They say the more you know someone’s story the easier it is to understand them.
Like many of you, I know the story of the Golden State Killer. I know he was a Vietnam Veteran who was rejected by a woman he cared deeply for and that reportedly became the impetus for the killing spree he went on. I know his story, but I also know the stories of his victims, thanks to Michelle McNamara and her excellent research. I feel a deeper kindred spirit with his victims than I ever will for the Golden State Killer.
Or for Stephen Miller.
Although, I know Miller’s backstory, too.
I know he grew up in Santa Monica in an upper class Jewish home. I know his dad suffered some business losses that negatively affected their financial standing, compelling the family to move, which meant Stephen had to attend a public instead of a private school. I know that while at Santa Monica High, Stephen began to solidify his anti-immigration and racist views. It did not matter to him that his own family were immigrants. His grandmother had escaped Nazi Germany and lived to speak of it until she died of Coronovirus this summer, something Stephen continues to deny despite it being listed as the cause on her death certificate.
I also know that it was during high school that Stephen Miller hooked up with David Horowitz who mentored Miller in the rhetoric of the far-right racists. I even know that when Horowitz was a young man, he was far-left. What compelled him to abandon the covenants of the left was a murder. He had urged his friend Betty Van Patter to take a job keeping the books of the Black Panthers. Betty reportedly discovered some issues in 1974 with the financials but before she could address them, she ended up with her head bashed in and floating in the San Francisco Bay.
Confronted with the troubling guilt of having been a conduit that led to his friend’s still unsolved murder, Horowitz abandoned all his previous beliefs, and embraced the most far-right belief system he could, that of White Exceptionalism.
That’s the problem with being an extremist of any sort. You often abandon one set of certainties for another set, and all too often, the complete opposite set of what you once held dear.
The healthiest faith or political belief systems allows for doubt, encourages questioning, compels one to keep seeking.
The most dangerous belief system of any faith or political persuasion is one that adheres to a prescribed set of answers for everything.
Horowitz and Miller ascribe to the latter.
And it isn’t the Torah or the Bible they adhere to – it’s a novel written in the 1970s by Jean Raspail, a Frenchman. Perhaps you have heard of The Camp of the Saints, or read it yourself? Raspail, who died in June at age 95, was unapologetic in his far-right worldview amplified in the novel. He explained how he came to write it:
This book came into being in a strange way. Before, I had written books about my travels and novels, with little success. One day in 1972, I was in the South of France staying with one of my wife’s aunts, near Saint-Raphaël, in Vallauris. I had an office with a view of the sea and I said to myself: “And what if they came?” This “they” was not clearly defined at first. Then I imagined that the Third World would rush into this blessed country that is France. It’s a surprising book. It took a long time to write it, but it came to me on its own. I would stop writing in the evening and start again in the morning without knowing where I was going. There is an inspiration in this book that is alien to myself. I am not saying it is divine, but strange.
While he denied being a racist, Raspail considered refugees and migrants a huge threat to the ruling class of Western Civilization. His book’s title comes from verses in the Book of Revelation, the setting for the last great battle that will bring an end to mankind:
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth .. to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.”
Written in the same vein as Huxley and Orwell’s dystopian novels, Raspail’s novel is designed to instill fear in white people. Its premise is simple: White people, good. People of Color, bad.
The narrative centers around poor mobs of dark-skinned refugees leaving Calcutta headed to the French Riviera aboard unsteady ships. These refugees are fleeing hunger and poverty brought on by over-population and all the ills that accompany that. The government is willing to admit a number of young children, but reverses the policy when tens of thousands of migrant mothers come a’calling. Raspail makes the leader of the migrants an actual shit-eater (so how’s that for demeaning people of color?) and it is this shiteater who tells the refugees they must claim France for themselves, which means overthrowing the ruling class of white elites.
Any writer knows that the language we use can heighten emotions (specifically fears) or allay them. Raspail sought to heighten the divide between whites and people of color. So it’s difficult to accept his claim that he wasn’t a racist.
Raised up Catholic himself, Raspail rejected religion (although, like Trump, he didn’t mind exploiting it for his own selfish gain). In order to protect the social order of Western Civilization, Raspail maintained that Christians would have to forgo the teachings of Christ:
“Christian charity will suffer a bit when faced with the answers to the influx of migrants. It will have to steel itself and suppress compassion of all sorts. Otherwise, our countries will be submerged.”
And that friends, surmises the belief system of Stephen Miller and this administration’s approach to the migrant issue. They believe it is their duty to protect the social order, and the only way to do that is to see migrants and people of color as the threat they pose to the White Race. In particular, the White Male.
Knowing all of this may help me understand what is going on, but it does not in anyway compel me to feel one iota of compassion for Stephen Miller or Mike Pompeo or Steve Bannon or Donald J. Trump. It simply enables me to know that they have a game plan. And that their game plan is programmed upon the premises set forth in Raspail’s novel.
It has been widely reported that The Camp of the Saints is one of Miller’s favorite books and he has encouraged people within Trump’s administration to read it. I doubt Trump has read it – he doesn’t read anything longer than 140 characters. But Trump is Miller’s Boy Toy, who implements the policies Miller drafts.
The game plan Miller and this administration has envisioned is tied up in the rhetoric that Raspail used to marginalize the refugees in his novel. He called them shiteaters. He called them angry mobs. Surging throngs. A danger. Advancing multitudes. An infestation. (Sound familiar?)
At no point did Raspail seek to humanize refugees or migrants in any way. Nor did he address Western Civilization’s role in contributing to the plight of migrants (Wars? Oil? Exploitation? Climate Crisis, anyone?). Instead, the whole point of the novel is to dehumanize them.
Knowing this enables me to understand that the language coming out of the RNC during this election cycle has a purpose. That purpose is to demonize migrants and POC while appealing to the white nationalists who comprise Trump’s base.
That the RNC kicked off with two black man legitimizing Miller and Trump’s racists approach is not surprising when one considers that the thing Miller learned from Horowitz is how to take the language of the Civil Rights movement and twist it so that what they end up saying is: The only oppressed people are white men.
Black. Lives. Do. Not. Matter. To those trying desperately to keep white men in power. Men like Miller. Like Trump.
There are always going to be people of color, of all faith traditions, of all political persuasions willing to turn their backs on all that in order to touch the hem of the robe of the rich and celebrity. There are always going to be black people who buy into a social order that says white men have been ordained by God to take care of them. And there are always going to be white people who believe that it is God’s order for white men to rule over women, children and all people of color.
Patriarch is a long-established and deeply-rooted system for a reason. For lots of reasons.
So is White Nationalism.
I tell you all of this, friends, because I want you to understand what is going on. Knowing the story behind all of these players won’t change their behavior, but perhaps it might change ours.
As the Bible says, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware the men…”
Familiarize yourself with these teachings and the plan, so that you might recognize the real enemy. Pay attention to the language used to demonize others, and instill fear in the masses.
Anyone who tells you that you must abandon the principles of grace and mercy, of compassion and social justice is deceiving you for their own selfish purposes. Jesus never said, “Be compassionate as long as it doesn’t cost you anything.” What he said was, “For what good does it do a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul?”
That’s the question we all need to consider as we see this fight for the Soul of Our Nation played out over the next few months.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how Fear Erodes our Faith (Zondervan).