How Does It Happen?

I was deeply religious as a kid.  Maybe it was the age, the era, but I was fascinated with (and scared by) the Book of Revelation. I must have read Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth a dozen times. Motivated by my fear of the eminent apocalypse, I cold called churches throughout Denver urging pastors to spread the word and prepare their flocks.  I remember making a dozen or so calls before giving up.  My dire warnings were met with largely polite disregard.

As I got older, I often pondered how an informed public could be deceived by the coming antichrist.  Biblical prophecy was very clear that “the beast” would wield full control over the world and for three and one half years, appearing to be a miracle worker before everything goes to, well, hell in a hand basket in the most literal sense.  Apocalyptic scholars differ on the nature of the antichrist – some see it, rather clearly, as the papacy, while others envision a charismatic charlatan that will rise to power and conquer the world.

But how could people not see through such a person?  Surely, an intelligent and/or knowledgeable public would see right through such a leader.

Alas, history shows us there is plenty of evidence as to how individuals rise up, with the support of the crowd, to wreak havoc. If anything, it should serve as a warning that the public, in its fickleness, will gravitate to those that appeal to our basest of desires. It explains how Adolph Hitler, and Benito Mussolini came to power.  It explains the popularity of Vladimir Putin in Russia.  It explains the base of support currently enjoyed by Donald Trump.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not comparing Donald Trump to the antichrist, or Hitler, Mussolini, or even to Putin.  That’s not the point.  This is an attempt to understand the appeal such people have with the masses that vaults them to power in the first place.

Probably the greatest single tool Donald Trump employees is his refusal to kowtow to political correctness.  His commitment to anti-PC speech may eventually be his undoing,  finding new lines to cross making admirers grimace and shake their heads.  He may have crossed the Rubicon in his latest exchange with the Khan family; however, his track record to date suggests he’ll have future opportunities to inflame and enrage.

To his supporters, Trump’s rhetoric continues to have appeal.  He will not be cowed by a liberal media to walk back comments. It lends to a certain level of authenticity, a “I don’t care who I offend, I’m going to say what I think.”

In broad swathes of the country, there are citizens, voters, that are frankly fed up by the PC-police telling them what they can or cannot say.  Trump is the embodiment of that frustration. A manifestation of the intolerance of the liberal left. Sam Harris, in his brilliant deconstruction of Trump, offered “What I see, in the love for Trump among smart people–not racist dummies—is a total loss of patience for political correctness.”

This is the same portion of the electorate that cannot understand the incessant need to apologize for every past wrong committed by the nation.  They respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” They see the removal of the Confederate Flag from statehouses as an unnecessary and reactionary response to the deranged act of a single individual.  They are fed up with progressives who are bent on changing the very fabric of the country they care so deeply about.

In addition to all this, they are above all sick and tired of being derided, or called bigots, for holding counter-progressive views.

This is not an insignificant portion of the public.  This is the same voting bloc that propelled Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1968 — the Silent Majority that expressed their disfavor with the unruliness and disorder of the antiwar, civil rights-loving, hippies of the 1960’s.  Even if they agreed with the ultimate agendas, they were against the means used to achieve the end. They see protests as provocation for violence, and question the motives behind the change.

In a hearts and minds campaign, how do you begin to address their concerns?

Today’s social justice warriors, the practitioners of limiting free speech, believe that only through shaming, or taking away livelihoods of those unwilling to see the world through their narrow view, will lead to the change necessary to move the country forward. However, their tactics fuel a counter reaction to their movement’s detriment – largely because they are unorganized, lack a coherent end state or goal, and fail miserably at winning the hearts and minds of those segments of the population needed to ensure change sticks.  They may win battles, but their prospects for winning the war are improbable.

There is, unquestionably, an attractiveness of a candidate that is unafraid to say what’s on his mind, refusing to self-censor, and tell it like it is.  This appeals strongly with those that wish to similarly express themselves, but do not out of fear of being labeled a bigot.  If Donald Trump triumphs, a new era of anti-PC might follow, and holding tongues may no longer be a requirement of being an American.

There are, however, a couple problems with this construct. First, not all minds are created equally.  Even among his most ardent supporters, Trump says things that make them cringe.  They are then left to defend the virtue of the man unwilling to to be governed by political correctness, while distancing themselves from the words used. This has been Trump’s single greatest asset throughout his presidential run. Second, in a society–especially a diverse society of over 300 million people–we do need to self-censor ourselves.  Husbands don’t tell wives, and vice versa, what they’re thinking at every moment (nor are they tweeting those thoughts round the clock) because they understand that by saying that outfit does indeed make you look fat may not be a recipe for harmony within the home.

Similarly, within our neighborhoods, when we express ourselves outside our home, it runs the risk of sowing discord with our neighbors.  Think of an individual living in a largely desegregated neighborhood choosing to fly his confederate flag outside his home.  Certainly, in America, he has the right to fly his flag and express himself, but at what cost?  At what motive?  There should be an element of good judgment that at least understands the cause and effect of exercising rights.  Yes, you certainly can do it, but should you?

Ultimately, if you cannot stand your neighbors and have no desire to interact with those living near you, hoisting the flag may serve your interests, but it’s not conducive to harmony within the neighborhood.

Nations are made up of tens of thousands of such neighborhoods, stitched together.  When individuals, or groups, stop self-censoring–and worse, then they refuse to apologize for offending their neighbors, the bonds that make a people begin to fray. So while the appeal of a Trump is understandable, the net effect of too much admiration for his inability to exercise good judgment is to ultimately debase ourselves individually and undercut the ties that bind us as a nation.

 

 

 

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