It seems like everyone is talking about Donald Drumpf.
Why “Drumpf” and not “Trump”? See the embedded John Oliver video near the end of this blog post for the fine, funny explanation.
And why does it seem that everyone’s talking about “The Donald”? Well, for good reason. Or reasons.
By definition I’m part of “everyone.”
So now it’s my turn.
Let me begin by saying that any time there’s a presidential election in America, it is, as the founders knew, the essential civic duty of all able-minded (the cut-off is subject to debate, of which this blog post is a part) Americans to partake thoughtfully and diligently of the electoral process. Without such participation Democracy cannot function effectively. It is at that point that Democracy becomes the toy of the rich and the powerful, who come to stand unopposed.
I have one rich and powerful person in mind here, of course. And while his supporters are very much partaking, it seems to be more with able bodies and semi-able emotions rather than able-minds.
And yes I promise to clarify.
The implications of “The Donald” in our presidential race are staggering. And I’m not the first to delve into the “why” of it. The prospect of him BEING our president is also staggering. Even his entry into the race (as a demagogue, and like the “entry” of a rapist) is staggering. Like the walk of the raped, after the rape, on the way to the police and the due prospect of justice.
I’ve already created a few memes about the Republican frontrunner. I’ve already posted them individually on FaceBook, but I’ll post them (as well as some other material about him) throughout this blog entry.
They deserve revisitation.
Here’s one, going for the hair first. Even Bernie Sanders must be impressed by it.
And… why is that?
Why would there be Hell to pay? On the one hand it amazes me, and others, that the answer is not obvious. Many religious leaders have spoken with their parishioners and been dumbfounded by how supportive the parishioners are of Trump’s very anti-Christian message. Surprise is a common reaction. But, with an open mind and an understanding of people, psychology, society, Nature and Evolution, it is not surprising at all.
The framers of the Constitution vocally feared demagogues. Many American soldiers gave their lives in WWII to protect the World from them.
Demagogues often make people want those who disagree with them to die.
I don’t want the Americans who disagree with me to die. I don’t half joke about finding assassins to rub them out, as I’ve heard others do about, say, Hillary supporters. Not that I trust Hillary. I only want reasoned, respectful argument that allows for the value of facts. The chance to point out to people who are good at heart the danger in store.
When “your gut” tells you that facts don’t matter, “your gut” has become a poor, sad digester of reality.
A key definition for you.
Note some of the words used in the first definition.
They sound like good things. We link them to love. Pleasure. They are the motivating force of life. Logic and reason don’t drive us to action. Just ask anyone who isn’t in the habit of exercising what it’s like to try to get in shape with reason’s say so and the heart’s disagreement. It’s like trying to break through a brick wall with your forehead.
Demagogues stimulate passion. And it’s a sort of teenage passion. Remember your teenaged loves? The newness and the judged absolute certainty that it was absolute truth, would conquer all, and would last for all time? It was beyond fun.
Yet how many of us look back on those teenaged partners we had and recall adults who agreed that we saw truth? And, now, how many of us look back and say, with the purest confidence, “Yes indeed. I was right.” I would venture to say… not many. Often we look back on that certainty, that belief, that prejudice, as immature.
The third word associated with “emotions” and “passions” in definition one? Prejudice. Yes that word has a negative connotation. But it’s closely tied to the good word “belief.” There is true pleasure in belief, especially shared belief uncut by reserved judgment.
Reason, logic and reservation of judgment are not FUN.
It’s much more fun to feel the heart pump and the blood flow. Do your best to recover the full-bodied feelings of your teenaged loves. Every nerve ending insistent in truth. Do you remember feeling like the ridiculous, dried-out, disillusioned older people deserved no respect in matters of the heart?
The confidence of powerful emotions. It’s reminds me of the potent draw of professional wrestling. Big and brash. Inflated drama. Imaginary stories.
The feeling can be sweet.
Like a chocolate chip cookie, perhaps with nuts. Not nutritious. But sweet. Such hungers can bring out the impassioned monster of appetite. Other concerns vanish.
And in many ways, the WWE is a perfect illustration of the power of demagogues.
I repeat definition one: “
And I repeat definition two: “
Don’t they fit with professional wrestling? With the roaring, unreasoning, unquestioning, stadium-filling crowds.
Wrestlers in the WWE, and the other “characters,” are very much in the demagogue mode. They are not politicians, to be sure. But they manipulate and behave in much the same way. They try to convince. They portray good and evil as cartoonish extremes.
Actually, that paints Randy “Macho Man” Savage as being on Hulk Hogan’s side. So let’s try this picture, admittedly drawn from a modern WWE videogame.
It’s a good side point that videogames also draw heavily on pitched emotion.
That’s Andre the Giant, not Randy Savage.
And, also it must be said, that’s not “real” wrestling.
Objectively, logically and rationally, it’s obvious that it’s not real.
Not that that mattered to me as a kid. My gut told me that what was then called the WWF was real. My emotions insisted it was the “right” breed of wrestling. It felt like a higher level of truth, a league apart from the mundane, uninspiring shades of grey reality puts so many people to sleep with.
The WWE is much more in line with the pitched tribalism Humanity evolved with, over many thousands of years. Us and them. Drive. Bonding. Taking sides. That’s fuel.
And with it in our genes, it’s there to be tapped, by capitalism or demagogues.
Modern, civilized reality?
The WWE is not some Greco Roman crap.
But almost against my will, I grew up and left the showboating WWF behind.
I left it behind for something more connected to the WWF that stuck, the World Wildlife Fund. That’s real. But as a child… well, there’s a reason Peter Pan is appealing. There’s a reason children don’t want to grow up.
Reality can be so goddamn… boring. At least without the proper perspective.
And what is that perspective?
That’s a key question. People cling to Trump because they lack it, parroting the views of the mob that follows him.
“Proper perspective” comes from an understanding of, and interest in, complexity, for one thing. A desire to see deeper and to know truth, for another. It’s tough because the human mind is trained to love a good story. Drama. Flair. Good stories build and bind community. Stories are ingrained in us largely because hunting by tracking, the original source of human food, is in a very real sense the following of the story of and animal to know where it was and will be, with dinner at the end. We’re built that way, and because of it.
Food. Sustenance. Passion encourages connectedness. Just look at mob psychology.
It might even take intelligence and education to care about what’s deep. To see the bigger picture instead of the small portion in front of our faces.
But it also takes… time. And we have so little. Families, jobs, concerns…. And it’s just not fun to proceed with the key truth: that there’s almost always more to learn, and that we almost never have something truly figured out.
But Donald Trump makes us feel like we have things figured out.
We must build a wall separating us from Mexico. Of course. Obviously walls fix everything. They separate.
Well, no. Not if you take the time to look deeper into the history of them. Walls often just encourage attack. Like doors that say “Do Not Enter.” Who can look at such a door and not be fiendishly curious what’s on the other side?
Why shouldn’t I enter? I laugh at you, wall-like door!
A coworker of mine, with me, likes to refer to Trump as a clown.
There’s a lot of truth to that. Clowns function a lot like wrestlers in the WWE. I have fond memories of telling a dim-bulb waitress at my job, a Trump supporter, that his next campaign move was to star in a TV drama. He planned to play a Bruce Wayne-like character who, instead of fighting crime in his second life, took to the streets as a clown.
She bought it, getting all panicked that it’d ruin his campaign. Very trusting. Very much willing to be a lemming.
Clowns fan the flames of emotions. Humor. Sadness even.
For some? Fear.
That’s a clown that inspires easy fear. Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King’s huge book “It.”
Evil like Pennywise? Like terrorists on the marathon attack?
You know with certainty that they’re things to be fought. Things that can be fought. That should be. The passion for such fights, and the means, are easy to come by.
Not like the passion and the means to tackle real problems, like the national debt, or unemployment, or a collapsing environment. Who’s easily terrified by the thought of too much carbon dioxide in the air? Those are things that are complicated to combat and even to understand. They take time. And they’re not foes that we’re hard wired by Evolution to rise up against, foes like bombers who blow up bloodied bodies in the street and steal parents from their children, rending families and communities in visceral, obvious ways.
So demagogues turn complex problems that are hard to be inspired by into simple, visceral problems. Republicans are evil! Democrats are evil! Immigrants are stealing your jobs!
America. What a grand, fascinating land.
Now think about the dangers that Humanity faced, over the course of its evolution.
Did it face political systems that it took lots of education and discernment to understand? Did it face economic issues that can’t be seen by the eye and are only threats drawn out over long periods of time? Did it face environmental issues that contradict the teachings of entire cultures?
In many ways it all reminds me of how credit cards are designed by credit card companies to be “bad punishment.” I learned that in a psychology class.
It’s how people get into debt. Find the loopholes in the human mind and exploit.
Delayed. Erratic. Obscured by benefits.
You get used to them. You don’t fear them.
It’s the boiling frog analogy. Put a frog in hot water and it jumps out. Put a frog in cool water and slowly bring to a boil and the frog boils to death.
It’s like how the slow march toward Trump.
I often have the impression that Fox News trained legions of people to value fear and anger. I feel like it trained people to crave demagogues. Fox News made a pact with the Devil, so to speak, a creature boiling hot. And the mob of its graduates snuck up on a nation that once stuck its neck out all the way across the Atlantic to fight the famous, vilified demagogues.
Back then, we won.
Not that America didn’t soon have it’s own demagogue.
Remember (or did you learn about) Joseph McCarthy?
That’s what fear and anger can do. Terror of Communist Russia, of the USSR, did it. Fear and anger make people stupid and manipulatable.
Good (that’s sarcasm) old Stalin.
Wait a second. That red dude’s not Joseph Stalin….
The real one America did stand up to. As we had to, as against Mussolini and Hitler. It reminds me of Merry and Pippen in “The Lord of the Rings” films.
PIPPIN: Maybe Treebeard’s right. We don’t belong here, Merry. It’s too big for us. What can we do in the end? We’ve got the Shire. Maybe we should go home.
MERRY: The fires of Isengard will spread. And the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And… and all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won’t be a Shire, Pippin.
All of this stuff about emotion, passion and prejudice reminds me of what I saw after September 11th, 2001. But I still shiver when I remember watching with horror what that terrible time did to the minds of reasonable people. When calm, people are reasonable. When not overtaxed emotionally, they are balanced. But the fear and anger 9/11 injected into the majority? I shuddered at the period of borderline insanity when the majority would have happily built a wall around Afghanistan and then… filled the contained nation with water.
Vengeance must be had. At any cost. And it felt right. Or so fear and anger insisted.
And 9/11 wasn’t even something that REALLY endangered the whole of the nation. Compared to WWII it was a minor blip. And it wasn’t even close to being like decades of severe punishment laid down like smack on a drugged Germany by the League of Nations, after the First World War. Imagine how THAT kind of national trauma would affect the psychology of Americans? Imagine if China ground us into near dust? How would our national consciousness, recalling the story America’s greatness with fireside stories to children told by remembering parents, react?
I remember watching the PBS documentary “The West,” last year.
In it, Anne Richards, the pre-George W. Bush governor of Texas, chose not to think about the indigenous people supplanted by Americans. She chose to think about the strength and glory of the Americans.
It made me wonder… what would she think if China took over America? What if we were supplanted, and a Chinese governor brushed aside concern for the American nation it disintegrated and chose to focus on the glory of the New China people?
Would Anne Richards feel a vicious desire to destroy the “glorious” people who’d destroyed her people? Her community?
We traditionally believe that the people of Nazi Germany were stupid and weak for succumbing to Hitler, after the sacking of their nation in WWI, which I suppose some would argue “they deserved,” although history is written by the winners. But Hitler knew well the power of a good story, in that case the story of the great Aryan race rising again, the master race rising from the ashes of the Jews. That story bypassed his people’s brains and hit their German guts shells fired from panzer tanks. That story hit them, I would argue, the same way Trump’s story of the master nation rising from the ashes of the immigrants hits the guts of Americans today.
But please. Tell me I’m wrong. I would love to be.
Just as I would love to be wrong about global climate change.
Johnnie Cochran also knew the power of telling a good story, truth aside, during his defense of OJ Simpson. Just watch the fine new FX show “The People vs OJ Simpson.”
I’m watching it now. And my is it ever a fine show.
In truth, I see much demagoguery in the manner in which Johnnie Cochran handled that case.
Just examine the story he told the jury, and indeed the American people, about the LA police and OJ as a black man. Race suppression. We despise injustice… unless it’s in the service of what we feel is just. Sure the LA police had a long history of ill treatment of black people, but that did not make OJ, by default, a pure victim.
Justice can be so blind.
Were the ordinary German people caught up in the flood a special sort of stupid and weak, as we are nearly taught? Would we with ease have done what they did not, as we tell ourselves? Were they really a viscous breed of the blind?
I think Trump proves that Americans are just as normal as those Germans who wanted to go on living their lives, talking about what’s right but not fighting for it, out of fear, and instead hoping others would do the fighting for them.
It wasn’t their job. Just as it doesn’t feel like my job to stand up to “The Donald” and the tide he’s showing his full moon to.
America is NOT in terrible decline. Not like Germany after WWI. And still a ton of people are willing to march in Trump’s army. But just imagine what would happen if America WERE in terrible decline? Trump might win, rather than being smacked down in a general election because “things aren’t actually bad enough yet.”
Which he will be.
Oh God let me be right….
Dude sports some real athlete-level charisma.
WWE athlete, that is.
I think a lot about intelligence and education.
Firstly, it should take lots of them to be President. As John Stewart once said, I don’t want my president to be an average Joe like me. I want him to be so damned much smarter than me and better than me that he’s actually capable of doing that impossible job right.
I want him to be smart and good enough to pick a great dog, too. Like Bo.
Just look at that cute pooch, penetrating the wall of stars around our eagle!
I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing people who don’t have intelligence or education, or much of them. Everyone deserves respect. But I’m frequently fascinated by how people without either so often are able to convince themselves that…neither intelligence nor education are important.
“Those people think too much,” they might say.
“I just know the truth in my heart.”
“I feel it in my gut.”
Or they might say “College just makes people stupid and messes them up for the real world.”
And how do you TELL someone without intelligence and education that they’re crippled when it comes to understanding? I sure can’t think of a good way….
On the one hand I do see how people need to protect their egos. If people believe that intelligence and education are important… and yet don’t have them… it might be hard to keep one’s self respect, and continue to function well in the real World. Hell, when I feel stupid in a face-to-face conversation, when I can’t keep track of my case or can’t grasp vital complexities, I can get depressed even though I know I can redeem myself in an hour with smart writing. But if I didn’t even have THAT out? If I knew I was stupid through and through? I’d be tempted to DIE.
Also, it’s devilishly hard to understand the value of something you don’t understand.
But intelligence and education ARE important. They help, in some ways, to keep a person from being a pawn. A lemming.
Sometimes it seems as if Trump supporters are so angry with the admittedly dysfunctional political system that they will tolerate any horrible behavior from him as long as he can be used to “send it a message” to the establishment. And sometimes it seems as if they are too ready to ignore facts in order to make it happen. It is all too easy to prove that his tempting views are out of sync with facts, reality, logic, reason, and global safety.
Advocating the killing of the families and children of terrorists? Seriously? Advocating the beating up of protestors who disagree with him? Seriously?? Advocating nuclear proliferation? Seriously???
A lesser illustration than Trump of the importance of intelligence and education would be to point out that much of the World that the unintelligent and the uneducated depend on and value was BUILT by the intelligent and the educated. How else would we have our iPhones? How else would we have cars?
Oh God! How else would we have the mob justice of Twitter?
But again, back to Trump.
How many people have seen John Oliver’s grand 20 minute diatribe about Trump, which points out that his family name used to be Drumpf, which is far from carrying the “golden magic” of the Trump name, a name that connotes success?
Brilliant stuff, that.
I plan to buy a number of the hats if Trump gets the post-amazing-RNC nomination. I’ll toss them around like party favors.
A side note. If the nation should be run like a business, that’s akin to saying the nation should be run like a dictatorship. Not very democratic or constitutional. A CEO is very much like a king. His employees don’t vote, furnish an approval rating, or have power.
The magic of words, their power to lead and mislead, is amazing.
Leads me back to the Nazis again. Have you read “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak? It spent much time on the power of words. How words can crystalize and focus negative energy as well as good. Take how the word “Jew” became a focal point for vile energy in Nazi Germany.
Or take how the word “cockroach” has often been used in a similar way, in many nations, by demagogues.
The mental image, even the word, makes the skin crawl. Cockroaches must be crushed!
Rwanda is just one example of the use of that word in that way. If you’ve seen the film “Hotel Rwanda” you know what I mean. An even easier genocide to ignore. Oh white bias how terrifying you are…. You do not merely dismiss “immigrants” and “Mexicans.”
Words can build walls, walls much harder to breach than real ones, like the one Trump insists he will make the Mexicans pay for.
And fame, which Trump has, can build walls too.
I should pause and consider the shoes of others.
What must it be like to BE trump? What must it be like to have millions slavishly worship you, no matter what baloney you spew? What must it do to your mind?
But then, power corrupts.
Would absolute power corrupt absolutely?
Wait a second….
That makes it look like intelligence and education are bad. I should be more careful choosing my pictures.
It’s 6 am and the power of the 3.5 ounce bar of 85% dark chocolate in my stomach is running out. Have I left anything out?
Well, I mean obviously I have.
But I mean anything vital. Anything obvious. Anything that could yield a lightning flash of insight.
I suppose I’m finding myself thinking about the last portions of the film “Gandhi.” I remember the scene where that national hero, the Mahatma Gandhi, dying, does his best with all the power he can muster, to convince the people of his beloved India to not give in to fear and anger. They should not, he insists, divide their beloved India in two, forcing the Muslim population to move West to form what would become the nation of Pakistan.
He failed, of course. But what would have happened if he had succeeded? Would the World be living with the constant fear of nuclear war breaking out between those nations?
Many bad things happened in southern Asia because of that split. But many, many people there, at the time, felt the clear passion of fear and anger telling them that it was the right choice. The good choice. It seemed so obvious.
Us and them.
Gandhi did win, in many Indian ways in his life, but not in the end. Not with the split.
How sad it is that Trump has coopted that mantra. Should our fellow Americans be an evil “they”? Let’s just hope that Trump doesn’t lead to a breaking apart of America. I don’t want to have to pray for the rise of another Abraham Lincoln.
Such figures, standing that tall and understanding the deep and even hidden greatness and grace of Americans, are far too rare.
PLEASE tell me he’s not pointing at Mr. Trump….
And if he IS? Well, he’s fooled by a word. Happens to the best of us. All the more reason to revert to Drumpf.