Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday Season Despotism

Aguirre: the Wrath of God is the best look into the despotic mindset

For years now the "War on Christmas" has been a cause celebre among conservatives. Donald Trump is a profoundly ignorant man, but he understands media manipulation and he understands his base, so he has weaponized this once silly ploy to get ratings on Fox News. This Christmas he tweeted about how now that he was president, we were all saying "Merry Christmas" again.

Now, it would natural to laugh at a statement so manifestly ridiculous, but I'm not laughing. Trump has very deftly used his ridiculousness to shroud the profound danger he presents. His claim to had gotten America to say "Merry Christmas" again was to me the manifestation of despotism. (Brian Klaas' use of "despot" for Trump is perfect and the term I have been searching for to define him.) Trump does not know or care much about democratic norms, he wishes to rule, and to make his personal whims reality. We caught a glimpse of that this week, when his obvious racism against Nigerians and Haitians found its way into immigration restrictions.

Like many other despots, he is a self-centered sociopath who has a toddler tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Combine this mindset with power, and despots usually degenerate into a kind of frightening unreality. I think of Idi Amin's murderous regime causing the British to recall their diplomats, after which Amin gave himself the title of Conqueror of the British Empire. I think of Hitler looking over his models of the new Berlin he wanted to build as Soviet bombs fell around his bunker. I think of Rafael Trujillo renaming the tallest mountain in the Dominican Republic after himself.

It is especially scary to me because I do not see any end to this in sight. Even if Republicans lose big in 2018, there will still be a dangerous wannabe despot holding the most powerful political office in the world. I wrote recently about signs of hope in the last year, but nothing scares me more than the way that Trump's despotism was normalized in the past year. He has publicly attacked the media and attacked those in the state he wants purged, all to the applause of his supporters. A man like this, as unpopular as he is, is extremely dangerous, yet our media persists in treating him either like a "normal" politician or a reality television show being mined for ratings.

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