Evil like this doesn’t just go away. Evil like this has roots. Deep and gnarled ones. The sorts of roots so thick they look like lymphedemic legs swole up with fluid and turgid tissue. Roots grown fat from 400 years of sucking up every last drip drop of blood from the lash and not near as much by the sword like Abraham once said. Or maybe it was God who said that. Old Abraham…our Abraham…it don’t matter much either way. No sense in splitting hairs when you should be splitting rails and building back up something that’s been burnt down.
Burnt down. The Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church had been standing there in Greenville, Mississippi for over 110 years before it got burnt down last Tuesday night. Well maybe not standing there—there, but somewhere. That is until some brain damaged white supremacist manchild torched the place and ran like the yellow-bellied bastard I’m sure he is into the night, pausing just long enough to whip out his stubby can of spray paint and mark his territory by scrawling a big Vote Trump on the side of the church. And yes, I know it was a he even if I don’t know who done it yet. There ain’t a woman in all of God’s green goodness that’s heartless enough to burn down a church and dumb enough to leave behind a damn calling card. It takes a body that’s got to share blood with two brains to do something so devoid of sense.
This Tuesday night, we will in all likelihood find out whether the cretinous orange wretch who inspired this most recent bout of racist pyromania in Greenville has been elected leader of the free world or if he’ll be slinking into his backup plan as CEO of the most vacuous and venomous news outlet in all of christendom. I’m not here to tell you who’s going to win and by what margin because, frankly, we reached overkill on prognostication pieces about 6 months and 60,000 earth-shattering poll results ago. The political establishment of both parties is not being hyperbolic when they claim that this may well be the most important election of our lifetimes, but to a certain degree, who wins and who loses now is a moot point. Regardless of how Donald Trump does on November 8th, Trumpism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
There has been plenty about this election that could be categorized as abhorrent and dispiriting, but there may be no more grotesque revelation to come from Trump’s campaign than that the narrative regarding racial justice and equality in this country since the Civl Rights Era is predominantly fiction. Of course, for many people of color in America, this is no more a revelation than the rising and setting of the sun each day, but for those white liberals and moderates who had been living under the delusion that the days of overt racism and prejudice were a thing of the past, Trump’s largely racist, bigoted appeal has been jarring.
But none of this is unique to Trump. To what degree that amoral paragon of inhumanity even believes his own bullshit is debatable, but what is certain is that Trump, like any good carnival barker or revivalist preacher, has a nose for what his people want and he gives it to them. Everything you have seen in this campaign—the vicious anti-semitism, the white nationalist anger, the paranoid embrace of xenophobic, jingoistic narrative that blames complex economic and social woes on the nearest black, brown or semitic person—has been inside of them all along. All of the hatred and vitriol that has violently burbled to the surface during this election has always been there like a hanging cloud of methane waiting for a match to be struck.
In all reality, the personal views of Donald Trump about everything from illegal immigrants and women’s rights to race relations and free speech probably aren’t too terribly different from many of his Republican colleagues. What makes Trump fundamentally different from all of them is that he is fluent in the language of fear. He instinctively knows that when white conservatives scream out that they want a presidential candidate who tells it like it is, what they really want is a man who will spoon-feed them the distorted, victimized reality that they need to feel as if their lives aren’t spiraling meaninglessly into oblivion. All Trump is doing is more effectively and broadly promoting an ethos that has been promoted by loudmouthed charlatans like Alex Jones and Sean Hannity for years and which was borrowed from populist demagogues of the past like George Wallace and Father Coughlin. It is an ethos that says that there is always someone else to blame for your own problems and that that someone else will invariably look different or worship a different deity than you do.
The true horror of Donald Trump isn’t so much in the things he says or the actions he inspires, but in the way he is cementing a mendacious and often irretrievably distorted worldview in the mind of tens of millions of Americans. Some of them are veteran ideologues who have been shouting about zionist cabals and Mexican rapists being responsible the downfall of white civilization for decades, but many are initiates to the process—driven by economic insecurity and a litany of personal grievances into the arms of unyielding hatred.
Why accept the reality that coal mining jobs are evaporating because of technological advancement, the poor coal quality of remaining accessible and cost-effective Appalachian coal and a lack of global demand and, when you can blame the uppity black man in The White House and his hoards of tree-hugging liberal hippie cronies? Why acknowledge that the Pandora’s Box of globalization has been opened and that the reason why American manufacturing jobs have left the country is the same reason why they’re able to take pictures of Trump at a rally with their $50 smart phone when you can just vilify undocumented workers?
The twisted genius of Trump is that he has fully embraced his base’s desire to live in a world of their own making instead of acknowledging the often harsh reality of the world they actually live in. In this election, he has rediscovered that those seeking comfort and solace amidst the systemic upheaval of their way of life will gladly latch on to any politician who is craven enough to eschew any fact that might cause cognitive dissonance and discomfort. And nothing that happens on November 8th is going to do a damn thing to change the Americans who have fully invested in Trump’s debauched narrative or the horde of politicians who will try to use his blueprint in the future.