If only we could say Trump’s name and make him disappear like Rumpelstilskin. Unfortunately, we’re not exactly granted that luxury, because we don’t live in a fairy tale. As his campaign attempts to turn straw into gold, most of us can see the troubling nature of his careless, and poorly thought-out statements (and no, not because we need him to be PC, but because words reflect integrity, intelligence and intention; we need him to not be an asshole- we cannot so easily afford to be selective). We see that there is something of a mudslide about Trump as he overturns everything within his orbit, almost promising to undo most of the progress we’ve attained. And yet, he’s followed, revered, and in many circles, even idolized as some New Man, some kind of model human. But why?
I mean, we’ve all seen the most recent headline: “Trump praises Saddam Hussein” for being “good” at killing terrorists despite being a “really bad man”. It’s an idiotic statement with devastating implications for a democratic system. But does that statement actually surprise anybody? I don’t really think so. By now, we’ve come to accept this simplistic rhetoric from good ole’ Trump, whose campaign hinges on kindergartener ethics and baby logic such as “he hit me first”, “that one has cooties”, and the infamous “I know you are, but what am I?”.
You may disagree, but Trump’s politics appeal to many Americans primarily because of that kind of simplicity. You don’t really have to be an intellectual to grasp his ideas; there’s a universality to the topics he seems to be addressing. Trump is pointing out obvious things in an obvious way, and people like it. What Trump supporters find refreshing about Trump is that he doesn’t SEEM to mince words, SEEMS to say what everyone else is too chickenshit to say, and he entertains us all the while. And we all know how much Americans love their entertainment: if Hilary and Bernie are prime time TV series, then Trump is reality TV. If Hilary is “House of Cards” and Bernie is “Arrested Development”, Trump is Jersey Shore, a fucking train wreck of a spectacle (that -deny it all you want- you secretly watch while claiming Pauly D as your favorite for being the “normal” one and, Snookie, for being a “free spirit”).
Trump seems to “tell it like it is” and appears to not only represent a “refreshing” change of pace from the usual political duplicity, doublespeak, and sycophancy, but also seems like an earnest, straight-forward man despite his perceived imperfections; he seems almost immune to the strategic amorality of it all.
Trump ultimately appears to be this every man’s man who knows that he’s just as good as some college graduated, New Republican reading, PC touting intellectual with hipster sophistications and liberal leanings. He appears to know his value despite being broken. And because he always seems to be blunt and action-oriented without the “fancy-schmancy” words, people flock to him, finding in him those very imperfections couched in the same kind of excessively opinionated vehicle. (“Seems”, “appears”, “represents”: nothing about this is actual.)
But of course, I’m not trying to say that Trump supporters don’t know their asses from their elbows (not ALL of them, at least), nor that being a Trump supporter means that one cannot be a “college graduated, New Republican reading, PC touting intellectual with hipster sophistications and liberal leanings”. Indeed, Trump supporters come in all shapes and sizes and are just as “everyone” as everyone else. I’m speaking more to a large caricatured sample of Trump supporters, the ones who don’t actually deliberate for themselves and regularly substitute thinking for emoting, the ones who have already written this piece off without actually thinking about what’s in it. Trump wants these people, because they come in droves and can be manipulated further and further into an ideological extreme.
Trump’s comments get worse every passing moment because the envelope is being pushed so gradually that these supporters are unsuspectingly agreeing to everything said. Discernment is going out the window. We’ve come to expect statements such as Mexicans are rapists, Hussein kills terrorist “good”, and we “need global warming”, mostly because those thoughts echo the unfiltered, anti-political sentiments of many Americans who are tired of the doublespeak and confusion that seem characteristic of American politics. And at least this aspect, this form of communication seems promising to people who, for instance, no longer want to deal with the esoteric bullshit of newly drafted bills, the likes of which are often even deliberately obfuscated in order to keep people from actually catching on. The politic speak in our country is akin to some new medication for anti-depression called Rinaxonol with 10,000 words of symptomatic small print flashing before our eyes for 3 seconds during a 30 second commercial. No one can read it, no one will read it and, if we did, we probably wouldn’t understand it.
And again, this is not to claim that we Americans are dumb, because contrary to all those Vine feeds we see on Facebook where someone lights themselves on fire trying to ignite a fart and ask inconceivably vapid questions on Yahoo Answers, (making us truly question the evolution of the neo-cortex), Americans are actually pretty bright- at least when we want to be. We just have (or WANT TO HAVE) a low tolerance for bullshit, ESPECIALLY when it comes to government. We flock to Trump because he seems to inspires us to see the value in cutting through that bullshit while those of us on the other side of the grass want to call Trump racist, sexist, and moronic (and I’m not exactly saying that he’s not any of those things) and by extension, accuse a hefty portion of his supporters of the same. Many of us, who wouldn’t vote for Trump with a ten foot fucking pole, are operating under the misconception that Trump is creating a new world full of hate and bigotry, that somehow he’s magically making people foam at the mouth with antipathy for their fellow “spics” and “niggers”; that somehow he’s designing new paradigms of ignorance for newer voters to degenerate into; that he’s somehow manufactured scores of Trump Bros from a Frankenstein-esque concoction of Keystone Lights, Marlboro Reds, Oakley sunglasses, cargo pants and date rape drugs all boiled in a cauldron and poured into a greasy molding; that he’s magically manifested intolerance and that Walmart-variety, garbage-thinking that accuses anyone darker than peach of being an “Osama Bin Laden-loving, terrorist fucking nigger-spook”! But no, sorry, these are not new things. Trump has only made apparent a good number of maladies that were already broken beneath the surface, some jagged shards of a jaded social structure jutting out the collective psyche like a compound fracture.
The Trump brand of racism (which, of course, is “not racism”) and sexism (which, of course, is “not sexism”) and intolerance (which, of course, is “not intolerance” despite the heavily ironic obstinate desire to entertain that possibility) are no Trump brands at all but artifacts of an America that has ignored its failures, an America that has acted like none of this exists because we’re far too “brave” and “free” to give a fuck (without a “boast or a brag”, right?). Trump only brings out what is already there, and if there is anything even remotely productive -and incidental- about these problematic items, it’s that just as an individual cannot battle his inner demons unless they are exposed and made conscious, neither can the collective American psyche be healed unless its monsters are brought out from under the bed. Our misshapen, super Bizarro ideals have lurked under the mantle of our social consciousness for so long that we’ve developed a kind of amnesia for those deep systematic arrangements we’ve made to ensure our benightedness.
You see, because in addition to helping us uphold our social contract by fine-tuning policy and making expert decisions on our behalf, our representatives, senators and community leaders also help us ensure our sleep, the repression of those aforementioned unsavory items, namely: racism, sexism and intolerance. These people help maintain our illusion, and are so damn good at it that we forget that we’re dreaming. Sure, we may bitch and complain –and we all do, I most certainly did a few paragraphs ago- about the lack of clarity inherent in our politicians’ doublespeak, but it’s all by design. We require their expertise to astutely hide us from ourselves. We don’t want to admit that we are racist, sexist, or intolerant even though there are clear examples of this happening all around us to an astonishing, if not dizzying, degree. See Alton Sterling. See Brock Turner. See Hilary’s Great Email Escape. See a big fat etcetera.
We are in a deep state of denial and though I don’t support Trump, I recognize that, at times, his rampant disregard for anything respectable or reasonable can have the accidental effect of bringing out what is already there. Trump brings out, or makes erupt, a rudimentary sense of honesty in his supporters which includes, but is not limited to, a persistent countercultural anti-intellectualism which though characteristic of many of his supporters is no personality quirk or personal preference, but a feeling of deep insecurity. Many Trump supporters are not just fed up with the bullshit, many just prefer the kindergarten values of Trump (mirrored mostly by that binary ideological garbage peddled by Mini-Me Bush in his prime) because it is easier, and despite how smart many Americans may be, we have a penchant for dismissing complexity by virtue of it being…well, complex, without actually listening, or truly understanding, a point being made.
Many of those Trump supporters live this “too fast, too furious” subset of the American dream where if something can’t be explained in 5 seconds or less, it’s therefore unreasonable, invalid, or….”gay”. For many of those supporters, the payoff is that they can expect a whole community of like-minded thinkers who will accept that intolerance/insecurity/fear of complexity in order to perpetuate their collective identity as “straight shooters”, action-oriented, no-bullshit folk. It’s a cult of subjectivity, some bogus attempt at fabricating strong personalities out of the bits and fragments of unexamined notions.
If you’re not one of those clone-like Trump supporters, then move on, you have nothing to worry about. But if you are, guess what? You can’t wish complexity away, no matter how hard you try, what jackass you elect, or what “unarmed” person of color you choose to shoot. The fact of the matter is that to exist is to learn, to develop, to BECOME. Should you choose to settle for less than that, it’s entirely fine, but maybe abstain from roping others into it (i.e. your fucking kids) in order to validate your sorry excuse for an existence. Don’t be the guy who tries to lower the bar for everyone else just because he can’t raise the bar for himself, Trump supporter of not. Don’t turn the blind eye to problematic aspects of his campaign just because it makes you seem confident and ideologically certain.
You probably like Trump, because you are fed up with bullshit, it’s true. But you may also like Trump because you’re insecure about complexity, or because you’re afraid that your peers won’t respect you for having a different (and more enlightened) opinion. In either case, intolerance is not a substitute for understanding. Good ole’ Trumpelstiltskin’s not going to stop, whether we promise him all our jewelry or feed him our first borns. This isn’t a Grimm fairy tale, but it will be a grim reality if we don’t make a concerted effort to start thinking critically again.
Ultimately, this upcoming election is not about Trump, Hilary, Bernie or even Gary. It’s about discernment. It’s about not substituting intelligence for emotionally charged attitudes. It’s about being an individual and not catering to the hive mind. It’s about you.
(Originally published on Disinfo.com on July 11, 2016.)