What If Expressing the Rage is the Overriding Priority?

This piece ran in the newspapers at the end of May, 2024.


It’s being said more and more widely: the fundamental choice we Americans will make in the 2024 election is between Democracy and Fascism.

That’s valid, if we look at it in terms of what kind of future will our nation have.

But – according to a person whose reflections on our times I respect – many of those who will apparently be voting for Fascism may be making their choice on a different basis.

For them, he said, the choice is between 1) a political force that’s operating a system they feel has betrayed them and 2) another political force that’s working to burn down the “system” they hate.

A lot of people are choosing that “burn it down” option, he proposed, because of how bitterly disappointed they are for not getting the kind of life they’d grown up expecting.
Such disappointment might make sense, because no longer does each generation of Americans get better than their parents had. And much of that failure to advance is because big money has gained increasing power in “the system” to call the shots, robbing average Americans of their fair share of money and power.

The system they want to “burn down,” my friend said — i.e. our democratic and legal structures — is seen as abetting their victimization. And, in their anger they’ll throw their support to whatever leader (and party) best expresses their rage.

The rage might be understandable, I countered. But why would they give their political support to the very forces that had stacked the deck against them, the corporate Money Power and the political party – and the leader — that serves that Power?

Why wouldn’t they instead give their support to the only political party that makes any effort at all to make things fairer, and to improve the lives of the American people?

They are so oriented toward rage, he said, that the issue of factual, rational truth hardly matters. They’ll buy whatever the force that’s offering them rage and conflict tell them, giving them false targets to blame for the society’s corruption and their own unhappiness with their lot.

Expressing anger in the present is the priority, he continued. Not finding a way to make the future better. Therefore they vote for the party offering conflict (so one can vent one’s rage), and reject the party calling for cooperation (so we Americans can together make things better).

For them, he said, it’s “Truth be damned.” Their desire for revenge draws them to support a Republican Party that sells them a demonized picture of “the other side” (“baby-killers” who “hate America”). In the grip of such passion, their abilities to see and think clearly get switched off.

Thus it is, he concluded, that when they vote for Trump and the Trump Party they’re not voting for “Fascism,” but for the political force that performs for them the service of transforming the political realm into one suitable for the venting of their rage and hatred.

Immediately, I saw that “supporting Fascism” and “expressing rage” weren’t so separate.

Hatred and rage have always been major emotional energies in Fascism.

(The Nazis put forward the Jews as objects of hatred and rage. Putin has inflamed his people against alleged Nazis running Ukraine.

(In many fascistic local governments of the former Confederacy, the blacks were provided as targets for hatred and rage. When George Wallace lost an election because his campaign wasn’t racist enough, he vowed, “I’ll never be out-n—–ed again.”)

So voting for Trump and the Trump Party — because they so effectively turn our political world into a battleground – means also voting for the core fuel of Fascism.

It is profoundly telling that our religious traditions tell us that the path of hatreds, fears, and the rageful impulse to burn it down is the wrong path. The better path, those religious say, lies in overcoming those passions.

They tell us “Be not afraid” and “Love thine enemies” because those paths make the world better, while being ruled by fear and anger leads the world into destruction.

This contrast corresponds to traditional understandings of the “Good” and the “Evil.”

And Fascism also employs some of the cleverness traditionally attributed to “the Deceiver” and “the Force of Evil”:

First the Force of Fascism injures the people, and then that same Force harnesses the pain and rage it has inflicted by getting those injured people to support its quest for power by attacking some target that is Fascism’s opponent, but not really the people’s enemy. Fascism feeds people’s dark passions to make them strong enough to control how people participate in the realm of power.

Fascism is a malady growing out of “the problem of power.” Consistently, Fascism operates according to that dictum, “the strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must.” Which is a rule that makes the world broken.

And Fascism’s alignment with brokenness is shown, too, in its reliance on deception to manipulate the people into lending their support to Fascism’s ceaseless drive for still more power.

Those who want the world to be more whole must ask: Can people now in the grip of the passions and lies of brokenness be led instead to vote for the preservation of the wholeness of America’s constitutional order?

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