Pointing out the grotesquerie of The Donald ad nauseum isn’t going to sway the burgeoning legion of Trumpeteers.
The ranks of his supporters seem to swell precisely because of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s over-the-top outbursts, puerile childish rants and hateful policy proposals.
The obviousness of his odiousness is either irrelevant to or exactly the attractant for the many out-of-the-woodwork champions of the least-qualified candidate the U.S. has ever seen. Donald Trump fans are the most united voting bloc in living memory, and it will only make them stronger to point out the lunacy — indeed, the danger — of what they advocate for en masse.
I know this because every Trump-supporter interview I have heard to date contains some rendition of the same rationale for rallying behind such a prurient figure: “He tells it like it is.”
Every interviewee throbs with adoration for this straight-up guy who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and “finally” tell the truth. Whether he actually does “tell it like it is” or not is massively beside the point. This is about what a vast portion of the citizenry believes is “telling it like it is.”
In other words, too many of our countrymen and women equate the truth with nightsticks, homeland insulation made entirely of bricks and soldiers, schoolyard-bully assertions of concurrent might and innocence.
This is about authoritarianism — the top-down, tough-guy, declarative-dictator style of government that seems salvific in the face of terror, but it’s about more than that. Trump is certainly harnessing and stoking the fears of these dark and confusing times. But I don’t see that being much different from what the “other side” is doing or what any politician does on the campaign trail.
What I’m seeing in Trump’s “yuge” mosh pits and womp fests of isms (race, sex, able, etc.) and phobias (xeno-, homo-, Islamo-, etc.) is emaciation. If the most oft-cited reason for supporting Trump is “he tells it like it is,” then it’s clear to me that that is what we, as a culture, have failed to do.
We’ve failed in our literature: Irony has reigned supreme for the last 40 years at least.
We’ve failed in our education: The list of banned subjects (such as Native American history, the women’s rights movement, slavery) is growing as long as the list of banned books in several parts of the country.
We’ve failed in our very language: It might be PC to call a poor person “economically disadvantaged” or savagely destitute countries “underdeveloped nations,” but those terms are often so indirect in the name of not offending literally anyone as to obscure their actual meaning. But words matter.
I’m as far as you can get from being a Trump supporter or apologist, but American culture is, quite frankly, pretty hideous at saying what it means.
This is different from “telling the truth” in a slight but important way: Saying what one means involves sincerity, and sincerity usually involves some sort of sacrifice, while telling the truth does not in and of itself require any skin in the game. “The sky is blue” doesn’t cost me anything to say. “I love you,” — if I mean it — does.
Sharing videos of Black women getting shoved around at Trump rallies or tweeting about how alike Trump and Hitler are don’t really cost you anything worth losing.
Being sincere — keeping your commitments, showing up for the people in your life, doing love instead of just saying it — in an age of irony, politically correctness and fear does cost you something. Trump is sincere in his bigotry and narcissism.
While I am hotly ashamed of my country for allowing Trump to get as far as he has already, there’s one (and probably only one) accord his devotees and I can strike: There is indeed a dearth of sincerity.
Where we differ, though, is how to fill such a deep depression. What’s lethal to Trump and his ilk is not walls and macho-man talk; it’s sustained sincerity that serves peace, diversity and commitment to life together.
Megan Wildhood is a contributing writer for Real Change, advocate in the mental health community and published poet and essayist living in Seattle.