Evangelicalism, Politics

Teen Vogue: Trump is Gaslighting American

Saturday, 10th December 2016

From Dec. 10, 2016


Teen Vogue, now part of the liberal elite mainstream media. Teen Vogue. Thing is, they’re right. This is gaslighting, this is an attempt to establish a new normal in which facts have no bearing on reality.

There’s some irony here, that a publication aimed at teens would put out an op-ed like this. I’ve always thought of Trump (and in fact, the US in general) like an 18 year old boy. So sure of his own opinions. Uncertain about the world, but ready to fight, if only out of fear. Only interested in who’s with him and who’s not. Doesn’t yet have a nuanced and researched view of the world, so easy answers and memes are far more persuasive than long boring arguments. Only interested in the evidence that confirms his own opinion. Doesn’t yet have the tools of clear and careful reason, so strong opinion stands in for careful thought. Still trying to figure out who he is, and all the more dangerous for that, since any threat to the paper-thin sense of self is met with hostility. Inclined toward the clarity of virtual worlds (whether in games, movies, or somewhere else), because the real world is too messy. Not having a lot of hope for the future, living in a world of decline (thanks, mom and dad and all your friends for messing things up), so more interested in making up a world in which he is a superhero. Suspects that he has secret, as-yet-undiscovered powers, and hopes that that will change everything.

I know, this is not all 18 year old boys. Not all by any means. I’m sorry for slagging the 18 year old boys who don’t fall into this adolescent stereotype. Not all 18 year olds are 18 year olds. And yet, it seems to me that most of those who voted Trump into office are pretty close to this stereotype. While the left wants diversity, the right does not. It’s not safe, it’s not predictable. There is one way to deal with diversity, and the template came from evangelicalism – convert everyone. Different ideas are a threat, but different ideas come from fallen minds. Convert everyone.

Now, ideally, that conversion happens in the most honorable of ways. People see the light, whether it is the way that Saul did on the road to Damascus, or the way so many others have done, by seeing that Jesus is the one who makes sense out of all the chaos of the world. But if your only frame for the world is divided between those who are saved, and those who have yet to be saved, then diversity is always a bargain with the devil. Anything that deviates from the current Christianist social club understanding of what it means to be part of the in-group, is compromise.

It doesn’t mean that all on the right are religious, just that they all use the evangelical template. You’re with us or against us. So, this is not a country of difference, in which the task is to find ways to live with people who are not like us. This is a country of the saved and the yet-to-be-saved, and the task is to save them, and at the same time to set up a system that is as inhospitable as possible for anyone who is not part of the in-group, the saved. Salvation, in this political model, might ideally be accepting Jesus into your heart, but it is at least making the political and social structure optimally hospitable for the in-group, and optimally inhospitable to the out-group.

How does one have a politics in this situation? The foundational assumptions are different. In the case of the left, the point is diversity. And yes, that includes evangelicals, that includes everyone, despite the rhetoric we hear about the left really being uninterested in diversity. The left isn’t uninterested in diversity, it is uninterested in a system which rules out all diversity. The Trump voters, on the other hand, look like they have a winner-take-all goal. The left wants to govern the country as it exists, the country which consists of a wide range of very different people. The right wants to conquer all, to coerce everyone into one model. There is no diversity in that model, there is only conversion.

So, as someone who did not grow up in the US, and who has seen many other places in the world, the US has always seemed like an adolescent boy to me. Trump and his many followers only confirms that view. The worst excesses have been released in his name.

I guess the question is, do we want to be grown-ups, or do we want to be children? Right now, we’re children. And, Teen Vogue shows us that even children can see through it all. Soon we will all see through it all.

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