I recently posted these reflections on Facebook and am sharing them here for those who don't participate there. Your comments are welcomed.
We feel more alive and powerful when we're angry, even righteous and justified, especially if we have an "enemy" to beat up on (verbally or otherwise) in expressing our anger.
My primary interest in the whole Trump/MAGA issue for the past few years has been, all along, not so much to support Democrats (I have numerous complaints about their policies), but to address this psycho-spiritual issue at the heart of American society. We cannot be a healthy people when we so angrily and willingly normalize lying and dysfunction, but that is what has happened to tens of millions of us.
The dialogue in this article sheds some light on this issue.
- See https://mattlabash.substack.co...clean-sparring-match
A teaser quote: (scroll down a little in the article if you want to skip the introductory remarks).
". . . Trump hates their ideological enemies as much as they do, if not more. And he punches them in the face every time he opens his mouth. And they love that! It’s what they love most. Is there any doubt that if Trump performed a late-term abortion on a stage at a MAGA rally while saying 'what we really need is 20 million more illegals a year to save the restaurant industry,' they wouldn’t find a way to be for it? So long as he keeps scratching their anger/resentment itch. Anger about a few things that are real, maybe (like the border crisis), but lots and lots of manufactured culture-war anger that they’ve been firehosed nonstop by the likes of Fox. Which, ironically, has been THE establishment for a quarter of a century. They boosted Bush and McCain and Romney just as they boosted Trump. So they’re all benefiting from a collective case of amnesia in their anti-establishment cosplay."
Such good writing, and spot on. Here's more:
"I’m all for off-ramps and reconciliation. If Rwanda could do it, we sure as hell can. But before Rwandans could achieve anything like reconciliation, the killing had to stop. You don’t give an off-ramp to some guy who is still chopping heads off with his machete. And Trump, and by extension, Trumpsters, are still doing that. Which is why I take strong issue with your characterization of these as “politicized” prosecutions. Maybe New York’s is pretty Mickey Mouse. But the others are prosecuting a guy for behavior that we all know he engaged in. He did try to fix an election in Georgia. He’s on tape, doing so. There’s no other way to read it, unless your name is Eric or Donald Trump Jr. They’re not even putting up much of a defense, other than to cry “witch hunt and liberal bias,” the same way every winger does when he gets his schwantz caught in a vise. It’s an easy appeal: “Oh, the big bad libs are being unfair again.” And sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re just as dishonest as the right is being on Trump. But I’m not a lib. And I sincerely hope Donald Trump isn’t any more above the law than I am. If I tried to steal an election by lying and bullying, threw a riot party to do so, got several people killed along the way, and kept doubling down on the very behavior I’d already engaged in by re-peddling the same lies and intimidating witnesses and vowing revenge, well I sure as hell hope if my justice system was worth a damn, that they would prosecute me, too. When Trump says, “If they can come for me, they can come for you.” I’m like: “Yeah, exactly! That’s how it should be, jackass, if I committed the crimes you have.”
Let's hope America's justice system provides a powerful intervention on the addictive dynamics. If they get quashed, we are heading for something very dark and ugly.
In the case of MAGA, the million dollar questions are:
1. Why this anger? What's it about?
2. Why is Trump the standard-bearer of its expression and response?
How would you respond?
No matter how clearly and accurately we do respond (and I think such insight is valuable), there remains the addictive dynamic that sets in when anger is regularly stimulated, especially as a righteous response to one's sense of being victimized in some manner (by the system, the "swamp," changing demographics, whatever) and of having little power to do anything about it. Any media source that can tap into this and keep the anger stirred up and focused in a particular direction will profit greatly! If, in addition, a charismatic leader can give expression to the anger and place the blame on certain "enemies" (Jews, Catholics, gun owners, migrants, liberals, welfare freeloaders, etc.), we have a set-up for bitter social divisions. And that's where we are in the USA!
Hitler benefited from these dynamics, especially after taking control of the media. In the U.S., there's no need to quash the media as people willingly tune-in to the bias of their choice. We increasingly form our identity around these, often demonizing anyone who threatens this identity. Families and communities become divided. The best we can seemingly do in many cases is try to stay connected in ways that steer clear of the anger/bias/identity complex, and that may well be a very charitable place to be (and also very difficult). The alternative, after all, is complete relationship breakdown -- not uncommon in many families today. All the while, people caught up in this false self situation need their regular anger fix and are driven to watch cable news and read their social media groups, etc. that resonate. As long as we continue to indulge the fix, we are unlikely to change; that's how it goes with addiction and recovery.
Where is the church and other religious groups in all this? What do we have to offer? Can we experience spiritual unity in communities when our very identities are so caught up in anger/false self dynamics?
We cannot! Any unity evidenced will be superficial, at best, with ministers desperately trying to keep things from flying apart by walking a tightrope in their teachings to avoid upsetting either side. That's not healthy, either.
In the case of the Catholic Church, there's no doubt in my mind that if a Democratic candidate polling over 50% for the Party nomination was advocating for free abortions nation-wide with clinics in every county (and Louisiana parishes), we would be hearing about it from the pulpit incessantly. And yet we now have a Republican polling over 50% with recent convictions for sex abuse/rape, slander, and indicted for over 90 felonies (some of which resulted in deaths) which, collectively, threaten the social fabric of our democracy. And yet:
- I hear evangelical Christian preachers on the radio still supporting Trump;
- some Christian publications post criticisms, but are shouted down in the online comments sections
- what else?
One thing is absolutely certain: IF WE ENABLE ADDICTIVE DYNAMICS THEY GET WORSE. I saw this up close during the years I worked as an alcohol/drug abuse counselor. Keeping the peace at any price can be very expensive! It's what's happened with the Trump/MAGA anger fix as well. Republican leaders have been so careful not to upset the MAGA movement as they need this vote to win, and they're probably right about that. When Ramaswamy is cheered for defending Trump and Christie is booed for pointing out that Trump wanted to suspend the Constitution -- we have a problem!
The decision Americans need to make is whether we want to be a people who abide by the Constitution and the rule of law. That's it. Those who do not really don't belong here, regardless of their race or religion or wealth status. Immigrants who won't take this pledge cannot become citizens. Without this individual and communal commitment, America is nothing special, really -- just another of many countries consisting of squabbling tribal groups vying for power, preferably at other tribes' expense.
The various indictments of Trump constitute a kind of legal intervention on MAGA. What's being tested are at least two basic foundational U.S. principles:
1. Elections are the process by means of which the people select leaders. Political leaders do not get to decide if they win these elections. Such is the responsibility of county and state officials.
2. If there are disputes concerning election processes and results, they are resolved by the courts.
We all know Trump violated #1 in his incessant (and ongoing) denial of election results that certified Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Trump made use of #2 to contest results, and failed to make his case in court, losing all but one case, which was in itself insignificant to determining results.
That's it! Game over, especially after the Electoral College certified the vote in December.
Through his ongoing denialism and insulting of the courts, Trump has demonstrated his unwillingness to abide by Constitutional processes regarding elections, and he has not accepted the judgments of Law concerning his cases. Regardless of whether he is found guilty or not in the indictments against him, he has already, by his behavior, demonstrated that he is unfit to run for any office. He is not even fit to be a U.S. citizen!
In a sense, the same can be said about his supporters. If they are unwilling to accept election results and the judgments of courts, they have, with Trump, signaled their deviance from foundational American principles concerning Constitutional governance and the rule of law. It's doubtful they could be removed from the country for their deviant attitudes, but it's certain that they are bad citizens, especially for continuing to cheer on Trump in his relentless assault on American democracy.
I'm thinking it's time to say all this more and more. People who won't give up their anger/MAGA fix won't hear it, but we can no longer pretend that they are open to reason, not when there are decent conservative Republican alternatives running for President. Discerning when/how to set boundaries about this is not easy, of course, but the enabling alternative needs to be considered as well. It's time to give that up.
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