Let me be clear first: with one profound exception, Donald J Trump doesn’t “know” anything! His bloated, orange treason-head is utterly devoid of coherent thought beyond how to keep filling his greedy maw. All that cobwebby space between Trump’s ears and beneath that awful haircut is filled nearly to bursting with one piece of absolute certainty. Donald Trump knows who he is. He knows what he is and he loves that entity and knows how to sell it. And he knows that most of the rest of us — love him or hate him — will buy it. Though it pains me to say, the terrible truth is Trump is a better storyteller than I’ll ever be. I’ll certainly never have his audience. Trump has made the American news media his perpetual bitch and used them — he’s still using them — to tell a story that simply isn’t true. About Trump. About us. But, he knows because his own life proves it, the more he repeats his lies, the more they’ll become “the truth”. Whole religions have risen because demonstrable unreality replaced reality. You’ve got to have done some pretty effective storytelling to get hundreds of people not only to drink your Kool-Aid but feed it to their kids. That’s exactly what Trump is doing.
And we are going right along with him though we don’t have to.
Trump’s a bully. So’s Vladimir Putin (though Putin’s the bigger bully by far). The lessons learned on the schoolyard never get disproven. Bullies, if unchecked, run a sick, twisted show the rest of us have to perform in. Even if a bully’s actions don’t directly touch us, still, their impact on the schoolyard will ripple and those ripples will touch us eventually and then repeatedly. Around us,, some people cower because they naturally play beta to the bully’s alpha. But, others cower not so much at the bully’s power, but at the bully’s effect on the schoolyard. They buy into the bully’s power over the bullied and cynically begin to believe that’s just how it is. The bully will win because (they now see) bullies always win.
Except that’s not true. Most bullies, in the end, lose. In time, another bully rises up and kills them. That’s the tingle at the back of every bully’s neck that never goes away. It’s Tony Soprano always having to wonder if one of his fellow diners in the restaurant he’s eating in plans to bust a cap in his head before he’s finished his pasta. Bullies know that there’s always another bully out there, gunning for them. They know that though most of us will cower, some of us will come for them instead. They may not know us intimately, but they do know how we’ll react to them. They calculate their storytelling accordingly.
Putin’s a spy by training. Spycraft, by its nature, is all about storytelling. Sometimes to explain the truth and sometimes to make the truth unknowable. It all depends on what the spy needs to accomplish. The Hitlers of the world know how deeply tribal hate runs inside most of us; it certainly runs deep inside of them. Being mostly lizard brain themselves they grasp how easy it is to trigger other lizard brains emotionally and then to action. It’s all about fear. Authoritarians and fascists tell and sell “fear stories” to the fearful. They understand that, regardless of their own complicity in their problems, the fearful are much happier blaming their misery on “the other”. Self analysis is hard even for those willing to do it. For those unwilling to do that hard work? They’ve walked into the marketplace of hateful bullshit with their credit card in hand and no limit on the card.
The Trump’s of the world see the rubes coming. Whatever their grievances are — justified or unjustified — Trump plays to them. Magnifies them and turns them into “a cause”. And then he turns to the news media and sells them a story, too — that what he’s doing, ugly as it is, is legit. That’s how things like “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” get normalized and legitimized. Things presidential contenders could NEVER say out loud and get away with — well, now they CAN say those things out loud — and get away with them. They know that we’ll buy “But, her emails!” too — because we’ll buy everything! And we’ll equate “But her emails” with “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing”, thus equating Trump’s very real racism and rape mentality with entirely unreal obfuscation.
Hey, “both sides do it, right?”
Despite the fact that the MAJORITY of Americans don’t want what Donald Trump or the GOP want (we voted against it FFS!), America teeters on the precipice of authoritarianism. How is that even possible?
Simple: because Trump knows us better than we know ourselves.
Despite the fact that the majority of Americans want what Joe Biden wants, want what’s in his Build Back Better package, our news media has us convinced that we might not get those things anyway because the Democrats can’t get their shit together. That’s a piece of storytelling all by itself. The MAJORITY of the Democratic caucus supports what Biden and the Progressive wing wants to do — because their constituents want it too. Ask Joe Manchin’s actual constituents policy by policy if they want what Joe Manchin is negotiating away. Then ask — since he’s not doing it for the voters in West Virginia, on whose behalf IS he negotiating? Then ask if we were talking about a shootin’ war somewhere versus a “war on poverty in America” would we even be having this conversation? We wouldn’t. Regardless of its rightness or wrongness, we always have money for war and never a question of “how’re we gonna pay for this?”
That’s Republican storytelling working its dark magic.
But, here’s where their storytelling magic and its debilitating effect on us suddenly runs out. What Trump and the GOP are counting on — America going along with their criminal hijacking of our democracy (that their version of our story is THE story) — won’t work because it counts on a character detail that simply isn’t present in America’s story. Homorgenous cultures like Germany’s circa 1900 (or any of the European nations and their cultures) were the product of at least a thousand years of different tribes from the same place slowly forging into (in Germany’s case) one German-identifying “nation”. Hitler rose to power despite the majority of Germans hating him (hell,, Hitler was Austrian, not German!). In part, Hitler succeeded through sheer schoolyard bullying. But, in much larger part, Hitler succeeded because he understood the schoolyard and understood how to play the schoolyard’s commonality — nationality — to his advantage. The German tribe was quite large at that point — and very, very “German” even if their passport wasn’t.
Down deep, even the “Good Germans” felt more German than good.
Nationality is key to “national socialism”. America’s sense of “nationality” is entirely different from Nazi Germany’s. Oh, yeah, sure — a third of Americans DO see nationality the way the most fascist Germans did. But they’re only a third — and that’s at best. Feeling white superiority is one thing. Acting upon it is something else entirely. The bottom line on bullies is they’re cowards. If they don’t trust the group will be there to hold their victim down so they can beat that victim? They’re keeping their hands in their pockets. White supremacists know down deep that they and everyone like them are cowards. If they had an ounce of real confidence, they wouldn’t worry about being replaced. They’d go out and compete like big boys and girls.
Should America stumble into its worst case scenario — and the Trumpist Party (that’s who and what the Republicans are now and will be forevermore) literally seizes power (by whatever means which is exactly how they’ll accomplish it) — their moment of triumph will evaporate right before their eyes because they won’t get the willing compliance of a “nation with a common history”. Those white nationalist tribalists will, instead, find staring back at them (and not up at them) the faces of every other tribe — all the ones they shat on, enslaved, denied rights to, abused or thought could never, ever challenge them for supremacy. Not a one of those faces will be compliant.
Or going along to get along because they all know where that leads.
If there is to be a Second American Civil War, it won’t go the way the people who want that war to happen think it will. Witness the number of Americans who won’t go back to work because, frankly, who wants to be a slave? That’s what the corrupt, right wing money has done to our economy — turned most of us into economic slaves, chained to a system we can’t escape and so we go along to get along. Or, at least, we used to.
The Second Civil War won’t be fought with guns. Oh, the right wing will fight that way. They’ll use violence because violence is literally all they have. But, arrayed against them will be the intellectual might of E Pluribus Unum. America’s diversity is what makes it truly exceptional. And America’s diversity will not kowtow to racism, bigotry, misogyny or treason. America’s diverse citizens believe wholeheartedly in America even if those who think they’re “more American” don’t. The many tribes that make up “America” will stand against (and will defeat) the one tribe that stands with Donald Trump.
Okay… I was wrong. Donald Trump does NOT know us better than we know ourselves. Trump’s fatal flaw is what I thought his strength was — he knows himself. He knows only himself and, because he’s counting on “himself” to be there at the moment of truth, he’ll fail.
And that’s because he doesn’t know us. He has no idea who we are and doesn’t care. Same goes for everyone who still puts that “R” next to their names (important life hack, Republicans: if you stand with a monster — even though it’s just because that’s where the money is — YOU are a monster). None of them know or appreciate yet who we are and why we will NEVER let them get away with this. Neither the villains of the piece nor our professional storytellers (the news media) get who we are or what that means about our reactions.
Let’s please, please, PLEASE keep reminding ourselves that WE do.