If you live in Napa Valley, California, and are not abreast of the latest in fashionable, local alt-right performance art, you should get to know the young man who was the life of the party at Doris Gentry’s campaign kickoff for her mayoral bid on June 9, 2019, and who was also a “luminary” at the thinly-veiled Trump rally styled “Back the Blue,” on June 17, 2020, a gathering intended to provide legitimacy for a whole range of right-wing extremists by implying that their solidarity with good, ethical law enforcement is not shared by everyone, including liberals.
His name is Ben, and he’s from Fresno. An evangelical “Christian,” he is an avowed homophobe. He believes that Black Lives Matter should be declared a terrorist organization. I won’t identify him any further, since that might kick the mighty engines of social media into high gear, generating various clicks, emojis, and chunks of electronic red meat that just serve to feed the beast.
After seeing some of his videos, and considering that it’s possible he will make a habit of visiting our Napa Valley community, I feel compelled to offer him some comments and questions. I’m offering them in relatively unadorned fashion, because they are too serious to risk obscuring with healthy servings of my favorite flavors of snark.
Even if we try to dismiss Ben’s comments as overheated rhetoric from a young man looking for internet notoriety, they are still very troubling—and in some cases even frightening.
First, Ben says repeatedly that “the left” is intent on “destroying the country.” That’s a pretty serious charge, one that puts progressives on the same footing as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un—except that our “president” has nicer things to say about those two dictators. Ben must be imagining shadowy liberal leaders huddled with George Soros in a secret location, mapping out ways to destroy all of the nation’s Chick-Fil-A franchises. He clearly feels that liberals and progressives could never be people who love America every bit as much as he supposedly does, but who simply disagree with him on interpretation of the Constitution and national priorities. This is not just a mistaken stance, but an irresponsible and ultimately dangerous one.
The same is true of Ben’s statement that the left is “evil—straight-up evil.” I can understand how this is an attractive idea for an extremist, implying as it does that the “good guys” are all on our side now that we’ve projected all evil onto the other poor slobs. Could he not be aware that fascists have employed this tactic throughout history? Find a scapegoat and assign them all blame for a nation’s problems? The immediate difficulty for Ben is, if we are all evil, what will he do with us? Especially since we represent a probable majority of the nation? He couldn’t be thinking we should all be exterminated. One would hope not. But what, then? Should we be sent to re-education camps, where we’ll be taught “right thinking”?
Even if the statement is pure rhetoric, why say it at all? Is it worth the “likes” and “clicks” and the modest money he might receive for appearing at an event like Doris Gentry’s campaign launch?
Further, he insists that Democrats and the left want to take God out of his life. Leaving aside the obvious fact that Americans are free to worship God as they like, let me deliver the flat-out simple message to Ben: No one can take God out of your life. You certainly know this. God is not a car that can be repossessed or a cable box that can be disconnected. God can be taken out of your life only if your god is completely exterior to you, and a pretty flimsy one at that. Maybe if your god is a faux-evangelical, obese Golden Calf with a bleached comb-over and a floppy red necktie, then that god, as a public official, can and will be taken out of your life, with greatest pleasure, by a large mass of energized, patriotic citizens with their eyes on November 3rd.
Finally, he says repeatedly that we are now in the middle of an actual civil war and, incredibly, that it’s not a bloodless war because he got smacked around in an altercation with some activists in Berkeley not so long ago. I would suggest to him that avoiding places where he knows his incendiary ideas will cause tempers to flare would be the best strategy if he’s interested at all in avoiding violence.
Blessed are the Peacemakers, Ben. Remember?