I am reluctant to write this theme, but I keep getting drawn to it every time someone opens his mouth in support of our fake president. His supporters continue. This morning, a correspondent was speaking with a hard-core supporter somewhere in Texas. One person said that he liked Trump because he was “really smart, and a good negotiator”. Another person dismissed the recent press conference as just, Trump misspeaking a couple of times—“Nothing there, folks, move on”. “He shakes up the system, and it needed shaking up”. And it goes on and on. And his message is reinforced by his favorite Fox News. His latest gibberish cozying up to his BFF, Vlad the Impaler, apparently gave even Fox pause.
Now, to be fair, not all Fox News deserted him. A few still clung to the belief that he is right most of the time, even if he misspeaks, but some at Fox shouted at the sheer stupidity of his utterances. But Fox may be a different kind of animal than the usual Trump supporters. Fox is a purposefully lying agent, one might begin thinking of Fox as a true “foreign agent”—its owner is, after all foreign, and all of his hirelings act in such a way as to diminish, if not to try to destroy America. They’re not quite Russia, but they are a highly destructive force.
But, why does anyone watch Fox, I wondered? And how in heavens’ name does anyone still believe anything Trump says, when he is patently ridiculous to even the most casual observer?
Well, it finally dawned on me. We are conditioned to believe absurdities, almost from birth. Some of us grow out of it, but many folks simply don’t, continuing to believe in fairy tales. And to what do I refer as “fairy tales”? Why, the bible of course. And less the bible per se than the constant state of siege we live under from so many, the priests of course, but even ordinary folks. What is almost the first thing one hears when we mention the passing of a loved one? Well, “they are in a better place . . . they have gone to meet their maker . . . they are looking down upon us, protecting us”. “They have . . .” well, you get the idea.
The organized religion folks must have understood almost from the earliest time people started thinking, that death is the great boogeyman, to be feared above all else. And if you can arrest that fear through some fairy tale, then you will be loved/cheered/even worshipped. And, better yet, if you can promise that, if ordinary folks do as you say, follow you, then you will provide them with a guaranteed pathway to a better place, and then death should not be feared, but instead perhaps even welcomed.
And so, the fairy tale was invented. And over time, many hundreds of years, the elegance of the fairy tale grew. Much of the tale remained silly of course . . . folks drifting around on clouds playing harps, entering a golden gate and then either getting your passport into heaven, or being dispatched to Hell forever, burning and in torment, depending on how well you followed your guide here on earth.
But we are also promised access to our dead loved ones, folks who left us and with whom we can now re-engage. Maybe, if we are especially good, we could even hope to engage with Shakespeare. Wow! And, the best part of the fairy tale??? Well, you can never be found out. Why??? Well, conveniently, no one ever actually returns after they depart for the heavenly gates. So nobody can ever rat them out. The fairy tale remains in place forever, or at least until you croak.
Now, I submit that it is less the fairy tale itself than the idea of a belief system in which you are allowed to choose your own belief, and even your own facts, so long as they fit within your chosen narrative. If you grow up and are inculcated with a belief system that portrays people of color as subhuman, then you will follow any fairy tale that reinforces that belief. So, if a Donald Trump comes along and says that Mexicans are rapists, and murderers, and, if we let them enter they will all join MS-13, then that fits our narrative and we will continue thinking well of the guy who tells us that fairy story. “See, we were right all along. We should never let those people into our country.” This guy is telling it like it is. And why do we believe that argument? Well, at least one reason is that we have been conditioned to believe in fairy tales that we like, because they dispel fear.
And that’s how Donald Trump succeeds—by dispelling fears among people preconditioned to believe in fairy tales. He continues to tell his supporters what they want to hear, so they continue to believe him, regardless of what the facts demonstrate.
Now, did he actually understand that strategy? Probably not at any deep level, because he’s not really a deep thinker. But he does get this notion of telling people what they want to hear, and then dismissing critics, much the way the church dismisses its own critics.
I guess, it’s not complicated, is it? And, it obviously has great staying power--I give you organized religion, which shows no sign of disappearing any time soon.