At this point in the presidential campaign, who doesn't know that Donald Trump essentially winked at the plot of 13 men, including two ex-Marines, to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer? Demanding at a rally in Muskegon that she reopen the state under pandemic conditions, the president responded to crowd chants of "Lock her up!" by saying, "Lock them all up." No less unsubtly, at his first presidential debate, he called on the armed crew of nationalists who dub themselves the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" -- with the emphasis on that "stand by." And, of course, you don't even have to ask, "stand by" for what, do you?
Add in his never-ending claims about "fraudulent" mail-in ballots and a "rigged" election, "the greatest scam in the history of politics," and you have the familiar aggressive Donald Trump, wooing "his" people in the way that we've all become more or less accustomed to.
But there's been another Donald Trump on the stump, too, in these last pandemic weeks of election season 2020, the one after which (at least in his nightmares) the crowds (and legal authorities) could be chanting, "Lock him up!" In fact, he's clearly begun to feel that, in the wake of November 3rd, he'd better be prepared -- and consider this my suggestion for a future chant -- to "Stand up and move out!" In fact, he's been speaking with a certain pathos about possibly losing the election and implicitly facing endless legal charges as an everyday citizen. He's even threatened, post-election, to move to another country: "Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life -- what am I going to do? I'm going to say, I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics! I'm not going to feel so good. Maybe I'll have to leave the country, I don't know." (Saudi Arabia anyone?) We're talking about the Donald Trump who recently complained pathetically to suburban women "You don't love me"; who said to his own fans pitifully enough at a rally in Pennsylvania, "Nobody wants me," before dancing off stage. ("They don't want me, China doesn't want me, Iran doesn't want me... nobody wants me!" he added as the crowd chanted: "We want you!") He's similarly pleaded with those suburban women not to be so hostile to him. ("So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood.")
Here's one reality of the 2020 election that shouldn't be ignored: whether Donald Trump (god save us) ends up in the White House for a second term or in Saudi Arabia in flight from justice, he's going to leave behind a riven and -- because it's the United States of America -- wildly overarmed populace in the midst of a pandemic, in job hell, feeling angry and betrayed. And that brings me to Andrea Mazzarino, the co-founder of Brown University's Costs of War Project, a military spouse, and a TomDispatch regular. Today, she takes a careful and typically thoughtful look at one part of the torn tapestry of America: the armed, angry far-right men (and ex-military men in particular) who are already doing more than just standing by. Tom
How the War Came Home, Big Time
Perspectives From a Military Spouse
By Andrea Mazzarino
It was July 2017, a few weeks before the "Unite the Right" Charlottesville riots, when white men marched through the streets of that Virginia city protesting the planned takedown of a confederate statue and chanting, "Jews will not replace us." I was sitting at a coffee shop in my quiet town of Poulsbo in Washington State. I had set aside an hour away from my kids to do some necessary writing, while my husband, then second-in-command on a Navy ballistic missile submarine, sat suspended somewhere in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Our toddler and infant were home with a babysitter, offering me a rare chance to write, peacefully, amid the stressors of my life. I had a clinical social-work internship then, counseling war-traumatized veterans, and had spent months single-mothering while my spouse was at sea. To my surprise, I was suddenly jolted from my daydreams by chanting men. Glancing out the window at the usually placid waterfront of our town, I caught sight of a group of surprisingly large white men wearing animal skin loincloths, vests, and horned hats. They were also holding torches and -- I kid you not -- spears. They were loudly chanting, "Poulsbo! Poulsbo! Poulsbo!" And that was when I suddenly remembered that this was our annual Viking Fest in which groups of Washington residents from near and far celebrated the town's Norwegian founders.
Cars parked more than a mile down our modest streets suggested that such gatherings were anything but local. This would be my second Viking Fest and I would be struck once again by how little I learned about how the town was actually founded, the values it stood for, and which of them might have survived to today. Poulsbo, after all, now existed in a largely militarized area, including a local submarine base, with white, privileged officer families -- those fortunate enough, at least, to be dual-income ones like mine or have trust funds -- purchasing and reselling homes every few years as the U.S. military moved them around the country and the world.
Even in 2017, longtime residents were starting to move away to escape the smoke that snaked into the community earlier each year from ever-fiercer wildfires in ever-longer fire seasons, part of our new climate-changed reality. Meanwhile, Poulsbo's picturesque gingerbread house-style buildings were being replaced by larger condo complexes, as developers moved ever deeper into the town's hillside forests that would undoubtedly someday burn.
Viking Fest, with its spectacle of white men banging spears and shouting aggressively, set my heart racing with an unnamed fear. It was, after all, a moment when the recently elected Donald Trump was already demonstrating that practically no behavior, including in Charlottesville soon ("You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides"), should be considered beyond bounds. Later, talking with another military wife, a rare woman of color visiting that town, about the Viking shout-a-thon, amid an almost all-white crowd of officers and their families watching the event, she said, "It's like there's no point. It's like a celebration of white people!"
Who Are They and What Do They Stand For?
Looking back now, it's hard not to see that evening's loud and prideful display of white masculinity, which merely disturbed the peace for stressed-out moms like me, as a harbinger of more sinister things to come. Shouting male nationalist groups like the Proud Boys that President Trump told to "stand by" at his first debate with Joe Biden and the Wolverine Watchmen, some of whom have allegedly been linked to a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, are increasingly commonplace in the news.
As a military wife who has made five different moves over the last 10 years, I'm particularly aware of how racially and ethnically diverse this country and its military actually are. Under the circumstances, it's remarkable that much of white America lacks any understanding of just how threatening displays like Viking Fest must look to the rare person of color who happens upon them.
It should certainly be obvious in October 2020 how destructive to our democracy fraternal, pro-Trump groups have become during Donald Trump's presidency. Take those Proud Boys. Among the founding principles their website offers are a vague set of notions that include "reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism," "anti-political correctness," "venerating the housewife," "pro-gun rights" (in a pandemic-ridden country where, between March and July alone, an estimated three million more guns were purchased than usual), and -- get this -- "anti-racism." For the Proud Boys to say that they reject racism and venerate housewives did little more than provide them with a veneer of social acceptability, even as they planned armed counter-rallies in progressive cities like Providence and Portland with the explicit purpose of inciting violence among Black Lives Matter protesters and their allies.
Other influences, like the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, are even more direct. For example, that site urged its followers to cyber-bully American University's first black female student government president, Taylor Dumpson after n ooses began appearing on that school's campus in 2017. In April 2016, its founder Andrew Anglin had written, "Jews, Blacks, and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected -- and he's happy about it. This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man."
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