On the surface, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attack on the Walt Disney Co. makes no sense. Why would a Republican governor go after one of the largest businesses and economic drivers in the state?
Aren’t Republicans pro-business?
Likewise, why would Republican governors in other states push for anti-LGBTQ, and anti-diversity programs knowing those programs are favored by the biggest of big businesses in their states?
The answer has nothing to do with economics but everything to do with power.
“The answer has nothing to do with economics but everything to do with power.”
The guiding principle of ultra-conservative politicians and religious leaders these days is an ancient one: Might makes right.
We are under attack by men and some women who claim their cause is holy when it is not. They want to enforce their sense of “rightness” on others by being demagogues, tyrants and bullies — often in the name of God.
These pushy proponents of power present themselves as heroic defenders of “traditional values.” They claim to be “called of God” to protect the “people” — ordinary, honest, hard-working, God-loving, patriotic, “real” Americans.
From a religious perspective, this push toward uniformity and demands for purity arises from a desire to be separate. “Separateness” exhibits itself in all kinds of atrocities from exclusion to genocide. But it also bubbles up from the subconscious as a perceived threat to the identity of holy people.
Our history graphically depicts the debris of victims piled up along the sides of the road of previous pushes for purity. We see the faces of heretics condemned to the fire, the excommunicated, the exiled, the shunned, the shamed, the expelled, the murdered.
The road of purity is the path taken by oppressors who demean, enslave and exterminate fellow humans who are different than them. This road is paved with the blood, sweat and tears of slaves. It is the road where the bodies of the martyrs of Christianity were left in the ditch to rot. On this road are the bodies of African Americans beaten, abused and lynched. This is the path of genocide not only in Hitler’s Germany but in Rwanda and South Africa and places too numerous to list.
Whenever a nation experiences an outburst of “might makes right,” the spread is a volcanic eruption that oozes into all areas of life.
Such is the case in Florida, where DeSantis is taking no prisoners in his strong-arm quest to bring the state under his own thumb. And now, he wants to do the same thing for all America, describing his presidential campaign as an extension of his motto in the Sunshine State: “Where woke goes to die.”
He has declared war on gays, Critical Race Theory, “wokeness,” Disney, American history, librarians and anyone who lifts a hand to help immigrants. He has a list and he’s checking it twice to attack “progressive” targets from public restrooms to medical clinics to university classrooms.
It’s not just DeSantis living by “might makes right.”
In Forsyth County, Ga., school district officials removed almost a dozen books from school libraries — books that featured African American and LGBTQ characters.
Jerome Eisenberg has sued Brentwood School, an exclusive private school in Los Angeles, for indoctrinating students in anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Sen. Ted Cruz has opened a Senate investigation into his allegations that Anheuser-Busch markets Bud Lite to underage consumers in an ad with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
“Might makes right” has the power to dull people’s resistance to violent measures to maintain or to seize more power.
Trumpist preacher Mark Burns, speaking at the ReAwaken America “revival,” called for violence to return Trump to the White House. He preached, “You got to get to the point where you realize that when they smack you in the face, you smack them back two times harder.” He was referring to Matthew 5:38–40, which says Christians are to turn the other cheek.
“Bible says the violent take it … and we take it by force.”
Burns said, “Bible says the violent take it … and we take it by force.” That was a reference to Matthew 11:12, which says, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Burns quoted the Bible, but his interpretation is right out of the Trump Bible. Getting even is the primary commandment in the Trump code. He claims he likes the verse in the Bible about “an eye for an eye,” except Trump is not a believer in conditional retaliation. He believes in unlimited retaliation. Trump says, “One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even.”
In 2011, he addressed the National Achievers Congress in Sydney, Australia, to explain how he had achieved his success. He noted there were a couple of lessons not taught in business school that successful people must know. At the top of the list was this piece of advice: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”
For Trump, acts of revenge are an essential way for a person to demonstrate he or she is tough. “When you’re in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder. And the reason is, the reason is, the reason is, not only, not only, because of the person that you’re after, but other people watch what’s happening. I really believe in trashing your enemies.”
Might makes right breeds vengeance, hyper-vigilance and violence. In a speech May 20 at the Republican Party’s state convention in Lexington, S.C., Gov. Henry McMaster said he looked forward to a day when Democrats would be so rare that Republicans would have to “hunt them with dogs.” The remark, passed off as a joke, the standard hiding place for racism, recalls a history when runaway slaves were hunted with dogs and when African Americans were lynched for no reason at all.
The “might makes right” volcano keeps pushing, oozing in all directions, until it flows into the oceans on all the coastlines of America.
An entire company of preachers and politicians have lined up at the fork in the road to coerce everyone to follow them.
Missouri Baptist pastor Stewart Allen-Clark told his congregation: “Now look, I’m not saying every woman can be the epic trophy wife of all time like Melania Trump, I’m not saying that at all.”
He said that as an image of the former first lady appeared on screen behind him. “Most women can’t be trophy wives, but you know … maybe you’re a participation trophy.”
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana recently offered a particularly arrogant take on the people of Mexico: “Without the people of America, Mexico, figuratively speaking, would be eating cat food out of a can and living in a tent behind an Outback” restaurant.
“Contempt is the mark of the high and mighty.”
“Might makes right” becomes a two-edged sword. As these preachers and politicians bully, demean and dehumanize, they don’t notice the overweening hypocrisy of being unethical in their actions. In the name of God, they use the methods of the devil to trample on others.
They take delight in punishing those considered unholy. Having discovered the pleasure of excommunication, evangelicals desire to exact as much punishment as possible. Never be fooled by the perma-press smiles of the righteous. Being cruel brings them joy. You can see the glint in the eyes, the smirk, the insistence that they speak for God.
Contempt is the mark of the high and mighty. When DeSantis signed bills damaging to transgender students, he was smiling. His face announces his sense of power and rightness.
When religion is mixed with political power, ancient ideas rooted in immoral power take control. No matter how much religious language and how many Bible verses are quoted, never lose sight that the issue here is not economics, not religion, not democracy. It is power — raw, undiluted, in-your-face power.
Rodney W. Kennedy is a pastor and writer in New York state. He is the author of 10 books, including his latest, Good and Evil in the Garden of Democracy.