Donald Trump has chosen Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, dashing any hopes that Trump would turn and repudiate his white nationalist followers after using them in his rise to power. Of course, it’s possible that Trump doesn’t know Bannon is a known purveyor of racist and anti-semitic conspiracy drivel: but given as much time as the Republican demagogue spends on Twitter, it’s hard to argue that he has even the questionable excuse of ignorance.
Ben Sales, at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, writes:
While still at Breitbart, Bannon told Mother Jones, “We’re the platform for the alt-right,” in an August interview. The alt-right — a loose movement that has gained prominence during this election season — promotes white nationalism and has been accused of being racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic.
The alt-right, short for alternative right, “encompasses a range of people on the extreme right who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy,” according to the ADL. “People who identify with the alt-right regard mainstream or traditional conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they do not sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism.”
Not that Bannon will step forward and announce his racism: racists so rarely do.
But the evidence is clear. From the perspective of any minority who has already been feeling uncomfortable ripples regarding the tenor of Trump’s run, this appointment solidifies our concern that no, we have not learned from the past. I’m not going to be so historically crass as to say that this is Nazi Germany happening all over again: the culture is different; the motivating factors are different; Trump is more of a bloviating liberal opportunist than he is a dedicated fascist. And history does not, in fact, repeat itself; each era has its own complex interweave of currents and correlatives, never to be duplicated. This is why it is so difficult to predict, or to control, much of anything. But it doesn’t have to be Nazi Germany for Jews and other minorities to be at risk. It’s happened over and over, in many different historical settings, whenever movements of nativism have arisen, or whenever those with privilege felt threatened. It’s happened in our own recent history. Nice people, respectable people, were involved., too: people you could chat with at the soda counter, not menacing warlords in shiny boots brandishing firearms. That’s the very worrying thing.
I guess one could say, this is original sin at work in history.
I wrote about the Alt Right earlier, after a few unpleasant run-ins with anti-semites on Trad Catholic pages.
I had a run-in with one of these recently. I admit, I was trolling a Facebook group made up largely of right-wing Catholics, because I’d been alerted to the anti-semitism of the group admin. Remember that old ethics question from philosophy class, about lying to Nazis? Well, I have always proudly defended my moral right to lie to Nazis, and I will also cheerfully enter their Facebook groups, on occasion. If they don’t like it, they can kick me out. Curiously, this particular charming specimen decided it was more fun to keep me in the group and regale me with anti-semitic slurs. None of the Catholic members of this Catholic group stopped him or called him on it. One delightful little fellow even chimed in. Then the admin began private messaging me insults, putting my name in parentheses.(((Weiss)))
(((Weiss))), ironically, is not my birth name, but is rather the name of my Nordic / Germanic husband, who enjoys the sort of blond-beast handsomeness and raw physical strength that these fanatics of masculinity only dream of. I am Jewish, however, by birth, and as a Catholic Jew, I have occasionally – as mentioned earlier – been exposed to prejudice from members of my own faith – but, hitherto, only occasionally.
Let me re-iterate what I said earlier: Catholics have no business getting cozy with these organizations and powers. The pro-life movement must repudiate any possible connection with racist groups. Racism has no place in a pro-life ethos: not just because it makes us look bad, but because ideologies that dehumanize run counter to the very heart of our vision. Movement leaders such as Fr. Frank Pavone should reconsider the increasing damage they do to the pro-life cause, when they not only support the Trump regime, but even go so far as to congratulate his brand new shiny racist chief strategist:
“In particular, I want to congratulate Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has been selected as White House Chief of Staff, and Stephen K. Bannon, CEO of Trump for President, who will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President.
“In my own pro-life work I have seen how committed these men are to advancing the rights of the unborn. Reince Priebus says of himself, ‘I’m a 100%, Psalm 139, pro-life Republican’, and I have seen firsthand, as I have interacted with Stephen Bannon in his role with Breitbart News, that he, too, is a smart and passionate advocate for the weakest children among us.
I sincerely implore all pro-life groups – even those who, for whatever reason, decided to get into cahoots with Trump – to stand up against this appointment. If you voted for Trump hoping he’d be pro-life, well, demand that he be so. Don’t just dumbly submit to whatever new folly he pulls out of his red hat, thinking it will save the babies. “Prolife” isn’t on his policy page. It isn’t on his one hundred day plan. So where is it? I know one place where it isn’t: in any space where racism and nativism are encouraged.
Now, the terrifying thing about nationalist and supremacist groups is that what they like is a fight. So we need to eschew any language of warfare or domination, in our peaceful – but far from passive! – opposition to movements which try to use the pro-life cause as leverage for evil ends. We need to work not to destroy but to create, not to dehumanize but to restore a sense of love of being, love of life, wherever possible. This may be our hugest challenge in the days ahead.
Those who have been victims of racial injustice feel ignored and depersonalized because their voices have not been heard, their fears have been mocked. Please pause a moment, and hear them.