When someone close, someone you really care about, manifests an unmistakable, zombie-like lack of critical thinking accompanied by unwavering devotion to a self-serving criminal, you really see the terrifying truth of Donald Trump’s infamous boast about Fifth Avenue and his followers’ loyalty to him.
That was my recent experience. I sent this someone a link to an article about a COVID-positive man attending a church service and infecting virtually the entire congregation. This someone who generally is calm, easygoing, rational, and peace-loving, replied to the article with a surprisingly indignant rant. The rant challenged restrictions on church services and school closings. It railed against “protests and riots”—and particularly against “week-long gatherings for a politician, civil rights icon or not.” It referred to the aforementioned school closings as “shameful,” because “science does not bear that out.” It concluded: “The abject panic over this virus is ridiculous.”
Retreat to Fantasy Island
In my reply, I dispassionately disputed each of the rant’s claims, using documented, objective facts. This dear friend then reverted to her polite persona and responded graciously to my response, but made no attempt to counter my documented contentions. Instead, as Trumpists so often do, this person then retreated to her quiet place where facts and logic that contradict her beliefs are not welcome. There, in that quiet place, that fantasy island, beliefs reign supreme, unchallenged by the real world.
I abandoned Facebook nearly two years ago largely because of frustrating interactions like the one mentioned above. I was never interested in proclaiming to a universe of FB “friends” that the new toilet paper I bought is silky smooth, or in hearing from others that Uncle Dan finally found the cure for his foot fungus. I wanted to rationally discuss real, life-influencing topics. I soon realized why most FB members stick to mundane matters.
The sad fact is that most people either care not about deep, life-influencing topics, or they’ve chosen to avoid such topics for the sake of peace. But peace based on repeated capitulation is a false peace. Edmund Burke wisely said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Evil gains a foothold while good people happily debate whether olive oil or butter is the better ingredient for tonight’s casserole while the world around them is unraveling.
But, back to the rant from this dear friend—who, by the way, initially opposed candidate Trump but who capitulated to pressure from other family members.
Like so many other Trumpists—and even apolitical white folks I know—her objection to protests and riots is tied to her news consumption. Yes, she and her husband get virtually all their “news” and commentary from Fox News. Fox routinely presents a skewed view of the nation’s protests, making it appear as though violent “radicals and anarchists” suddenly awakened from a drug-induced slumber and for no apparent reason began screaming, blocking traffic, vandalizing, destroying buildings, looting, and fighting law enforcement officials.
Given such a scenario, then of course government officials must respond by deploying a substantial law enforcement presence to restore peace. And if local governments fail to do so, then Trump is right to deploy federal forces, Trumpists declare. Forget that many of the protests turned violent when a few protestors reacted to yet more excesses by those who are supposed to be there as peacekeepers.
Don’t bother considering that many of those same law enforcement officers first ignited the protests by targeting minorities. Ignore or gloss over the underlying cause of the protests. Never mention George Floyd, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown, Redell Jones, Kenny Watkins, Stephon Clark, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, or any of the hundreds of other Black Americans killed by police because their skin color made white folks suspicious and fearful. Disregard those lives lost and instead hunker down in the comfort of your Fox-fueled fantasy island where you can enjoy your comfortably insulated lives.
Remember that this friend’s outburst about protests and rioting was part of her response to the article I sent about one COVID-positive congregant infecting an entire congregation. In her tirade against liberals’ reaction to COVID, this friend—who before her conversion to Trumpism was one of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve ever known—never once expressed any concern for the COVID-infected congregants of that church. I was shocked. She’s not the same person I knew prior to her conversion.
Prior to her conversion to Trumpism, this person would not have callously declared about a virus that has killed 160,000 Americans, “The abject panic over this virus is ridiculous.” She would have deeply grieved the loss of each of those 160,000 and prayed for the virus’s demise before any other precious lives were lost.
This is but one example of the insidious influence of Donald Trump and Trumpism. Donald Trump is a self-centered monster, supported by others who are similarly self-centered. And, aided by Fox News and other similar grossly-slanted “news” outlets, he’s transforming formerly compassionate folks into self-centered occupants of a phony fantasy island of narcissism. That’s one more reason why we must participate in a crushing defeat of Donald Trump and of his enablers in Congress.