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Imagine America – The Big Picture e-letter of 1/24/17

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Phyllis Stenerson – ProgressiveValues.org

Subject: Imagine America – The Big Picture
ProgressiveValues.e-letter
January 24, 2017
Imagine America - the BIG idea

"... All the big things that were once taken for granted are now
under assault...The definition of America is up for grabs. Our
fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow...
The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to
modernize a binding American idea...."
David Brooks, New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/opinion/after-the-womens-march.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170124&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=76240756&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0 , 1/24/17

Ideas simply want a place to fit  - http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/fd6bc692d5/u=http%3A%2F%2Fcreativesomething.net%2Fpost%2F156067677790%2Fideas-simply-want-a-place-to-fit&h=ATM5KwXm9iy9lC0hZs16Abj-SjNDgrrBu_uI3gcjsb9_9Y8shNDPBpXm6etd_xSa-zC39rYIyc9SQVa1HpOAJyISvZCENjsSvYY83jIbIZBLJ7ZpgMo0MHA8GAb-6zppN7pU1ejfqpRCRPZ0ckMW&enc=AZM0zWwJKaK7rKGPGa6rFQp4GoAKnNuIu8mJn7FTH9mYb8lHG1EwjlIvXmcsoQc-VGMQhtq79ZquwdkBO1ele_7yVRnaZF9nY5nkY9yS8UZ5RPG5FaNru_-3qvWH5WFJxhuw5D1750zSk7ifwmUj7OLoALpwWYbo2P-gVh1V1D8qr9rB1heAfgnDjBWtC9GnbKzlH5nKr7_PGWJqmS3sFmm9&s=1 , by Tanner Christensen, January 18, 2017 - http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/e027eff4ff  , creativesomething.net   The only thing ideas want is to fit. Ideas
are out there in the world, waiting to be captured or imagined. They
travel around us in all different sorts of ways: from communication
to entertainment to dreams. All ideas want is to find a place to fit,
to exist. There may be ideas that have been trying to fit for a very
long time, it's only when things are right and ready can the ideas
fit into place, into existence.

The Reality-Based Community And Trump's Orwellian Dystopia - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-milton-mankoff/the-reality-based-community-and-trumps_b_13351438.html  by Dr. Milton Mankoff, Huffington Post, 12/08/2016 Updated Dec
12/09/2016     Back in 2004, journalist Ron Suskind interviewed a top
aide to President George W. Bush, later identified as Karl Rove. As
Suskind reported - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality-based_community :"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the
reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe
that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible
reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he
continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own
reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you
will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can
study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's
actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we
do."...Karl Rove was a cynical political visionary, but Donald
Trump's surreal road to the White House is that vision's nightmarish
embodiment. The term "truth," which once indicated a claim supported
by incontestable facts, has, because of Trump, been re-defined...

- http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/14daaa2eea Donald Trump Is Becoming an Authoritarian Leader Before Our Very Eyes
By Jeet Heer - http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/e93a578c8e , The New Republic - http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/ca27d673fb , January 23, 2017  ...The new administration's bewildering boasts
and outright lies are what make it so frightening, as they're early
signs of what many of us in the media have warned about for months:
Authoritarianism.... ...what Trump did in his CIA speech, which was
rife with deceptions and examples of a narcissistic will to reshape
the truth...Turning a speech at an intelligence agency into a
political rally is a deep betrayal of political norms....One of the
defining tactics of his campaign was disinformation - http://cts.vresp.com/c/?PhyllisStenersonPaid/1eb9b7f9f6/TEST/7b09a6ec78 , coupled with accusations of the same against the media. That hasn't
changed now that Trump is president...

- http://p.nytimes.com/email/re?location=4z5Q7LhI+KVBjmEgFdYACPLKh239P3pgi4SklzCIhvadvCJorKS4Kd7TX/RSFN0nF55MS5wGlNGZHVxTKBoJDjX23tTh79P92b/KCQnAeeS0ymXq099mEdYrRcJ/30tTplgX0Gy2Oa7EuaATSS1DHYPmeG+IYm9pEw7CG0ZHgDn3pA/vI+DydalHx6XIyKgoKH7pilVGwlybmZYWgnTkThnlvEyTB+18&campaign_id=69&instance_id=90874&segment_id=102299&user_id=4019166e2bd215f19762af0a871c7000®i_id=76240756 The Banal Belligerence of Donald Trump By Roger Cohen - https://www.nytimes.com/column/roger-cohen , New
York Times Magazine, 1/24/17  Trump's outrageous claims have a
purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at
Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window
but a guard snatched it away. "Warum?" Levi asked (why?). To which
the guard responded, "Hier ist kein warum" (here there is no why). As
the great historian Fritz Stern observed, "This denial of 'why' was
the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its
deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization." Americans are
going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask
why against the banal belligerence of Trump.

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phyllis@progressivevalues.org - phyllis@progressivevales.org . Thank
you

"And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not
the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our
democracy is the word 'We.' 'We the people.'
'We shall overcome.'
'Yes, we can.'"
President Barack Obama
as posted on Facebook by
Senator Al Franken, 1/19/17

"We must move forward in the days ahead with audacious faith.
The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate
their own understanding of their history.
George Orwell

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien
power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a
President and senators and congressmen and other government official,
but the voters of this country.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and
compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over
the world... would do this, it would change the world.
William Faulkner

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we
embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can
we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our
attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in
our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving
up--ever--trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our
determined pursuit of a living democracy?
Terry Tempest Williams

Go to  - http://www.ProgressiveValues.org
www.ProgressiveValues.org
for articles, excerpts, quotations
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Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC
612.331.1929
- phyllis@progressivevalues.org phyllis@progressivevalues.org -  - http://www.ProgressiveValues.org
www.ProgressiveValues.org
Paideia (pu-di'uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for
citizenship to create an ideal society

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After the Women’s March

by David Brooks, New York Times, JAN. 24, 2017

Excerpt – The protesters’ central issues were built on identity politics, and identity politics is too small to create a movement to counter Donald Trump.The women’s marches were a phenomenal success and an important cultural moment…But these marches can never be an effective opposition to Donald Trump. In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues…As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”… this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace. All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life….It’s significant that as marching and movements have risen, the actual power of the parties has collapsed. Marching is a seductive substitute for action in an antipolitical era, and leaves the field open for a rogue like Trump….. The definition of America is up for grabs. Our fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow. But the marches couldn’t escape the language and tropes of identity politics. Soon after the Trump victory, Prof. Mark Lilla of Columbia wrote a piece on how identity politics was dooming progressive chances. …But now progressives seem intent on doubling down on exactly what has doomed them so often. Lilla pointed out that identity politics isolates progressives from the wider country: “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.”…Identity-based political movements always seem to descend into internal rivalries about who is most oppressed and who should get pride of place…The central challenge today is not how to celebrate difference. The central threat is not the patriarchy. The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea….If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Full text

The women’s marches were a phenomenal success and an important cultural moment. Most everybody came back uplifted and empowered. Many said they felt hopeful for the first time since Election Day. But these marches can never be an effective opposition to Donald Trump.

In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues. Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”

These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities. But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.

Second, there was too big a gap between Saturday’s marches and the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Sometimes social change happens through grass-roots movements — the civil rights movement. But most of the time change happens through political parties: The New Deal, the Great Society, the Reagan Revolution. Change happens when people run for office, amass coalitions of interest groups, engage in the messy practice of politics.

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.

It’s significant that as marching and movements have risen, the actual power of the parties has collapsed. Marching is a seductive substitute for action in an antipolitical era, and leaves the field open for a rogue like Trump.

Finally, identity politics is too small for this moment. On Friday, Trump offered a version of unabashed populist nationalism. On Saturday, the anti-Trump forces could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.

Instead, the marches offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them. The definition of America is up for grabs. Our fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow. But the marches couldn’t escape the language and tropes of identity politics.

Soon after the Trump victory, Prof. Mark Lilla of Columbia wrote a piece on how identity politics was dooming progressive chances. Times readers loved that piece and it vaulted to the top of the most-read charts.

But now progressives seem intent on doubling down on exactly what has doomed them so often. Lilla pointed out that identity politics isolates progressives from the wider country: “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.”

Sure enough, if you live in blue America, the marches carpeted your Facebook feed. But The Times’s Julie Bosman was in Niles, Mich., where many women had never heard of the marches, and if they had, I suspect, they would not have felt at home at one.

Identity-based political movements always seem to descend into internal rivalries about who is most oppressed and who should get pride of place. Sure enough, the controversy before and after the march was over the various roles of white feminists, women of color, anti-abortion feminists and various other out-groups.

The biggest problem with identity politics is that its categories don’t explain what is going on now. Trump carried a majority of white women. He won the votes of a shocking number of Hispanics.

The central challenge today is not how to celebrate difference. The central threat is not the patriarchy. The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea.

I loathed Trump’s inaugural: It offered a zero-sum, ethnically pure, backward-looking brutalistic nationalism. But it was a coherent vision, and he is rallying a true and fervent love of our home.

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

The march didn’t come close. Hint: The musical “Hamilton” is a lot closer.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 24, 2017, on Page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: After the March. Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Donald Trump Is Becoming an Authoritarian Leader Before Our Very Eyes

By Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 23, 2017 …The new administration’s bewildering boasts and outright lies are what make it so frightening, as they’re early signs of what many of us in the media have warned about for months: Authoritarianism….The purpose of the Trump administration’s lies is not necessarily to deceive, but to separate the believers from the disbelievers—for the purpose of rewarding the former and punishing the latter. …what Trump did in his CIA speech, which was rife with deceptions and examples of a narcissistic will to reshape the truth…Turning a speech at an intelligence agency into a political rally is a deep betrayal of political norms. But it is very much in keeping with Trump’s disturbing habit of claiming the armed wing of the state, including the military and law enforcement, as his political allies…. John MacGaffin, a high-ranking veteran of the agency. “What self-centered, irrational decision process got him to this travesty?” MacGaffin told the magazine. “Most importantly, how will that process serve us when the issues he must address are dangerous and incredibly complex? This is scary stuff!”… One of the defining tactics of his campaign was disinformation, coupled with accusations of the same against the media. That hasn’t changed now that Trump is president. The administration’s unified anti-press and anti-fact message over the weekend is part of a deliberate, long-term strategy that was hatched many months ago, and is only likely to intensify. The president will wage a rhetorical war against the media, with the intent of delegitimizing one of the few institutions that can hold him accountable, and he will wage it with his most effective weapon: Lies, damned lies, and false statistics.


 

The administration’s many lies this weekend should frighten all Americans.  The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is expert at estimating crowd sizes. When trying to figure out whether a protest in some foreign hotspot could turn into a revolution, the CIA uses satellite imagery to get a sense of how many people are protesting. So it was particularly brazen of Donald Trump, while addressing the agency for the first time as president, to lie about the size of Friday’s inauguration crowd.

“We had a massive field of people,” Trump told a crowd of about 400 CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on Saturday. “You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was—it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well.” Crowd scientists estimate that there were around 160,000 people at Trump’s inauguration in the hour before his speech.

In a bizarre press briefing later on Saturday, Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer ranted against the media and claimed, not just falsely but nonsensically, that Trump enjoyed “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period—both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” In fact, the record is still held by Barack Obama for his 2008 inauguration, which drew an estimated 1.8 million.

And on Sunday’s Meet the Press, when asked to explain why Spicer “uttered a falsehood,” senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told Chuck Todd, “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You’re saying it’s a falsehood…Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

Some observers have warned journalists against an “alarmist” response to Trump’s early actions, lest the media too quickly exhaust our capacity for outrage and cause readers, especially those inclined to give the new president a chance, to tune out. “The danger for the established press,” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote in a column over the weekend, “is the same danger facing other institutions in our republic: That while believing themselves to be nobly resisting Trump, they end up imitating him. Such imitation will inspire reader loyalty and passion—up to a point. But beyond that point, it’s more likely to polarize than to persuade, which means it often does a demagogue’s work for him. Fellow journalists, don’t do it.”

That column appears to have been completed before the weekend’s events, though; it makes no mention of Trump’s speech or Spicer’s briefing, which ought to change the calculus on the merits of press alarmism. The new administration’s bewildering boasts and outright lies are what make it so frightening, as they’re early signs of what many of us in the media have warned about for months: Authoritarianism.

The purpose of the Trump administration’s lies is not necessarily to deceive, but to separate the believers from the disbelievers—for the purpose of rewarding the former and punishing the latter. As chess champion Garry Kasparov, an expert in authoritarianism as an outspoken opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeted on Saturday:In an already hyper-partisan political landscape, the Trump administration can blatantly lie, knowing that his base trusts him more than the “dishonest media.” And that’s exactly what Trump did in his CIA speech, which was rife with deceptions and examples of a narcissistic will to reshape the truth. While telling a story about a Time magazine reporter who wrongly reported that Trump removed the Martin Luther King, Jr. bust from the Oval Office (a mistake that was quickly corrected, but which the Trump staff continues to harp on), the president went on a tangent about Time.

“I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times,” he said. “I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right?  I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record…that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?” (The all-time record is held by Richard Nixon, who appeared on 55 Time covers.)

Aside from these lies and factual mistakes, Trump’s speech was genuinely weird on a number of a counts. His intended purpose was to mend fences with the agency, with which he’s feuded over their conclusion that Russia interfered in the election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton. Yet he did very little to reassure CIA staff, only briefly acknowledging their sacrifice and service by alluding to a wall commemorating agents who died in line of duty.

Rather, Trump was in full campaign mode, attacking the media (“among the most dishonest human beings on Earth”) and praising himself (“they say, ‘is Donald Trump an intellectual?’ Trust me, I’m like a smart person”). He also indicated the U.S. might reinvade Iraq for imperial plunder. “The old expression, ‘to the victor belong the spoils’—you remember,” he said. “I always used to say, keep the oil…So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance.” The entire event was orchestrated like a campaign stop, so much so that Trump even brought along around 40 supporters, who could be heard cheering and clapping during his applause lines.

Turning a speech at an intelligence agency into a political rally is a deep betrayal of political norms. But it is very much in keeping with Trump’s disturbing habit of claiming the armed wing of the state, including the military and law enforcement, as his political allies. He said early in the CIA speech that “the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military. And probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did.” At the end of his speech, Trump sounded like a pathetic suitor making his final pitch: “I just wanted to really say that I love you, I respect you. There’s nobody I respect more.”

While Trump’s antics might have impressed his fans watching from home, they seem to have done little to assuage worries in the agency. The New Yorker interviewed a variety of intelligence experts, including John MacGaffin, a high-ranking veteran of the agency. “What self-centered, irrational decision process got him to this travesty?” MacGaffin told the magazine. “Most importantly, how will that process serve us when the issues he must address are dangerous and incredibly complex? This is scary stuff!”

Trump’s self-centered decision process is authoritarianism, and it’s anything but irrational. He campaigned in an authoritarian style, with rallies where he riled up large crowds to jeer at the press and protesters. One of the defining tactics of his campaign was disinformation, coupled with accusations of the same against the media. That hasn’t changed now that Trump is president. The administration’s unified anti-press and anti-fact message over the weekend is part of a deliberate, long-term strategy that was hatched many months ago, and is only likely to intensify. The president will wage a rhetorical war against the media, with the intent of delegitimizing one of the few institutions that can hold him accountable, and he will wage it with his most effective weapon: Lies, damned lies, and false statistics.

The Banal Belligerence of Donald Trump

By Roger Cohen, New York Times, 1/24/17 

Americans will have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why.

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window but a guard snatched it away. “Warum?” Levi asked (why?). To which the guard responded, “Hier ist kein warum” (here there is no why). As the great historian Fritz Stern observed, “This denial of ‘why’ was the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization.” Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why against the banal belligerence of Trump.

Full text

The soldiers, millions of them, came home from the war. They dispersed across the country, in big towns and small. It was not easy to recount what had happened to them, and for the dead it was impossible.

Something in the nature of their sacrifice was unsayable. The country was not especially interested. War had not brought the nation together but had divided it. The sudden flash, the boom, the acrid stench and utter randomness of death were as haunting as they were incommunicable.

This was war without victory, the kind that invites silence. For the soldiers, who fought in the belief that their cause was right and their nation just, the silence was humiliating. They bore their injuries, visible and invisible, with stoicism.

Resentments accumulated. The years went by, bringing only mediocrity. Glory and victory were forgotten words. Perhaps someone might mutter, “Thank you for your service.” That was it. There was no national memorial, for what would be memorialized?

Savings evaporated overnight in an economic meltdown engineered by financiers and facilitated by the abolishers of risk.

Democracy, the great diluter, slow and compromised, was inadequate for the expression of the soldiers’ emotions. Reasonable leaders with rational arguments could not assuage the loss. They seemed to belittle it with their parsing of every question and their half-decisions.

No, what was needed was a leader with answers, somebody to marshal a popular movement and cut through hesitations, a strongman who would put the nation first and mythologize its greatness, a figure ready to scapegoat without mercy, a unifier giving voice to the trampled masses, a man who could use democracy without being its slave.

Over 15 years national embitterment festered and yearning intensified. But which 15 years? Anyone these days may be forgiven for moments of disorientation. The 15 years from the devastating German defeat of 1918 to the electoral victory (with 43.9 percent of the vote) of Adolf Hitler in 1933? Or the 15 years from the devastating 9/11 attack on the United States to the electoral victory (with 46.1 percent of the vote) of Donald Trump in 2016?

National humiliation is long in gestation and violent in resolution.

German soldiers, two million of them killed in the Great War, came home to fractious and uneasy democratic politics, the ignominy of reparations, the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, the crash of 1929, and the paralysis of a political system held hostage by the extremes of left and right.

Some 2.7 million American soldiers came home to a country that had been shopping while they served in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, with 6,893 killed and more than 52,000 injured. They returned to an increasingly dysfunctional and polarized polity; to the financial disaster of 2008; to the mystery of what the spending of trillions of dollars in those wars had achieved; to stagnant incomes; to the steady diminishment of American uniqueness and the apparent erosion of its power.

Every American should look at the map in Kael Weston’s powerful book, “The Mirror Test.” It shows, with dots, the hometowns of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. No state is spared. The map should be hung in classrooms across the country.

I have tried to tread carefully with analogies between the Fascist ideologies of 1930s Europe and Trump. American democracy is resilient. But the first days of the Trump presidency — whose roots of course lie in far more than the American military debacles since 9/11 — pushed me over the top. The president is playing with fire.

To say, as he did, that the elected representatives of American democracy are worthless and that the people are everything is to lay the foundations of totalitarianism. It is to say that democratic institutions are irrelevant and all that counts is the great leader and the masses he arouses. To speak of “American carnage” is to deploy the dangerous lexicon of blood, soil and nation. To boast of “a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before” is to demonstrate consuming megalomania. To declaim “America first” and again, “America first,” is to recall the darkest clarion calls of nationalist dictators. To exalt protectionism is to risk a return to a world of barriers and confrontation. To utter falsehood after falsehood, directly or through a spokesman, is to foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen.

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window but a guard snatched it away. “Warum?” Levi asked (why?). To which the guard responded, “Hier ist kein warum” (here there is no why).

As the great historian Fritz Stern observed, “This denial of ‘why’ was the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization.”

Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why against the banal belligerence of Trump.