On Trump, “White Culture,” Mormonism, and Reality

I have a thousand different thoughts flying through my head right now, which probably explains why the subject of this post is so broad. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get them all down into a coherent blog entry, but I’m going to try. Wish me luck.

Right off, I want to express my extreme disappointment in Donald Trump. His news conference yesterday, in which he denounced “both sides” for the violence committed in Charlottesville, was a sign to me that the man has totally lost touch with reality. But to justify the statement I just made, I have to back up and talk about “reality.”

We like to think we can all come to an agreement on events that happened in recent history. In today’s cell phone culture, there’s typically video evidence of just about any event of significance. I saw first hand the incident where the car plowed through a street of people. I didn’t have to read someone’s description. I could click a link in YouTube and see it for myself. Likewise, there’s video evidence of the alt-right protesters. What they were dressed like. The flags they were carrying. The slogans they were chanting. There are interviews with some of their leaders, in which they outline their goals.

This is reality. There is no debating that these people said or did these things. I don’t have to wonder if they’re racist, because they helpfully talked about how Jews are ruining society, and how black people are destroying us all. How they want to make their ideology mainstream and accepted.

On the other side of this, there were people who showed up to protest the protesters. And there’s video evidence of them getting into physical violence against those protesters. Hitting them with sticks (and being hit back). Punching them. Macing them.

This is also reality. And if you listen to Donald Trump and some of the voices on the right, they would have you believe the anti-protesters are at the very least equally to blame for what happened. For events spiraling out of control. According to them, “the media” is just not reporting on all the violence caused by those on the left. So, researcher that I am, I took some time to delve into the filthier nooks of the alt-right to see just what their arguments were. To see what sort of video evidence they had of all these “terrible terrible things.” Could it be possible the media was just turning a blind eye to it all? Theoretically, yes.

But there’s no “there” there. The videos I’d already seen represented the totality of their “evidence.” People with sticks whacking and punching the other side, and the other side whacking right back. They would have you believe a bunch of anarchists, socialists, and communists showed up to battle. To pick a fight. Even in the videos they posted, all I saw was people enraged that neo-Nazis, the KKK, and blatant white supremacists were able to flaunt their beliefs in public. Yes, some of them showed up with helmets and sticks. Many of the alt-right showed up with guns and knives. (It’s amazing they didn’t shoot anyone, though some of them are already threatening that they will the next time it happens.)

Some have argued not all of the protesters were KKK members or neo-Nazis. They claim the media cherry picked video shots and pictures to make it seem like the group was far worse than it was. (I’ve even read some people claiming those KKK and neo-Nazis were actually LARPers (Live Action Role Players), which wins the award for most inventive excuse of the year thus far.) “Just because a few of the seedier people on the alt-right showed up doesn’t mean the rest of them were anything but earnest, concerned Americans who only wanted to exercise their free speech.”

Here’s the thing, folks. If you’re ever at a rally, and you look to your side and find a guy there literally waving a Nazi flag or wearing a white hood? Maybe it’s time to question what sort of a rally you’re attending. If the whole crowd starts chanting “Blood and Soil!” (the English equivalent of Blut und Boden, a Nazi rallying cry)? Same thing. If you’re against Nazis and the KKK, and you don’t want to be associated with them, you have a choice. Either leave that rally, or kick out the people dressed like that and chanting that. You can’t decide to let them stay and then claim you’re not affiliated with them.

There were two groups in Charlottesville. One of them was there to show support of white supremacy, nationalist ideals, racism, and bigotry, whether directly or indirectly by standing shoulder to shoulder with those bigots. The other group showed up to show their disgust of that ideology. Some of that group came planning to physically stop it with violence. Sure, you can debate whether violence was the right answer, but that debate doesn’t give a Get Out of Racism Free card to any of the folks on the alt-right. If it were up to me, no violence would have happened in Charlottesville, because I believe in free speech, and I believe violence just gives those on the alt-right the fodder they so desperately crave to try and prove their asinine point.

So now you’re wondering how in the world Mormons fit into all of this. For that, you’ll need a bit more background.

My church came out with a statement on Sunday in the wake of Charlottesville. I read it and thought it was a nice, fairly generic gesture. Racism, hatred, and intolerance are bad. Love and unity are good. Great. But then on Tuesday, they came out with an updated statement:

It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.

I read that and had to wonder what in the world had precipitated it. What Mormon out there was actually trying to argue the church was secretly cool with white supremacy? Yes, Mormons have had a checkered past with racism, but neo-nazis? Anti-Semites? Whoever it was had to be pretty vocal to get that sort of a response from the church so quickly. And what’s up with this “white culture” thing? I get the white supremacy. But why single out that other phrase? What did it even mean?

So, researcher that I am, I did a little digging. It didn’t take more than one Google search to come across @apurposefulwife, a woman who used to be a vocal proponent of LDS women getting the priesthood, but has since decided she’s much more in favor of being a submissive wife and an ardent defender of (you guessed it) “white culture.” (I’m not going to link to her, because I don’t feel like giving her any more of a soapbox, but you can find her easily.)

She’d been slated to be one of the original speakers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. She Tweets all about the importance of saving “white culture” from being destroyed by minorities. She’d been so happy with the church’s first statement, because she felt like it was a coded message that said she was right. And she was crushed by the second statement, which she now says is just a petty PR message that she doesn’t need to listen to. She has a full blog post up about why white culture is so awesome.

(Allow me to digress for a moment. White culture isn’t a thing. It’s putting a skin color in front of a heritage. This woman tries to conflate other cultures together. “There’s black culture and Asian culture and white culture. See?” But that’s now how culture works. There’s Irish culture. German culture. Chinese culture. Japanese culture. Somali culture, Ethiopian culture. And sure, you can try to jam those cultures together by race, but who does that? Racists. If you look at all those cultures and all you see is skin color? You’ve got problems. But this blog post is too long for me to go into detailed arguments about just how confused and wrong that line of thinking is.)

Where was I? Oh yes. Mormons and “white culture.”

I’m very happy my church spoke out so strongly against that woman and those of her ilk. I’m disappointed to see so many blatant racists still trying to hide in church doctrine, and I hope this sort of thing will shove them into the light, where they can either shrivel to nothing like the spiritual vampires they are, or come to an understanding of just how off base they’ve been.

But let’s bring this back to “reality.” Because I believe for people on the alt-right, they sincerely think their flavor of reality is the only one. They listen to news stories that confirm their prejudices. They ignore “fake news,” and they throw that label on anything that shocks their worldview. In many ways, they remind me of the dwarfs in CS Lewis’ The Last Battle. They’re a group of people so convinced of how right they are that they are unable to break through those beliefs, no matter what evidence is placed before them.

Which is just where Trump is. When he spoke at his news conference yesterday, you could tell exactly what news sources he had been reading and paying attention to. He’s a perfect example of the end result of that line of thinking, and he has become a literal Nazi sympathizer. And if you’re reading this and thinking I’m wrong to call him that, then you’re a Nazi sympathizer too. You can try to disavow the Nazis who showed up to that rally, but no one at that rally did. Which means they were all cool with the Nazis being there. Which is what “Nazi sympathizer” means. And if you’re defending them, then you’re sympathizing with sympathizers. Do the math. And if you’re not defending them, and you still support Trump, then ask yourself what in the world he’s thinking.

When a bunch of racist scum online is singing the praises of a US President’s news conference, what does that say about the news conference?

Because being a Nazi isn’t just about wearing the uniform and sieging the heil. It’s sitting back and being content to use those people in their uniforms to get the things done you want to do. Regardless of what other consequences using them may have. There is only one responsible choice when a Nazi shows up at your party, wanting to keep being a Nazi and still play along with you. Show them the door.

And now I’m officially out of lunch break time, so that’s all I’ve got to say today. Comments are welcome, but keep them civil.

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