Donald Trump, Sabbatai Zevi, And The Unchastened Devotee

I have made note, here, of a habit of mine intended to prompt writing:

Sometimes I scribble little notes to myself…prompted by observations while walking…by a passage read in a book…a scene in a movie. Sometimes they make sense when I return to them…and an expanded thought based on them finds its way into my writing…

It doesn’t always work:

But sometimes…they make little or no sense. I have no idea what prompted them…This forgetfulness stems…from their provenance. When I write them down, I am possessed by a panic that the momentary thought will disappear, leaving no trace behind. So, cutting corners, I rush to commit to permanence [leaving out some perhaps necessary detail].

Today, I am confronted with another example of that genre:

Sabbatai Zevi and the Republican fallen

I am not sure what prompted this thought but Donald Trump and his followers prompt a few responses.

Many fascist leaders have portrayed themselves as messiahs. They attract a following, the admiring attention and devotion of those who find in their blunt, intemperate messages the promise of a salvation, a deliverance, from their own messy lives (as all human ones are.) These followers scurry after their New Prophet, unwilling and unable to accept the often mounting evidence that their ‘leader’, their ‘redeemer.’ is anything but. Mostly, they follow him over a cliff, but tragically, not before they have pushed a few innocents from those same ramparts themselves. And then, suddenly or not, the ostensible Messiah is no more, literally or figuratively: he becomes an apostate, or meets death, at his own hand or at those of others. When he departs, his followers may find themselves akin to those who wake up from a nightmare in which they remember themselves as the possessed, sleep-walkers and zombies of a kind. They might look around, at each other, and wonder what demonic forces coursed through their body and mind, committing them to courses of action which now serve as causes of regret and dismay.

It is too early to tell how and when the spectacle of the Trump will conclude. Perhaps he will crash and burn in the Republican primaries; perhaps he will be defeated by party machine maneuvers, perhaps he will be nominated by the Republican Party and then, find defeat at voting stations. (I continue to be resolutely optimistic that he will not be this nation’s next President.)

But I do not think his defeat will be chastening for him or his followers. For Trump, it will mean, as is usually the case in a culture that rewards such bad behavior, a book deal, or perhaps even a new television show. For his followers, convinced of conspiracy and informed by rumor and innuendo, it will be the signal to commit anew to a new struggle. Perhaps with renewed vigor and determination, with an eye firmly on 2020.

The real damage done by Trump is not the uncorking of the fascist genie (that’s been out and about for a while); rather, it is his–and the Republican Party’s–coddling, nourishment, and elevation to national prominence and respectability of that force–all by their placing it on the most exalted American political stage of all.

We will pay the price for this insanity for a long time. In many different and difficult ways.

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