Sunday, March 06, 2016

Donald Trump vs. the Spirited Horse

Shekinah Flood, 2013
I wouldn’t write about this except that the enormity of the American phenomenon that is the Republican Party in disintegration compels me to think about its meaning—at a minimum. Something odd is going on. Although it’s hard to separate genuine fed-upness-with-the-established-order from mass hysteria at times, the fact that a man like Donald Trump is seen as an acceptable focus of the collective rage for so very many is remarkable.
       Some would draw a parallel between the rhetoric of Adolph Hitler in the early 1930s with the venom Trump spews on a daily basis. If you’re familiar with Mein Kampf and have been watching US news, you’d probably agree that the similarities in message and the enthusiastic responses to it are startling. Both begin with the assumption that the nation is in the toilet and that it’s time to make it great again. Both assign the nation’s demise to the presence of aliens—Jews and Gypsies, communists and homosexuals in the one; Muslims, Mexicans and "bleeding-heart lefties” in the other. In both, the rhetoric is confrontational in the extreme; bellicose language gets thrown out to great applause; the applause—in turn—encourages escalation of the tone.
      I can’t imagine that all this will actually result in a Trump presidency, and when I think about it logically, I’m not sure such an event, should it happen, would be as catastrophic as some have predicted. US checks and balances system of governance has so often meant that the electorate installs an opposition to the president via the congressional elections. Electing Trump might be a catalyst motivating Americans to take a closer, more reality-based look at themselves, their structures of governance and the comical—sometimes tragic—symptoms that emanate therefrom.
      Sometimes hitting rock-bottom leads to repentance and rebirth.
      And what’s the source of the rage coalescing behind trump? From spending some time in Indiana and reading and listening to the news, I’m thinking a listing of grievances could be made something like:
  • Homosexuality being not only tolerated but being granted legitimacy—all the way to same-gender marriage which is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back on this issue for many,
  • Granting of choice to women on the abortion issue which many consider murder of the helpless,
  • The unwillingness to be arbitrary and decisive regarding the entry and expulsion of illegals,
  • The protection of America’s Muslim population who are seen as a present and future threat,
  • Movement toward a more “socialistic” approach to health insurance under Obama,
  • The reluctance by the Obama administration to use lethal force in the Middle East.
  • The separation of religion and public education (banning of school prayer and Bible reading) characterized as an attack on Christianity,
  • The suggestion that there ought to be some form of arms control, contrary to “the right to bear arms” in the constitution.
  • And all the above enclosed in an envelope of moral outrage: America is sliding down the slope toward moral decadence.
These are some of the complaints I’ve been hearing. The hope that some strong man will be able to kick the ducks into orderly rows is obviously na├»ve, but fed by mob dynamics, Trump has been able to cast himself as the messianic answer to the frustrations of the right-wing mind.
      If venting is good for the soul, Trump may have provided the exact therapy America needs. Even rage of the most vitriolic sort eventually tires out, subsides. Let the deportations, the closed borders (to Muslims), the wall on the Mexican border, the canceling of Obama care, the re-criminalization of abortion, the re-criminalization of homosexuality begin and let the carrying of weapons become mandatory. All this will, of course, fail, but in the attempt, the reasons for liberalization as the common good may become clearer.
      In the end, retrenchment always gives way to liberalization; it’s the spirited horse on which human social evolution rides. It’s the only way humanity can survive in a world of burgeoning populations, changes due to climate warming and globalization.
      I think it was Karl Marx who said, “Progress is a spirited horse; we either learn to ride it or it will throw us.” And, no, I am not a communist and if Karl Marx didn’t say that, then attribute the quote to me.
      I know it wasn’t Pope Frances nor the Archbishop of Canterbury. If spoken to the scribes and pharisees, it might have been Jesus, although he would likely have substituted "renewal" for “progress.”