What I find mind-blowing is just how far the right has come from just 2 or 3 decades ago:
“Already a couple of the faithful have sent in checks for a foundation memorial to the innocents who perished at the hands of the ninja at Waco … I have been criticized by referring to our federal masked men as ‘ninja’ … Let us reflect upon the fact that a man who covers his face shows reason to be ashamed of what he is doing. A man who takes it upon himself to shed blood while concealing his identity is a revolting perversion of the warrior ethic. It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view.” -Jeff Cooper.
Now, Cooper has a number of faults (his racism being just one of them) but the man really was an embodiment of the right in the 90s. He was a retired Marine officer, ran a firearm training academy that trained military, local, and federal law enforcement, and was big on the pro-gun circuit for most of his life.
Yet here we are, not even 30 years later, and everyone on the right – from politicians to the “militias” have done a complete 180 on their views of law enforcement.
I’d argue that the game changer was 9/11 and the conflicts and legislation that followed. We’ve spent 20 years going on about “heroes” in uniform. This 19 year old kid who died in Afghanistan? Hero. This Police Officer who died of cancer from Ground Zero? Hero. Firefighter last seen herding people doen the stairwell? Hero.
But then we took it further. To have heroes, you need villians. 9/11 gave an easy target for scared people – and their being brown just made tapping into the thinly veiled racist xenophobia present across the voting generations. Sure there is some collateral – a Sikh man killed here, a Hindu man attacked there, but people are on edge so it is what it is.
But then Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. The “threat” is “defeated”. But is it? What they attacked was the American Way of Life – so isn’t any threat to that ideal worth mobilizing against? That Professor threatens our hegemony over the way our children think. That outspoken woman threatens our authority within our family. That gay man threatens our sexuality. The American Ideal – OUR American Ideal – is dying from a thousand papercuts. And these are the villians behind it – the academic elite, the progressives, the non-comformists.
Well, our heroes have stayed constant. That 19 year old kid shipping out next week is still rural poor looking for opportunities. That Police Officer is still the authority figure that I see when trouble brews. They’re still blue collar, they’re still doing what they did 20 years ago – so they too must agree with the need for things to remain the same. Better still, they’ve been idolized so much that every little Johnny raised with the same ideals as us has grown up wanting to be one.
And here we even have a guy running for President that says he wants to return to that ideal we remember so fondly.
So if they need a little lee-way to protect the status quo, an ignored law here or a dead minority there, so what? The ends justifies the means after all, and the “villians” are trying to destroy our way of life. And our heroes will never threaten those of us who share their same ideals.
The decent into authoritarianism is nowhere near its conclusion. And I fear terribly for where this will end.