Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fantasy's border...

People generally know where fantasy ends and reality begins in the realm of fiction.  But, maybe the dividing line isn’t so clear in real life.

Donald Trump the frontrunner in the Republican primaries??  Are the voters kidding, or just temporarily insane?

Probably neither.  They’re in rebellion.  The kind of rebellion that manifests in flight from reality.  People (Republican people, at least) are fed up with the perceived ineptitude and corruption of government.  (They don’t understand much of it; they just want someone to give them easy answers.)  They love Trump because he’s an outsider (that is, someone who knows absolutely nothing about government) and more importantly, he’s the symbol and embodiment of everything the modern Republican party holds dear.  Money.  Greed.  Materialism.  Social Darwinism.  Life as reality T.V.  Winners and losers.  Winners get rich.  Losers, I guess, get deported.  And, those who are different are not welcome.  The GOP constituents are living in a kind of real-life science fiction dimension in which a giant wall is going to magically appear along the Mexican border, and illegal immigrants are going to magically disappear.  (Their kids too, BTW.)  Jobs will magically appear too, of course, and America “will be great again.”  No clue how.  That’s the thing about dreams; they aren’t limited to the boundaries of logic.  Oh, and good news:  Global warming doesn’t really exist; It’s just propaganda launched by Red China so they can trick us into shutting down our industry.  (Wow, that’s a relief, to discover those floods, storms and wildfires devastating the world are just figments of Beijing’s imagination!)

Donald Trump is no right-wing ideologue.  He is first and last a showman.  Like a carnival magician, he deals in illusion.  He tells the people what they want to hear, aiming at the heart instead of the mind (tossing in a few doctored statistics to make it sound reasonable) and, like any practiced con artist, he knows they’ll buy it simply because they want to.  He’ll seize the oil fields in Iran and give the money to the families of our veterans.  He loves our veterans.  He loves our military.  Never served a day in his life, but he loves them from afar.  He lays on the sugar-coated patriotic sentimentality thick, and lashes out with adolescent insolence and obscenity when attacking his competitors.  And, unlike real candidates, he gets away with it.  Yes, he’s the candidate for the cyber-age.  The public loves the Internet because it frees us from the constraints of courtesy and empathy.  We can indulge our petty, hateful, judgmental, adolescent side with complete abandon.

At some point though, the public has to wake up and face reality, right?  Don’t bet on it.  Remember the 1980’s?  The public twice elected a cowboy movie star who promised to make America great again, offering simple solutions to all of life’s complicated problems.  He ended up selling guns to Iran to finance right-wing death squads in Central America, he defended white supremacism in South Africa and he left this country with the biggest national debt in history.  Yes, it really can happen.  Fantasy and reality can merge with horrifying effect.  The one essential ingredient is a convenient enemy.  In Ronald Reagan’s case, it was the “evil empire” of Soviet communism.  In Trump’s case, it’s illegal immigration.

Flash forward to President Donald Trump. Would he really keep his hopelessly impractical promises, by whatever means necessary?  Would millions of undocumented immigrants and their children really disappear in the dead of night, only to turn up later in mass graves along the border, or scattered across the desert as ashes fluttering down from chimneys?  Probably not.  Trump’s not the kind of guy who cares about keeping promises after they’ve gotten him what he wants.  Chances are, President Trump would concentrate on lining his pockets by shipping more American jobs overseas and making life safer for corporate tax shelters.  He’d wage open war on organized labor, of course.  He’d become the standard bearer of the school of thought that corporations are people, and people are disposable assets.  And, forget the environment.  It’s history.  Four years of getting ripped off again by utterly unbounded corporate cannibalism.

The dream becomes the nightmare.  Why?  We trust the rich because they represent what we want to become, even as they squeeze the middle class into extinction and make upward mobility a remote memory that they will bloody-well keep to themselves.  So much easier to trust the charismatic leader…king, czar, fuehrer…and to blame all our problems on the outsider we can scapegoat and persecute.  Trump recently summarized the reason for his popularity:  “Politicians try to make themselves look like one of the common people.  But, the voters don’t want that.  They want somebody who can beat Japan and China.”  He likely has no clue how to do that.  But, the masses don’t care.  They just want some iconic, larger-than-life figure they can look up to.  It’s so much easier than actually governing themselves.

The fantasy becomes reality.  And, then, God help us all.