Voted for Trump? Voted for Clinton? Voted third-party? Didn’t vote? I don’t care. Read this article: “Two theories about why Steve Bannon midwifed such a bad executive order.” President Trump’s chief ideologist may be playing mind games with us, employing a technique known as a “shock event.” You need to be aware of this, as it could very well affect us all.
I am increasingly convinced that Steve Bannon is deliberately fueling a culture war, manipulating people into taking sides in preparation for a transformative change that he himself has described as being on the scale of the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution, and other bloody mass upheavals of history.
Don’t believe me? Good. Be skeptical — it keeps democracy healthy. Watch this talk he gave in 2011.
And then watch the trailer for Torchbearer, the film he directed and co-wrote in 2016. (Also available on vimeo.)
Steve Bannon has deeply held convictions about the cultural bankruptcy of America. I happen to disagree with those convictions, but he has every right to his opinion, and so do you. What truly alarms me is this: he has stated that only through revolutionary upheaval can we get back to what he views as the right path. He has compared himself to Lenin. Lenin? Yes: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
This is not about righting the ship of state. It’s about capsizing it. And then fighting for control of the life rafts.
So long as Bannon has Trump’s ear, we need to understand that our elected president is being guided by a man with a truly revolutionary mindset. Regardless of your political background, I ask that you pause and reflect on what that could mean.
I know that people craved change when they elected Donald Trump. Conservatives have often been subjected to ridicule and mischaracterization in the media. Over the past eight years, I sometimes saw my fellow progressives lord their moral-political victories over traditionalists, in battles that ranged from courtrooms to bathrooms, with no sensitivity whatsoever to those who lost — who watched the policies of their country drift further from their own values. Trump won the election, and those who voted for him are right to expect change. But I am deeply concerned that we may end up with far, far more change than the vast majority of Trump voters had in mind.
Listen for yourself. Hear Steve Bannon promote his theory that this country needs transformation on the level of the bloody revolutions you read about in history books. If you voted for Donald Trump, is this really the kind of change you had in mind?
Bannon has taken measures to eliminate paper trails from key decisions that affect our national security. Anyone who advocates for transparency and accountability in government should cringe at this. It is, to put it mildly, a major red flag.
There has to be a better way. One that honors the rule of law, rather than subverting it. One that defuses polarization, rather than increasing it. One that avoids contempt, rather than compounding it.
This means abandoning slogans like “Not My President.” Simple fact: Trump is our president. Denying it sounds subversive, and feeds into the stereotype of liberals as either out-of-touch or anarchistic. You can argue all you want that the election was somehow unfair. The Electoral College gave him the thumbs-up, and the man has been inaugurated.
This means admitting to and combating media bias. Pursue a balanced news diet. Use resources like Media Bias/Fact Check to gauge the bias of your media sources, and go out of your way to feed your brain information gathered through the lenses of multiple perspectives. Pay attention to the difference between fact and opinion, and challenge your news sources to pursue unbiased journalism in their fact-based reporting.
This means protesting peacefully, and respecting the patriotism of those who protest.
This means NEVER insulting someone because they voted for Trump, or Clinton, or whomever. Debate their views; don’t attack the person, or presume to understand them on the basis of a vote — or the choice not to vote.
This means breaking out of our bubbles. Ask people of different backgrounds and beliefs questions about how they feel, and why — and then listen to their answers. Learn from the friendship of Scalia and Ginsburg, the courage and grace of American hero Daryl Davis. For example, I shared a draft of this piece with a dear friend and straight-ticket Republican. Not only did his feedback help me improve it — our ongoing exchange is bringing us closer and making us both the wiser.
Put down the memes, resist the insults, combat prejudice, and treat people like people. This goes for both sides. Understand the willingness of a revolutionary like Steve Bannon to convert liberals and conservatives from opposites to enemies, and I think you’ll see with the same urgency I do:
We can’t let ourselves become the toy soldiers of a would-be despot. The underlying culture war between “left” and “right” isn’t going away, but the escalation needs to stop, and that starts with us.
This is an opinion piece. I am an independent author, not a member of the press. Follow the links, seek out additional information about Steve Bannon, and reach your own conclusion. I reached mine this past Sunday: I woke up and asked myself why someone as tactically savvy as Donald Trump would release Executive Orders that are unchecked, unbalanced, and largely unjustified. All my research led to Bannon, his deeply held ideology, and his disturbing conviction that his goals can only be achieved through revolutionary change. Do your own research. Be skeptical. Set prejudice aside, as best you can. Study the evidence, favoring primary sources where they’re available. Have the courage to discuss this with someone with political views different from your own — one-on-one, in a safe, non-public space.
Mr. Bannon, if you would like to put such fears to rest, I encourage you to restore transparency and accountability, honor the checks and balances that have kept our democracy intact through so many periods of change, grant interviews, and show that I am wrong.