The Golden Trump idol, beating cops with a Blue Lives Matter flag, Kayleigh’s cross… I’m thinking today about how the right’s flight from reason towards faith has overshot the mark so far that the symbols they use no longer have any consistent meaning whatsoever.
Communicating in symbols, such as the symbols of religion or art, can be a way to express truths that reason can’t. But on the Trumpian right, symbols now appear to be the whole point: they don’t have to mean anything in particular, beyond what you want them to mean in the moment. That is the new freedom.
The Golden Trump presented for veneration at CPAC — with some fans literally bowing before it — could hardly be more blasphemous in the context of a Christianity whose symbols used to have meanings. God literally told his people never to make golden idols, on pain of obliteration.
Then there’s the American flag, which previously flew as a symbol of freedom, now repurposed as shorts cradling the junk of a would-be dictator.
Since a flag is now meaningless beyond whatever one wants it to mean in the moment, the Stars and Stripes can be torn from the Capitol by “patriots.” A Blue Lives Matter flag can be a weapon against blue lives, because law and order means rioting when you want it to.
Not long ago Kayleigh McEnany’s little gold cross was a symbol of eternal faith, morality, and truth — Jesus was the word of God made flesh. By wearing a cross while working as a professional and enthusiastic liar in the service of a dishonest and immoral Caesar, Kayleigh staged a symbolic crucifixion on it every day.
Because it meant what she, her boss, and his followers wanted it to, whatever that was, until the moment they wanted it to mean something else.
Or nothing at all. Down that road towards the void is where we find Cruz, Hawley, McCarthy, McConnell, and the rest, for whom the only goal is power, even over an empty realm.