Living the Terrorist Dream
Hitler had one. Mussolini had one. Jefferson Davis’s Confederacy had one. Osama bin Ladin had one. Now the American right wing has one – a dream that will never come true. Tragically, these and other historical actors have left for the rest of us a trail of violence and death in the pursuit of a fantasy.
Political violence is an outgrowth of extremist ideology. Through the centuries, there have been three main sources of extremism: political philosophy, religion, and ethnic nationalism. White supremacists and their sympathizers draw from all three. The most extreme elements of this movement (a broad coalition, to be sure) adhere to a political philosophy of nihilism, tactically applied as chaos or anarchy. The religious dimension of this movement is anchored – ironically – in a thoroughly politicized Christianity. Ethnic nationalism is the backbone linking these elements together in a syncretic belief system based on exclusion. They are called hate groups for a reason.
So, what is the fantasy that drives this movement? As far as I can tell, the dream is a return to the “good old days” when the United States was a mostly white Christian nation with a weak government, a small population, and unlimited resources. That America no longer exists – and that is a good thing. The right-wing political ecosystem is lost inside an information bubble that absorbs only misinformation. It is not surprising that members reject science and social progress. The legitimate DNA of the right was a Republican “conservative” political philosophy that has been overwhelmed by the cult of Donald Trump.
“Fantasy Ideology” is a useful term to explain what is driving some of our citizens to believe in conspiracy theories and participate in violent insurrection. There is little difference between Hitler’s dream of a Third Reich and the fantasy of a separate white nation in the American Northwest, living under a legal framework right out of the Middle Ages. The price of Hitler’s fantasy ideology was 75M people dead around the world. The American version has taken us through Oklahoma City, the random killings of non-white fellow citizens, the plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan and most recently, the assault on Congress.
They’re not finished yet.
When I wrote my second novel, A More Perfect Union, I thought it might be dismissed as too alarmist. The story of an American terrorist cell conducting a campaign of terrorism to take down the elected government felt a bit extreme at the time, even for thriller fiction. Less than a year later, our reality has caught up with my fiction.
I will write more novels about the right-wing fringe. I sincerely hope that the fantasy ideology they now seem to cherish is replaced someday by a constructive ideology that does not lead to the kind of violence in my stories. We can learn a lot from fiction. Let this book – and those to come – serve as a warning about what can happen, even in a civilized country such as ours.
Living the Terrorist Dream