UNDERSTANDING TRUMPISM - AN ESSAY
I was first introduced to the phenomenon of Trumpism during my Vietnam service back in the 70s. We had these two guys in our department, Jerry and Ken. Jerry was as close to a young Donald Trump as you could find, and Ken was his tag-along bosom buddy who followed him around like a puppy.
Jerry, quite simply, was a bully with no moral code. While on liberty, several of us once went to a restaurant in town. Jerry told us all to leave before him and he would pick up the tab. A couple days later, he chuckled as he told us that he actually did a "dine and dash", sticking the restaurant with the tab and no tip for the waitress. One night while dining out, a waitress came to our table and, holding her tablet and pencil asked, "What would you guys like?" Jerry quickly reached out and firmly grabbed her crotch while saying, "I want THIS!!!" She was so shocked, she was speechless. Times were different then and boorish guys could get away with that kind of thing most of the time. Today, a manager would have had police there within minutes to arrest him for sexual assault. We would go to bars as a group and while playing pool, Jerry would get bored and sucker punch another player just to create chaos. One time he broke a guy's jaw. He lost a stripe for that one. I thought he should have been dishonorably discharged, but during wartime, the brass judging those things tend to be more lenient. These incidents were just the tip of the iceberg. With Jerry, it was one atrocious thing after another all the time.
So, let's get back to Ken. Ken very seldom joined in on Jerry's vile behavior, but saw Jerry as more of a mentor. During each incident of outrageous conduct by Jerry, Ken would look on, not with disgust and disdain, but with awe and admiration. One day when I was alone with Ken, I asked him, "Why do you see Jerry the way you do? Why do you so willingly tolerate his behavior when others don't?" He was surprised at the question, and even a bit offended. This was his response: "I like Jerry because I see him as a real man. He doesn't show weakness. He does what he wants whenever he wants, and most importantly, he TAKES what he wants whenever he wants. He is dominant over others and I see that as strength in a man." To be frank, I didn't fully understand Ken's answer at the time. I was in my early 20s then and had never met anyone like Ken who could so easily rationalize and convert the wrongdoing of others into positive, acceptable actions.
This brings me to the phenomenon of Trumpism I mentioned in the first paragraph. As I got older, I met a few more "Jerrys" during my life, but not all that many. I did, however, meet A LOT more "Kens". These are all the people who adhere to the belief that the best leaders in our world are Strong and Wrong. It's the "Kens" who make it possible for authoritarian world leaders to gain power and become entrenched, making it almost impossible to be dislodged because they have just a strong enough base of subservient supporters willing to protect and defend the authoritarian leader to which they so willingly genuflect.
I'm sure that Ken is a Trump supporter today, and we have many just like him living in our country. These are weak people with little or no self-respect. These are people who have spent most of their lives looking for someone stronger than themselves to tell them what to do, what to say, and what to believe. If you confront them with what they are, they'll vehemently deny it, because this type of person is incapable of acknowledging and admitting their own weakness of character. Their resolute loyalty to their Strong and Wrong leader enables them to ignore even the most anti-social, inhumane behavior, which can include things like separating children from their parents legally seeking asylum at the U.S. border as a lesson to others who follow not to try it, and considering millions of Americans contracting a disease that for many results in permanent disability and even death, to be an acceptable loss as long as it furthers the plan of an authoritarian leader to retain his power.
We can't do anything about the Kens in this country of ours. They have always, and will always, be a necessary element our country must deal with. But what we CAN do is to continue outnumbering them with generations of children who were taught skills of empathy, compassion, critical thinking, and above all, the importance of respecting one's own personal potential to think independently without allowing false idols of power to control their thoughts or decisions.
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