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Make American Feudal Again. MAGA isn’t back to the 1950’s. Try going back to the 13th Century.

After Nikki Haley warned Vivek Ramaswamy to “leave my daughter out of your voice,” and then called him “scum” for doing just that, we are reminded of other banned names from the lips of candidates competing against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president.

In the sideshow that is the Republican presidential debates, the MAGA movement is the elephant in the room, and that acronym never enters the voice of DeSantis, Haley, Tim Scott, and virtually all the others. Of course, the candidates desire MAGA voters. And yet, they’re reluctant to openly embrace the label.

We can reluctantly give Trump’s competition some credit. While Trump basks in lawlessness, his spineless sparring partners actually do understand the danger that an unfettered MAGA movement represents to the United States and the Western world.

Recall that, as president, Trump proclaimed that he loved uneducated people. That’s a shame. Any college student who has given an ounce of effort to learning the history of western civilization understands what MAGA truly represents. Hardly a call to make America great again, MAGA is not for liberty nor justice. Like Orwellian double-speak, MAGA stands for exactly the opposite of freedom and justice.

Trump’s rivals understand this implicitly, even though they’ll avoid discussing it like the plague. Or even the Enlightenment, which came after The Plague. They’re smarter than Trump and far more articulate. Like most Americans, his rivals come from families of strivers, by going to school and college in order to have and hold a piece of the American pie. Meanwhile, the rich kid born into wealth was mouthing off and skipping classes in school. Daddy got him -- and his bone spurs -- into Wharton because that’s what rich dads did during the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately, Trump’s rivals’ are worse than pathetic when refusing to stand up to a movement they know is insidious. As educated people, they get that MAGA isn’t about going back to the ‘50s, ‘40s, or even the turn of the last century, all points in time when America was supposedly “great.”

MAGA is a descent backwards into the nature of the human condition, when ordinary people were slaves to monarchs, priests, and landed aristocrats. When ordinary people, like the vast majority of us, had no rights at all, including the right of free-will.

To be sure, folks who call themselves MAGA know about rights as the self-appointed experts of the U.S. Constitution. But do Trump’s rally-mates know how their rights were born and how they evolved? Do they even care?

The rights modern humans accept as entitlements weren’t created out of thin air. A revolution of human thought called the Enlightenment, that post-Plague thing, woke us up to our rights. And a collection of ideas called Modernism reified those rights.

Pity the American education system that fails to teach citizens that their own freedom was born of Modernism, a monumental achievement of Western Civilization that perhaps exceeds the impact of all other human achievements combined. For, without Modernism, none of our technical, scientific, and democratic achievements would have been possible. As Modernism goes, freedom goes with it.

Modernism is as real as the right to vote. To bear arms. To speak truth to power. To learn calculus. To have the freedom to create knowledge not approved by churches, monarchs, and their armies. Inspired by the Enlightenment, Modernism profoundly shaped our understanding of the world. The radical ideas of the time freed humanity from feudalism, awakening people to the notion of free-will itself, and allowing humans in large swaths of the world to become the masters of their collective destiny.


On the current trajectory, the intellectual feat that is Modernism will vanish. This isn’t hyperbole; the epoch of postmodernism has continued to seize intellectual, political, and cultural ground since the end of World War II. MAGA may be the denouement of the that trajectory, the essential political force of our time, positioned to wreak havoc on modern institutions, modernist ideas of truth and liberty, and the civil society Modernism has provided us.

January 6th shook the nation. A mob. An insurrection. An attack on the U.S. Capitol, our beacon of democracy. Cops were killed. This wasn't civil unrest or even an insurrection—it was a declaration of war on western civilization’s heart and soul, while a former reality-TV star clinging to the Oval Office watched with glee.

Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency marked an era distinct from anything before it. He became America’s first 'postmodern' president, a man whose selfish interpretations of reality embraced populist distrust and antipathy of established truths and institutions. A grifter always on the make, Trump stumbled onto exploitable territory with the postmodern revolt on the lookout for a titular and charismatic representative, and MAGA was officially born.

With its emphasis on subjective truth and distrust of the very notion of government, MAGA is very much a postmodern movement. The postmodern attack, in general, has destabilized Modernism, giving birth to an "anything goes" mentality hell-bent on “deconstructing” the very institutions western societies have embraced since the dawn of the Enlightenment. Ironically, Modernism itself forged the very past that MAGA claims it wants to reinvent. And yet, MAGA would destroy the cradle of its own right to exist.

MAGA talks a good game about returning to the past, but its actual behavior tells us the opposite. In fact, MAGA's raison d'être is to dismantle modernist foundations. The movement thrives on discounting established narratives, elevating subjective interpretation, and spitting on modern institutions. Trump himself laughs at the inability of Modernism to counterpunch. His people bring bullets to the fight, while modernists bring a piece of parchment called the Constitution.

Watch MAGA's subtext, not what it screams over social media. The movement hides behind and exploits the tools and tenets of democracy to erode democracy’s foundations. Freedom of speech becomes a vehicle for disinformation. The people's freedom to assemble turns into a means to intimidate. Hiding behind the First Amendment, Truth Social threatens witnesses, judges, and the system of justice itself. Politicians who depend on government to become representatives of that government create a quagmire of confusion, mire the process in gerrymandering and voter suppression, and act out their overarching, unstated objective: to destroy the very idea of self-governance.

As postmodernists attack Modernism, they exploit its language and structures to wage war. When Special Prosecutor Jack Smith indicts Donald Trump for illegally holding on to presidential power, Congressional MAGA Republicans scream that institutions, like the Justice Department, have been "weaponized" under President Biden. Never mind that unlike Trump’s bad behavior, the DOJ exercises no influence on the Special Prosecutor's work. By insinuating a need for an objective and neutral form of justice, MAGA cleverly leans on modernist principles. Audaciously, MAGA claims that justice matters – though injustice is its stock in trade.


With the stakes so monumentally high, the battle lines are more than just political. At stake is a struggle for the soul of America and democracies worldwide. The "anything goes" style of postmodern “governance,” if one can call it that, is a no-holds barred death-threat aimed at democratic institutions and the citizens who peacefully take part in democracy.

History is changing, in real time, before our collective intellect can comprehend what’s happening before our eyes. This isn't the tired political conflict between Democrats and Republicans or Red states versus Blue ones. We see battles are raging in classrooms, virtual spaces, social networks, county election offices, and even within families. Unlike wars marked by territorial conquests, this one will melt the glue that holds America together. At stake is freedom itself. We can only hope that the next Aldous Huxley or George Orwell emerges to enlighten and perhaps humiliate us for standing by passively watching the Enlightenment gasping for life.

Watching MAGA is like watching a train wreck. You see it happening. You’re shocked. You’re frozen. You glare at the awesome damage that’s about explode upon property and humanity for miles around. And yet, you think there’s nothing to do to stop it.

That’s the dilemma western societies face with movements like MAGA. You don’t want to look away because you’re ashamed to ignore the wreck that’s about to happen. Ignorance, insouciance, and apathy surround you, like an icy-warm blanket, fooling you to believe you may be hallucinating, but society is good at hiding the truth from your own senses.

MAGA’s postmodern attack on modernity seems inconsequential to the uninterested and uneducated. Just politicians being politicians, right? If only that were so. The postmodern break has created conditions that are ripe for the rise of fascist and authoritarian movements.

When postmodernists question grand narratives (like the belief in inevitable democratic progress), what is their solution? What is their alternative? Postmodernism holds that truth is relative. In a political context, if all truths are equal or merely constructs, it becomes easier for misinformation, propaganda, and "alternative facts" to take root. Authoritarian regimes exploit this ambiguity to sow doubt about inconvenient facts and replace them with their own versions of reality. Postmodern politics emphasizes style, symbols, and performances over substance, policy, or ethical considerations. That is governance by spectacle.

Consider Trump’s ignominious performance for his mugshot in Fulton County, Georgia, when he engineered a well-rehearsed mask that mimics the facial antics of a Mussolini and similar fascists. Such figures employ the performative arts to create the charismatic persona that faithful followers fawn over. Fascists rise through spectacle, making waste of substantive policy or moral leadership. When fascists dismiss the notion of verifiable truth as a conspiracy of elites to take freedom from the masses, darkness and fear overwhelm and infect civil society. Authoritarians thrive on hopelessness, darkness, and fear. When the masses live in fear, they blame easy targets, like Jews, blacks, and cross-dressers. They whine about their plight, and fascists give them darkness to assuage their fears.

“I am your retribution,” Trump declares to his followers who cling to their almighty leader as if he were their biblical Messiah. No, strike that. He is their biblical Messiah.


In some respects, I’d actually prefer my father’s and his father’s country again. But our parents and grandparents had no time for whiners, complainers, and victimhood—all core values of MAGALAND. They would warn us not destroy the institutions and ideals that gave us the freedom to protest, speak, and assemble. They’d advise us to insist on accountability, using the tools of actual evidence, not conspiracy theories, to bring lawbreakers to justice. They’d ask us to preserve the gift of democracy that, like lions teaching their cubs, is passed from one generation to the next according to nature’s laws of struggle and survival. Our forebears would call for a return to straight-ahead hard work to get ahead and solve problems. They’d ask us to come back home, where freedom is possible—if we dare to fight for it.


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