald Trump, has moved outside those expectations and out from under that umbrella. Just like one Republican lawmaker declared some time ago that if abortion, which Christian theocrats have decided is the most transgressive act that a woman can ever choose, is legal then rape should be as well, Donald Trump and his supporters alike clearly have decided that if Megyn Kelly refuses to conform to their rigid expectations of women’s behavior then they are well within their rights to abuse her as much as they like.
Why would anybody loving want to be anywhere near a group of people behaving like Christians do?
Family Values: Hate, Misogyny, Abuse, Aggression, Bullying.
What sterling famblee values the party’s adherents are espousing! What generous grace they are displaying in reacting to news and people they dislike! What amazing maturity, restraint, and humility they are showing! How well they are demonstrating that all this “War on Women” stuff is just a figment of Democrats’ feverish imaginations! And what attention they are bringing to their laser-like focus on our economy, the shrinking middle class, and wage woes!
Why, they’re simply perfect Republicans!
This shameful and sorry situation, right here, is both a sign of the party’s impending failure, and a symptom of why that failure is happening.
Christian naysayers are around, yes, but they simply can’t be as loud as the people they’re trying to persuade. Check out the comments on any of their critical posts and writings, and you will quickly see exactly how well-beloved this failure of a businessman and mind-bogglingly-hypocritical Christian-in-name-only is to the Religious Right–simply because they think that he hates who they hate and will help them hurt the people they want to hurt. They will line up around the block to vote for whoever is pandering to them best, and right now that’s Donald Trump.
What’s hilarious is that their efforts are almost certainly going to result in yet another national-level loss for Republicans.
It’s hardly a secret that white, evangelical, theocracy-minded misogynistic racists weren’t exactly the key to winning the past two elections, nor that the Republicans’ top leaders are having kittens right now this second over how to attract those blocs that are actually influential but which also overwhelmingly reject Republicans’ simple, universal message of hatred, exclusion, control-lust, overreach, fanaticism, dishonesty, and -isms.
But Donald Trump and his fans don’t care at all about any of that. They’ve got a whole other objective in mind, one they think they are reaching with these shameful tactics.
We need to be paying attention when a contender for President and his fanbase behave this way. They are telling us exactly what they think and what their Loony Tunes farce of a campaign is all about, and why we must resist what they are trying to do.
One way we can push back against their behavior is by letting them know that we know exactly why they keep using vile slurs against people they dislike.
The Thing About Slurs.
If someone uses racist, sexist, or classist slurs, then they are, in fact, behaving in a racist, sexist, or classist manner regardless of how evolved and enlightened they think they are.* They are also behaving in a very abusive and verbally aggressive manner. This behavior is not unique to Christians, obviously, because this sense of hierarchy and inborn superiority is another of those meta-religious ideas that far transcends and predates the piddling Johnny-come-lately that is Christianity.
Insults of this nature are used to cut victims down to size and remind them of the hierarchy the abuser thinks they are flouting. The use of a slur reminds an abuser’s victim that being that sex/race/class/orientation/identity/etc is something the abuser thinks is worth insulting.
If someone would never normally use a racist slur “except when the person really deserves it,” to paraphrase what one “enlightened” atheist once said to me, then that doesn’t actually make the abuser look better at all because it shows that the abuser is still locked into a mindset that thinks of this or that generally-inborn characteristic as something worth insulting. It’s a form of aggression meant to cut an enemy down to size, shame them, quiet them down, and most importantly, forcibly remind them of something they have very clearly forgotten but which the abuser never can. It’s also a way to refocus the discussion on those irrelevant details rather than whatever the enemy is trying to say.
If we have a problem with someone’s behavior or words, then that’s what we need to discuss. Megyn Kelly’s gender shouldn’t even factor in to whatever has got the Donald throwing a Trump-trum and his followers all frothy with rage.** But her gender factors into very nearly the entirety of their abuse toward her; they’re not really even engaging with anything she’s actually said and might not even know how she upset their idol so much. The particular form of their abuse tells me that they’re more upset with the fact that a woman was uppity to a man they idolize than they are about anything particular she actually said. And the only way they know how to combat this offense is through abuse.
Slurs are used by abusers because they are often brutally effective in hurting the other person and bringing them down a few notches to the point where the hierarchy is re-established. The people calling Ms. Kelly these disgusting names hope that their abuse will make her upset, afraid, and silent, and they hope to reinforce the hierarchy she is defying and force her back into line.
People who cannot win by reason and facts try to win instead by aggression and dishonesty.
So far, though, these abusers are being proven wrong.
Donald Trump and his supporters want to “make America great again,” but people who really want to make America great do not abuse and attack their fellow Americans. No, instead they’re furious–violently so at times–that women and minorities have made some small gains toward equality in this country, because they perceive that this minute advancement has happened at the expense of a tiny bit of white and male privilege.
To regain that lost smidgen of privilege, they’ll happily behave in a perfectly vile and hypocritical way toward someone they view as an inferior for the cardinal sin of not granting proper deference and submission to someone they view as her innate, divinely-appointed superior. They don’t care who’s watching or what we might think of what they’re doing; they are beating their chests too loudly to hear any criticism, much less to care about it.
People who are secure in their power don’t need to attack anybody. They’re too high up the ladder to care about a few people at the bottom of it making some noise. Donald Trump has often shown, through his petty and small-minded attacks on people who really should be way beneath a self-proclaimed billionaire plutocrat’s notice, that he’s nowhere near the level he claims he’s on. The attacks he and his supporters continually make upon those challenging their authority and dominance demonstrates that they perceive that these challenges have merit and are worth defending against.
And yet despite all their aggression and dishonesty, they are losing power at a precipitous rate.
The sheer hypocrisy of their efforts cannot be understated, either. Christianity teaches its adherents that “even the pagans” (which is now my new band name) can be kind to their families and people they love, but that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ must love even their enemies. But where in all these slurs they hurl is their love? Where in these brutally racist and misogynistic attacks is their grace? If people who’d never even heard of Christianity were watching Mr. Trump’s supporters abuse people they don’t like, what would they make of this behavior?
I ain’t holding my breath for any of his supporters to ask these questions, or answer them.
I’d be a lot more impressed if Christians’ faith led them to grace and kindness toward their perceived enemies, but instead they are reacting like any abuser would when challenged. Rest assured, loving Christians are watching this display and seeing how their tribemates behave when pushed, and so are non-Christians. They are all seeing that there is no Jesus making these Christians loving or decent people, and that being stuffed full of perceived (if mistaken) spiritual correctness seems to be no assurance whatsoever that a Christian will actually do what their spiritual tradition demands. That their faith seems to lead so many Christians in entirely different (and often horrifying) directions and seems singularly incapable of reining in anybody who behaves like Donald Trump and his fans do speaks volumes about how valid, functional, and “divine” this religion’s system really is.
No, Christians’ loss of dominance is all but inexorable, guaranteed to come about by Christians themselves, and this loss could not possibly happen soon enough or to a more deserving tribe of chest-thumpers.
* Neil says that “they” is now totally acceptable as a singular gender-nonspecific pronoun, but I’m still having trouble getting used to the idea.
** That’s why we don’t insult Donald Trump’s appearance. We’re better than that. His words and behavior are more than enough reason to oppose and despise him.