by ProfDave, ©2021
(Jun. 3, 2021) —[Editor’s Note: See Part I of this series here.]
Since objective news and truth itself have become obsolete, everyone is entitled to his own version of reality, determined by race, class, generation and sexual preferences. We may never know what happened, but we may entertain ourselves with chosen “narratives” that confirm our prejudices. Here are the equal and opposite narratives we have heard in the last months to characterize the political tectonics of our day. Then we will put them together, mix thoroughly and bake for a couple centuries and see what comes out of our imaginary oven.
Narrative I – The Left
Beware, this is fictitious – I even made up a little myself
The Deplorables. Trump supporters, Republicans, conservatives, gun owners and Evangelicals are just as bad as Trump. Hatred knows no limits. Those who defend Trump, his words, his actions and his policies are not just mistaken, but evil. They are dangerous. All 75 million of them are white supremacists, fanatical theocrats, ignorant, uneducated, neo-Nazis, violent, stupid and easily led – did I leave anything out? In righteous anger they should be cancelled, hated, silenced, fired from their jobs, denied the right to vote, re-educated and/or locked up in mental hospitals.
Narrative II – The Right
Also may be fictitious
The Communists. For more than half a century there has been a conspiracy by a small revolutionary elite to destroy America. It began among Neo-Marxist university faculty and anti-war protestors in the late 60’s. Gaining control of graduate education, they indoctrinated generations of professors who taught undergraduates, school teachers, journalists and lawyers in socialism, atheism, sexual liberation, anti-patriotism and other far-left ideas. By 2020, in true Leninist fashion – and with the help of Chinese Communist agents – they controlled the commanding heights of society: education, media (mass and social), law and entertainment. Their goal is to exploit division, poverty and racial tensions. By creating social problems – “raising consciousness” – and organizations such as ANTIFA and BLM – they tear down civil society in urban centers. By biological warfare (Covid-19) and urban rebellion they hope to destroy American society in order to make way for a unitary and totalitarian socialist republic modeled on Venezuela, Cuba and China. This came to fruition in the pandemic and the election of 2020.
Narrative III – The Argentinian Historian’s Surmise
We will never know what happened
The premise is to ask what a person, removed from the fray and without ideological commitments, would conclude from the narratives appearing on the news and social media – without access to genuine truth. Neither narrative would likely be true. Conspiracy theories have a fatal flaw. Real conspirators are either too few or else too divided in motivation to accomplish what the theorists attribute to them. Their power is limited. Real revolutions are a confluence of plots and circumstances far bigger than any conspiracy. Adding narrative I and narrative II together and dividing by 2 gets you ‘0.’
Progressives and Populists. The two Narratives, when combined, reveal a collision of two formless movements, progressive and populist, superimposed upon the normal spectrum of liberal and conservative. Against a background of ‘Great Generation’ patriotism, the Judeo-Christian worldview and 1950’s capitalism, progressivism has been growing for a long time among the intellectual and cultural elites. Open cultural conflict might be said to have begun in the 60’s in war protests, sexual revolution, secularism, abortion and values conflict. At first both parties were divided: southern Democrats were conservative and many Republicans were liberal. The party of emancipation and reconstruction included both cosmopolitan internationalists and ‘know-nothing’ nativists. But in this century the division has become between parties rather than within them. What Donald Trump did was to crystalize resistance to the progressive agenda – working-class frustration with the “we know best” paternalism of the establishment, combined with the pro-life religious right and traditional conservatives – under one Republican tent.
Each broad movement was repugnant to the other, but it is unlikely either saw itself as destroying American democracy. Progressives certainly looked forward to a different future and a different America. Many did not share the ‘America First’ nationalism of Populists, the veneration of the ‘founding Fathers’ of conservatives, the deregulation of the libertarians or even the Judeo-Christian worldview. There was a sense that many progressives would have liked to see an America more like Europe and a more direct and centralized democracy (overriding state laws and the electoral college, for example). European-style socialism no longer held any horror to them – as it did to those who remembered the Cold War or held up the example of Venezuela.
But were Stalinist operatives preparing a revolution among the lunatic fringes of Antifa and BLM? Unlikely. There were lunatic fringes of both sides, each encouraged by the other – they fed on each other. There will always be both Communist and Neo-Nazi cells in a free society, capitalizing on domestic unrest and seeking the spotlight in riots, but they do more harm to the causes of their friends than of their enemies. They were probably not responsible to either party, but it was a grave mistake for both Trump and Democratic leaders to tolerate – or even emphasize – them.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.