Wow, former presidential advisor Steve Bannon really opened my eyes when he appeared on “60 Minutes.”
Bannon – who until recently was President Donald Trump’s Darth Vaderish idea generator – showed me and so many other Americans that our lives are nothing but an illusion, a dream that cannot contend with his white nationalist reality.
He told Charlie Rose that the secret to America’s success was that, in the 1900s, we contained immigration.
“America’s built … on our citizens,” Bannon told Rose. “Look at the 19th century. What built America’s called the American system, from Hamilton to Polk to Henry Clay to Lincoln to the Roosevelts. A system of protection of our manufacturing, financial system that lends to manufacturers, OK, and the control of our borders. Economic nationalism is what this country was built on. The American system.”
This is where Bannon is so helpful.
See, I was under the impression that my great-grandfather came over to the United States from Germany about then. That my wife’s ancestors arrived in those days from other parts of Europe. That the forebears of other members of my extended family arrived from China around then.
And that all these folks went to work, raised families and helped build the United States into the greatest economic force in the world’s history.
It turns out, apparently, that it was all a mirage – that my wife, my children, my siblings, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins and I don’t really exist. That millions and millions of what I thought were American families – including one that changed its name from Drumpf to Trump when the patriarch arrived here in 1896 – just aren’t real.
In Steve Bannon’s world, because immigration always is a problem and never a source of strength, all those people – all those Americans – didn’t come here.
They don’t exist.
Well, I suppose that’s one possibility.
The other possibility is that Steve Bannon is a bloated bag of hot gas who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
If I sound dismissive or even scornful regarding Bannon’s take on American history, it’s because I mean to.
While I never would deny him or anyone else the right to speak his mind, such as it is, I’m tired of him and his act.
I’m tired of pretending that ignorance and knowledge should be treated with equal respect, that incompetence and expertise should be given the same weight, that falsehood and truth are one and the same thing.
This isn’t about ideology. There are conservative solutions to the problems that afflict us. There are liberal solutions, libertarian solutions and populist solutions.
All these solutions, from whichever point on the ideological spectrum they originate, have benefits and they have costs. That’s the nature of life. It’s our job as supposedly rational citizens in a self-governing society to weigh those benefits and costs and pick the course that best suits us and our needs.
But there are no solutions that are not grounded in reality, that refuse to acknowledge basic facts, that deny truth.
That’s what Steve Bannon and his crowd want to sell us – a belief system that calls for us to reject history, reject facts, reject truth.
I’d call that snake oil, but what he’s pushing is far more insidious than that. He’s trying to get us to buy a version of American history that wipes our own ancestors from existence. He’s shilling an American story that demands we deny the family members who came before us and helped make our lives possible.
Stretch back far enough and we all came to this country from somewhere else.
If it comes to choosing between a delusional huckster like Steve Bannon and the members of my family who sweated, suffered and sacrificed to come to this country so that I, my children and perhaps my grandchildren and other future descendants could live better lives, well, I’ll stand with my ancestors every time.
And the fact that a guy like Steve Bannon ever made his way into the White House without a ticket and a tour guide is an insult to their memory.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.