This planet has seen too many rulers in its history, people who choose tyranny, oppression, and violence to fulfill their craving for power over other human beings.
It is, time and again, a hollow victory. Tyranny has no value. It is merely a manifestation of how we have yielded to the worst side of ourselves, whether by being the tyrant or agreeing with what the tyrant desires.
Many words describe this lust for power and those who hold it. We name them: emperors, despots, dictators, oppressors, overlords — and kings. These people have consistently believed they were divinely appointed or inspired to rule some part of the world, or all of it.
The behavior of such men — not always but most often in our world history, they are men — is unreservedly authoritarian, absolutist, and totalitarian. They do not deal well with contradiction, much less opposition. Their preferred method of control is using intimidation, threats, weapons, and torture. Ideas of liberty are not welcomed. Indeed, they are never tolerated.
Now, Donald Trump has frequent and serious wish-fulfillment fantasies that he can ascend into the same kind of rule he so admires in the empires of Putin in Russia, Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, Kim Jong Un in North Korea, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt, and more. It is unlikely he can emulate these tyrants, since he is still — so far — controlled by our Constitution — so long as this incredible document and mandate from our Founding Fathers is not amended to allow royal titles and the idea that the president is there to serve the people is not deleted.
But no tyrant exists without two things: the support of some part of the populace, and the apathy, indifference, and silence of the rest. These are the ingredients of a rule that descends into the inevitable violence of power. Nothing else.
Here are some of the ingredients of Donald Trump’s “rise” to a power, an ascension he conceives as his right — possibly, given the way the Senate accommodates him, his divine right.
His supporters accept the lies he tells.
If people did not believe Trump’s comments — if they asked about the validity of what he said — then his bombast would sink to the bottom in the political pond. BUT his supporters have either accepted or ignored his racist comments. They have accepted or ignored his attacks on immigrants who are not white. (By contrast, witness his egregious comment asking why didn’t [white]people in Norway want to emigrate to the U.S., instead of all these Muslims and Mexicans, a remark that Norway treated as ludicrous, at best.) His supporters have laughed with him EVERY TIME he has derided women. They have shouted right along with him any expletives that put down other human beings.
Why, though? What’s going on with his supporters? Fear. Fear that the white race — which is the one Trump extols — could be diminished. It is a colonial point of view, in European terms, and at the same time a rejection of the immense diversity that has shaped America, making it unique — and great — in the world.
What makes the man tick? Besides his bullying and inclination to favor tyrants?
Trump is a small-minded man. It appears to be a character trait and not something that can be changed. He admits to not reading much of anything because it bores him, including staff reports and news of world events. He scorns intellectual and artistic fields. His antipathy to environmental causes is universally acknowledged. His refusal to support gun control is well-documented. His antipathy to anything he isn’t interested in is uppermost. But this may not be avoidable. He is out of his depth in these areas. His only way to pretend otherwise is to attack and keep his real motivation —his utter incomprehension of history, music, art, books, science, current events, and more — a secret.
How did a man so ignorant of history and bereft of ethics and compassion get elected, and what does this tell us about America?
There is a short answer to this. In truth, only 29% of the population voted for him. His Democratic opponent actually won the popular vote by over a million votes. BUT, almost half the voting population stayed home — 46% — and so did not exercise their freedom to vote. Donald Trump’s current position as the American president owes as much if not more to the ones who were silent — silent by neglecting to vote.
This could happen again. If Americans let it happen again.
What does he really mean, make America great again?
This one is easy. It accounts for most of his support and the enthusiasm of his supporters. Archaic as it sounds, he is professing a return to the old woodsman period of American life, allegedly a simpler time when people worked the land or hunted in the forests. All of them were white. When talking with his supporters, Trump harks back to the strong white men he believes made American great. He forgets — or, given his lack of reading and history — is unaware of the immigrants who built the railways and created settlements. He by inference accepts the enslavement of Africans by whites as part of the Great America he envisions.
Ultimately, Trump is promising his supporters and the massive number of Republican Senators who never challenge him that he will make America great again by making it white. That is his appeal. But, he can’t succeed in this. For one thing, this country never was all white. There were millions of Native Americans living on the land before the European invasion. For another, by 2050, based on sheer scientific fact, white people will be a minority here and around the world. There’s no stopping that.
What Is His Legacy Going To Be?
It is going to be a hollow legacy. It is already. Trump has created a vision of himself, and little else, apart from a false vision of an America that never was. His actions belie his office, and reveal an utter lack of substance. He has failed to support and commit to even one action that has improved the welfare of our country, much less the welfare of the world. Trump has opposed with every angry, resentful, mocking, slanderous, and negative tweet (and tweeting is such an absurd and simple-minded way for the president of the United States to communicate) the very idealism with which our country was founded, a country George Washington envisioned as a new earth, free of the shackles of tyranny.
When John Adams suggested Washington call himself “Your Highness,” Washington refused. Adams and others were very taken in by the royals in Europe, so they then proposed to call Washington “His Majesty the President.” But then a member of the Senate read out a section from the Constitution of the United States — that remarkable, prescient document — stating familiar titles from the monarchy were not to be used. Indeed, it was to be a new earth, a new way of governing.
Trump would embrace the term Emperor if it were allowed, no question, though he would probably settle for King if he had to. No question, he believes he is entitled.
And that is the rub of all tyrants or would-be-tyrants — they forget that billions of the rest of us are also entitled — to everything God’s good earth has given us to love and care for and create.
George Washington saw this country as the Great American Experiment — a way of governing unlike anything that had ever appeared on earth before. His vision was recognized in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address when he said “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is, however, and alas, more than possible that not only is Donald Trump’s legacy as president hollow, but his presence as our leader has permanently destroyed the idealism of that Great American Experiment.
Unless we figure out a way — soon — to successfully restore hope in this country, its existence as a force on earth will be as hollow as Trump’s presidency. And like the image above, we will live in a place that has gone to dust.