Saudi Arabia is the model for the American Right

22 May 2017 05:07 pm
Posted by: Donna

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is taking a lot of ribbing for what seems to be a willfully obtuse observation about the lack of protests of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Anyone with a glancing familiarity with the nation knows it is a brutally repressive theocratic monarchy where the kind of protests accepted as normal in the West would be likely be punished with severe beatings up to death. I wouldn’t be so fast to assume Ross was just being clueless, though. If you’ve study the right wing here in the US at all, it becomes quickly clear they are big fans of suppressing dissent, particularly if justified by religion or in the name of “national security”. For all the blather about left wing PC culture stifling speech on college campuses and elsewhere, it’s not the Left threatening to jail reporters.

I honestly don’t think most people here grasp how much the American Right admires Saudi Arabia, despite how counterintuitive that may seem since they’re also on the forefront of the “war against radical Islam” and forever reminding liberals of how terrible the Moozlims are to women and gays. Trump himself during his campaign spared no effort in pandering to anti-Muslim sentiment, even going so far as to admonish LGBTQ people that he was the better choice for President (despite his full embrace of GOP culture war stances and selection of rabidly anti-gay Mike Pence as his running mate) because he’d be “tougher on radical Islam” or some such garbage. Better the devil you know, who’s merely denying you the right to marry and get a job, than risk the possibility of Sharia Law sometime in the future.

But, yeah, they frigging love the cut of Saudi Arabia’s jib, culture and government-wise, and Americans who find that appalling should not be lulled the false sense that the technological advances and social progress we’ve enjoyed in the last century will be a bulwark against them imposing their own (very similar) version of a strict Christian theocracy. Though the various right wing Christians groups differ in beliefs and tactics, they are bound by the common view that they are in a holy war.

What I suspect guys like Donald Trump and Mike Pence (not as much daylight between those two as you might think) love most about a place like Saudi Arabia is how the repressive rules are imposed vigorously on the lower orders while the men at the top enjoy many freedoms and privileges they deny to others. That is a feature, not a bug.

In the first episode of excellent Hulu TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale the main character Offred (played by Elisabeth Moss) sets the tone for life in the future fundamentalist Christian dystopia of Gilead (formerly the United States) in a wry voiceover where she watches the “Martha” (what housekeepers are called) knead bread dough in the kitchen. “A return to traditional values,” explains Offred, “That’s what they fought for.”

No women in Gilead are permitted to be in leadership roles over men and all women, regardless of status otherwise, are banned from reading. Female characters who disobey the rules or even verbally oppose them have a tendency to lose eyes or hands. Or worse. Meanwhile, the men in charge of Gilead own luxury cars and have access to the internet and to forbidden things like alcoholic beverages. There are frequent references to ongoing fighting, presumably with top-of-the-line military equipment. Like the real Saudi Arabia, fictitious Gilead is a wet dream to guys like Donald Trump and Mike Pence. So I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss what Secretary Ross said as an offhand gaffe. I take it as a genuine statement of what he and his cohorts want here: complete power and no opposition to it.

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