Kung Fu Milo

You all know the story. Kai, the Musk-Ox Warrior, has returned from the Spirit Realm intending to steal their chi from the other animal warriors and turn them into jade ornaments that he can wear on his belt. His original motive would seem to be envy that the pandas taught the Tortoise Warrior Oogway the secret of chi, but his overwhelming desire is to dominate and control. So all-consuming has his envy become that his very eyes glow green. His primary weapons are two glowing green blades, and when he captures the other animal warriors, they turn into small green stones, rendered lifeless by Kai's greed to possess their golden chi.

Meanwhile, our hero, the Dragon Warrior Po (a giant panda), has been named Teacher by the Red Panda Master Shifu, but quickly loses heart when his students are injured thanks to his training. Even worse, when Kai shows up in the valley with his army of jade zombies, Po is unable to protect his friends. Po follows his panda father Li Shan (whom he has only just met) back to the panda village where Li promises Po he will learn the secret of chi. But when Po gets to the village, he learns that the only things the pandas know how to do is eat, roll, and sigh; they are not warriors, and none knows the secret of chi. The village, it would seem, is most certainly doomed.

But of course it isn't. Because Po learns more than just how to be a panda in his brief time in the village. Even though he doesn't realize it until the moment he confronts Kai with his army of roly-poly relatives, he already knows the secret of chi and thus how to defeat Kai: not by hoarding chi, but by giving it away. Kai had been able to defeat all the other animal warriors precisely because they tried to protect themselves from him, but Po welcomes his attack. Transformed into the true Dragon Warrior, Po defeats Kai by surrendering to him. "You want my chi so bad?" he cries. "Then take it." Filled with the golden light of the love of all the pandas, Master Tigress, and Po's adoptive father and noodle chef Mr. Ping (a goose), Kai explodes like a supernova and all of the animal warriors whom he has tried to possess are freed. The village is saved, the warriors restored to the land of the living, and Po takes his proper place as Teacher, while Mr. Ping makes noodles for everyone. It's so touching, you just know there's a moral to this story, don't you? Can you guess?

Some of my friends on Facebook have spent the better part of the past week trying to convince me that I am wrong about Milo, that he is not a merry trickster, but a dangerous fraud. Or, as one put it, "an opportunist provocateur and huckster." Others have been less polite. To my insistence that his articles were satire, one friend (himself gay) has responded: "Breitbart is Der Stürmer and you seem to be willing to support the current emulant of Julius Streicher." (I had to look this up.) He continued: "While I expect you will still be giggling when your friends are fired and attacked by the Trumpist state, I expect you know that in the long run there will probably be lists made in the future of academics who supported the alt-right who will have to be removed in an American denazification program. Too Much?" Another friend (also a fellow academic) tells me: "Rachel, your willful blindness knows no bounds. Turning Point USA, which has compiled the Professor Watch List, REGULARLY SPONSORS your vile buddy Milo's lectures." (As everyone following the Dangerous Faggot tour knows, Milo does not charge the student groups like the College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty who invite him to campus, so I am not clear what my friend means here.) This same friend also insists that Milo is a supporter of white supremacist [Richard] Spencer, on the basis of a single sentence in Milo and Allum Bokhari's now infamous article on the alt-right, in which they list Spencer among "The Intellectuals" responsible for one strand of the movement. A third friend (also gay) tells me, more succinctly: "Sorry, Rachel, your boyfriend MILO is loathsome." (Boyfriend?! Be still my heart!)

A fourth friend, who has made it his mission to turn my own Facebook feed into the Milo Channel by sharing posts he thinks will prove the point, quotes extensively from an article by "author, journalist, social justice bard" Laurie Penny, entitled "I'm with the Banned." (Note pun on "band" and "damned.") To judge from the article, Ms. Penny has a much better chance of being described as Milo's girlfriend than I do. One "hot, weird night in Cleveland" this past summer during the Republican National Convention, he took her riding in his "swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the RNC," introduced her to his whole staff, and refused yet again to accept that he and she are Not Friends despite (as she tells it) her best efforts to convince him otherwise: "The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities [she must be thinking of different talks from the ones I've heard, and I'm pretty sure I've watched the full DF tour by now], the more I tell him I hate him and everything he stands for, the more he laughs and asks when we're drinking. I'm a radical queer feminist leftist writer burdened with actual principles [her conviction: he has none]. He thinks that's funny and invites me to his parties." My friend quoted Ms. Penny's conclusion: "It doesn't matter that he doesn't mean it. It doesn't matter that he's secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends [thus the ride in the trollmobile]. It doesn't matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn't matter because the harm he does is real."

Those who follow Milo on Facebook know that the first thing he does with articles like Ms. Penny's is share them on his Facebook page. I wasn't following him this summer, so I don't know what he did with this one; he couldn't share it on Twitter as he was suspended that very night. As the article is clever and vividly written--the rally to which Milo takes our heroine is a "den of goblins," Donald Trump is a "howling psychopath," Milo's followers are a "yammering army of trolls"--I am more than certain that he enjoyed it, just as Ms. Penny probably expected him to do. She seems to understand his pleasure in the spectacle, even as she is convinced that he is all spectacle, no heart. "That's why I've always refused to debate Milo in public," she explains. "Not because I'm frightened I'll lose, but because I know I'll lose, because I care and he doesn't--and that means he's already won. Help and forgive me, but I actually believe human beings can be better than this." Like Ms. Penny, my Facebook friends are convinced that I cannot see what she clearly does: that Milo is playing with energies he does not understand, risking the very existence of our country for the sake of a few jokes. "America is a nation eaten by its own myth," she prophesies. "The entire idea of America is about believing impossible things. Nobody said those things had to be benign."

She's right about one thing: Americans love myths. Arguably, America more than any country ever in the history of humanity thrives on myths. Just look at Ms. Penny's own prose: goblins and trolls and howling monsters galore! The majority of America's myths are somewhat more mundane: The myth "that all Men are created equal," "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights," "that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," and that it is to secure these Rights that "Governments are instituted among Men." The myth that it is "We the People of the United States...who ordain and establish" that Government through the Constitution according to which it is elected and structured so as "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." (I can't even type these resonant clauses without singing them in my head.) The myth that the Rights with which we as Americans are endowed include free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and of the press (the ones Milo says he is particularly concerned about), the right to assemble peaceably and "to petition the Government for redress of grievances"; the right "to keep and bear Arms" (he mentions this one a lot, too); the right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures"; the right not to have to bear witness against oneself "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"; the right to a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed"; the right to trial by jury in suits of common law "where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars"; and the right not to be subject to "cruel and unusual punishments."

Powerful as these myths are, they are not, however, the stuff of heroic narrative. No, I take that back: the narrative of the Courtroom is arguably the Great Set-piece of American Cinema, followed closely by the narratives of the Resistance to Tyranny and the Settlement of the Frontier. But the greatest American myth of all is one nowhere explicitly mentioned in any of our founding documents, and yet everywhere present in the stories that we tell about ourselves as a People (panda people included), however much my secular humanist colleagues in American history would argue to the contrary. You all know the story. A young man of obscure birth and questionable parentage comes out of the countryside to the big city. He collects a following of other young men and even some women, who see him as a good person despite his reputation as a libertine. He speaks plainly and gathers large crowds of simple people who look to him for help and credit him with freeing them from ailments that they have suffered under for years. He causes a disruption in the city, shames the members of the establishment for their hypocrisy and greed, and bests even the most learned teachers in argument. He violates the most sacred taboos and is accused of blasphemy and corrupting the youth. He is accused by the leaders of his community of fomenting rebellion and of sympathies with the most dangerous elements of the society. Eventually, he is betrayed by one of his own followers, handed over to the authorities for questioning, tortured, mocked, and subjected to a cruel and unusual punishment without proper trial. And yet, even as he hangs dying on the cross, he forgives his persecutors, taking all of the hate and anger and envy and fear that they can throw at him and giving it back as love.

No, I am not saying that Milo is literally the Messiah, anymore than Po the Dragon Warrior is meant to be Christ (an alter Aslan, as it were), although you have to admit the parallels are riveting. What I am saying is that I believe Milo when he says he is a Christian and that, as a Christian, he strives to model himself on Christ by standing up for the weak and those who are otherwise afraid, given our current intellectual, social, and political climate, to speak the things that they actually believe for fear of losing their friends, their jobs, and their personal safety, if not, as in the case of some of our police officers of late, their lives: The women of all ages who would rather not shout their abortions because they see abortion as murder. The young men who have retreated into video games rather than risk being hounded off campus as rapists by women whom they have more or less awkwardly kissed. The working-class people, black or white, who see a $15/hour minimum wage not as a guaranteed income but as an insult to the skilled work they do. (As one of my black neighbors once forcefully put it: "You think punching the pictures on a fast-food check out screen is worth $15/hour?!") The professional women who willingly accept lower earnings over their lifetime in order to stay home with their children. The women, lesbian or straight, who want to be able arm themselves against potential attackers. The men, heterosexual or gay, who want to be able to arm themselves so as to protect their families and homes. The Christians who worry what it means for their national culture no longer to be grounded in the story of sacrifice and love on which they have modeled their lives.

Like the pandas, none of these people are warriors, at least not in the way the Left likes to style itself. They are Americans who want to live out the myths that have made our country great, including the myth that Po learns, that our real strength is in what makes us uniquely ourselves and in our love for each other as family, pandas, tigers, and geese, out of many, one. They have responded to Milo not because, as Ms. Penny sees them, they are goblins and trolls and howling psychopaths, but because, like Po, he is willing to fight for them, to take all of the insults and ridicule and shame that the scribes of the day would throw against them, to absorb it in laughter and send it back out as love, perhaps even invitations to parties and rides in swank black trollmobiles. In the movie, Po originally plans to take out Kai with a secret finger hold, only to discover that it only works on mortals and Kai, like Satan, is not mortal. So Po sacrifices himself, distracting Kai so that he can jump on his back and then perform the finger hold on himself, tricking Kai just as Christ tricked the Devil through his death on the cross so as to take the battle into the Spirit Realm. Once there, Po-Christ assumes his real form as an angel of light, a.k.a. Dragon Warrior, and overcomes Kai as we have seen by filling him with his chi, thus liberating the animal warriors whose chi-souls Kai has stolen and bringing them back to life. Kai, to put it mildly, was not expecting such a gift, driven as he was by envy and hate. Like the Devil, he could not conceive of Po's sacrificing himself out of love for his family and friends, and so like the Devil, Kai was trapped, overcome by the outpouring of Po's chi.

This, as I see it, is what our media and establishment elites--the scribes and Pharisees of our day--find so infuriating and perplexing about Milo. He really is as Ms. Penny describes him: generous, flighty, given to making jokes in poor taste. But he is also, like Our Lord whom he professes to follow, willing to take on the world for the sake of the meek. If in doing so he infuriates the rule-makers, those who would insist that it is wrong to pluck corn to eat or to reach out in compassion to heal on the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14), all the better. Like Kai, they can rage against him in fury, but he will return their envy with good humor and love. As Milo said at the conclusion to his talk at Rutgers University last February, the first in his Dangerous Faggot tour at which a group of young women famously covered themselves in "blood" to protest his "hate speech," this as he sees it is the only real way for the animal warriors of America to win against those who would steal their chi:
Nobody can resist the truth wrapped in a good joke. The best way to win an argument is to tell the truth and to be funny....  When you graduate I think the smart thing to do is to start to, gently and with good humor and intellectual humility, to gently resist things when you hear them in life that are quite obviously not true and said to save somebody's feeling.... I prefer to disarm people with self-deprecating humor, I prefer to laugh at myself before I laugh at others, and I prefer then to just drill down and stick to the basic set of facts that tell me a little more about the world around me. The way to combat progressivism, and the way to make the Left [retreat] is to gently and persistently with politeness and firmness and with good humor remind them that the world they describe doesn't exist.

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