It's not that I've never had a gun in my hands before. When I was a youngster, I shot .22s at a target range. But guns in the closet, often military-style ones? That's not been part of my experience as a citizen. Sad to say, though, my gun-less household may, in a distinctly imaginable future, find itself in a minority in this country. After all, according to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans already claim that they live in a household with a gun and 30% that they personally possess one and mind you, gun and ammunition sales have soared during the pandemic. (It's too bad that one thing you can't do with a gun is shoot down the multiplying variants of Covid-19 before they get you.)
Of course, when it comes to an armed citizenry, this country long ago left every other nation on Earth in the dust. Yemen (Yemen!) comes in a wildly distant second when you're counting armed civilians. And it's only likely to get worse. As a start, it looks as if the Trumpified Supreme Court will soon send a New York gun law restricting the carrying of firearms in public down in flames. Recent polling among Republicans also suggests that almost 30% of them believe "true American patriots may have to resort to violence" to "save" this country.
Call it a sign of the times, but one of Kyle Rittenhouse's first acts on being found not guilty of murdering two men and wounding another with a military-style assault rifle he was too young to legally possess other than being interviewed by Tucker Carlson was to visit Donald Trump at Mar-a-Largo, Florida. As the ex-president put it, Rittenhouse "wanted to know if he could come over and say hello because he was a fan" and he proved to be "really a nice young man. And what he went through, that was prosecutorial misconduct. He should not have had to suffer through a trial for that. He's a really good, young guy."
Consider all of this, by the way, just a hint of the world we could be living through in the years to come if, as TomDispatch regular and author of the Splinterlands Trilogy John Feffer suggests, the far right only grows stronger, locally and globally, which happens to be a distinct, if grim, possibility. Tom
The Donald Also Rises?
The Far Right Continues to Build Its International
By John Feffer
What alt-right guru Steve Bannon failed to create, German taxpayers have just stepped in to revive: a Nationalist International. Thanks to the German government, the far right is about to get its own well-heeled global think tank, complete with the sort of political academy that was so dear to Bannon's plan for world domination.
Germany's gift to the far right is the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation, the public-policy arm of the country's most prominent extremist party, the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). Erasmus, a Dutch humanist of the Renaissance best known for his ironic essay "In Praise of Folly," would have been appalled at such a grotesque misappropriation of his name. The AfD, after all, has built its political base on a series of follies diametrically opposed to humanism, from its initial anti-immigration screeds to its current overtures to the anti-vaccination crowd.
Strangely enough, the AfD underperformed in the recent German elections, its parliamentary delegation losing 11 seats. Still, by capturing a little more than 10% of the vote, the party made it into parliament a second consecutive time. As a result, it qualifies for what all other major parties also receive: government support of its foundation. Unless legal efforts to block this largesse succeed, the Erasmus foundation will soon enjoy the equivalent of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars a year.
Consider that an extraordinary shot in the arm for the global far right, since the AfD will be funded to establish outposts of hate throughout the world. The foundation of the left-wing Die Linke party, the more appropriately labeled Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, already has offices in more than 20 countries. The Green Party's foundation, named after Nobel Prize-winning German novelist Heinrich Böll, is in more than 30 countries. The far right hasn't had this kind of opportunity for global expansion since fascism's heyday in the 1930s.
The notion that the AfD could engage in anything remotely resembling "political education" should be laughable. But that's exactly how its foundation plans to use the coming federal windfall: to recruit and train a new generation of far-right thinkers and activists. The Erasmus Stiftung aims to hire more than 900 people for its political academy and allied educational institutions. That's even more ambitious than the academy of intellectual "gladiators" Bannon once dreamed of creating in a former monastery in the Italian countryside.
The Erasmus website says nothing about its global ambitions. Based on the AfD's latest platform, however, expect the foundation to gather together Euroskeptics to plot the evisceration of the European Union; advance the AfD's anti-immigrant platform with counterparts across Europe like Lega in Italy, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France, and several extremist groups in the Balkans; and pour money into establishing a "respectable" face for white nationalism by networking among identitarian groups in North America, the former Soviet Union, and Australasia.
This thunder on the right certainly sounds ominous. And yet, after the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 elections, the precipitous decline in public support for President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and the ongoing efforts to counter the far right in Eastern Europe, the prospect of a Nationalist International might seem further away today than, say, four years ago.
One well-funded German foundation is not likely to change that forecast. Unfortunately, the Erasmus Foundation is anything but the only storm cloud on the political horizon.
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