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How Did It Come to This?

By Petr Knava | Politics | December 8, 2015 |

By Petr Knava | Politics | December 8, 2015 |

Claiming that Mexicans entering the U.S. illegally are rapists. Implying that aggressive questioning from a female TV host was due to menstruation. Unrepentantly mocking journalists for their disability.

None of that was apparently enough for Mr. Donald Trump, Republican frontrunner for Presidential nominee, because he’s now had to go to town on this next one. Nazi town.

‘We need a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on,’ he told gathered supporters inside a WWII aircraft carrier in South Carolina last night, apparently either savouring the irony of delivering such a nakedly fascistic statement in that venue, or blissfully unaware of it.

How does a person even begin reacting to a comment like this? What emotions can a person who isn’t part of the Trump-supporting twelve-or-so percent of the electorate (latest polls show him taking roughly thirty percent of the forty-ish percent of Americans who identify as Republican, or Republican-leaning) feel right now? Rage? Fear? Disbelief?

Or do you bargain with the truth, and maybe try to convince yourself that perhaps there is something going on that we do not see? Because how could it be that comments like this are actually leaving the mouth of a Presidential hopeful in the twenty-first century? He can’t possibly believe what he is saying, can he? What avenues have been walked down that led to this? There must be a simple explanation: What if Trump is an ISIS agent, sent to sow deep divisions and facilitate the apocalyptic war that they so desperately want?! No, no — maybe he’s actually a Democratic plant, injected by the opposition to claim the nomination and then spectacularly lose the 2016 election? Or is he just a Republican plant, designed to spew out the most cartoonishly hateful bile so that he can later drop out, and by comparison make the actual, still-goddamn-horrible nominee — like Cruz or Rubio — seem relatively ‘normal’?

Or maybe most of that doesn’t matter. Maybe questions like, ‘does Trump actually believe the things he’s saying?’ and, ‘who might be using this frankly unbelievable campaign as a tactical false flag?’ are irrelevant; because the point is that Trump is saying those things, and who cares if he’s a just a GOP tactic — because either way there are people agreeing with him!

Maybe, then, the only pertinent question is, ‘how did it come to this?’, the answer to which is in fact plain to see: that this is just some very ugly chickens coming home to roost — chickens that have claimed a platform far, far larger than they ever should have by being covered by a compliant, gaudy, and violently partisan circus-media; by using the hugely money-reliant nature of the campaign process; by preying on a climate of manufactured fear and ignorance, and a culture of toxic masculinity and individualism; and by exploiting a national consciousness soaked and marinated in celebrity worship. Mr. Donald Trump — crappy businessman, fascist clown, Presidential candidate — is a product of all of this.

But there could be the seed of a good thing hidden in all this shit. It is perhaps too much to hope for this to be a watershed moment in self-reflection — a moment when vast swathes of society look into the mirror and can no longer lie and tell ourselves that we are fine; that our treatment of ‘others’ and our subjugation of whole areas of the globe is fine; that the way we are manipulated and cajoled into turning on each other at any sign of unrest is fine. It is perhaps too much to hope, but something does need to change. Uncomfortable truths need to be faced and confronted.

The author, Teju Cole, said it best after Trump’s announcement:

Trump is a dangerous clown, and we must continue to strongly oppose him and his hateful crowds. But it is important to understand that his idea of “banning all Muslims,” scandalous as it is (intentionally scandalous, because he is of course doing it for media attention), is far less scandalous than the past dozen years of American disregard for non-American Muslim lives. And that wasn’t Trump. Trump didn’t murder thousands of innocent people with drones in Pakistan and Yemen. Trump didn’t kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people with bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump didn’t torture people at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, or the numerous black sites across the planet. Trump’s weapons aren’t incinerating Yemen now, and didn’t blow up Gaza last year. No American president in the past fourteen years has openly championed Islamophobia, but none has refrained from doing to Muslims overseas what would be unthinkable to do here to Americans of any religion. This deadly speech we are hearing towards the Muslim members of our family is nothing new: it is a continuation in words of what has been real on the ground for a long time. Our legitimate dismay at Islamophobic statements must be situated inside this recent history, a history in which a far wider swath of the country than Trump’s base is implicated.


Petr Knava plays music

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.