America has been overtaken by forces that have been working to fell it for decades. No, I don’t mean the Russians, although they inadvertently helped and may, in fact, suffer buyer’s remorse.
The conspirators in this coup share symbiotic goals, so each side has learned to tolerate the other and how to further the goals of both. Their current head man is Donald Trump, believer in nothing but himself, and therefore the perfect puppet head of state. Donald Trump ran for president because it was the ultimate stroke of his ego, the ultimate prize, and a way to become even wealthier via an entirely corrupt administration. But he doesn’t actually believe in anything beyond that, although he is clearly open to suggestion.
The corporate elite, which Donald actually blamed during the election, make up half of the conspirators. Big banks and corporations have been putting their heavily weighted hands on the levers of power for years, carving out huge tax cuts for themselves and gaming the system to their advantage. Years of conservative policies, many of which were co-opted by the Democrats, have resulted in the imbalance of prosperity we have today. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
Donald Trump has a great deal in common with the corporate profiteers who seek to squeeze every last dime out of the lower and middle classes, although he is only now learning to embrace their dogma. To the people who supported him, he’s selling out. To the corporatocracy, he is pleasantly manipulable.
The partner of the corporate elite is the Dominionists, a Christian cult that can be found in just about any fundamentalist belief of the far right. Dominionists believe in the authority of God, which authority is then decreed to the state, which is then decreed to the male heads of families. Women are subcreatures, ribs of Adam who must obey their father or husband unquestioningly, and submit to any abuse their male overlord deems fitting. They believe in establishing the “Kingdom” of God here on Earth, and to do so, they are called on to “enter … government, law, media and so forth … so that they are controlled by Christians.” (Sarah Posner, Salon) When you hear Betsy DeVos say, “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom,” this is what she’s talking about.
The Dominionists believe that the United States was founded by and for Christians alone, and it is their goal to restore this “utopic” vision, not just for themselves, but for everyone, whether we like it or not. In their “godly” vision, abortion and contraception are not available. Other religions will not be tolerated, even moderate Christianity. Children and wives are to be disciplined, beaten, or even killed (yes, really) if they do not conform. Homosexuals and transgender people will not be allowed to exist. And nonwhites will have to learn their place or be eliminated. (The roots of racism are strong in this movement, and many NeoNazis and KKK members originated many of the ideas of Dominionism, or are at least sympathetic to it. KKK members taught the “two-seed” theory, which states that Cain was begot by Satan on Eve; therefore, all of Cain’s children are little better than beasts — if you guessed that includes Jews and nonwhite people, you’re right! White people, therefore, are the only “true sons and daughters” of Adam.)
The corporate faction of this coup are godless — what else would you call people for whom the only good can be found in profit? — but they have found the Dominionists to be useful to their cause, which is to destroy all social benefit of our system (the so-called “entitlements”) and extract money from the rabble as quickly as possible, regardless of how much pain this causes. The planet, too, is expendable; the only important thing is that their bank accounts grow ever larger at our expense. The Dominionists have religious fervor on their side, and they don’t care about entitlements, either. They don’t want to pay for the upkeep of the sons of Cain, after all. And their Old Testament thinking has eclipsed all of the love and compassion of the New Testament, which makes for a fit with the corporatists like hand in glove.
The dismantling of our government is happening on the watch of a number of Dominionists and their corporate cronies. Rick Perry, Becky DeVos, and Jeff Sessions are working to bring in the “Kingdom” at your expense, while corporate hacks like Scott Pruitt are laser-focused on corporate profit, also at your expense. Expect to see your civil rights weaken or vanish altogether. Expect secular, public education to starve while private religious schools flourish, spreading the poison. Speaking of poison, we can expect significant environmental degradation, too, which doesn’t bother the Dominionists, because Jesus will soon come and Rapture them away!
Don’t get me wrong: Trump is likely complicit with the Russians, too, and that needs to come to light. But in the meantime, our country has been taken over by two fringe minorities who have been working to get here since before Nixon. And they have arrived. The hate-mongering is not a surprise; it’s Dominionism at its worst. The silver lining: the Dominionists are starting to clash with the corporatists (see: Kushner vs. Bannon).
We know how to resist evil. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others showed us how. But our greatest weapon of all is love, and empathy. As Chris Hedges says in The Price of Resistance:
Empathy, or what the Russian novelist Vasily Grossman called “simple human kindness,” becomes in all despotisms a subversive act. To act on this empathy — the empathy for human beings locked in cages less than an hour from us [here in Princeton], the empathy for undocumented mothers and fathers being torn from their children on the streets of our cities, the empathy for Muslims who are demonized and banned from our shores, fleeing the wars we created, the empathy for poor people of color gunned down by police in our streets, the empathy for girls and women trafficked into prostitution, the empathy for all those who suffer at the hands of a state intent on militarization and imposing a harsh cruelty on the vulnerable, the empathy for the earth that gives us life and that is being contaminated and pillaged for profit — becomes political and even dangerous.
Make no mistake: the people who have taken over have no empathy for anyone else. But our empathy can make a change. Our determined empathy and love for humanity and the planet can overcome this coup. And maybe, at the end of it, we’ll create something better.