The future of democracy in the United States will not be determined by the malignant decisions made by a reactionary group of Supreme Court justices. Nor will it be decided by the existence of voter suppression laws, the ubiquity of the Big Lie, massive structural inequality or the rise of white nationalism to the centers of power and a politics dominated by white supremacist ideology. Nor will it be decided by the rhetorical accelerant endlessly produced by Donald Trump, with his frequent allusions to violence and armed revolt.
It will be decided by the increasing collapse of conscience, the undermining of truth and a mass consciousness that supports violence as a central weapon for social change. To the degree that the public can be convinced, as Judith Butler argues, that the “call for democracy is interpreted as sedition [and] the call for freedom is taken to be a call to violence,” democracy will suffer from a legitimation crisis and will disintegrate. Under such circumstances, it will be easier for the abyss of fascist politics to gain more legitimacy and prevail in the United States.
Violence in the United States has gone into overdrive. Building on a history of disposability, genocide and militarism, it increasingly has gained support, particularly among the Republican Party, as a potentially justifiable path to power. How else to explain the shocking defense by most Republicans of the insurrection against the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “a patriotic attempt to protect the nation against its enemies”? How do reason and justice prevail in a society when the legal justification given to macho-infused vigilantes in the aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal provides them with a pass to shoot, if not kill, peaceful protesters? How else to clarify the rise of deadly misogynist violence, operating under the discourse of surveillance and vigilantism, that has moved from Texas to the law of the land, subjecting women to an incriminating reality that dictates that they are second-class citizens who can no longer have control over their reproductive rights? How else to address the rise of a gun culture that trades on fear to immunize people to the tsunami of mass shootings, suffering and death that appears as an everyday experience in the United States?
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How does one explain crazed images of guns being celebrated in the social media by Republicans, as if the spectacle of violence does not present a danger to a larger public? In one telling instance, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky “posted a Christmas picture of himself and what appears to be his family, smiling and posing with an assortment of guns, just days after four teenagers were killed in a shooting at a high school in Michigan.” Accompanying the image was the tweet “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.”
The image is more than insensitive, it endorses a hyped-up version of gun culture while maximizing the pleasure potentially produced by an obsession with guns and the threat of violence (after all, it was intended as a …….