Long ago, I came to believe that we humans are really three people, not the one person we think we are. First we are who we think we are. This is where all our emotions and feelings reside. Some call this part of us the ego. Second we are who we want other people to think we are. This part of us is an act, like a part played in live theater. It is the strategy you’ve devised to cope with the culture in which you live. Some call this part of you your personality. Third we are who we really are. This is the part of us we spend a lifetime trying to discover. Some call this part of us the soul or spirit.
Last night, I watched the 60 Minutes TV show in which they attempted to analyze voter motivation and turnout in several key states that could turn the election one way or the other. One woman from Arizona was interviewed. This woman was a lawyer who lost a parent to COVID-19, but still was a staunch supporter of Trump. I was fascinated by her interview because it was a perfect study of the part of us I find most interesting, our personality. Our personality is the most interesting part of us because it is the part we most strongly identify with. Most of us think we are our personality. What we don’t know is that everyone outside of us clearly sees through the facade of our act and knows what we are really thinking. But the personality still works because of the agreement civilization has made with itself. We call it manners or decorum, but it is actually a pact that say’s, “I won’t call you on your BS if you don’t call me on mine”. We’ve all been in a room were a person is talking about how great and wonderful he is while it’s obvious to everyone the room that the person is desperately insecure. Yet we politely nod our heads in agreement as the person drones on. Our personalities are meant to hide what we don’t want people to know about us as much as convey what we want people to think about us.
The woman on Sixty Minutes was very professional and spoke of Trump in a way to make it clear that her selection of Trump was a logical decision based on his performance on the economy and his building of the military. She stayed away from the border wall issue and insisted that though she didn’t necessarily approve of the way he expresses himself, she opined that logic would suggest that those were necessary evils for him to carry out what she considered to be what is best for the country. The BS that I sensed was her reluctance to embrace what Trump most stands for – his belief that America belongs to white people. It was clear to me that is the belief where her passion for Trump truly resides. What’s different about her today from maybe ten years ago is that ten years ago, she would have known on a conscious level that she was trying to hide that aspect about herself. Now, she has convinced herself that she really just cares about the economy and belief in the free market and does not at all believe in racism and white nationalism. She is completely blind to the racial and classist connotations she has attached to those pragmatic issues of economy and military preparedness.
That woman is probably representative of fifty percent of Trump supporters. The other 50% are clear on every level of their racist and white nationalist beliefs. But she draws no connection between her racist and white nationalist core and her middle class, traditionalist values. Her core beliefs are hidden behind her personality and guarded by her ego to the point that she is unwilling to even listen to a dissenting point of view leaving her completely unwilling to compromise on any policy or course of action offered by Democrats. However the election goes, we are going to have to deal with people like her. If Trump wins, democracy ends and civil war in one form or another begins. If Biden wins, the country will have the task of somehow penetrating the bubble that has isolated his followers from every person on earth who does not agree with their worldview. If that bubble is somehow penetrated, it will hopefully enable at least half of them to consider the point of view of the 75% of Americans who disagree with them on various issues to be legitimate enough to be worthy of compromise. Of course unless Biden wins and the congress and state houses become Democratic majorities, there’s little or no hope of reconciliation.
So it’s not Donald Trump who has almost completely ruined this country. We have done it to ourselves by empowering the darkest part of our history – the myths and stereotypes about ourselves that grew out of the abomination called slavery and later, Jim Crowe. Out of those immoral institutions came the myth of the superior white man eventually leaving much of the progeny of the original white abusers with the attitudes of entitlement and willingness to scapegoat people of color as the reason for all their problems. It spawned the myth of inferiority and hopelessness on part of the progeny of the formally enslaved, enhanced by the continued abuse after the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s. The interesting thing about all this is that within 10 years, we can be well on the way to a healthy, happy America with a highly functioning environmentally sound infrastructure, an educational system that works and an economy that supports the entire population if we are committed to doing that. We will have to decide if we want to be right about the need to vilify those who disagree with us in the name of our ancestors or to solve our very solvable problems today, in our lifetime.