The bully. The loud mouth. He plays “We, The People” like a band of gullible fiddles; he tinkers and toys with the worst of our nature.
Your fear? He loves that. He uses that.
He knows you’re afraid. He wants you to remember it.
“Don’t forget the witches and wolves who hide in the woods,” whispers the demagogue to wide-eyed children, “for while they are few and we are many… all it takes is one to come get you.”
The demagogue makes people who look different feel different – like outcasts, like leeches, like the Jews of early 20th century Europe.
But being different is not enough. The demagogue turns diversity into dividing lines.
Minority populations who already cannot escape the color of their skin or convictions of their religious upbringing, they’re expendable to the demagogue. Why? Because there’s so few of them.
They’ve always been singled out by exploitative leaders – especially the leaders of majority groups who can’t quite understand why their majority position in society isn’t giving them all the rewards they were promised from the beginning.
“Someone must be to blame,” says the demagogue.
(The natural next step? Find someone — anyone — to blame. Except ourselves.)
The demagogue says what we know is wrong.
He uses language that is inflammatory to express sentiments that are immoral. He threatens violence, coercion, strong-arming and thuggery unfit for any soul deserving of the title “leader.” He personifies small-mindedness; he enjoys it. He is a coward to true conviction; he is self-congratulatory with masturbatory egotism.
The demagogue is petty, vile and repugnant — but called “the voice we aren’t allowed to use.”
As if permission would make the words just.
The demagogue is a master of saying much without really saying a thing. He wants you to root for him; to shake your fist in a collective of outrage towards an imaginary body of oppressors: essentially, anyone and everyone who disagrees with “us.”
The demagogue riles your disdain; he loves your unhappiness. It is the fuel to his political fire.
He wants you to say, “Yeah, that’s right! We’ll show them!”
To be seduced by the demagogue is to bend a knee to the worst form of tyranny that humankind has known: the one wherein we have no one to blame but ourselves.
And yet, a demagogue like Mr. Donald Trump is sadly a repetitious page from the books of history.
This isn’t unique.
This was entirely predictable.
This is history repeating.
This is an opportunist exploiting the worst of our human nature, all over again.
Me, I’m afraid that Mr. Trump may become America’s worst wound in its history.
He is a demagogue: the archetype of a political leader who says anything to appeal to a majority body.
Mr. Trump has asserted himself into the system of democracy by inciting segments of marginalized but loud, disenfranchised but politically-active minority primary election voters. Today, he stands as one of two candidates who will become President of the United States. If that wasn’t bad enough, the tactics of Mr. Trump are to instigate a voting majority in his favor by eliciting people to become the worst versions of themselves
How does a demagogue invite otherwise-rational people to regress to their worst versions of themselves?
Because of human nature.
It will always be easier for a scared, threatened, worried, disillusioned, frustrated, impatient, cynical person to reduce their existence from a human being to human animal.
To “Us Versus Them.”
To blood lust.
And Mr. Trump may become the voice of all of us — bound by citizenship, our by-chance birth within the lines of a political state called America. He is poised to potentially become a most indelible wound on our history — a wound that will bleed our sadness, cynicism, disbelief, discontent and indifference for years to come and that will require generations of grief, guilt, shame and apologizing to someday undo.
You and I may be dead from old age before this country can truly tell the world, “We’re sorry.”
And yet, Mr. Trump exists as a viable candidate in American politics in 2016. Why?
It’s because “We, The People,” as a whole I would say, are entirely disillusioned and desperate. Across the national zeigest, we feel as though there is nothing — and no one — to believe in. But the issue is pragmatic as well. In pockets of shattered economies where unemployment and underemployment reign, where cost of living is skyrocketing and industries prey on people for their own gain, people are fed up with being fed up.
We are heartbroken to the values promised to us to be our salvation — not to mention, the salvation of the world and human history. We believed we democratic republican capitalists in the West were the ones on the right side of history.
Today, few would say that it feels like it.
Things may be better than ever, but we can’t help but feeling like it’s never been worse.
If we, the collective, share any outlook in the midst of this political season, it’s that we’re ravenous to believe in something.
In the case of Mr. Trump’s supporters, the desperation to believe in something is a someone. Better yet, for Trump voters, the someone they believe in is one who claims that he stands for, and will reinforce, and will validate the now jaded-ideals they have known since their youth as proof-positive of American exceptionalism and the “only way there is.”
The slogan “Make America Great Again” proves it.
Desperation abounds; many would rather have a bad, dangerous person validate their existence by bastardizing the code of their national identity than stand up and reinterpret the dogma instilled in us all since childhood.
The demagogue would rather you look back at the dead past and hope to return to its fictionalized, romanticized glory — than to embrace the powerful opportunity we share to write our collective story anew as time marches us forward.
There is no glorious chapter of American history to which we can return. That much is obvious.
But more so, there is not one chapter that deserves resurrection.
Subtitles and highlights of America’s past ring of civil war, slavery, economic depression, world wars, population segregation, institutional racism and misogyny. For every story of growth, resurgence or victory, ten tombstones of guilt, shame and grief have paved the path of American progress.
Which flawed era of our collective national past would ever bring us any semblance of resurgent glory better than the best-we-can-do of today?
In the eyes of a desperate populace, the past worth returning to is any time before we were jaded, sad and cynical.
Making America “great again” is less a nation’s cry and more an individual’s plea — the Trump supporter’s desperation — to be ushered back to a time when life felt simpler and more full of hope; when American ideals were validated at every turn of human events and not disproven by the front seat view of volatile upheaval.
There is no America to make great again by looking back, except in the founding ideas that once appeared simple and sure but were anything but in practice: when entitlements were more entitled; when the supremacy of America’s “Us” majority was not challenged by what the demagogue would have the country see as intrusive, foreboding, dark-faced “Them’s”; when the ideology of our nation’s exceptionalism seemed validated time and time again by more dollars, less bad guys, and blind eyes to the effects of our country’s imperial might.
(This isn’t un-American or self-loathing; it’s a necessary expression of conscience, and the only way the collective can forge a new and unified path forward.)
“Make America Great Again” represents a desperate, child-like lusting for a past when the future appeared more bright and full of hope than dark; when problems like those that we face today were but fears and whispers, like witches and wolves hiding in the woods.
The rallying cry of the demagogue embodies the collective woe of a people who are desperate and disillusioned.
But the solution to our desperate longing for a better future lies not in the past — or the demagogue whose lust for power depends on evoking the very worst of humankind.
My friend, I ask you this.
Please, do not submit to the demagogue.
Do not give in. Do not protest with indifference. Do not not vote.
For all the challenges and obstacles we face today, and the heavy atmosphere of discontent and cynicism that plagues society as a whole, we must embrace this time and stand in it with courage.
An imaginary past of supposed glory will not save us, but a co-created future can.
Castigating ethnic, racial and religious minority groups as expendable political pawns — such disgusting, hollow and shameful attempts to validate the public’s widespread sentiment of “woe-is-me” — is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated.
A demagogue like Mr. Donald Trump is the antithesis of the last remaining shreds of justice, fairness, goodness and hope that we as Americans are desperate to stand for.
Rest assured: you and I hold the unique power and position today to redefine the dogma under which we were led to believe in a singular way of living — our own — and in its place write the story of peace, happiness, and freedom for the world over.
If an aura of discontent and dismay as profound as what exists in the United States today is any indication, the opportunity has never been more ripe than it is now to co-create the vision of the world we want to live in.
But the story can only be written in one of two ways: forward, or back.
We can collectively write the future of the America we want to become, or relegate our power and enslave ourselves to a living purgatory where dreams of Heaven seem so far gone and visions of Hell appear all the more around us.
The latter is the future that exists under the thumb of the demagogue.
P.S. – I’ll be writing a series of reflections and perspectives in the coming weeks to treat the upcoming Presidential Election in the U.S. through the lens of self-expression, story, choice, service, and the role of Self in an interconnected world.