Donald Trump's fanatical support seemingly defies logic. Is it madness? And if so, then how can we combat that madness as a nation?
To begin with, I'm going to ask all of you to keep an open mind about the analogy I'm about to use here; I promise you, there is a point to it.
In The Transformers episode, "The Return of Optimus Prime," we are introduced to an entity which has come to be called either the "hate plague" or "madness plague" (the latter term used by Rodimus Prime to Galvatron within the episode). In the story, two scientists, Jessica Morgan and Gregory Swofford, who are on a mission in space to test out a new alloy which resists radiation, stumble upon Optimus Prime's lifeless body. They retrieve it to bring back to Earth with them, but in the process also unknowingly bring back strange spores which had attached to their ship. The spores are shown to create a neurological effect which causes their victims to develop extreme hatred and homicidal tendencies towards anyone around them, and are easily transmitted through person-to-person contact.
Upon discovering this in their lab on Earth, Jessica tries to convince Swofford and her father, Mark Morgan, to launch the spores back into space for fear of the ramifications should they be unleashed. However, the Decepticons suddenly attack in an effort to steal the experimental allow; Jessica is critically injured and paralyzed from the waist down. Even though the Autobots transport her to a hospital, where she is fitted with special prosthetics to enable her to walk again, Swofford and Morgan blame the Autobots and declare their hatred for all Transformers, regardless of affiliation. Swofford had his own axe to grind, having been seriously injured and scarred during a battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron years earlier.
Their initial idea to exact revenge on the Autobots-- resurrecting Prime and infecting him with the spores to send after them -- fails, and they prepare to destroy Prime's body. Jessica vehemently protests, forcing them to rethink their decision and come up with an even more dire plan: Use Optimus Prime's body to lure the Autobots into a trap to infect them with the spores and incite them to kill each other. Jessica tries to reason with them but is overruled, and she is sent to Autobot City to get the Autobots to come to the lab for Prime's body. She warns them that it is a trap, but the Autobots are determined to allow their former leader to finally rest in peace.
But as one might expect from something this outlandish, the entire plot backfires. Swofford and Morgan fail to see the potential consequences should everything go wrong, and the plague is eventually unleashed to infect every human and Transformer on the planet, even spreading throughout space (this is a future where flights into space and teleportation through space bridges, wormholes, and warp gates are now common). Naturally, the hatred and self-destruction this causes threaten to wipe out civilization. The Autobots take desperate measures to resurrect Optimus Prime from death, to coat him in the experimental alloy to protect him from the radiation which allows the spores to infect, grow, and multiply, and to ultimately wipe out the plague from the universe.
In order to uncover a way to destroy the hate plague, Optimus Prime searches for the answers in the Autobots' "Matrix of Leadership," which is a vessel containing the accumulated wisdom of Autobot leaders past, a sort of historical reference -- the living embodiment on the idea of learning from the past as a means to prevent the same mistakes in the future. In his search, Optimus learns that the only way to combat the type of madness created by the spores is with wisdom -- enough wisdom to dispel the hatred, anger, and bitterness which has consumed everyone infected. Prime realizes that the wisdom within the Matrix is the only source of wisdom powerful enough to overcome the madness. He therefore unleashes the wisdom within the Matrix to dispel the hate plague spores, even temporarily winning a truce with Galvatron -- perhaps the maddest of all Transformers when not burdened with such an affliction.
So what does this plot from a 1980s cartoon show have to do with anything happening in the United States today? Well, if we take an objective look at some of the things happening now in our country -- the rise of Donald Trump in the midst of anti-Muslim, misogynystic, and anti-immigration rhetoric, the murders of young black people by police for no reason, the refusal to look at any of the offenses that Trump has committed against much of the American populace as reasons to not elect him -- it's hard not to question if this is becoming the very definition of madness. For comparison, here is an official definition of the term:
When applied to different aspects of Donald Trump's campaign and of his supporters, most of these descriptions apply in some form or other. For example, one can easily conclude that Trump's desires to force Mexico to pay for a new border wall with the US, or to ban every single Muslim not already here from entering the US, fall under the concepts of "insanity" and "senseless folly." Similarly, if we look at the fanaticism of some of Trump's supporters and some of their actions, we can easily attribute them to "frenzy," "rage," as well as "intense excitement or enthusiasm."
The biggest constant of Donald Trump's campaign has been the almost unwavering support of his followers. No matter what outlandish statements he makes or questionable policy positions he advances, there is a contingent of the American electorate which refuses to leave his side. And perhaps nothing illustrates this more clearly than some of the reaction to the release of Friday's video, in which Trump converses with former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about the fact that he can grab a woman's nether regions without rebuke, because he is famous. For the record, here is the video in full, which is captioned:
When I first watched the video, I almost became physically sick. I was raised to always treat others with respect and have learned over the years how not to treat any woman. What Donald Trump spouted in this video is exactly the type of misogynistic, sexist rhetoric which encourages rapists like Brock Turner to commit sexual assault with little fear of reprisal. That someone of his standing within American society would actually gloat about such conduct is a reason for every woman to fear for her safety, and an example of the type of role model our young men and boys have today.
I wrote a piece on rape culture earlier this year. Little did I know at the time that one of our candidates for President of the United States was truly a part of that culture. I was certainly aware of his penchant for sexism and misogyny, but it wasn't until Friday's revelations that I truly learned just how much of a monster Donald Trump truly is. I'm not ashamed to admit that, yes, I am one of the few people who was truly surprised by what I heard in that video. I'm sure all of you can relate to the idea that, whenever someone is running for our nation's highest office, you want that person to be able to do the job. You hope that, no matter what flaws they may have, that at some point, they will pull it together in a manner which makes them suitable to hold the position. And there was a time I held out that hope for Donald Trump. Even my mom once said that, deep down, he was actually a nice person and was simply catering to his supporters. If only that were true; all of our eyes have been opened widely at what we have seen in the last couple of months. And now, I have absolutely NOTHING left for "The Donald." (Note: This link also contains graphic language; reader discretion is advised.)
Look now at Trump's so-called "apology," recorded later Friday evening:
Trump only spoke for about ninety seconds in his attempt to address what amounts to an innate desire to sexually assault women and do with them as he pleases. And only thirty seconds of that were spent actually addressing his past conduct! The rest turned into typical Trump bravado, criticizing the Clintons and talking about how much he has learned from the American people on the campaign trail; there is absolutely no appropriate level of contrition for the offenses he has committed. And this is on top of his body-shaming comments about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, as well as newly-unearthed comments he has made about his own wife's pregnancy and vile remarks Trump has allegedly made on the set of The Apprentice. Taken in totality, these are the symptoms of a sexual predator. Fellow Americans, we are potentially voting in support of a sexual predator to lead the United States into the future.
So to recap: Trump's comments about Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, blacks, and women have so far not been enough for America to disqualify him from the presidency. But what about the idea that one of the pleasures for which Donald Trump lives his life is to conquer women, to fondle and molest them, and to brag about being able to do so with impunity just because he is famous? Surely, this will be the one thing that America will refuse to stand for. Right?
Well, maybe not so much, as a matter of fact. Let's take a sample of some of the responses to these latest revelations from around Twitter and the Internet:
Dolly Ali, 40, a medical billing supervisor from Queens, also said that she was not offended by Mr. Trump's comments.
"He's honest about a lot of things that people don't want to bring out to the public," she said. "He's not hiding it. Honesty is very positive."
The type of comments that Mr. Trump made on the tape, which included boasting about groping women and about aggressively trying to have sex with a married woman, are common, Ms. Ali said. (Source)
Rudy Giuliani on Sunday's Meet the Press:
This last tweet is particularly confounding; if a large number of women are still supporting Donald Trump, then what will it take for Trump to be deemed unfit to lead our nation? If sexual violence is not enough to convince Americans that Trump is the worst possible choice for president, then is there anything which can convince America otherwise?
It is this question which brings us back to our original subject: The madness surrounding the Trump campaign. What we have is an acknowledgement that Donald Trump has flaws but that despite how despicably he has acted in the eyes of most decent people, he is still more fit to lead America than any other candidate. This also means that there is no logical argument which can be used to sway a large number of Trump supporters away from him. While a growing number of Republican leaders have officially rebuked and even dropped their support of Trump, a large number of his supporters have been lured by the siren's song and are probably never going to change their views, no matter what Trump may say or do from this point forward.
Which begs the question: Have Americans been swept up so much in their racism, sexism, and other biases that they no longer care about the rest of the world as a whole? Going back to our discussion of the "hate plague," this type of mentality is similar to what the plague wrought upon its victims: An all-encompassing hatred of everyone around them. Granted, the cartoon exaggerated this to the point of literally every single being around an infected person being subject to violence and hatred, but looking upon the Donald Trump supporters who are still standing by their candidate despite all of the biases he has openly espoused, are the symptoms really that different? And the two scientists who unleashed the plague in the cartoon? They failed to see the disaster that their decision could cause, and many Trump supporters are failing to see the unmitigated disasters a Trump presidency would almost certainly unleash.
Donald Trump is the ultimate symbol of what is wrong with America today. From the moment he entered the presidential race last summer, he has tapped into an unbridled hatred of many of America's core values, such as tolerance, acceptance, and equality. Trump is not the cause of these issues; rather, Trump is the amplifier, the device through which Americans who share these biases have been able to elevate their voices to the national stage. And now, as we are barely a month away from the 2016 election, their platform still has the chance to become America's voice to the entire world. That Donald Trump has now become known as a sexual predator is of no consequence to many of his supporters. This is reality; we do not have Optimus Prime or a "Matrix of Leadership" we can use to return some sense of sanity to the national dialogue. As Donald Trump himself and many of his supporters are beginning to demonstrate, his is the type of madness for which there may be no cure.