The day after the recent election, Zoe asked me, “How did Trump win?”
I said, “Ask your grandma,” because her grandma had voted for the fellow.
But that was only an easy answer I gave because I felt too dismayed to talk and because the answer I would have otherwise given was too complicated for her fourteen-year-old patience.
Some reasons I am dismayed are: Trump appears to be a classic narcissist, and narcissism and pure evil are closely linked (for a wise study of this issue, read M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie); many good people are now in danger of being deported; and far too many others are likely to get sick and sicker or become destitute or die, for the lack of health insurance.
Trump won because he allowed himself to be human; the natural man, possessor of all the faults flesh is heir to, and a personification of at least five of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, and a sixth, gluttony, when we recognize one of its meanings as over-indulgence in the trappings of wealth. The seventh deadly sin, sloth, he does not appear to suffer from. These traits helped him win because all of us humans, if we bother to look, can glimpse parts of ourselves in him. So we can identify with the man.
What concerns me even more: Trump won because some years back, the Republican Party recognized that Christian fundamentalists were a viable demographic and easy prey as long as they could be swayed with arguments that would cost them little to nothing. To oppose abortion and homosexuality are easy and arguably in accord with the Bible. On the other hand, to expect Christians to do any of what Christ modeled and gave as his mission — to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed. — is harder than hell. And it’s all too human to choose the easy over the hard.
Trump won because those who came to prepare his way — Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the Fox network folks and the like — learned what newspaper and magazine tycoon William Randolph Hearst discovered about a hundred years ago, that the most effective way to govern was by controlling the media. So we have spent at least the last twenty some years witnessing what William Butler Yeats prophesied:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Because of their passionate intensity, the worst can mouth lies without apparent shame, probably believing that the ends they desire, on account of their pride, greed and envy, justify the means.
These people prepared the way for a shameless liar to label his opponent a liar, for a boss who refuses to pay his workers to label his opponent a criminal, for a sexual abuser to condemn his opponent for aiding in the defense of her husband, which, by the way, is what most Christian fundamentalists would have advised her to do.
I’m not so worried about Trump as about what he and those who prepared for him have unleashed. I wonder:
…what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
But since I’m incapable of living without hope, I dream some good will come out of all this evil. Maybe folks with sense will recognize that those who admire the proud, greedy, and wrathful are, no matter what they call themselves, not Christians.
Maybe there is a different sort of revival on the way, one that will reflect the attitude of Leonard Cohen, about whom a dear friend of his wrote: “His attitude of acceptance was not founded on anything as cheap as happiness.” I believe he meant that Cohen’s belief in a loving God wasn’t based on how easy or bountiful his belief would make his own life.
He was more like Job who vowed, “Though he slay me, I will trust him.”