The human being has believed untruths and even crazy stuff for thousands of years. For most of human history people believed the world was flat; that the sun went around the earth, if one disagreed one could be put to death. Religions espouse one God over another, one messenger, son of god, guru, whatever and build beautiful temples, cathedrals, create great art works, songs and the like to celebrate these ideas. They can’t all be right – more likely they are all wrong yet they generate fervent, blind conviction and loyalty to the ideas.
One of the fundamental realities of these ideas is the understanding that one must accept the idea in its entirety and NOT allow any dissension. No chink in the armor. Galileo was told to recant his discovery that the earth revolved around or he would be put to death. Today some groups in Islam believe it is the duty to kill anyone who disagrees with the tenants of the Koran, defames Mohamed etc etc. There is a reason for this – and a good one. If one allows one belief to be questioned then a second one will follow and then a third and so on. Luther questioned only one practice of the Catholic church. The indulgences. It was not long until many more ideas were questioned and this led to the Protestant reformation.
Likewise authoritarian political leaders have followed the same path. Sadam, Hitler, Stalin, one can go down the list. The point is such a leader cannot admit a mistake because if he/she can make one mistake than what’s to say a second one can be made etc. Get rid of anyone who disagrees becomes standard. A person who disagrees is a potential danger. Give an inch and one can loose a mile. Sound familiar? Trump is not unique it turns out. Never admitting a mistake, never apologizing, fire anyone who questions or disagrees (even ones that are almost totally loyal like Jeff Sessions, Bill Barr etc). These facts are why so many commentators, books, etc say Trump is authoritarian. He demonstrates all the traits. Now his attempt to disrupt the democratic process in the US election is further proof of the danger he represents.
Meanwhile, his followers are immune to facts just as the many religions have pushed for thousands of years. It is so easy and comforting just to accept something as fact and refuse to have it challenged no matter what. Critical thinking can be confusing and unsettling. Belief is often far more comforting. People is so many cases will look for the reasons to believe and dismiss the reasons not to. Like the guy whose family of wife and 4 children are in a car crash and the wife and two children die, two survive. The guy says ‘thank god for the two who survived’. What about the wife and two children that died? If god saved two why did he not save the others as well?
The really stunning thing about believing stuff that is obviously so false or highly unlikely to be true is how strong such convictions that those beliefs are in fact totally true. Wars have been fought, millions killed, hatreds created, going back thousands of years. To me what is even more stunning is how there are so many really bad people over the centuries that can generate such furverant support. Hitler, Stalin, Sadam to name a few. Now even in the USA – a democratic, relatively educated, Christian, society – we see that people can fall pray to crazy stuff and follow a really bad guy. And Trump is a really bad guy, and has always been. Now more than ever he proves it.
Make America Great Again? Well from what I see now its not so great today. A divided nation, rampant hatred, crazy stuff all around us. More like “Make Trump Great” and the hell with the USA and what it stands for. That a guy like Trump gets support from so many in the media (who are now just as much “mainstream” as the opposing side) and politicians in the Republican Party, and in the population generally is a really frightening thing to witness. All I can think of is Germany when Hitler was taking over. I wish I could escape from that idea – but the analogy is just too similar so I can’t.