Monday, February 20, 2017

Week of 02/20/2017

Today’s Red Hats Are Yesterday’s Black Shirts
Since this column is being posted on Mattress Sale Day… oops!  I meant President’s Day… it’s only fair that I start off with a little timely history lesson.
Warfare in the time of George Washington was in the process of evolving.  In his time as a colonial officer of the British Army, warfare was “professional”.  It was formalized to an absolute degree.  The troops would be organized into rigid formations on the field of battle.  There were rules that had to be followed.  Soldiers would move when told to, fire when told to, and only retreat when told to, otherwise they would stand there like nimrods and most likely get killed; especially if they were at the front of the line. 
It was a game of “gentlemen”.  The warfare had to be limited to the “field” like it was a sporting event.  Civilians and other non-combatants, including and especially the medical people, were not allowed to get hurt.  In fact, spectators used to line up in “safe” areas outside the “field” just to witness the battles, like people do today for professional sports.  This was how warfare was waged in the day.
But during the French and Indian War, our young Mister Washington saw something that not only shocked him, but it would later give the American Colonies an edge when they would initiate the first and original “Brexit”.  The French and Native Americans that fought against England did not fight like the British did.  They didn’t line up in rigid formations like nimrods to simply stand there and get killed.  They hid behind rocks and trees.  They didn’t fight in groups, firing all at once when ordered to.  They attacked individually, stealthily, hiding for cover so they can reload.  They changed the rules of combat, which gave them the edge.
Of course, the old ways would not die off easily, which was why General Washington would have the advantage over the British during our own “Brexit” struggle.  There would still be formalized warfare, but eventually it gave way to the more “informal” version. 
Warfare would continue to evolve over the centuries since.  The “field of battle” was irrelevant by the time of the Civil War.  “Non-combatants” were no longer considered off-limits.  Infirmaries were not longer “out-of-bounds”.  War was no longer fought with just soldiers, ships, guns, and cannons, but now also with deadly gasses, chemicals, high-yield explosives, sabotage, and something far more dangerous: propaganda.
A hundred years ago, in the shadows of World War I, warfare took another dangerous turn in certain parts of Europe.  A different kind of “army” arose to wage a different kind of warfare. 
In 1917, the old Czar family in Russia was kicked out of power through unrests started by starving people rioting.  An urban myth suggests that the original Russian Revolution was started by old ladies in a bread line being told there was no bread, and it simply exploded from there.  There was no talk of communism or socialism or any kind of “isms”.  Only pissed-off people that were tired of being told to sacrifice everything for stuffy elitists that risked nothing.
The “founder” of communism, Vladimir Lenin, was nowhere to be found in Russia at the time.  He was in “exile” in England when the springtime revolution happened.  I’m sure that had to piss him off.  The audacity of the masses to have the revolution he was calling for and not bother to involve him!  He had to go back to Russia and mobilize his people together and sabotage the efforts of the interim government for him to set up his own revolution in October and eventually create the United Soviet Socialist Republic, or the Soviet Union.
This little bit of history is also important, because it shows a much different kind of warfare being waged.  An internal warfare to control the masses and gain power in government. 
It is a pattern that would repeat itself in the two decades that follow in two other countries: Italy and Germany.
Italy’s fascist thug, Benito Mussolini, rose to power because of not only unrest and deplorable conditions of the previous leaders, but also because of his own private “army” called the Voluntary Militia for National Security.  A group that could be easily identified by their distinctive black shirts.  But they weren’t waging war against another nation.  They were waging war against their own people.  They were there to shut down any voices of unrest or opposition.  In other words, if you weren’t a supporter of fascism, even if you were peaceful, you were in the crosshairs of Mussolini’s black-shirts. 
It would later be parroted by another gang operating in Germany being led by a certain diminutive Austrian-born loser who somehow managed to take over that country and most of Europe within a decade.  But rather than use black as his group’s distinctive uniform color, the Charlie Chaplain lookalike had his thugs wear brown shirts.  Again their purpose was to squash any kind of opposition to their agendas.
The countries and names and shirt colors were different, but their purpose was still the same: control the message by silencing the other messengers.
The citizen “militia” may be laughed off as some fringe group of wannabe soldiers preparing for a war that only exists in their heads, but history continues to show that they should not be dismissed.
The Vietnam War showed that insurgent strikes by “lone wolves” can be just as dangerous in the field of battle as troops of soldiers.  The terrorist attack on the Muir Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the anti-abortion terrorists of the 1990’s showed that self-appointed “soldiers” were just as much a threat to a free society than any black-or-brown-shirt regiment.  And these were both before the events of 9/11.
Even worse, these “citizen soldiers” really were answerable to nobody but themselves. 
Remember when the U.S. Embassy in Iran was taken over in 1979?  “Officially”, the Iranian government had nothing at all to do with it.  After all, it was taken over by a bunch of “students”.  Otherwise it would have been a clear act of war by a hostile nation.  This was the only thing that kept President Jimmy Carter from asking for a full-on declaration of war from the Congress.  This little touchy nuanced line from ruling religious party in Iran that the hostage-takers were simply “students” that were not answerable to anyone but themselves. 
Same with the “lone wolves” of the 90’s.  Anti-abortion terrorists and “militia” people like Eric Robert Rudolph, Clayton Lee Waagoner, and Tim McVeigh were answerable to nobody but themselves.  Sure, many of them shared rhetoric and had the same goals, but they couldn’t be tied any one leader or any one organization.
Fast-forward to today, and we see history repeating itself in the form of the orange-skinned-wacky-man himself, President Donald Trump.
People have been wondering why President Trump is already putting himself into “campaign mode” with barely even half-a-month into his new three-ring presidency.  Why is he even talking about the 2020 elections when he hasn’t even demonstrated his capacity to run the country today?
Some people think that Trump is simply returning to his “comfort zone”.  He really did love the campaigns.  He loved speaking to his crowds of “deplorables”.  After all, he was the one who said that he loved the “poorly-educated”.  His words, not mine.  Google it if you don’t believe me.
But as a student of history – and, really, we all should be at this point – as well as a student of religious extremism and a student of politics, this commentator sees more into what Trump is really doing.
He’s not campaigning.  He’s revving up his own version of the black-shirts.
Only these “black shirts” aren’t wearing black shirts.  Well, some of them may be.  Instead, they’re wearing red hats with “Let’s Make America Great Again” stamped on them. 
Yes, the orange-skinned-wacky-man has a red-hat army.
Of course they won’t tell you that they’re part of any “army” or any other kind of “formal” group.  They’ll just call themselves “concerned Americans”.  “Concerned Americans” that just happen to think that nobody should ever question the Narcissist-in-Chief, even when he does things that would cause one to question his sanity.
These are the same “concerned Americans” that attack stores like Nordstrom, who decided to end their ties to Ivanka Trump.  That scream at Fox News when one of their own media personalities dares to question their Messiah-in-Chief and demands that media personality be fired instead of singing from the Trump hymnal.  That jam up the phone lines of talk radio to say that their messiah can do no wrong and anyone who says otherwise is a damned Hillary supporter.  That demand that the rest of the GOP tow the Trump line, no matter what.  And if those GOP politicians waffle, they are the ones that demand their resignations. They eagerly sing from the Trump hymnals and they expect the rest of us to do as well.
And let’s get brutally honest here… Trump needs these red hats to be his unofficial army of thug enforcers, because that’s the only way he can stay in charge.  He can’t trust the media in its current state to help him.  His narcissism will keep him off-track with every little piece of criticism hefted his way.  And even though he has the full power of the United States Armed Forces as well as a whole alphabet soup of federal agents with the power to arrest and kill at his command, he can’t use them as his personal goon squad.  Trump would have to answer to the actions of those people.  Not so for his red hat supporters.
Remember all of those protesters at Trump rallies that got punched out by Trumpets as they were being led away?  Trump certainly didn’t help matters when he promised to pay for the legal fees of those Trumpets.  But he also wasn’t held to account for that either.  Don’t think for a moment that someone like him wouldn’t notice that little detail.
Trump’s narcissism may hinder him from being a good president, but that isn’t what really makes him dangerous.  What makes his White House tenure dangerous is his legions of red hat supporters that are no different in mentality or motivation than the “citizen soldiers” of the anti-abortion terrorist attacks of the 1990’s, or the “students” in Tehran, or the black shirts in Italy.  The ones that trade a bully pulpit for a goombah’s truncheon, plead persecution when caught, and sing “God Bless America” when they get away with it.
It’s all just another way of waging war when the enemy is part of your own country.
Yeah, wouldn’t that have made President George Washington proud to be an American!
(I’m being sarcastic about that, in case you were wondering.)

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