Hello, Dear Reader. It is midafternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. It’s a typically hot, muggy midsummer’s day. The current temperature is 89˚F (32˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 59% and the wind blowing from the east-southeast at 5 MPH, the feels-like temperature is 105˚F (40˚C). Today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms to pass through our area in the early afternoon. The high will be 93˚F (34˚C). Tonight, the skies will be mostly clear. The low will be 75˚F (24˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 31 or Good.
You know, the more I read about the conservative movement in the United States – and to some extent, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and a few other European countries that are not Anglophone – the less I like it. It seems to me that the people who create the ideology, as well as those who finance the movement by donating to political figures or to right-wing media outlets, are mostly wealthy white men and women who don’t really care about the average citizen but pretend to do so in order to protect and conserve their power and privileges.
I am, as you know, a history buff. I am mainly interested in military history, especially World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the two Gulf Wars, and the Cold War in general, with a side dish of the American Civil War, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. I’m not sure why, since I don’t think that there’s a long history of military service in my mom’s side of the family, although – as far as I know – at least two of my second cousins did their obligatory stint in the Colombian Army before going on to pursue other, less bellicose careers. Still, I have been a military history buff since I was six, and I am still learning new things at the age of 58.
Other branches of history have not really held my attention. Every so often I break out of my comfort zone and examine topics that are not exclusively martial in nature; I remember, for instance, reading a condensed version of Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra in our house in Westchester when I was 11 or 12 years old. And I have tried – without much success, I hate to admit – to read Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow; it’s a well-written book (from what I’ve managed to read since I bought the book a couple of years ago), but its depiction of systemic racism is too painful for me to bear.
Of all the branches of history that I usually don’t read, political history is probably my least favorite. I always thought politics as a dry, boring subject, albeit one that is important to at least have some understanding about. That’s because, when you stop to think about it, politics, political activities and ideologies, and political figures and pundits shape our lives directly whether we like it or not.
Lately, I have been reading three books that delve into former President Donald Trump’s disastrous Administration. Two are – thankfully – satires that I’m reading both for entertainment as well as to help me with a screenplay that I am grappling with: MacTrump, a play in the style of Shakespeare by Ian Doescher and Jacopo Della Quercia; and And the Last Trump Shall Sound: A Future History of America by alternate history author Harry Turtledove and two other writers.
The third book, I Alone Can Fix It, by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, is the only non-fiction book in the bunch. I reviewed it Sunday, so if you want to know more about it, you can check out my critique of it here.
One of the biggest takeaways from I Alone Can Fix It is that it shows – for anyone who is willing to read the book with an open mind – the hypocrisy of American conservatism, especially the version of it espoused by Donald J. Trump and his cheerleaders over in Fox News Channel, One America Network, and Breitbart News.
For example, the right loves to claim that the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement is all about preserving individual freedoms, honoring American traditions and Judeo-Christian values, and keeping government out of our lives as much as possible, and lowering taxes so that we can keep more of our paychecks.
This all sounds nice and reasonable, but the reality is that many “conservatives” – especially those who identify as “Christian” and Republicans – are, in essence, not-so-closeted authoritarians who are not all that different from Iran’s ruling theocracy. (In fact, the differences between Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists are practically non-existent. The theological surface details differ, sure, but the basic principles of a patriarchy that rules the masses according to its interpretation of “God’s will” are the same.)
American conservatives hate it when folks like me compare them to fascists and Nazis in 1930s Europe. In fact, they hate it so much that they will use Orwellian methodology to gaslight us into thinking that fascism and Nazi philosophy are actually constructs of the left.
I already posted about that bit of right-wing revisionism recently, so you might want to go here If you missed it. However, I need to point out one element of the fascist agenda that is relevant to what I’m going to say about Trump’s cheerleaders that I gleaned from reading I Alone Can Fix It.
Fascism’s basic cornerstones are opposition to egalitarianism, rejection of political and social liberalism. and an impetus for a hierarchical authority that must be obeyed without question. Furthermore, fascism is marked by social Darwinism (“survival of the fittest’), nationalism, imperialism, and a cult of admiration, almost a fetish, for the military and law enforcement.
As I said before, most Trump supporters will deny that they are fascists or have fascist tendencies. They’ll argue that it is “Marxist” leftists who are the fascists (or, as many MAGA fans write it on Facebook, “facists”) because Democrats and independent liberals support lockdowns, the use of face masks, social distancing, and vaccinations to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, while many conservative Trump supporters do not.
I bring this up because Leonnig and Rucker describe, in horrifying detail, how Trump wanted to use the military to suppress the protests that took place last year after former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin and two fellow officers killed George Floyd during an arrest in late May of 2020. Never mind that the First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceably assemble to protest government actions at any level (in this case, police brutality and systemic racism). Never mind that although there were vandals, arsonists, and provocateurs mixed in among the protesters, most of the folks who took part were peaceful.
Yet, in the chapter A Sea of Empty Chairs, I Alone Can Fix It shows Trump’s not-so-closeted authoritarian streak, as well as the role played by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson in goading the former President to send troops to stifle dissent in American cities.
Trump’s interest in a military response flared, however, when he turned on Fox News. He brooded watching Tucker Carlson sound dire warnings on his nightly show about “the descent of our nation into chaos and craziness,” which prominently featured Seattle as Exhibit A. Carlson claimed invading hordes were overtaking the city and nobody was stopping them. During his June 11 program, Carlson took a moment to jab mockingly at Trump. He said the CHOP organizers were like conquistadors who smartly seized their six-block territory as their own country. Then, Carlson said, “They built a wall around the place like Donald Trump said he would.”
Fox found that its reports and commentaries about unrest in Seattle and elsewhere drew sizable attention, especially when paired with ominous images of burning cars and looting rioters. On June 12, Fox’s homepage featured an image of a man carrying an assault rifle in front of a Seattle storefront with shattered glass. But the picture had been digitally altered by splicing together multiple photographic images and putting the man with the rifle – a volunteer working security, in fact – in front of a looted store….
I have read about propaganda tactics like this before – in books about World War II and Nazi “dirty tricks” with overwrought newsreels about Polish maltreatment of ethnic Germans in western Poland seen in the Third Reich over the summer of 1939. Such tales of Poles killing innocent Aryans in territories “stolen” from the fallen German Empire in 1919 after World War I by the victorious Allies and given to a reborn Poland were just as fictitious as Tucker Carlson’s “invading hordes.” But they were used by Adolf Hitler – Trump has a book of the Nazi leader’s speeches in his collection – to whip up the German people into an anti-Polish fever that preceded Germany’s invasion of its eastern neighbor on September 1, 1939.
Luckily, the leadership at the Defense Department stood up to Trump and he did not get his way. The tanks and soldiers Trump and Carlson wanted to crush the protests never marched on Seattle and other cities, and there wasn’t a repeat of the “Days of Rage” clashes between armed soldiers and unarmed civilians 48 years earlier, the most famous of which was the Kent State University shootings, where Ohio National Guardsmen killed four university students while trying to quell an antiwar protest on campus.
As sad and angry as reading I Alone Can Fix It will make some readers, I think that we need to do it anyway. Not just to learn about how unhinged and destructive the Trump Presidency and Trumpism were in 2020, but also to understand how fragile and vulnerable our democratic republic truly is.
 My dad, who was a pilot, may have been a commissioned officer in the Colombian Air Force Reserves. I think my mom mentioned something along those lines, but it was so long ago that I am not sure. My dad died in 1965, shortly before my second birthday, so I obviously never had much of a chance to know him. My mother, who never got over her second husband’s death, didn’t speak about him in great detail; it was too painful a topic for her.
Source: Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, I Alone Can Do It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, pp. 203-204.