Sandy Krolick, Ph.D.
Frustrated and weary from their own victimization in the ‘Old World’ — and in search of a better life in the ‘New’ — boatloads of European explorers and pilgrims stole their way across the North American continent, eventually occupying every corner of this territory from sea to shining sea. But in their mad dash of territorial conquest, these predominantly ‘white’ settlers turned right around and proceeded to victimize the ‘red man’ — those indigenous inhabitants already occupying the land for generations. These new Anglo-European ‘immigrants’ forcibly, and in many cases violently, took possession of once indigenous lands; it is no secret that native Americans suffered brutally and often fatally at the hands of the white immigrant settlers and their cavalries.
But wait! Perhaps the tables have begun to turn by some odd twist of fate. More recently a small but rather paranoid contingent of our settled compatriots have been agitated by waves of other, darkly-complected immigrants, whom they imagine are trying to ‘take’ from them the very land their forebears stole from native Americans. Such paranoia is borne not simply of an enduring, if unjustifiable, sense of white privilege. The fear is emblematic of their own pre-disposition; it is a reactionary posture grounded in both distain for and distrust of the Other. Such apprehension is ultimately the instantiation of misplaced aggression — a slow simmering reaction by those who have been weaned on the mother’s milk of suspicion and a proclivity for violence. Remember, ‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.’ Paranoia and fear thus lie at the very foundation of white privilege in America; like twin stigmata, these are part and parcel of the white man’s burden here, insuring the continuing eruption of violence if these emotions are left unchecked.
This is the unstable foundation upon which our country and our democracy now rest — awkwardly, tentatively, precariously. We are teetering on the edge of an existential crisis borne on the wings of fear — a posture clearly seen in the machinations of congresswoman and unabashed QAnon adherent, Marjorie Taylor Greene. But she is not alone among her colleagues, not by a long shot. Indeed, this fear and the attendant proclivity to violence that results from such pathologies has come to define reality for a growing swath of our citizenry including our political class. Yet, such pathologies are grounded in a mental image whereby the ‘Other’ — now quite heavily mythologized — is seen as an existential threat. Although such imagined threats are patently false, the symbolic referents continue to guide the pre-conscious choices of a growing number of our compatriots, reinforced by an unbroken lineage of presumed privilege and fear of losing it. It is long past time for us to acknowledge this fact. We are, after all, at a crossroads — an inflection point in our history — and we must reign in the vile and the suspicious among us before it is too late. To do this, we should look at the coalescence or convergence of concurrent conspiratorial forces: white supremacy on the one hand and QAnon on the other, and the attendant challenges these raise for the future of our democracy. Here I will only explore the linkage between these two reactionary conspiracies.
The recent notoriety surrounding QAnon (Q) — this uniquely American-style millenarian cargo-cult guided by some of the same presumptions of white privilege that we see in its would-be savior, Donald Trump — has thrust into the open undeniable elements of a haunting American eschatology. In fact, it is not surprising to find both blue and white-collar Christians among Q’s most ardent supporters, especially among the evangelicals. For its part, Q is emerging as an apocalyptic Christian nationalist movement demonstrating a unique pedigree harkening back even to the Book of Revelation.
Of course for Q-believers, marching elbow-to-elbow with their white nationalist brethren, Trump was and remains a ‘once and future king’— their anointed savior; his executive role was certainly evident in fomenting and directing the violent attack on the Capitol. With sticks and stones, body-armor and battering rams, Trump’s cult-followers sought to destroy those who would dare oppose his leadership. With perhaps a touch of irony, and not unlike Jesus’ overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple of Jerusalem, Trump unleashed his own legions on our temple of democracy to overturn an election. The symbolism here is thick and rich. Led-on by their would-be shaman-prophet (Jake Angeli) — a privileged white nationalist demanding organic food in his holding cell — the insurrectionists hammered away at the Capitol as they continued hammering out elements of their own contemporary mythical journey (perhaps to Valhalla). With a blend of Norse, Neo-Nazi, and more archaic mythology, the insurrectionists literally sought to “carve-out” a new mytho-historical reality, one delivering a new heaven and a new earth.
For the most part, these Q-led white-and-disgruntled insurrectionists communicated in a veiled tongue as well, a language laced with symbol and metaphor. One favorite symbol was that of The Storm, itself serving as place-holder for an apocalyptic event heralding the day of reckoning. This was to be the day when Trump’s salvific return would explode across the national stage and the infidels — those weak liberal blood-drinking pedophiles of the Deep State, along with other assorted undesirables — would finally receive their long-overdue and divinely mandated retribution. Such sentiments bring us awfully close to an eschatological vision of the End Time, much as we find described in the New Testament’s Revelation of Saint John the Divine, and specifically its reference to ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. As we read in Revelations
I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (6:2)
Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (6:4)
I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. (6:5)
I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. (6:8)
Surely these lines give us some pause when considering the events surrounding the recently attempted insurrection. Again, the use of imagery and symbolism is key to Q’s message, just as it was in the apocalyptic vision of St. John. So perhaps, and by way of paraphrase, it is not too far-fetched to say the following: Donald Trump sought to wear a crown on his head and, with a pair of scales in his hand, ride out like a conqueror, destroying peace on earth as men slayed one another, leaving death and destruction in his wake.
It is, of course, no accident that Q-believers are steeped in religious myth and symbol. And given its predilection for apocalyptic eschatology, the energy of this cult is able to draw in millennialists and extremists of all stripes, including white supremacists, Christian evangelicals, and many others factions in-between. If we look back to the founding of our country, the roots of such a cult can already be detected percolating in the earliest stirrings of white privilege (supremacy) witnessed with the emergence of the American spirit (an incipient nationalism) centuries earlier. And now this nationalism has been unleashed through the progeny of immigrants who first invaded this land centuries before.
I suggest that the violence exercised and witnessed at the Capitol recently is merely the tip of an iceberg that is bigger and has been growing for much longer than we care to admit. Its origin is as old as those first explorers or pilgrims who dared set foot on this territory and decimate or enslave its indigenous inhabitants. In short, the mythologically-infused movement of that seditious mob has been baked into the cake since before our founding, just waiting to explode. I’m afraid to say that while we’ve already seen some of its fire and brimstone, the hot lava is about to engulf us. This uneasy but not unlikely alignment or political convergence of an apparently religious millenarianist movement with a violent and broadly nationalistic conspiracy is leading us fast and furiously to a potentially apocalyptic conclusion. As the congressional representative Donna DeGette remarked in the Senate hearings, we now can see “the first stab in a greater revolution.”