In a Religion, Your Savior Dies for You; In A Cult, You Die For Your Savior.
Donald Trump is literally requiring his followers to die for him.
It started off more notional; the suggestion that Donald Trump supporters would be called on — and willing — to die for him. After all, it takes time, progression, persuasion, accumulation, manipulation to move a reasonably mentally healthy actor from the control group to the group willing to drink the Kool-Aid, fly the Kamikaze mission, strap on the suicide bomb, or willingly allow oneself to be exposed to a deadly coronavirus for which there is no vaccine or cure.
But then there was Dan Patrick, the Texas Lt. Gov. saying the quiet because it’s insane part out loud: “No one reached out to me and said, ‘as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren and if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.’”
What? You’re going to trade your life for your children and grandchildren because Donald Trump has the pandemic response plan of a blind, deaf and crippled hamster? And you want other seniors to commit to the same thing?
In truth, there were always some signs that Trump could convince his most rabid supporters to do things that would seem incongruous and inconsistent with who or what they had long professed to believe.
Convince alleged evangelical Christians to support a thrice married womanizer with credible rape allegations and documented porn star payoffs — check.
Convince alleged patriots to throw the U.S. Constitution in the nearest trash can and acquit Trump of emoluments clause, Article 2 clause, oath to the Constitution, federal law, and income tax violations — check.
Convince entire media corporations and personalities to literally and actively work to destroy their own country in order to spin webs of lies, misinformation and alternate realities that ensnare unwitting senior, poor and downtrodden Americans — check.
Convince the same senior, poor and downtrodden Americans that a massive wealth transfer from their meager purses to the pocketbooks of the wealthiest one percent is a necessary purchase to rid the country of abortion — check.
Convince the same senior, poor and downtrodden Americans to give back their hard-fought, badly-needed and much-deserved Obamacare, Medicare, civil liberties, and personal freedoms because too many “others” were benefitting also — check.
And so it should not be as shocking as it is that Trump’s supporters — having already crossed so many once unthinkable lines for him — would consent to cross the final line and give their very lives in service to his own pitiful and pathetic life, and yet here we are.
At least the other line crossings made some — if not a lot of — sense. At least his supporters could rationalize that there was something in it for them.
At least prominent alleged evangelical Christian leaders could grow in power, wealth and status and enjoy the comfort that comes from not rocking the boat.
At least Fox News became a ratings and financial juggernaut.
At least senior, poor and downtrodden Americans got something to believe in, something aspirational to hope for.
But dying for someone else — or being willing to — ups the ante considerably. It’s not the noble dying for someone else concept of the military, firefighters, Secret Service agents, even husbands who dutifully take the baseball bat downstairs in the middle of the night to “see what that noise was.”
This is the purposeless, meaningless, pointless, fruitless, bootless willingness to catch a deadly virus and die an ignoble and unremarkable — though incredibly painful — death in order to….to what? Own the Libs? Prove your loyalty, turned fealty, turned worship to Donald John Trump? To show that you were too intellectually superior to fall for the “Democratic hoax” that was the coronavirus?
Seriously — despite the tendency of the mainstream media to portray Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain as a big-time boob, Cain was a successful Black businessman in the 1980s when few were and even fewer rose to his level of prominence. As a son of the Jim Crow south and a Morehouse Man, Cain’s success renders Blacks of a certain age with a sense of pride until this very day.
But something happened — and Cain crossed line after line in the name of fealty to Trump, until, even his very life was worth the risk.
Another Covid-19 infectee whose behavior is beyond explanation is NC Republican Senator Thom Tillis. Before promptly and perfunctorily donning his mask for the (widely televised and seen by his NC constituents) Amy Coney Barrett Rose Garden nomination ceremony, Tillis masklessly received and transmitted and received and transmitted and received and transmitted the coronavirus with aplomb at the indoor nomination ceremonies (which if things had gone according to plan his NC constituents would never have known about).
As NC House Speaker, Tillis was measured, modest, steady and smart — but something happened — and Tillis crossed line after line until even his own life was worth the political and electoral risk to closely align himself to the Superspreader in Chief.
Consider Hope Hicks and Kayleigh McEnany — two smart, competent, beautiful young women with their entire lives and careers ahead of them. Hicks’ father is a PR professional who was an executive for the National Football League. She followed in his footsteps and has an impressive PR resume — outside of Trumplandia.
McEnany holds a degree in international politics from Georgetown and a Harvard Law degree and is married to a professional athlete. But each day she and the delicate gold-cross chain around her neck dutifully take their place behind a microphone and tell blatant and obvious lies — to please Trump. McEnany has a less-than-one-year old daughter at home. Process that; with an infant child, McEnany has been willing to go in and out of the small corporation that is the White House each and every day, not only not wearing a mask but scorning those who do. Now she will have to spend at least 14 days not holding, not changing, not touching her baby — and that is the best possible outcome.
Hicks actually was able to break free one time! She did what few have ever done in the Trump orbit — left on good terms. Months later, she inexplicably returned, perhaps because — like heroin — once is never enough.
The Cult of Trump is unusual in that — unlike other prominent cults of history — it was not formed outside of the public view with only a few concerned family members and friends desperately trying to raise the alarm. At a series of raucous rallies, off-the-wall but fascinating press conferences, and right in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C. — piped into American homes by a hopelessly complicit media — Trump formed a cult, demanded that his supporters take the next step and become members, then demanded that they take the next step and give — or be willing to give — their very lives.
Like most cults, at least at first, the people who leave it are perceived to be the strange ones, the infidels, the ones who don’t have what it takes. That’s what happened to former Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. They would not join the cult and were promptly ostracized.
Then there are those who clearly see the cult for what it is and refuse to join but want and need to stay close because of power and status and the fear of ostracization — so they walk in the middle of the road — neither hot nor cold, just — lukewarm. Looking at you Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski.
Then there are those who don’t go all in — at first — but like dominoes their wills begin to fall. That would be the aforementioned Tillis and McEnany and SC Sen. Lindsey Graham.
And then there are those who somehow, someway manage to escape in time — like long-time Trump fixer Michael Cohen and shortest-press-secretary-in-human-history Anthony Scaramucci.
It has been said that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As hard as it is to believe, one day the Trump presidency, the Trump Cult, even the Trump life — will be in the past. America will find itself on the other side of this moment. One can only pray that Americans have long memories and never forget the cult and its leader — who asked for nothing less than their very lives.