[The most revealing analysis of the mythic underpinning of the authoritarian upsurge I’ve seen points straight to the “restoration” of a zombie version of white Jim Crow Dixie culture, circa 1920-1950. This survey bolsters that impression. Progressives who want to push back effectively against this drive need to get over the tendency to ignore this history & culture and its stubborn legacy.]
It has long been understood that the MAGA movement is heavily dependent on White grievance and straight-up racism. (Hence Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow racist groups and his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” in the violent clashes at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.)
Now, we have numbers to prove it.
The connection between racism and the right-wing movement is apparent in a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey asked respondents about 11 statements designed to probe views on racism. For example: “White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past.”
The pollsters then used their answers to quantify a “structural racism index,” which provides a general score from zero to 1 measuring a person’s attitudes on “white supremacy and racial inequality, the impact of discrimination on African American economic mobility, the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, general perceptions of race, and whether racism is still significant problem today.” Higher scores indicate a more receptive attitude to racist beliefs. Continue reading MAGA & Neo-Confederate Racism, By the Numbers→
Retired police officer and army veteran Jim Thomas drove to downtown Helena, Montana, the state’s capital, to provide what he considered a community service. On a Saturday in mid-July, he joined a vocal crowd outside a local LGBTQ-owned independent bookstore and began scanning his surroundings.
Ultimately, hundreds of people attended the Billings story hour as supporters, far outnumbering the roughly 50 protesters who lined the street outside the zoo with signs saying “drag belongs in a nightclub not in front of children” and “stop sexualizing our kids”. One woman’s poster made a sharper accusation: “We know the ‘+’ in LGBTQ+ means pedophile.” . . .
Jonathan Hamilt, executive director of Drag Queen Story Hour and drag performer, said the organization is used to seeing protesters stationed outside venues. But recently, far-right groups have begun disrupting story hours and other LGBTQ Pride events around the country, an escalation fueled in part by the national resurgence in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric smearing drag performers and queer people as child predators.
In June, a story hour in San Lorenzo, California, was thrown into chaos when a group of self-identified Proud Boys stormed the venue, claiming they were there to “protect the kids”. One man wore a shirt depicting a gun and the slogan “kill your local pedophile”. Law enforcement responded and later began investigating the coordinated disruption as a possible hate crime.
When drag story hours are targeted with that kind of hateful rhetoric, Hamilt said, the national organization sees no benefit in engaging in debate – anyone who is genuinely curious about the history and culture of drag can do their own research in good faith. The group is forging ahead with new reading curricula for kids and schools, and planning more events that seek to normalize gender and cultural diversity.
“People forget that this is queer programming. This is queer family programming,” Hamilt said. “And under heteropatriarchy, there’s not a lot of room for introspective or creative thinking or complexity … Anything deviant from that is deemed evil.”
Even if the protests and outright attacks continue, Hamilt said interest in drag story hours is unlikely to be deterred. If anything, Hamilt said, the positive reception of the reading events is growing.
“There’s lots of queer people and a lot of queer families,” they said. “And that’s the reality of the world.”
In the sometimes sleepy government town of Helena, population 32,655, the storefront of the Montana Book Company has for years been turning heads of passersby with colorful posters and cheeky political quips scrawled on a sandwich board outside.
In July, Helena’s annual Pride month, the store had a colorful LGBTQ Pride flag fluttering near the front door. A sign in the window said “bodily autonomy is a human right”. Another sign pasted above the doorway called for “solidarity” in yellow script, encircled by a sub-slogan: “We are all we really have.”
In an Instagram post shared with nearly 4,500 followers, the bookstore asked supporters to show up in solidarity. Owners Chelsia Rice and Charlie Crawford began sending Facebook messages to friends and allies like Thomas, appealing for their time and presence at the store that Saturday. And at two separate events earlier in the week, one of the scheduled drag performers gave Pride-goers explicit marching orders.
Crawford, 49, bespectacled and often wearing a dark baseball hat, and Rice, 44, with coiffed hair and a wide smile, have co-owned the bookstore since 2018. The two former educators’ passion for books and reading was what drove them to buy the local business. As flashpoints erupted in national politics, the couple says the store’s display of progressive politics has only gotten “louder”.
“I feel like we have more people come into the store saying, ‘I follow you on Twitter or I follow you on Instagram. I love what you all stand for. We came here because of that,’” Crawford said. “And then they buy books.”
The bookstore’s bold liberalism stands out in the reserved city of government employees, public school teachers and small-business owners. The city has typically been represented by Democrats in the state legislature, but is seen as less overtly progressive than Montana’s university towns of Missoula and Bozeman.
Residential areas outside Helena city limits, largely to the north and east, have gone red in recent elections. In 2020, former president Donald Trump won Lewis and Clark county, which includes Helena, by four percentage points. Trump won the state in both presidential election cycles with double-digit margins.
Despite its location in Helena’s more progressive-signaling downtown, Crawford and Rice said they have felt increasing blowback against the bookstore’s politics over the past five years. Anti-LGBTQ policies and rhetoric in Montana have become more mainstream since 2020, when Montanans elected socially conservative Republicans to every statewide and federal office on the ballot.
Last year, the first-term Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, signed three laws opposed by LGBTQ civil rights groups, including a ban on transgender women and girls playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. Another law made it much harder for trans people to update the sex listed on their birth certificate. After the policy was blocked by a district court judge in April, the state health department leapfrogged the court order to create an even more restrictive rule arguing that sex is a biological fact that can’t be changed.
The political turmoil of the 2021 legislative session made an indelible impact on many members of Montana’s LGBTQ+ community, and created a sense of foreboding about what may happen when lawmakers return to Helena in January.
Helena residents coming inside the store to disagree with their political slogans. The debates range from civil disagreements to vocal hostility. Other times, the opposition comes in the form of hate mail.
. . . In June, the negative response took a new form: a man came into the bookstore with a pistol strapped to his chest. Crawford and Rice say he repeatedly ignored requests to leave the store when Crawford informed him that guns weren’t allowed on the premises. Rice dialed 911. The man left before police arrived but made an unsettling impression on the owners, who described his actions as intentionally intimidating.
The couple had twice hosted Drag Story Hour during Helena’s Pride week, in 2019 and 2021 (the 2020 event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic). Until this year, they said, there had never been any opposition or threats of disruption. But after the chaos in San Lorenzo [California], the man with a gun in their store, and weeks of publicized outrage around the Billings event, Crawford and Rice were on edge when anger about Helena’s drag story hour unfurled on social media.
In the leadup to Pride, they gathered their employees to prepare for the event. “We sat down to talk about who would be forward in store [near the entrance], what we would do if somebody tried to attack us,” Rice said. “We bought everybody mace and talked about how we preferred them to use it if necessary. We strategized because the national threat is there.”
Publicly, Rice and Crawford were wary of stoking fear among families and kids who were planning to attend. They were honest when customers asked about the threats, but always ended with an encouraging message to show up and have a good time. Internally, both owners were riding a wave of anxiety.
“Look, I’m kind of a pessimist. And I don’t have the greatest faith in humanity,” Crawford said. “I mean, the Oath Keepers and these Patriot Front people and these Proud Boys … they’re dangerous. They’re armed. And I don’t think they want to go to prison, so maybe they’ll try and keep doing the right thing. But I don’t trust them at all.”
For Crawford and Rice, the motivation to host Drag Story Hour isn’t about selling more merchandise or attracting new customers during Pride. As former teachers, the couple has tried to make their store as welcoming to young people and parents as possible. They don’t ask rowdy teenagers to leave, even if they never buy anything. They take notice when they haven’t seen a struggling kid in a few weeks: the next time their parents or friends come through, Crawford or Rice will ask how they’re doing.
Drag Story Hour, the owners say, is another way to make the store a safe and celebratory environment for queer and questioning people and their families.
“My experience growing up as a teenager in a town much like Helena was that I didn’t know anybody in my downtown and I didn’t feel comfortable staying in any of the stores, even if I had money to spend,” Rice said. “But I know these kids and I know their parents … It is truly a place where I think we try to surround young people with community that knows who they are and welcomes them.”
In light of that guiding mission, the idea that their bookstore could become a place of fear or trauma is one of their worst fears.
To make the event as safe as possible, Rice began reaching out to friends, including Thomas, to ask them to come down to the store that Saturday. Another veteran and patron of the bookstore, Kai Bauer, said he had no hesitation in agreeing, because of the special role Montana Book Company plays in the community.
“Not many people realise they’re so much more than a bookstore,” Bauer said. “They are a safe haven for a lot of young people … It’s a safe place for so many folks.”
The weekend of the event, Thomas and Bauer were among a handful of former law enforcement officers and veterans, wearing T-shirts, baseball hats and cowboy boots, who gathered to patrol inside and outside the bookstore. Thanks to the appeals from Crawford, Rice and the drag performers, the unofficial security crew was dwarfed by about a hundred local supporters.
As the event began in the bookstore’s upstairs gallery, a rainbow-clad crowd gathered outside, where police had blocked off part of the street. Local bartenders, retirees, restaurant workers and marketing professionals joined other Pride-goers to create a buffer around the store’s entrance. Someone started playing music from a mobile speaker, kicking off sporadic dancing under the early afternoon sun.
Inside, more than a hundred other people, including teenagers and parents with young kids, crammed together to listen to the Mister Sisters read queer-friendly story books, including Prince & Knight and The GayBCs.
On the street below, fewer than a dozen protesters, arms crossed and sunglasses on, gathered on the sidewalk opposite the bookstore. A woman took photos of the larger crowd across the street. One man circled between the two sides of the street with a hand-written sign suggesting the drag queens inside were pedophiles – he was often obscured by a bookstore supporter diligently twirling a rainbow Pride flag.
At one point, a protester used a megaphone to tell the crowd that the “sexualization of children” is “morally reprehensible”. Soon after he began speaking, Crawford drowned out his voice with overlapping blasts from a red airhorn they bought from a nearby hardware store that morning.
The standoff was tense, with both groups conspicuously watching the other. But the sizable difference between supporters and protesters seemed to embolden the store’s defenders. More than one person who joined the scene seemed pleasantly surprised when they saw the protesters across the street, wryly asking other supporters, “Are those the people we’re supposed to be afraid of?”
The conflict on the street outside was invisible to the attenders crowded inside. After the reading, Julie Yard asked the audience to talk about the themes of love, acceptance and community they heard in the books. Audience members took photos with Yard and the other performers. People mingled and chatted with toddlers on their laps.
After roughly two hours, the protesters packed up their bullhorns and dispersed, trickling into a bar down the block. The sunburnt and tired crowd of supporters began to thin, planning where to go before the day’s next Pride event. The drag queens exited through the back of the store to avoid any encounters with protesters. Julie Yard surreptitiously climbed into her husband’s car. It was only after she left that Yard, who had spent most of the day beaming to her audience, began to cry.
“I’m not a person who’s going to burst into tears in front of people if I can help it,” she said. Driving away from the bookstore, Yard said, she was “an emotional mess … in the best way possible”.
“Realizing everything that could have gone wrong that didn’t, and just seeing not only the number of folks that were at the event but the number of folks that showed up outside,” Yard said. “That is what got to me.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt overwhelmed by the show of support. After the protesters left, Crawford thanked the remaining attenders grouped outside the store. Rice stood at their side, crying. Later, the owners reiterated their gratitude in an Instagram post written by Crawford.
“I grew up in Helena,” the post said, “and let me tell you how much this place has changed. I felt truly alone here as a baby gay in the late 80s/early 90s and to see the support, and the number of folks who come to Pride events, the flags, the signs, homes with all of it up … makes me so happy for the young and new members of the queer community. I hope we continue to make sure they are not alone!”
Just as the outpouring of support affirmed Helena’s LGBTQ community, Crawford and Rice acknowledged the turnout also showed how much locals value the bookstore and all it represents – even if recognizing that popularity feels “braggy and icky”, in Crawford’s words.
“It just feels weird to me to accept that,” Crawford laughed. “Let’s have a space that people are proud to call their own … And if people want to come and support that and support us, I’ll take that all day.”
After the day of excitement, and getting his photo taken with Julie Yard, Thomas drove back to his home in Canyon Creek, about a half an hour north of Helena. He felt he had done his part, in his own way, to stand up for a group of people being bullied.
“I kind of felt a little proud,” he said. “Like I was on the right side of history. I wasn’t on the cruel, ugly, hateful side. I was on the happy, loving, fun side.”
If you’re a certain age, and a New York Times reader, this piece may (or ought to have) caught your attention:
New York Times — September 27, 2022
The Forgotten Lessons of the Recovered Memory Movement
By Ethan Watters
Mr. Watters is a journalist and author whose work focuses on psychiatry and social psychology
Most students in psychology and psychiatry programs today are too young to have any firsthand memory of the moral panic engendered by the recovered memory movement in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was a time when therapists proudly advertised their ability to help clients unearth supposedly repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; the accusations that followed shattered families and communities across the country.
The belief that such memories could be repressed and then recovered through special techniques was widespread among mental health professionals for well over a decade. In books and on television, therapists portrayed themselves as the first generation of healers to understand both these mechanisms of repression and how to unlock them without contaminating the story that emerged.
The results were dramatic: Patients often recovered abuse memories that began in infancy and lasted for decades. Some came to believe not only that they had repressed memories but also that their minds had fractured into many personalities to manage the pain and betrayal.
With a few decades’ perspective, it’s clear this level of confidence led to disastrous results. In 2005 a Harvard psychology professor, Richard McNally, called the recovered memory movement “the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era.”
The effects of this “catastrophe” spread far beyond the mental health field. Many innocent people had their careers and lives ruined. Further, the moral panic planted and spread conspiracy theories, especially in fundamentalist and evangelical church groups, about vast networks of satanic cults kidnapping, breeding, torturing and murdering tens of thousands of children, and doing so, under the noses but somehow beyond the reach (or even protected by) police, the FBI/CIA, or liberal Democrats. As Watters recounts:
That popular culture influenced what happened in therapy is clear. . . . Pop culture also seemed to drive two of the more incredible outgrowths of the movement: the precipitous rise of multiple personality disorder and the widespread belief that satanic cults were abusing children on an industrial scale. Two best-selling books, “Sybil,” published in 1973, and “Michelle Remembers,” published in 1980, were critical in stoking public interest. Both books tell supposedly true stories of therapists helping their patients recover memories during therapy. Both were later thoroughly debunked — but not until long after they had their impact.
Stories of satanic cults have arisen in different times and places for over a millennium, but “Michelle Remembers” gets credit for kicking off the particular hysteria that struck the 1980s. The book describes the treatment of Michelle Smith, who recovered memories of being held captive in cages filled with snakes and witnessing the butchering of kittens and stillborn babies.
The popularity of “Michelle Remembers” was a precursor to hundreds of stories that began popping up across the country about day cares and preschools suspected of harboring Satan-worshiping child abusers. In a parallel development, patients in recovered memory therapy began to “recover” stories of satanic abuse from their childhoods. These types of memories were far from uncommon: One survey of clinicians taken in 1994 revealed that 13 percent reported seeing at least one case of a patient remembering ritualistic abuse. Thousands of patients described truly incredible scenes of ritual murders, cannibalization, gang rapes and forced pregnancies.
For quite a long time, there was a broad consensus in popular opinion that memories recovered in therapy — including the outlandish satanic cult tales — were true. Nearly a decade after the publication of “Michelle Remembers,” Ms. Smith appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show. Her stories of torture and human sacrifice were portrayed by the host as if they were indisputable facts.
Other prominent believers in the validity of recovered memories and satanic ritual abuse ranged from the feminist icon Gloria Steinem to the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson to the talk show host Geraldo Rivera. In 1993, Ms. magazine published a cover story with the warning “Believe it! Cult ritual abuse exists.” These prominent and well-respected public figures were seemingly convinced that an international cult of satanic child abusers would soon be fully exposed.
Fortunately, what was eventually exposed was that, while child abuse was real enough, a vast satanic conspiracy was not behind it, and “recovered memories” were mainly coerced compliance with credulous adult fantasies masquerading as therapy or religion. Michelle Remembers , among other accounts, was extensively and effectively critiqued.
However, while the “moral panic” it produced soon subsided, like a latent virus, the notion of cult child kidnappers and cannibals never entirely disappeared. Abetted by social media, a new version of it, called Pizzagate, emerged in 2016 from the toxic mix of dark internet channels, social media, and rightwing conspiracy broadcasts such as Infowars. This time many allegations named Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as the center of a murderous child sex trafficking ring, which supposedly had a torture chamber hidden in the basement of an obscure Washington DC pizza parlor.
In December, 2016 a North Carolina man, Edgar Maddison Welch, invaded the pizza parlor brandishing an AR-15 assault rifle, ostensibly to rescue child captives. Welch fired the weapon, but no one was injured, and he was arrested. The pizza parlor was “revealed” as having neither a basement, any captive children, nor evidence implicating Hillary Clinton.
The troubled human mind appears uniquely attuned to clues from social settings, mirroring behaviors, feelings and beliefs with little or no conscious awareness. In her 2021 book “The Sleeping Beauties,” the neurologist Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan wrote compellingly of immigrant children falling into comalike states and groups of young women experiencing seizures without organic cause. Her insights into the connection between culture and these unique symptoms of psychopathology are trenchant.
“We embody narratives,” she explained. “Some are told to us by powerful people — doctors, politicians, activists, public figures, celebrities.” She continued, “If a model for illness is vivid enough and the basis for the illness is sufficiently salient, it is easily internalized by the individual and then passed from person to person.”
The recovered memory narrative, along with multiple personality disorder, became, for a time, one of those compelling and socially contagious models for illness. Healers, politicians, activists and celebrities were all involved in making the story salient and legitimate. The cultural currents they collectively created were strong.
Sometimes . . . cultural influences on patients’ symptoms are entirely unconscious, and the vectors of the contagion are difficult to identify. But the impact of cultural beliefs on the rise of recovered memory therapy is simply impossible to ignore. The process that recovered memory therapists describe in their books was the looping effect on steroids.
Patients began with vague symptoms of distress and ended up with a compelling story of why they were unhappy — a story that was embraced and promoted in both the mental health profession and popular culture. In the end, the patients had new memories, a new designation as a survivor and altered relationships with everyone in their lives. The transformation into a new identity — a new way of being — could hardly have been more dramatic.
Or, for many of us, more familiar, or more current: every day I read or hear people lamenting the drastic change that has come over relatives, friends, associates; and I lament such changes too; and agonize about their potential social /political outcomes.
I also have memories of my own:
In 1991, I reported on a case involving some British Quakers in the print predecessor of this blog. The house of a Quaker family living quietly on the Scottish isle of Orkney was suddenly invaded at dawn by police and child protection workers, their children seized from their beds and taken away, and the parents threatened with major legal charges, based entirely on unconfirmed allegations of being part of this intercontinental satanic child-abusing conspiracy. The full article is online here. (No paywall.
Can it happen again? It already has, a year ago in January at the Capitol and itssimmering toward another boil. Watters does not offer a facile. “How-To-Prevent-A-New-Panic (or Panics)” list. He notes that the exposure and discrediting of the recovered memory infestation was largely the work of reporters and detectives outside of the mental health field, who had not, pardon the expression, drunk the kool-aid; it took years. And his conclusion is not upbeat:
Recently, I spent an afternoon watching various TikTok channels under the hashtags #recoveredmemory and #dissociativeidentitydisorder. The ideas and themes I heard, mostly from young adults, were disturbingly familiar. Belief in memory repression and the idea that the mind can split into dozens of distinct personalities are alive and well. Across social networking sites, I also found a maelstrom of information, opinion and conversation about mental health topics . . . . The internet as we know it didn’t exist during the rise of recovered memory therapy, but it is a powerful cultural force now and may be ground zero for the creation of new symptom pools, new looping effects and new ways of being.
What takes place on social media will, no doubt, influence what develops during private therapy sessions. Effectively treating this new generation will require an understanding of how culture is once again shaping the symptoms of patients and the certainties of healers. Without that knowledge, mental health professionals will risk engendering new hysterias that they can neither control nor cure.
After 79,000 neighborhood meetings, months of discussion and an outpouring of more than 300,000 suggestions from citizens, Cubans will vote in a referendum Sunday that could redefine family rights — including legalizing same-sex marriage.
The proposed new Family Code would be among the most progressive in Latin America, defying a long tradition of machismo in Cuba. In addition to approving same-sex marriage, it would allow gay couples to adopt, and increase the rights of women, the elderly and children. Supporters call it a sign of the progress on LGBTQ+ issues under Cuba’s Communist government, which was once so hostile to gay men that it sent them to forced labor camps for “reeducation.”
Yet leaders of the influential Roman Catholic Church and the island’s growing evangelical movement have expressed unusually vocal dissent.
“It reminds me very much of the debate we had in Canada and the U.S. 10 or 20 years ago, about the role of the family, the role of gay rights,” said John Kirk, a Cuba scholar at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
What makes Cuba different is the political context. Gay rights activism has been channeled largely through the single-party system, rather than independent civil-society groups, which are restricted. The government has promoted the new law on billboards, at rallies and in official media. President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Thursday urged Cubans in a televised address to vote for the code, tying the balloting to support for the political system.
“Voting ‘yes’ is saying yes to unity, to the Revolution, to socialism,” he said.
That rankled government critics, who noted that Cubans were rarely given the opportunity to vote freely on other matters — such as choosing their leaders. The vote comes at a time of widespread anger over food and electricity shortages. The economy is still hobbled by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and extra U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and partially maintained by the Biden administration.
The dissatisfaction raises the possibility that some Cubans could cast a protest vote.
“I understand that the rejection of the dictatorship will prompt many people to want to vote no, reflexively, so that the regime suffers a symbolic defeat,” independent journalist Mario Luis Reyes told the news site 14ymedio, run by the Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez. “But if the ‘no’ wins, those who will really be defeated are us.”
The 100-page proposal reflects a sea change in official attitudes toward gay rights in Cuba. In the 1960s, after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution, the Communist government exalted the “new socialist man” and repressed dissidents of all kinds. Gay citizens were fired from jobs and even sent to labor camps.
A leading figure in transforming such homophobic attitudes was sexologist Mariela Castro, the daughter of Fidel’s brother and fellow revolutionary, Raúl. She runs a government sex education institute and is a prominent advocate of gay rights. Today, workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is outlawed, and the public health system provides gender-reassignment surgery free of charge.
The new family law would expand not just gay rights but also protections for women, children and the elderly. It urges couples to share housework equally, condemns family violence and insists that kids have a voice in family decisions.
“So this goes against the traditional paterfamilias [model], with the Latin father being in charge,” Kirk said.
Cuba’s Catholic bishops and other Christian religious leaders have spoken out strongly against the proposal. It could also get a thumbs-down from other social conservatives.
“The proposal is permeated by what is known as ‘gender ideology,’ which, as often happens with ideologies, is a construction of ideas that people want to impose by force onto reality, and wind up distorting it,” the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.
The new measure, which would replace a 1975 family code, was discussed in more than 79,000 community meetings between February and April, and amended based on citizens’ suggestions. Cuba’s National Assembly passed it in July. It needs more than 50 percent of the votes cast in Sunday’s referendum to take effect. Typically, measures put to a referendum in Cuba receive overwhelming support, but the outcome this time is not as clear.
While the government has billed the referendum as an exercise in democracy, some critics say the rights of gay people shouldn’t be subject to a vote.
“The fact they are asking people what they think about the rights of a minority shows they don’t really understand how democracies work,” said Juan Pappier, senior Americas researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul contributed to this report. Mary Beth Sheridan is a correspondent covering Mexico and Central America for The Washington Post. Her previous foreign postings include Rome; Bogota, Colombia; and a five-year stint in Mexico in the 1990s. She has also covered immigration, homeland security and diplomacy for The Post, and served as deputy foreign editor from 2016 to 2018.
NBC News, Sept. 18, 2022 – The GOP’s American psychosis didn’t start with Trump. It won’t end with him, either.
A line runs from the 1964 Republican National Convention to Trump’s Jan. 6 riot. It has zigged and zagged over the years. But there is a path.
By David Corn, Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Mother Jones
This piece has been adapted from “American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy,” by David Corn:
Nelson Rockefeller stared into a sea of hate.
Standing at the podium of the Republican National Convention of 1964, the 56-year-old patrician politician who symbolized dynastic American power and wealth was enveloped by waves of anger emanating from the party faithful. Delegates and activists assembled in the Cow Palace on the outskirts of San Francisco hurled boos and catcalls at the New York governor.
He was the enemy. His crime: representing the liberal Republican establishment that, to the horror of many in the audience, had committed two unpardonable sins. First, in the aftermath of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, these turncoat, weak-kneed Republicans had dared to acknowledge the need for big government programs to address the problems and challenges of an industrialized and urbanized United States. Second, they had accepted the reality that the Cold War of the new nuclear age demanded a nuanced national security policy predicated on a carefully measured combination of confrontation and negotiation.
Rockefeller’s crime: representing the liberal Republican establishment that, to the horror of many in the audience, had committed two unpardonable sins.
Worse, Rockefeller had tried to thwart the hero of the moment: Barry Goldwater, the archconservative senator from Arizona, the libertarian decrier of government, the tough-talking scolder of America’s moral rot, and the hawkish proponent of military might who had advocated the limited use of nuclear arms. Continue reading David Corn on the Origins of the Trump Disorder→
“Too much hate that’s fueled extremist violence [has] been allowed to fester and grow.
You know, as a result, our very own intelligence agencies — our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America, have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.
I’ve been around a while.I never thought I’d hear that or say that.
“I asked a pastor of a large Methodist congregation what took the churches in the denomination so long to figure out that they must go in different directions.
He responded, “You are looking at this wrong, and a lot of people do. People think there are conservative churches and progressive churches and we just put the one group in one denomination and the other in another and then we’re all happy. You’re wrong.”
“Most congregations are not ‘blue’ or ‘red,’ if you want to use the partisan political analogy,” he said. “Most of the conservative congregations are 30 percent progressive, and most of the progressive congregations are 30 percent conservative. We’re not talking about a dividing line going down the middle of a denomination but a dividing line going down the middle of almost every individual church.”
After that conversation, I started asking different questions of my Methodist friends. I asked one group of pastors, “When the Methodist Church splits, where is your congregation going?” One answered, “Thirty percent of my church wants to stay put, 30 percent wants to leave, and 30 percent just want everybody to get along. [And] Ten percent don’t know that anything’s going on.” Many others nodded.
I then asked, “So what are y’all going to do?” One of the pastors quipped, “Take early retirement,” and the others laughed and said “Amen!” I’m not sure they were joking.
Yet their situation tracks with the state of the country—perhaps not in the reason for the division but in how it is playing out. “ . . .
Russell Moore leads the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today. He previously served as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as dean of the School of Theology, senior vice president for academic administration, and as professor of theology and ethics. In August 2022 he was appointed as incoming Editor-in-Chief of Christianity Today.
More illuminating (& sobering) background on the earlier church splits are in these two resources:
1) Broken Churches, Broken Nation, by the late scholar C. C. Goen, recounts the major schisms over slavery in three large American denominations prior to the Civil War. (More on that here.)
2) A wave of similar Quaker schisms, over newer social issues but older theological ones, fractured five U. S. Yearly Meetings (thus far) in the 21st century. These are recounted and analyzed in the three-volume study, The Separation Generation.