PATRIARCHY AND PATRIOTISM—
AGGRESSIVE MALE SUPREMACY AND AMERICAN SUPREMACY—
THE DANGER AND THE IMMEDIATE CHALLENGE
by Bob Avakian
As I have emphasized before:
Where you have religious fundamentalism, you are going to have not only the forceful assertion of patriarchy and misogyny (hatred of women) but also aggressive patriotism—and notice that these two words have the same root, referring to allegiance to (and subordination to the authority of) the father(land). And, as we have seen, you are going to have white supremacy and racism.1
Let’s look more deeply at this connection between patriarchal male supremacy and patriotism— as well as white supremacy—and in particular how this is expressed in extreme and virulent ways with the Christian fundamentalist fascists in this country.
Christian Fascist Fanaticism for Trump
Kristin Kobes Du Mez grew up in a town in Iowa which was filled with religious fundamentalists (which she refers to as “evangelicals,” and more specifically “white evangelicals”) who voted overwhelming for Donald Trump in 2016. In her book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, she makes these important observations:
evangelical support for Trump was no aberration, nor was it merely a pragmatic choice. It was, rather, the culmination of evangelicals’ embrace of militant masculinity, an ideology that enshrines patriarchal authority and condones the callous display of power, at home and abroad….
More than any other religious demographic in America, white evangelical Protestants support preemptive war, condone the use of torture, and favor the death penalty…. White evangelicals are significantly more authoritarian than other religious groups…2
In Du Mez’s analysis, what comes through is not just the link (what I have emphasized is the “direct connection”) between aggressive white supremacy, male supremacy and gender oppression, rabid patriotism, xenophobic hatred of immigrants, and an overall support for violent repression at home as well as aggressive war abroad, but also specifically the role of “muscular” patriarchy—a “militant masculinity”—as the center and “pivot” in all this.
Du Mez also emphasizes that all this is rooted in beliefs that are not so much theologically but socially and culturally driven: a fundamentalist rendering of the Christian religion which is really based in and serves definite, oppressive and repressive, relations, and the corresponding ideological and political views and aims. I have pointed out before that a defining feature of Christianity itself, as well as the other two main “monotheistic” (one-god) religions, Judaism and Islam, is the fact that they are patriarchal religions and promote patriarchal, male supremacist social relations.3 But the Christian fundamentalists give particular, focused attention to, and insistence upon, the parts of Christian tradition and scripture (in the Old Testament of the Bible especially, but also in the New Testament) that most blatantly and aggressively promote the submission and subordination of wives to their husbands, and in general the domination of women by men. And, again, as expressed in the good old USA in particular, this involves an insistence on the domination of (in Du Mez’s words) “militant white masculinity.”
A Special “Covenant” Relation with God
In the book Away With All Gods! I pointed to this important analysis by Kevin Phillips:
Phillips reviews how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, although the South was defeated and the slave system was abolished, after the reversal of Reconstruction [in the 1870s] the South “rose again” in terms of political power and influence within the country as a whole. In connection with all this, Phillips points out, a religious mythology arose, and took root widely among white people in the South, that the (white) South had a special covenant with God and was the object of a special design by God to restore it to its proper place, righting the terrible wrong that had been done through the Civil War.4
But, for these “unrepentant” and “unreconstructed” southern white supremacists, and those who adhere to the same poisonous outlook, this notion of a “special covenant with god” is not limited to the South but is applied by them to the U.S. as a whole—and this is seen as both an extension of, and the highest expression of, “the superiority of western civilization” and a special mandate to extend its domination not only over the continent of North America but over the world as a whole and all the peoples of the world, particularly those from what Donald Trump has called “shit-hole” countries, in Africa and other parts of the Third World.
Listen to the words of Trump (in his speech at Mount Rushmore on July 3) on the superiority of white European “western civilization,” and the role of the American Revolution (“Seventeen seventy-six”) as the extension and highest expression of this:
Seventeen seventy-six represented the culmination of thousands of years of western civilization and the triumph not only of spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy, and reason.
And in a tweet sent out by the White House on July 7, this message is proclaimed:
Americans are the people who pursued our Manifest Destiny across the ocean, into the uncharted wilderness, over the tallest mountains, and then into the skies and even into the stars.
In order to endorse this racist, European-supremacist version of reality, all that is necessary is to ignore the history of ancient, and more recent, civilizations in (among other places) China, India, the (“pre-Columbus”) Americas, Egypt and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the Islamic empires, and all their great achievements in agriculture, architecture, language and literature, astronomy, mathematics, and many other fields. While in fact benefitting from the historical experience and achievements of people from all parts of the world, over thousands of years, and the vicious exploitation of people in all parts of the world today, this grotesque American (and white-European) supremacy seizes on the top-dog position it has achieved through genocide and slavery, robbery, plunder and war, to proclaim its “superiority,” and its supposedly “god-given” right to rule, over all other peoples, within this country and in every part of the earth.
Christian Fascism and Rabid Anti-Communism
As Du Mez explains, confronted with the powerful movements of the 1960s against the Vietnam war and racial, sexual and gender oppression, “evangelicals”—and in particular “white evangelicals”:
clung fiercely to the belief that America was a Christian nation, that the military was a force for good, and that the strength of the nation depended on a properly ordered, patriarchal home. The evangelical political resurgence of the 1970s coalesced around a potent mix of “family values” politics, but family values were always intertwined with ideas about sex, power, race, and nation. Feminism posed a threat to traditional womanhood, and also to national security by removing from men their duty to provide and protect and opening the door to women in military combat. In similar fashion, Vietnam was not just a national security issue, but also a crisis of masculinity.5
The fact that, with all its military might and despite the horrendous death and destruction it rained down on Vietnam and its people, the U.S. failed in its attempt to subjugate Vietnam—and was forced to withdraw from Vietnam in defeat—this sent the Christian fundamentalist fascists into a frenzy. And, as the people leading the Vietnamese liberation struggle were identified as communists, this merged with and reinforced the Christian fascists’ fanatical hatred of “godless communism.” Here we see another “toxic combination” of mindless anti-communism and a sense of frustrated “muscular masculine militarism.”
Of course, the use of religion to promote enforced patriotism has not been limited to right-wing and outright fascist representatives of American capitalist imperialism. It was during the 1950s, under the “mainstream” president (the “moderate” Republican) Eisenhower that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, as a direct part of the crusade against the threat posed by “godless communism” to American domination in the world, with all the horrors that had already been involved in achieving and maintaining that dominance. This included the actual use of two atomic bombs by the U.S. at the end of World War 2—ordered by the Democratic President Truman—which immediately incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and subjected many more to excruciating suffering), ushering in the “nuclear age” which for generations now has continued as an ever-present existential threat hanging over human beings everywhere.
But today, the fascists now ruling in the U.S.—with the Christian fascists the driving force in this—are prepared to carry all these horrors to even greater and more monstrous extremes. Listen to Trump’s belligerent, bellicose hymns of praise to America’s power to destroy, in the following words from his statement on July 4th (the day after his celebration, at Mount Rushmore, of American “manifest destiny” and the genocide this has already involved):
No enemy on Earth stands a chance—$2.5 trillion, we’ve invested—all made in the USA. We’ve never had anything near the power and the equipment that we have right now. We did that over the last three years…. Everywhere these aircraft have flown, they’ve rained down American thunder, delivered American justice, and they have fiercely defended every square inch of American sovereignty…. In their steel frames, broad wings, and roaring engines, we see the story of America’s daring defiance, its soaring spirit, and undying resolve.”
In this, we need to recognize not just the more obvious, and odious, macho posturing of Trump but, on a deeper level, the close link and interconnection between unfettered male domination of the most brutal kind and the urge to war to defend “god’s chosen nation” (which in reality is the empire of U.S. capitalist imperialism). In this connection, the following from the book Jesus and John Wayne is very relevant (keeping in mind again that the author uses the term “evangelicals” or “white evangelicals” to refer to what must be scientifically identified as Christian fundamentalist fascists):
For evangelicals, domestic and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin. Christian nationalism—the belief that America is God’s chosen nation and must be defended as such—serves as a powerful predictor of intolerance toward immigrants, racial minorities, and non-Christians. It is linked to opposition to gay rights and gun control, to support for harsher punishments for criminals, to justifications for the use of excessive force against black Americans in law enforcement situations, and to traditionalist gender ideology. White evangelicals have pieced together this patchwork of issues, and a nostalgic commitment to rugged, aggressive, militant white masculinity serves as the thread binding them together into a coherent whole. A father’s rule in the home is inextricably linked to heroic leadership on the national stage, and the fate of the nation hinges on both.6
The fact is that the fate of humanity could very well hinge on a thorough repudiation of and a decisive defeat of this toxic combination of aggressive patriarchy and the patriotism of a white Christian America. This is concentrated in very immediate terms in the need for masses of people to act now on the urgent need to remove the fascist Trump-Pence from power, with the most powerful expression of this a massive, non-violent but sustained mobilization of people in the streets united around the unifying demand that this regime must be OUT NOW!
And, in the most fundamental terms, all this ultimately depends on the overthrow and uprooting of the system, of capitalism-imperialism, that is the soil out of which this grotesque fascism has grown.
1. Fascists Today And The Confederacy: A Direct Line, A Direct Connection Between All The Oppression. This article by Bob Avakian is available at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org and revcom.us. [back]
2. Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, Liveright Publishing. The passages quoted here are from the “Introduction.” [back]
3. See Morality Without Religion, Emancipation That Is Real. This article by Bob Avakian is available at revcom.us. [back]
4. Bob Avakian, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, Insight Press, 2008, pp, 141-42. The statements by Kevin Phillips cited here are from Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, Viking Press, 2006.
There is a definite irony in the fact that Phillips was one of the main people responsible for formulating the Republican Party’s “southern strategy,” which was based on the appeal to the racism of white southerners who are characterized by the very kind of views and sentiments that Phillips describes, critically, here. It seems that Phillips later came to regret at least much of where this “southern strategy” has led, and this book of his contains important exposure and analysis of this. [back]
5. Jesus and John Wayne, the “Introduction.” [back]
6. Jesus and John Wayne, the “Introduction.” [back]