Friday, March 27, 2020

Religious Cults

So what happens if Trump’s faithful followers actually belong to the equivalent of a religious cult? The term “religious cult” has several meanings, most now negative. But it often refers to a group following a “charismatic leader” where the beliefs of the group often are at odds with conventional norms, of even other religious groups.  When we think of cults, we think immediately of groups like the one that followed Charles Manson, or Jim Jones’ People’s Temple.  We now often refer to people “drinking the Kool-Aid” when we want to denigrate a group following seemingly strange ideas, or people, like Donald Trump.  And what does the term mean? Here from Wiki, is one definition:

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is an expression used to refer to a person who believes in a possibly doomed or dangerous idea because of perceived potential high rewards. The phrase often carries a negative connotation. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion. In recent years it has evolved further to mean extreme dedication to a cause or purpose, so extreme that one would "Drink the Kool-Aid" and die for the cause.
The phrase originates from events in JonestownGuyana, on November 18, 1978, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple movement died. The movement's leader, Jim Jones, called a mass meeting at the Jonestown pavilion after the murder of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and others in nearby Port Kaituma. Jones proposed "revolutionary suicide" by way of ingesting a fatal powdered drink mix laced with cyanide and other drugs which had been prepared by his aides.[1][2]
The phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" as used to describe either blind obedience or loyalty to a cause is considered offensive, by some, to relatives of the dead, and survivors who escaped Jonestown:[3] seventy or more individuals at Jonestown were injected with poison against their will, and a third of the victims (304) were minors.[4][5] Guards armed with guns and crossbows had been ordered to shoot those who fled the Jonestown pavilion as Jones lobbied for suicide.[6][7]
As a point of fact regarding the phrase itself, it is not known with certainty which of the two grape powdered flavor mixes, Flavor AidKool-Aid, or both were used to concoct the poison in Jonestown; the commune had both among their supplies.[8] Most sources surmise that Flavor-Aid was the primary flavor ingredient used.[9][10] Shortly after the tragedy, manufacturers of both products addressed the matter by pointing out that whether their company's particular drink mix was or was not used was irrelevant: a cyanide-laced poison had been created and used to kill people, and one or both respective products were misused as the vehicle to do so.
But now, this term is used with some frequency to refer to a follower of the Donald Trump MAGAHead cult. I have lately been labeling this group the KKKNeoNazicultische group. I use that term because Trump seems to attract both racists, of which he seems a proud member, and neo-Nazi’s, of whom he speaks favorably.  Clearly all of his millions of followers are not racists, or members of a Neo-Nazi group. But given his repeatedly weird behavior, his inability to behave like a normal human being, and, lately, his unwillingness to address the growing COVID19 pandemic, the fact that millions still follow him draws me to the conclusion that his followers are of the ilk of a religious cult.
Imagine, people still say publicly that Trump is the best president in their living memory, often “The best president in United States history”.  Now, how is that even remotely possible, given his behavior in office, and now his daily pandemic briefings (aka political rallies) where his knowledgeable staff (think Dr. Anthony Fauci)  has to be kept practically hidden, while he is speaking? And then, the knowledgeable staff have to contradict almost everything he says as soon as possible.  He goes through staff like no one we have ever seen in that position. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether the staff are good or terrible.  Eventually he dumps them, and then they tell us the horror stories of working for Trump.
And yet, his faithful followers persist in their belief that he is THE BEST.  Nothing but CULT describes for me such a phenomenon. Religion in general, and religious cult especially suggests for me an ability, even an intense need or desire, to believe in fairy tales.  I know, that folks who believe in God and follow some religious practice are offended at that thought. But it is what I think. But normal religious adherence seems different somehow from followers of a cult. Cults seem too often to drive people to do awful, even violent things. And that is what fills me with some dread, when I think about our upcoming election.
I have observed and participated in elections ever since 1952. And there have been troubling times over that period. Since my earliest recollections, we have had WW II, the war in Korea, Vietnam, and the entire Bush-inspired wars throughout the Middle East. Vietnam, especially, inspired very large cult-like violence opposed to the war. But nothing, in my lifetime, comes close to what I observe with the followers of Donald Trump. Yes, there has also been violence associated with his followers. But more often, it is the threat of violence, with Trump shouting to his faithful to prepare to do violence and he will bail them out of jail.
So, what does all this portend as we approach November? It would not surprise me in the least if Trump attempts to interfere in the upcoming election, and by “interfere” I mean cancel.  I can imagine him declaring some National Emergency and then cancelling the election. It is unclear to me that he has the authority to do that. But I think he may well try. According to what I read, the President has no power to simply cancel the election, however much he might want such a power. It is the states. State legislators could arguably decide to cancel the election, because of COVID risks, and then require their “electors” to pick the next president. This possibility is a wide open affair, since, although Trump won states adequate to win a victory in the electoral college, but there is no clear path. The electors could arguably select him, or they could change their minds and select another candidate, i.e., Joe Biden.  It is perhaps yet another reason to dump the entire electoral college system and simply go to a popular vote system.
Voting by mail is the best alternative to such a bypass voting system. But the states and perhaps the Federal government would have to begin preparing now for such an alternative. We cannot await a decision until, say two weeks before the election and then decide. There would simply not be enough time.  We need to begin gearing up, including printing enough ballots and deciding how to best distribute the ballots (via US mail, or some other method).
But with Trump in charge, I assume he will do his best to forestall such an approach. He is nothing if not corrupt. He will stop at nothing to prevent an honest vote that would surely kick him out of office.
So, let us see what happens. This pandemic is not going away any time soon, and we have not even begun to peak. We need to think long and hard at what an additional four years of Trump could mean. And remember, he would not stop at four more years. He wishes to be our first king, King Donald I.
Is that really what we want America???

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