One of the few remaining differences between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler was that Hitler had militias of supporters, willing to fight for his campaign. That distinction appears to be disappearing.
Today, a group calling itself the Lion Guard has launched a web site, seeking to organize supporters of Donald Trump into a militia to counter protests at Trump rallies. The group claims to be “dedicated to the safety and security of Trump supporters,” but has also declared itself willing to use violence, “willing to forcefully protect” Donald Trump from people it perceives to be threats.
Over the weekend, the Lion Guard organized a Twitter account, which quickly gained over 500 followers, but then shut down in under 24 hours. This led many to believe that the Lion Guard was defunct. Attention to the militia faded, but it soon popped up again at a different Twitter account, and now is organizing through its own web site, at LionsOfTrump (.net).
The first question that comes to mind is why the militia calls itself the Lion Guard or the Lions of Trump. What’s up with the lion?
Actually, lion imagery is found throughout imagery used by Trump supporters, in bumper stickers, on tshirts, and on campaign buttons, as well as on graphics online. It’s not an accident that the Lion Guard chose that name for itself, or that it chose to create an image of a lion as its icon and as the header for its web site.
The reason Trump supporters use the lion in their materials is revealed in the main image from the Lion Guard web site, the image you see at the top of the article. The image of a lion is accompanied by the motto, “Better to be a lion for a day than a lamb for eternity.”
That motto is almost a word-for-word translation of a favorite saying of Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who said, “It is better to live a day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Is it a coincidence that the Lion Guard used this phrase in its call to form a militia for the “defense” of Donald Trump from protesters?
Sadly, no. Donald Trump himself has used that same Mussolini quote to promote his campaign. Trump refused to distance himself from Mussolini’s words, and told reporters, when the public realized that Trump was citing a bit of Fascist ideology, “It’s a very good quote.”
Donald Trump’s repetition of the Mussolini quote was big news, talked about by reporters, commentators, and American voters for days. Anybody who has followed the presidential campaign of Donald Trump — as the Lion Guard founders do — couldn’t have missed it. It’s just not plausible that the Lion Guard placed that same Fascist motto front and center on their web site by coincidence. It was a deliberate choice, to send a chilling message about the character of the militia being formed.
Mussolini rose to power on the strength of his own militia, a group that also claimed to be “defending” the Fascist leader from Socialist enemies. The militia, commonly known as the Blackshirts, but organized under the formal title of the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, or Voluntary Militia for National Security, engaged in street fights against the followers of Mussolini’s opponents, terrorized journalists, and eventually carried out assassinations of labor union leaders and anti-Fascist political leaders. It’s frightening that the Lion Guard would choose to invoke this sinister tradition at its founding.
The problem isn’t just that Donald Trump admires the words of Benito Mussolini. It’s that Trump — and his supporters — admire the meaning behind the words. Mussolini’s point, one that Trump and his fans embrace, is that people must choose between being strong predators or weak prey, and that, given this choice, it is better to prey upon the weak than to allow oneself to become prey.
This is a fundamentally fascist concept, and one that is familiar to anyone who has spent any time paying attention to Donald Trump’s speeches. Trump is almost constantly talking about how how “strong” he is, and how “weak” his rivals are. He complains that other leaders have allowed the United States to become a nation of weak losers, while he will ensure that our country starts winning — that he will Make America Great Again.
Trump promises to show no mercy to his enemies. He promises to torture, to engage in mass executions, to lock up cultural minorities in prison or exile them, to “bomb the shit out them.”
Trump encourages this violent posture among his followers as well. He tells people at his rallies that he longs for the days when protesters were beaten up until they had to be taken away on stretchers by medics. He instructs his crowds to “Knock the crap out of them,” whenever they see a protester, and pledges that he will pay the legal fees of any of his supporters who is brought to trial on assault charges.
Trump’s trick is that he always denies afterwards that he has ever urged his followers to violence. Even though these words are caught on videotape, Trump tells reporters that he condemns violence and wants his followers to be peaceful.
The Lion Guard of Trump supporters plays the same trick. First, they say that they are “willing to forcefully protect” Donald Trump’s rallies from anti-Trump protesters, but then, the Lion Guard organizers insist that they will only be gathering information on protesters, so that they can be watched, and escorted out of rallies.
If I were an anti-Trump protester, I wouldn’t that the Lion Guard militia at its word. We’ve all seen what happens to protesters while they are being escorted out of Trump rallies.