One of the most incisive commentaries on Donald Trump's personal style involves his rather loose association with reality. In other words, our president often neither knows where he is going nor from where he is coming.
But the fact that he is frequently disconnected from the real world doesn't seem to bother him in the least. He simply manufactures his own reality as he goes and as the situation demands.
But aren't we all entitled to our own opinions? Yes, but not to our own facts. The real problem is in letting our opinion or subjective viewpoint override the truth, a belief that feelings are just as important as facts. And there are numerous examples of this seductive little exercise in Trump's political rhetoric. But he is not the first public figure to engage in this type of fantasy.
Prior to George W. Bush's 2008 near depression, otherwise known as "The Great Recession," investors were seduced into believing that real estate would increase in value forever. And today many otherwise rational people are sure that vaccines cause autism and that climate change is just a liberal hoax.
But this type of mind set is nothing new. During the Civil War Union General George McClellan was forever enlarging his command to fight numerically superior Confederate armies that never existed. And Vietnam era Secretary of State Robert McNamara used body counts and bombs dropped totals to assure us, and probably himself as well, that we were winning the War. So welcome to the world of manufactured, custom-made reality, today Trump's private domain. In this realm "mainstream" has become a pejorative and "irrational" has become the norm.
Noted writer Kurt Anderson recently described Trump as "a 71-year-old brat who despises knowledge and expertise because it interferes with his right to confuse fact with fiction."
Right-wing talk radio and Fox News disseminate a steady stream of extremist propaganda confirming the ancient Greek observation that "in war the first casualty is always the truth." And I hate to say this about any American, but many of Trump's strategies and tactics are right out of Adolph Hitler's playbook: "If one tells a lie often enough people will eventually begin to believe it." Remember "Crooked Hillary?" "Lock her up?"
Early on Trump seems to have grasped the fact that people who feel desperate, helpless and insecure are unimpressed by politicians' appeals to their rational natures with workable solutions. Instead, frightened people are susceptible to easy, simplistic fixes and are not apt to check them out too thoroughly. Trump's nonstop, intuitive lying has forced the American news media to abandon its traditional neutrality and objectivity in order to remain true to its traditions of reporting the news fairly and completely. Is the mainstream press biased? Indeed it is; biased toward reality. But Donald Trump is not the cause of anything but, rather, the result.
Trump is the result of an acute case of national myopic and dysfunction tracing back to Lyndon Johnson's 1964 support of civil rights legislation and the resultant southern "Big Switcheroo" to the GOP. Since then the terms "Democrat" and "Republican" have become mere synonyms for liberal and conservative.
Negotiation and compromise for the common good is no longer possible in this hostile, ultra-partisan environment. But what concerns me most is the fact that over half of Americans today express "a loss of faith in the way democracy is working."
Trump's recent successes would have been inconceivable but for our fears, hatreds, extremism and polarization. When I reflect on what evolved in post-World War I Europe, in a similar situation, it scares the h--- out of me!
Democracy not working? Due to our atrociously low voting numbers (58% of eligible voters in 2016) it's hardly being practiced. We can use it, or lose it.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.