Cults, Scapegoats, Hatred, and Violence

Trump is a symptom. He’s not our primary problem. Trump reflects and reveals American values: selfishness, materialism, greed, the lust for power, the desire to dominate, scapegoating, hatred, a disposition toward violent speech and violent action, worshiping “winners,” contempt for “losers,” the quest for revenge, “It’s All About Me (and my Family).” Most Trump voters seem to embrace those values, as do do many of those who (for various reasons) did not vote for him.

The United States also affirms many positive values. Like Leonard Cohen said, “America has the best and the worst.” Over time this country has made great progress. But there’s no guarantee it will continue.

In fact, America is becoming ever more polarized, divided, and selfish. It seems our addiction to screens has worsened that trend, which will likely worsen. We’re devolving and evolving at the same time. Which trend will prevail is uncertain.

Many concerned Americans have focused on Trump and the prospect of impeachment. But it might be more productive to build one or more national nonviolent movements to overcome the devolution and nurture the evolution. For instance a massive, grassroots movement opposing the attempt to repeal Obamacare could build a network of small, face-to-face communities that would stay together over time to advance a positive, proactive agenda. But it seems the Resistance, with its negative stance, may fizzle.

Donald Trump has become a scapegoat. He is alleged to bear the blame for our state of affairs. As such, he’s the object of hate, extreme hostility, dislike, and disgust. He is demonized.

That opposition is often expressed with violent language. And just as the atmosphere of hate in Dallas contributed to the assassination of President Kennedy, violent rhetoric contributed to the shooting of Republicans on that D.C. baseball field.

One definition of violence is a vehement, intense expression of hatred.  Violent words often help to cause violent actions. That’s one reason we need non-violent communication. Yes, words matter, whether they come from Trump or his opponents.

Once again the ”left” and “right” are mirror images of the other, with each rooted in America’s Shadow, attacking hate with hate, each assured of their own righteousness with cult-like devotion to their leaders, their presumed saviors. Demons and saviors are often two sides of the same coin: blindness. Blind hatred and blind loyalty.

Blind followers overlook or defend the mistakes and faults of their leader. Those tendencies have been exhibited by many supporters of Obama, Sanders, and Clinton, who have reinforced those tendencies by failing to criticize themselves to any significant degree.

Blind opponents of Trump have failed to recognize his humanity. He is a man-child whose father stunted his emotional growth. As is human, he has many sides to his personality, including the ability, at times anyway, to be kind and courteous.

But he’s also learned that the media loves the outrageous, especially if it’s violent, whether verbal or physical. Violence is good for ratings. The media’s infatuation with over-the-top greed and violence has buttressed Trump’s worst traits in a downward spiral. I too hope he resigns or is impeached as soon as possible — before that spiral runs out of control.

We should remember, however, that he’s a creature of our social system. If cable news had not given him all that free air-time, he would not be President. If a “divide-and-conquer” dynamic did not drive our society, we wouldn’t be so polarized and he would not be President. If climbing one social ladder or another, and looking down on those below, were not central to our society, he would not be President.

Ranting and raving about “enemies” like Trump may make us feel better. It may provide some temporary relief, which is fine. But if we dwell on that anger and it crystallizes into hatred, we become distracted from the primary task at hand: systemic, fundamental transformation that is grounded in compassion.

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