**Note: Parts of the following are excerpted from the writers book, A Sinner in Mecca: A Gay Muslim's Hajj of Defiance by Parvez Sharma Copyright © 2017 by Parvez Sharma. Excerpts used with permission from the publisher, BenBella Books. All rights reserved. The book is available at Amazon and vendors wherever books are sold. The book went to print a couple of months after the Donald Trump inauguration and had a publication date of August 15, 2017. Therefore, not all events from the current news cycle are reflected.**
Fear is the strongest of emotions. And the strongest kind of fear can be manufactured by those who know that fear; real fear is that of the other.
A man called Stephen Bannon knew it so well it was as if branded with a hot iron, or worse into his skull. In the future, Steven Bannon would be kicked out of a White House he had concocted and return home to Breitbart News, a right-wing news site, now globally famous. He was but the latest casualty in the slow-motion Red Wedding (GOT fans) unfolding for the last seven months over at 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue where the walls whispered. Usual topic of discussion? Fear.
Daenerys Targaryen, in Game of Thrones knows it well. So do all the pretenders to the Iron Throne in the HBO goldmine. Dany has her three dragons; the fire they spew is horrifically real. The fear they evoke in the various conniving lords and ladies of the seven kingdoms in Westeros, one of two-continents in GOT, is real.
They all are supposed to report to the aforementioned Iron Throne, currently occupied by an evil, incestuous, Frankenstein kind of woman named Cersei Lannister. But to provide multiple plot lines they often do go rogue. And they fear Dany’s dragons equally, because they are the other.
You see, Dany, who has the most rightful claim to Cersei’s throne in Kings Landing, comes from the more racially mixed continent of Essos. The armies that march with her, the castrated Unsullied and the Mongol or Ottoman style Dothraki are not white. Westeros is all Caucasian. Some color is provided by its slave-like inhabitants who also live in a constant state of terror.
To top it all, more fearsome than all of this is the imminent collapse of the great Wall of Ice that separates these fantastical people from what is coming from the frozen North: the undefeatable armies of the Dead. The non-white Mexicans of North America know the W word well. These people do strange things like washing dishes in thousands of U.S. restaurants and worse, celebrating something call the Day of the Dead.
It’s a winning formula unlike any other. Tits, dragons, and BOOM! Fear of the other is what gave a monstrous contractor and reality TV star the real-life version of the Iron Throne—the presidency of the United States last year. Many in his allegedly “loyal base” are undoubtedly drawn to GOT. Cable pundits scratch their heads mind numbingly about this base. They rave and rant about it. Meanwhile we are being taught a new language, alt-right and alt-left and crucially, fake news. Words and phrases we didn’t even know existed. Even alt-truth was given birth.
In 2016, it felt momentarily like the script of GOT was becoming the life of the America addicted to it. It could well be that the plotting eunuch, Lord Varys would be a Stephen Bannon or that guy with the bladder control problem—Reince Preibus, ever ready to produce palace intrigue and oppressed (White) followers. In fact, if someone decides to do a thesis about this for a hard-earned PhD, the parallels between GOT (or for lets say, the upcoming season of the Netflix phenom, House of Cards) and Trump’s America will be eerie and worthy of reflection.
The GOT-like creatures who plotted Trump’s ascendancy to his leaky throne, for example, the “Bannonites” are, yes, #MadeinAmerica (popular Republican hashtag). Many of these oppressed Caucasian people marched and voted and Nazi saluted Trump as he sped around his soon-to-be kingdom in 2015 and 2016. And they needed no teaching about the deep state. The likes of Bannon and “Grand Meister” David Duke had taught them well. Their battle cries? Whose streets, our Streets! Soil and Bone! And Jews will not replace us! Tragically, the Iron Throne, if used for good, could have been the moral equivalent of an America that till recently used to be the leader in a troubled world.
More Americans have watched the seasons of GOT than the measly 50 percent or so who voted in the 2016 presidential election. Tweeter-in-chief Donald Trump won 58 percent of the white vote. Nearly two-thirds of the white male population without a college degree voted for Trump, as did 49 percent of males with a college degree. These would include David Duke, fringe Ku Klux Klan cabals, and the Hitler-loving millennials (yes, they too exist!) who reserve a special place in their hearts for Bannon and Richard Spencer. We had not seen or heard from them for years, it seemed. But like Dracharys, Dany’s largest dragon, the one she mounts, Trump breathed and fed fire to them. He and Bannon knew exactly what they were doing.
Still wondering about the loyal Trump base? It’s monochromatically white. The GOT characters who made it so could be a Tyrion or a Cersei or a Varys, all of whom mirror Bannon’s unbeatable skills at engineering treachery, treason, and—crucially—terror. Yes, this man who would not send his kids to a particular Los Angeles school because it had “too many Jews” knew what he would feed the monochromatic masses Trump riled.
I was not surprised by the Trump fever in particular racial demographics. Especially after two-terms of Obama. They are terrified of the America that is coming. A majority minority nation. That means non-Caucasian just like the armies of Dothraki and Unsullied that the dragon-riding queen Daenerys is bringing to Westeros. She is, it seems, on the right side of history, unlike our contractor president who promised his people a wall so long and impenetrable, that it was beyond imagination!
There are so many P.C. words to describe 45’s spooky campaign and reign. They are matched by the slurs our regime hurl (and teach us) anew, almost every day. Millions of American tongues were suddenly untied. The gremlins in the Kremlin, servants of their own (male) Cersei Lannister in the form of Putin, also have for long lived in a world-view that is all-white. They were happy to help. Russia is seen as the bulwark of a Caucasian-ruled world by way too many in the Trump base. Which is why 45 and the Muscovite Darth Vader who helped anoint him in truth are BFF’s.
I had been saying for months that Bannon would create victory. I had too many un-friended scars for that premonition. To me, it was natural that two terms of this nation’s first black president would be followed by the ascent of the blonde, “pure-bred” white man full of bombast and hate. His troubled yet uber-rich life lived on that reviled island in the detestable city of “liberals” could easily be forgiven.
Even the nihilistic ISIS allegedly celebrated his ascent. As Trump “won” the U.S. presidency, USA Today quoted an entity called “the al-Minbar Jihadi Media network,” affiliated with the “Islamic State,” saying, “(We) rejoice with support from Allah, and find glad tidings in the imminent demise of America at the hands of Trump.” For other Islamic anarchists, Orlando, Brexit, and finally the U.S. election were all proof of the demise of the West that would bring civil war and destruction. Baghdadi, their emir, was on to something.
As I continued to troll the dark web, I found others claiming affiliation to ISIS who claimed that this would all fuel “recruitment.” Islamophobia, for example, is for many Western Muslims all too real (who wrongfully constantly play victimhood). But the more Trump unleashes “it”, the greater the power ISIS has to recruit against what it sees as the Christian and Caucasian West, the enemy of Islam, against whom violent jihad is a religious duty.
Trump, for ISIS, is a blessing like no other. And ISIS can be easily seen as the army of the dead in GOT.
I wondered if Trump knew that his idea of a violent, misogynist, and offensive Islam was eerily similar to how ISIS or Saudi Arabia’s ruling Wahhabi ideologists interpreted and presented the faith. This felt like the beginning of the Talibanization of America. Like the Taliban, Trump and his followers would turn the clock back.
If there had never been an Obama, there would not be a Trump. The profound hatred of the former by the racist supporters of the latter was finally naked. This all-white bigotry actually started in 2008. The line that runs from Sarah Palin through the birthers and the Tea Party to end up with the Trumpsters is a straight one. Mostly everyone ignored the fact that a significant percentage of white America never accepted a black man as their president. They never accepted a black family living in what had always been a very White House, which Michelle Obama eloquently reminded us was “built by slaves.” For some it was as if the Obama years didn’t even happen. Did that percentage vote for Trump? Absolutely.
And that is one reason why Trump was anointed as the successor to a president called Barack Hussein Obama who had won the biggest U.S. presidential victory in history with 69.5 million of the popular vote.
It was still too early to realize that Obama in the long term would be seen as the black president who was unable to heal Black America’s long-broken heart. How could this one man correct such enormous historical wrongs? Was just his elevation enough? It was too early to know how much the majority-white Republicans would cripple him by refusing to sign anything that had the name Obama on it. They made his name poison, and his race caused every single Republican to say no to him.
As this nation’s first black president, Obama was already carrying an immense burden. Yes, history would remember him. But would it be just for his race and how much it afflicted his ability to achieve? History’s moral arc, according to Obama bends towards justice. Naive, perhaps? Lets see what GOT’s final season yields. What forgot to say, is that the Civil Rights Movement, Selma, Birmingham, the very present segregation in America, Rodney King and OJ Simpson and even his own presidency and what followed it—in historic terms is a connected and inevitable period of American history. In 2017, the truth to me is this: In historic terms it seems as if the Civil Rights movement just happened yesterday. In 2075, we hope history will be able to view the horror we live as a chunk; a few decades of turbulence that eventually led to an America which no longer had race (and religion) as its most unsurmountable problems. Increasingly violent race riots, during Trumps reign are coming and inevitable. Bannon and Breitbart know this.
Some evangelicals saw him as the coming of the Antichrist. For others, he was the black Jesus. In a few years, he would become a fallen prophet. I always believed that humanity’s last battles would be fought on the frontlines of race and religion. And as every single Republican tried to block any decision Obama ever made, I realized once again how deep the fault-lines of prejudice and racial injustice ran in this country. The birth of the Birthers including Trump and their and the subsequent Tea Party were all you needed to realize that Obama, a brilliant and charismatic orator, tactician, and president, was trapped in the racial-paranoia cycle that these new entities were mere fronts for. Segregation was just a few decades gone and for some it was as if Obama never existed. For others, he was the “uppity Negro,” and the KKK needed to be brought back. Thus, the racist Tea Party and the Birthers were born. Donald Trump was one of their heroes.
Barack Obama was not allowed to create a post-racial America. The “Black Lives Matter” campaign was only one example. Trump made racism and all flavors of intolerance acceptable again. The white majority in this country knew that by 2020 the majority of children under five would be from a racial minority. For now, the fearful and intolerant parts of Trump’s white-male majority “base” clung to power as ferociously as they could.
Donald Trump was an Ivy League bound, draft dodging and entitled, twenty-one year old; a newspaper reading and TV watching white male on the day a certain not-white Reverend called Martin Luther King was assassinated
As Trump headed to victory, the aforementioned affliction that called itself the alt-right grew insidiously stronger. This white-supremacist fringe movement that preferred Nazi salutes, shouted Hail Trump! at his rallies, and flashed other Third Reich–style accoutrements was part of Trump’s winning coalition. Even the traditional Republican right had never seen anything like it. White nationalism, Nazi eschatology, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and hate in general would all become unlikely brothers in Trump’s Nixonian Oval Office.
This was the (viciously) Separated States of America. Europe was keeling rightwardand there was no reason for America not to do the same. Like millions I felt it strongly. This crowd was entering the White House to alter history and maraud our future. At the same time, I reminded myself that Islamic supremacy was but a mirror of white supremacy.
In Trump’s America of the #MuslimBan, I would be one of many with a target on our backs. We would come to realize again that there is no real understanding of American political culture without race at the center of it. Was it as simple as Muslim being the new black? For those like me, the facts don’t help: Islam is seemingly at war with a large chunk of humanity. It is also at war with itself. And I have always fought hard not to be a casualty.
And to me, a new American, as a Muslim receiving citizenship in Obama’s lame duck year, it’s always been obvious.
America’s last and most bitter battles, I have always believed, will be about race. And about religion. The greatest threat to the U.S. today is the president of the U.S. And he feeds the writers of binge-worthy wonders like Cards or GOT new material every day, as he hashtags to heaven.