Sunday, January 29, 2017

We wanna be like Russia? Really?

The older I get, the more I think there are basically two kinds of people: builders and destroyers. Between these two, maybe, are those who appreciate things, and those who mostly ignore things. But over the years I've come to group the former with builders, and the latter with destroyers.

"I'm a Leninist," said Steven Bannon in 2013. "Lenin wanted to destroy the state. And that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

I wish I could say that I thought this was hyperbole or posturing. I don't. I believe him. For Baby Boomers, destroying institutions is what we do. Is there conflict between personal and institutional values? Well, one of us must change! Guess who?

It doesn't take much work to trace Bannon's predilections at Breitbart, and in his still early days as chief strategist for Trump. And there's Trump himself, in a bizarre bro-mance with Putin.

The question we need to ask is this: after destruction of the state, then what? What do we replace it with?

Lenin did indeed bring Tsarist Russian Empire to an end. But then he ushered in an authoritarian regime, Stalin's, arguably far worse than what he'd destroyed. In much the same way, Mao Zedong, another follower of Lenin, succeeded in undoing one regime, and replacing it with a government that first led to widespread famine, then to the Cultural Revolution. Both were disastrous.

It's clear that Bannon's and Trump's perspective appeals to the worst in Americans: racism, sexism, nativism. Yet we know that as of 2014, over half of the youngest American children are non-white. Half have always been women. Immigrants have long been our strength, not our weakness.

In the current majority backlash the Trump regime may well succeed in re-instituting the exclusionary, punitive, and domineering rhetoric and governmental bias of our past. But here's the problem: it doesn't change the underlying demographics. It doesn't change the fact that America has already fundamentally shifted.

Trump, and his childishness, is easy to mock. But what follows him is likely to be dead serious. Bannon, and his Leninist nihilism, won't make America white again. It will, however, sow the seeds of resentment and hatred. Is there any scenario in which this plays out well for either the nation, or the world?

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In November of 2018, I left my position at ALA in Chicago to return to my Colorado-based writing, speaking, and consulting career. So I'...