If Trump succeeds in destroying the mainstream media, he will get his wish: to be like Putin, to be president in name and dictator in deed, immune from the restriction of terms. Our media embodies free speech, however flawed. To pull out that cornerstone is to topple our democracy. And then we get to live in dysfunction at its finest, where truth or falsity hinge on a sick thug's whims. It's like an abusive family. The abuser sets up the conditions of reality. He (usually a man) gaslights the victims. It is both a loyalty test and a way to break another's spirit and harness their soul. When rationality is rendered useless, what do you have left? Corruption, tyranny, ignorance.
Saddest of all--saddest, saddest, saddest--is that plenty of Americans are ready to accept Trump as their king. They wouldn't say that. But actions speak louder than words and yield clues to the subconscious. One can surmise the goals of those ready to coronate Trump by their behavior. They hope that white nationalism will reign; and that they will be rewarded for their radical loyalty. They even accept that Trump has nothing but contempt for their fawning readiness, their pleas for the yoke. Freedom is scary. Order, boundaries, hierarchies. Everything in black and white. They get to be white.
It's deplorable. Despicable. Evil. It is to snuff your own candleflame. Debasing oneself before such a contemptible man, for such reviling purpose, requires self-contempt and--most important of all--hiding from what you've done, at all costs. In the abuser-abused dynamic, everyone's self-esteem is brutally wretched. It's hard to find worth in anything when life is about fear, pain, hate and their focus: repression through deceit, and deceit through violence. Base instinct keeps you going, or the survival of your children.
On this view, the world is carnal and bad. Food and resources are limited. It's a constant battle, dog-eat-dog, to win. Immigrants and minorities threaten. Danger is ambient. Temptation to stray from 'tradition' lurks. Step out of line and you become one of 'them'.
In a nutshell, the mind goes into cult mode.
This might seem unbelievable. But despotism and the divine right of kings are historical norms. North Korea is a glaring contemporaneous example. Humanity is very susceptible to acculturation by force and threat. We fall en masse into the role of worshipping our leader-gods.
An unhindered Trump would push nakedly to be worshipped and adulated. He is a textbook narcissist. He is tyranny in gold letters: gluttonous, reckless, callous, cruel.
In their grand, bold experiment, our Founders underscored the threat of the tyrant. Theirs was a new way. An enlightened path. An ethical step forward. It is now on the verge of failing. Why? Because many Americans want racism. It is a curse that has been transmitted for hundreds of years, generation by generation. As Michale Moore says, America was founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves.
There is a higher way. Many people embrace--even feel--a spiritual, universal Love. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of Christian agape. Buddhists seek true compassion through mental quests. The political analog of such an ideal is human rights. Such rights are based on what Adam Smith called "fellow-feeling" or empathy. It is very hard to abuse or mistreat those for whom you have empathy.
For cult mode to operate, empathy must be curtailed. Consumerism has been great for this purpose. Few of us have empathy for the sweatshop workers who make our clothes; or the animals who suffer in factory farms so we can eat bacon. We have been primed to enjoy the wonderful taste of that chocolate bar, or that wonderful vacation, or some other envy-arousing acquisition. In many cases, all that we purchase is status: that little embroidered alligator on a $50 polo shirt.
We are in a state of global emergency. It has been brought on by (a) nuclear weapons and bellicose tensions, (b) the rapid disfiguration of the Earth through reckless consumption and expansion. In this state of emergency, there are two possible paths. Empathy will either expand or contract. The stresses pulling on us are so great that these are the only two options.
The contraction of empathy is Trump's way. It is also Russia's. Police state fascism with a charismatic leader. The population is denied certain types of education, and is mind-controlled through fear and hate. If Trump succeeds in becoming a fascist leader with a white nationalist base, the United States will become the weight that tips the geopolitical scales of government toward the anti-free side.
The other response involves the expansion of human rights into a full, legitimate application. It also fosters an Earth-consciousness, and a respect for the sentience of animals, and, indeed, the reverence of all life (in doing so, it cannot promote any religious orientation over others, and must completely reject fanaticism).
A lot of people want this path, the path of Love and empathic awareness. Maybe hundreds of millions, or even billions. Love is awesome.
But hate, in counterpoint, is tremendous. The allure of authoritarianism.
Human nature is malleable enough for Love to overcome. But we aren't starting out with a level playing field. Racism and sexism are entrenched. Panic has already started to set in as we witness (and anticipate) environmental collapse.
This is our greatest, most defining moment as a civilization. Love or hate. Both sides are strong. Trump embraces panic. He tries to startle and disorient. The concept of 'crisis capitalism', elaborated by Naomi Klein, works for him.
Education and edification lead toward Love. But right wing policies gut education and deny time for edification (toil away at a soulless job instead).
For many of our leaders, especially Republicans, ignorance is a kind of capital (see my blog entry). For many of the rest of us, education and the torch of empathy are the way forward.
So, we stand at the edge.