The brilliant modern civil rights leader Rev. William Barber said this week, “I am reminded of what Dr. (Martin Luther) King said after four little girls were murdered in an Alabama church: ‘We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.’”
In 2018, “the murderer” can be interpreted in multiple ways, from the actual murderers in mass killings of innocents in U.S. sanctuaries, as with the hateful white male who gunned down 11 at the the synagogue in Pittsburgh last weekend, to, in a metaphorical sense, the mass killings of innocence across the land by a hateful white male who has been extinguishing the souls of the people with a relentless machine gun-like assault of misrepresentations, insults and downright lies.
As Dr. King said back then, we are still tasked with getting to the root of “the system, the way of life, the philosophy” behind them.
Look, this isn’t about the economy, the jobs rate or the Dow. The force of the economic recovery since Wall Street triggered what could have been the worst economic crisis of modern times was well underway before Donald Trump came to power. If anything, his senseless tariffs and tax cuts for the rich are threatening to tank that recovery, and send us careening to the dreaded “double dip” of the collapse that began last decade.
Remember the pause between World War I and World War II? That could be like the period we are now in, the eye of the storm with only an illusionary and very temporary relative calm. Underlying this, the earning power and solidity of American households are teetering on the brink, living paycheck to paycheck, one paycheck from the street, lacking stability, money in the bank and a higher horizon of advancement and hope.
Trump and the monied forces behind him here and abroad are, in themselves, for those who hold to the notion, in collective sum the “Black Swan” event that will plunge us back by centuries into a New Dark Age. Trump is the “Black Swan.”
The elitist mindset that gave rise to the fascism of the last century, and the combined loss of 200 million human lives in the two great wars then, survived all that even as their political institutions were largely destroyed. It has been grinding the wheels of its political comeback since FDR dealt it a severe blow 75 years ago, and when you hear Republican politicians in 2018 calling for scaling back Social Security and Medicare, you are hearing the echoes of their fascist ancestors being channeled through their modern rhetoric.
Just as then, these fascists rely on their ability to divide their subjects by age-old tactics of sowing racial and ethnic hate and violence among them. It can be deeply morally vexing to watch this hatred play out so stridently among them. Can’t these sad people see how they are the ultimate victims of their own hatred, how they are being played like foolish fiddles against their own self-interests?
The elites know their success depends on beating down the human spirit with lies, deceptions and deceits. They are in the business of killing human souls, in addition to lives through wars, famine and pestilences.
They delude the masses with false promises akin to winning the lottery, the fantasy that one person, or one tribe, can win at the expense of all others in a war of each against all.
There is one way, ultimately, to defeat this, and it is with the power of virtue and solidarity, a universal solidarity. This is what grew the heart and soul of America to win World War II and unleash two decades of moral growth and national generosity.
The elites reverted to another war, Vietnam, and huge domestic counterinsurgency methods to beat that back, and they’ve been building momentum since.
Virtue, that which Trump totally lacks, is our ultimate precondition for victory, to be a different kind of people than he is.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].