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Maiello and Orion Worry About World Wars and Star Wars

It's been a while since I've talked with Michael Maiello. Maiello is a successful journalist who has written for Forbes, Esquire and other publications. Here we are, at it again. Enjoy.

Questions for Maiello

Instead of asking you what you thought of another shooting, I wanted to ask you about my hypothesis of what is happening.

We have a Republican president who is running on all sorts of liberal platforms shrouded in over the top racism and sexism. We have random shootings, leading to what may be possible executive action to stop it. We have a stand off between great powers in the Middle East, with one appearing confused and insane after the strain of endless wars and economic turmoil and the other resurgent after being untouched by such turmoil. There are apparently also going to be street protests of Islam in American cities. It sounds a whole lot like Europe in the 1930s, to be honest. All of those things basically happened in Europe then.

I think, at least on the domestic side of things, that a lot of people are looking for scapegoats to explain an economy that really is not their fault.  The economics pressures on Weimar Germany were far worse than what people are facing now, though, and the U.S. is a much more pluralistic society.  Even at his most successful, I don't see Trump rising to the level of the Reich.  I have more faith in Americans than that, including those I disagree with.

I am worried about the possibility of a mistake in Syria that could lead to a bad encounter with a desperate Putin, though.

The Pope visit. You don't like him or Catholicism. Honest thoughts?

It's not so much that I don't like him.  I don't like that the American left fawned over him even though he is really, socially, not all that liberal.  I don't dislike Catholicism any more than I dislike any other belief system that is retrograde about sexuality and an human freedoms. I'm sorry, but I can't forgive some one's belief that same sex couples are sinning just because it's a religious belief.  Wrong is wrong.

The first trailer of Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 is up. What do you think?

Sarah Michelle Gellar is a bad Inquisitor!  Buffy the Jedi Slayer!

I have to admit, I've peeked at some expanded universe comics.  The Darth Vader series Marvel is running is a lot of fun and the "Shattered Empire" limited series absolutely confirms that the Ewoks ate the Storm Troopers.
Questions for Orion

You definitely see parallels to the 1930s.  How bad do you think things can things get in the U.S.?

We naturally think of Hitler when we think of fascism but the word was created by Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was nowhere near as ideological as Hitler and apparently the alliance was an uncomfortable one. I think you only need to conjure images of Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini in your mind to see the similarities – they are obvious.

Right wing authoritarianism got tried everywhere in various flavors from Mexico to Argentina to France during the twentieth century and when you mix in communist dictatorships that functioned much the same, damn near every country except the United States and the British Commonwealth and the Nordic countries tried it out.

Likewise, Trump has said that he thinks he'd get along with Putin. Putin has gamed two very different American presidents and been defiant against the entire European community – he would manipulate Trump and definitely be the top dog in that relationship.

I've seen things in the United States I never saw in my life before – from people brazenly displaying weapons, something I never even saw in the rural south before, to police goosestepping through neighborhoods to swastikas spray painted on cars. It's new to America but it's something almost every country had a period of. makes available complete broadcast dayswhere you can listen to a full day of radio during the height of European fascism. The news reports from Europe sound a whole lot like America now.

Much of that authoritarianism was accelerated under Obama – he is the one who brought us our stormtrooper policemen. Imagine what a right winger could do with the foundation he left us. Fascism is usually a state response to chaos – it's either stomp the chaos or let it stomp you. And America isn't necessarily more pluralistic than Germany _ Germany had many Jewish leaders and has often been the destination for refugees and asylum seekers from Eastern Europe or the Middle East. You'd better believe we can go down that road.

How do you reconcile your religious faith with your liberal politics and your open-minded social attitudes? Or is that the wrong way to ask the question?

It probably is. It really seems like critics of religion are incredibly close minded. Christopher Hitchens is the only one who seemed like he actually read ecclesiastical material.
Most religious institutions are a bit at odds with sexuality because most people are. You want your kids to be open about their sexuality but you don't want them to sleep with everyone and get STDs – that dynamic plays out in religious institutions as well. You want them to get married or at least have a serious relationship even if you want them to explore. That's why you have Francis talking about traditional marriage while saying “Who am I to judge?”

The dynamic of religion and unreligion is actually very different from how many people perceive it, especially in this country – it's atheists who are certain. Besides a small sect of hardcore fundamentalists, much of the Christian, Jewish and Buddhist worlds are really ambiguous because what we know about existence is really ambiguous.

And my politics aren't so much liberal as radical. Francis isn't just liberal – on issues of real weight, he was way to the left of every single person he spoke to in front of in congress. Francis has written several books and had even more written about him – I think people need to read those before they criticize him. My reading of his work indicates he's a bit more radical than the tentacles of the Catholic Church would really allow him to be. Reactionary conservatives don't usually invite Naomi Klein to be part of a collaboration on climate change.

Okay, The Force Awakens is now not far away.  Have you checked out any of the toys and merch?  What characters are you most curious about?

I bought a cup with the villain Kylo Ren. I had a strange thought when I got it that maybe Kylo Ren would be a hooded Darth Maul, aged and having survived through the original trilogy. More absurd things have happened.


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Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

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Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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