Week Two Reading Reflection

At the core of the articles assigned this week is an attempt to explain and better understand the current political climate and “rise” of the alt-right and white supremacy. In the article Birth of a Nation by Amy Kaufman, the history of the KKK and the embrace of medievalism allows for insight into the psyche of the modern white supremacist. Current events, such as the election of Trump and the embrace of his campaign “Make America Great Again”, have been labelled as anomalies in American history, but this is simply not true. As demonstrated with the rise – and fall – and rise again of the KKK, progress and racial equality in the United States has not been an “unbroken upward trajectory,” but rather a slippery slope along which small progress has been made.

Political nationalism, as outlined in chapter one of The Myth of Nations by Patrick Geary, has further strained relationships between groups of peoples by stressing their differences instead of their similarities. It has allowed for politicians to take advantage of historical grievances and use them as tools to create solidarity amongst people of a certain geographical area against a common enemy. As we have seen in North Korea, many of the devoted followers to the oppressive regime are united by their distrust of Americans after their role in the Korean War. Another example, though there are many throughout history, would be the Germans who were united under Hitler by their beliefs about Jews and the importance and superiority of the Aryan Race. Despite the hardships they may face underneath the rule of their often-authoritarian leaders, many will suffer through it for the perceived benefits of their people and their nation. Large numbers voted for Trump not necessarily because they liked him, but because they believed he would save their country and right past wrongs (in other words, “Make America Great Again”). The end justifies the means, even if people suffer along the way; the common humanity between groups has been dissolved during this pursuit of greatness.

It could be argued that Trump is a consequence of the Obama administration: just as white supremacists were fearful of not being at the top of the “hierarchal ladder” after the Civil War, white supremacists were currently terrified of losing their dominance after two consecutive terms of an (arguably successful and well-liked) black president. It seems that many alt-right view the Trump-era as a necessity in order to protect their beliefs and to restore “order”. Many cry that there has been an assault on their country through the establishment of programs like Obama-care and the acceptance of refugees from countries that are not predominantly white. Just as there were perceived injustices then, like the supposed rape of white women by freed slaves, there are perceived injustices now. Terrible inaccuracies such as an increase in crime after accepting Syrian refugees and claims that Mexicans and “illegals” are stealing jobs from Americans have allowed fear to grip a large section of the population. This, in my opinion, highly motivates the actions and beliefs of many of these alt-righters and has fostered animosity and hatred, while also allowing those who already had bigoted opinions to feel more lax and comfortable about expressing those opinions. In the United States we have seen the rise of groups such as the Three Percenters, who claim to have their roots in the American Revolution and similar groups in Europe. Yet, even in Canada we have seen our own rise in arguably alt-right groups, like the Sons of Odin – we cannot state that this is simply an American and European phenomenon.

At the root of the issue is the inclination to categorize based on the things that divide us, instead of the things that unite us. This must be addressed before we can see any permanent and substantial changes. The question is how do we go about changing something that is all most people have ever known?

Jay Countaway

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