I can’t say or write anything about Donald Trump that isn’t being said or written everywhere—and, for the most part, by people who are more articulate and informed than I am. But still, since there isn’t anything I can do about him and his followers I feel a need to say or write something—if only to join with other, like-minded souls who are experiencing the same sense of dread and despondency about what’s happening now and what might happen in the future. And I want to write something so I can tell myself, no matter what happens later on, that I didn’t just shake my head, wring my hands and watch this final “reality” show in passive silence.
Trump does not seem real to me. That feeling could derive from the fact I don’t want him or his political “movement” to be real; the consequences are too terrifying to imagine (Germany in the late 1920’s and early ‘30s). Or this feeling could be because there is about him a quality of inhuman-ness—as if he were a machine that operates without the basic spark of animation; something with the form of a human but without an actual mind, heart or soul.
When I listen to him speak I don’t feel the existence of any meaningful process of thought or depth of feeling behind his absurd pronouncements and daily contradictions. His words, even the puerile hostility and sarcasm, his main form of expression, seem to be uttered randomly, without any psychological context or an awareness of cause and effect; like a robot that has experienced a breakdown in its original programming.
He even looks made-up (and I don’t mean all the actual make-up), I mean that he appears to be the creation of some alien life-forms that were working without any original concept or diagrams of what a human actually looks like.
But of course, Donald J. Trump is real.
He is the product of a sperm meeting an egg. He was born. He cried when he was hungry, had to have his diapers changed and had to be toilet trained (probably successfully). He had a father and mother and siblings; he has a wife (and former wives) and children. He’s attended schools and he’s created and run businesses. His body is subject to same needs as the rest of us—performs the same basic daily functions as all our bodies do.
So, as an individual human, Donald Trump has a history, a verifiable existence. It’s in his public form and behavior that I experience the unreality. I don’t see an actual man who has created himself as a national political figure—I see, rather, a surreal hologram of all the horrors of America’s past and present.
Currently, Trump is being denounced and disowned by “respected” members of the Republican establishment. Mitt Romney and John McCain have expressed their disgust and revulsion that such an unqualified, vulgar, and destructive man could be the party’s nominee for President. Mitt Romney, the hedge-fund destroyer of companies and jobs—one of the men who has successfully turned the American dream (however real that was to begin with) into a nightmare; Romney, who wrote off half of the entire American public as useless parasites and bums.
And John McCain, who would bomb, invade and occupy every inch of the planet in a vain attempt to get back what he perceives to be his lost honor and manhood. McCain, who, when asked on the campaign trail, couldn’t even remember how many houses he and his heiress wife owned.
The pillars of the Republican Party are shocked that Trump has the support of evangelicals and White Supremacists and the great majority of the country’s aggressively ignorant or bigoted citizens. But, in fact, these are the very same people that the Party has assiduously and successfully courted for the last sixty years as one of the main foundations of its support!
The response to this criticism from on high could easily have been anticipated. Trump’s followers are angry that these pompous hypocrites are insulting their idol and instructing them on who they should vote for. And they (the Trumpers) have a right to be angry. The old Republican men’s club (ORM) has never had anything but contempt for them. And as Trump hastens to point out, Romney and McCain were losers themselves. (In Trump world—not that this applies to Romney and McCain—there is no such thing as a noble fighter for the cause who didn’t win—there is only the pitiful spectacle of someone who didn’t win and is therefore worthless).
Of course, being desperate that “their” country is slipping away from them and that there are no jobs or even the promise of jobs, Trump’s people completely disregard the fact that no one could possibly have more contempt for them than their own hero. They admire his contemptuous attitude toward the whole world, they just don’t think he means to include them in it.
I think Trumps fans (that’s what he calls them) couldn’t care less about who is or isn’t a real Republican. They’ve let go of that old form of predictable political structure and have marched into new territory (new territory which is, frighteningly, not really new at all).
And then there’s the sensationalist print and electronic media that have deliberately spent the last few decades building up a similar fan base of tens of millions of misinformed, hate-filled bigots and fools; the sarcastic and vicious talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, the shameful liars and touts of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s scandal sheets. All these people and organizations are now having to deal with the insults and attacks of the monster they spent so much time and energy creating in the first place.
Trump and his hollow, grandiose posturing, his empty-headed, poisonous comments on politics and culture, have been given tens of millions of dollars of free publicity by the very organizations that are now having to deal with the torches and pitchforks of his followers.
And it’s not just the usual suspects. It’s also the radio and the TV Networks and cable news stations like CNN (and even MSNBC) with their 24/7 world of over-caffeinated, sound-byte interviews and constantly “breaking news.” “BREAKING!!!—The President is going to give an address in 23 hours and six minutes… BREAKING!!!—The President’s address is only 23 hours and four minutes away… We have no idea of what the subject of his address is but we go now to our panel of experts for an analysis of what they think it might be—right after this break.”
But it’s not just the dishonest appeals to the worst in people that the Republican Party has indulged in for so long, or even the sensationalist, dumbed-down “reporting” and commentary of the right-wing and other media that has created and inflated the racist, sexist belligerence of Trump and his lumpen mobs; it’s the long, deep, ingrained culture of America itself.
Trump—not the man himself (whoever that may be)—but Trump, the glowering fascist, the national figure who represents tens of millions of Americans, is the final realization of the darkest parts of our country’s history; the theft of the land from, and the mass murder of its original inhabitants; the great, indelible stain of slavery and the continuing repression and murder of African-Americans; the fear and hatred of poor immigrants who are trying to escape tyranny and misery in their own countries (a lot of it aided and abetted by long-time US policy); the relentless degradation and demeaning (historical and current), of women; the pure intolerance of anyone who isn’t white and Christian.
Trump’s public declarations of rage stem from the same mindless psychopathology that enabled the United States to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and murder two-hundred-thousand innocent people.
His very appearance—the pompous, Mussolini-like posture, the hooded expressionless eyes and downward, twisting frown—is shaped by the same arrogant colonialism that allowed this country to use napalm, bombs, artillery shells and bullets to slaughter over a million Vietnamese.
Whatever it is that flows in Trumps veins springs from the same source of over-weaning greed (and ensuing destruction) that has informed so much of our country’s internal and external behavior since the first Europeans set foot on this continent.
Trump is also the end product of the brainless (and increasingly sadistic and violent) culture of “amusement” and celebrity that has infected the soul of America. He is the shimmering, golden hallucination of millions of people who (for various reasons) have no meaningful life and spend most of their time watching other people suffer embarrassment, humiliation and pain to win a prize or to merely imagine themselves “famous” for a very brief moment in time.
This celebrity culture is an amalgam of our long-time consumerism and our narcissistic, tech-addled society.
I think that many Americans see their lives reflected on a shifting screen of electronic impulses—a screen on which the images are vivid, clear and endlessly stimulating but have no reality—a fantasy mirror that merely hides the barren landscape that stretches out behind it. It’s hard to distinguish anymore between what’s real and what’s “virtual”. And this is where Trump appears and triumphs—in this netherworld between reality and fantasy.
In old myths and fairy tales, when an evil dragon appears and begins to ravage the land, a savior appears as well; a knight, armed with a magic lance and a pure soul—a champion of the oppressed who defeats the monster and saves the day.
So where is the knight in shining armor with a pure soul who will save us from this new dragon? We look up from our prayers for salvation and who do we see? Hillary Clinton—and we are, once again, possessed by an all too familiar sense of powerlessness. We sigh to ourselves and say,”It will have to, once again, be the lesser of two evils.”
Yes, there is Bernie Sanders, but corporate state (Democratic chapter), is well on its way to ensuring that Clinton is the one to save them and is the only one who is electable—especially over whoever the Republicans choose.
Of course, Hillary Clinton is, along with politics-as-usual and the corporate media, one of the co-creators of Trump and Trumpism. She is the poster-woman for corruption and hypocrisy in our political system. Clinton is one of the old boys and girls club, a lover of power (especially military power) and a willing colleague/employee of the banks and the very rich.
Now that it’s necessary for her to convince the suckers that she should be the candidate (and later, elected President), she has discovered peace, love and the true value of the American worker. This embarrassingly phony persona she’s adopted is probably convincing a lot of uninformed Democratic voters but to anyone who is aware of her background and allegiances it’s just another exercise in cynical theatricality.
And to Trump’s people, her newest line of bullshit is just another reason that Trump is seen as the real “truth-teller”. “He says what people really feel”. Well, that’s true enough, even when what they really feel is irrational desperation and pure, unfiltered hatred. A lot of Americans are sick unto death of the lies and hypocrisy of their elected “leaders”, so when Trump graphically pronounces their (the citizen’s) hidden—and increasingly not so hidden—thoughts and feelings, he is the one (God help us) who appears to be honest.
So now we’ve passed the point where it’s a joke, where Trump is just another reality show with smash ratings. He and his movement have become the new American reality.
Hitler, too, was once considered a pompous fool, a harmless, ranting clown. German liberals, intellectuals, aristocrats and members of established political parties didn’t take him seriously till it was too late. When Hitler’s movement became truly powerful, German industrialists and leaders of the most right-wing parties supported him and supplied all the money he needed for his private army and mass rallies. And for quite a while—even, in the case of weapons manufacturers, through most of World War Two—there were people who profited from their association with him.
Ultimately, the right wing parties and corporations that imagined they could control him paid the price along with everyone else when he and his police state became so powerful that no established influence could alter it, and when he and his military went beyond the borders of civilization and brought down such terrible destruction.
In the end, if Trump gets enough delegates, he will be the nominee and the same thing will happen here that happened in Germany in the 1920s and ‘30s; The Republican party (despite some defectors) will support him and there will be enough right-wing billionaires to pay for his Presidential campaign.
And if they do fund him and he becomes the nominee, is it completely unreasonable to imagine a repeat of what happened in Hitler’s Germany? Would we see beatings and killings of non-Aryan Mexicans and Muslims, physical intimidation of the political opposition and terrorist acts blamed on “un-American” radicals (liberals, Jews, etc. etc.) so that Trump would be forced to take power to save the country?
But even if he is not allowed to get the nomination; even if the rich and powerful in the Republican Party wake up and see him and his movement for the self-destructive force that they are, Trump’s enraged mobs will still be there, looking for blood.
Trump might decide that he’s had enough excitement and go back to swindling people full-time, but what happens to all the people he’s whipped into such a frenzy. They’re not going anywhere. Maybe, if the next President and Congress wake up and decide that they want to preserve their power and continue the long-running comedy they’ve been starring in for such a long time, they will have to address the actual grievances of the alienated and lost people who have battened on to Trump. People need jobs, they need free health care and a free, decent education–and they need to see a purpose to their lives. Maybe then they’ll give all those funny unchristian non-white people a break. They’re going to have to, sooner or later, because these pesky foreigners aren’t going anywhere either.
Trump and his supporters, even the ones who might deplore his violence and vulgarisms, are a real threat to our constitutional form of government. But I think it’s essential to remember that one of main reasons they are such a threat is because our democracy has been so weakened and decayed by decades of corruption from inside. There is little difference between the two political parties when it comes to the fundamental realities of power, money and control. People are sick of the corruption and hypocrisy of their “leaders” and that, combined with a culture that has lost the habit of thought, reflection and even the knowledge of right and wrong is why Trump and Trumpism is ascendant.
I have to resist the desperate urge to deny the terrible reality of Donald Trump and his movement. No matter that he is seems like a broad-brush cartoon of a dictator, or that he resembles a grossly inflated balloon in a parade of nightmares; No matter that he is the karmic manifestation of all the darkness of America’s past and present. Yes, all that is true. But what really counts now is that he and his movement are having an actual effect in the actual world we live in and they have to be stopped.
You have to hope that there is enough functionality left in our democratic system to reject his rise to ultimate power, because if achieves that, we are lost. But even if he and his movement are rejected by voters, you also have to hope that the lesson is finally learned by the larger public and their elected representatives—you can’t maintain a democracy with nothing but deceit, violence, greed and power. It inevitably blows back on you and where one fascist movement (McCarthyism, Trumpism) is defeated, another one will surely grow in its place.