Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trumping Authenticity

The master dealer seems to have lost a hand at the Iowa caucuses. But the show isn’t over yet, and the mystery of the phenomenon persists. Donald Trump has been baffling the pundits by maintaining his lead in the polls and commanding all the media attention. It doesn’t matter how crass or stupid or incendiary his utterances. The more he’s called a demagogue and an idiot the more his apparently substantial body of fans applaud and cheer him on.

We should ask his admirers: What is it about Mr. Trump that so captivates you?

One thing seems to inspire Trumpians. He’s so miraculously sure of himself! People are in awe of the appearance of authenticity, the emotional purity, the spontaneous act, the unfiltered response. They thrill to the Donald speaking his mind so bluntly, his majestic proclamations beholden to none.

Let’s face it. The guy is a wild card. He’s not in the pocket of the bribers and lobbyists that own most American politicians. And, to be fair, amid the farrago of bragging, he occasionally says something true – I heard him once clearly deplore the financial and human catastrophe of the Iraq war.

And he can’t be intimidated. You can see that from the way he puckers up his lips, exaggerating the lines of his pudgy face that resembles Benito Mussolini’s. There is no denying that Trump seems to believe the ideas he espouses at the moment. But the one thing he absolutely believes in is himself.
 This appearance of brash genuineness seems to galvanize a certain portion of the electorate — as they say with unwitting wit — his base. Those who feel powerless might well rally around a monumental egotist like Trump.

Trump was asked about his grand promise to bomb Isis into oblivion. Would he balk at the prospect of many thousands of civilians including innocent women and children being killed? Trump made it clear that he would not. He would be true to his word and says he plans to bring on a rain of death to the enemy.

Come to think of it, all the traits Trumpians love about their leader could as well be said to describe Adolf Hitler. Hitler mesmerized an embittered Germany with his passionate beliefs and crude but cunning rhetoric.

Unfortunately, being emotionally honest, passionately genuine and authentic may not be enough; in fact, such double-edged virtues could provide a setting for disaster. Case in point, Adolf Hitler.

We’re so used to lies spewing from the mouths of power that a show of unscripted frankness could easily seduce the unwary among us. But really it’s not the honesty or the intensity of the belief that counts; it’s what you believe, not how you believe. Your beliefs may be murderously false, and you may embrace them with heart-felt passion. But so what?

Many if not most fanatics are honest, passionate, and genuine in their fanatical beliefs and inclinations. What they aren’t is morally hip or humane. And by the way, the qualities that Trumpians adore in their hero are exemplified by our Isis friends.  Fact is, I worry more about Trumpians than Trump.

Let’s give the last word to the poet William Butler Yeats (from the ‘Second Coming’): The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

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