I have long said that, as troubling as is Donald Trump, his goings on are not nearly as troubling as is the fact that so many people follow him and love him to pieces, no matter what he says.
It is encouraging to see some long-time Republicans defecting away from Trump - either to Hillary Clinton or just away from the GOP nominee for president. But it is deeply discouraging to know that so many people agree with and condone his racism, his xenophobia, his bigotry, his arrogance and, frankly, his rudeness.
He reminds me of the young guys I knew in college, the fraternity boys - the jocks. They were there in all their arrogant glory; they were wealthy or at least comfortably middle class. They were athletes, and carried with them the star quality and privilege that athletes enjoy. They were so arrogant; they seemed to know that the university needed their athletic prowess in order to secure their financial security, and they flaunted it. So many classes had empty seats because members of the football or basketball team simply would not show up for class.
They knew they didn't have to. They were making money for the university while they made names for themselves. They knew their power, and they used it.
We heard them make disparaging, racist and sexist comments on campus; they did so blatantly and boldly and they dared anyone, it seemed, to challenge them. Few did. They strutted around campus like peacocks; they bullied young men who were not athletes or who were slight of build. They were rude toward young women who were not beautiful in their estimation.
The sorority women ignored their racism, bigotry, and their sexism. They, the counterpart of these young men, were complicit in the prevalence of aristocratic arrogance and bullying. All they wanted was to land a "good man," i.e., someone who came from a good family who was bound to make lots of money.
These were the kids that many aspired to imitate; they wanted to be in their groups, their crowds, attend their parties, hang out with them on Friday and Saturday nights. The young jocks knew it and strung some of them along, making them believe they would and could belong to "the club," but it was a cruel hoax. They only wanted to exert their power and influence. Many who didn't make the cut became depressed; some committed suicide, the result of being teased, taunted and ultimately rejected by the "in-crowd."
Donald Trump so reminds me of those jocks. His arrogance and his capacity to bully are uncomfortably familiar. He is so thin-skinned that it is actually scary; he is too arrogant to ever admit being wrong or to apologize when he and everybody else knows he is wrong. And yet... he knows the hearts, the spirits and the desires of the people to whom he appeals. He knows the anger of older, uneducated, now unemployed white men. He knows they are impressed with his success as a real estate mogul; he knows they hang onto the hope that "he alone" will bring their status back to them, their jobs, their... superiority based on their race... back to them. They like it that he is rough and tough and crude. He is a "man's man," like they are, and they like it.
The trouble is, though, that Trump is not like them. He is not and has never been and will never be. He has used them and their skills to propel him to his position in life. He says he doesn't know David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who now says he will run for the U.S. Senate, but he does, if not in person, then in spirit. He knows the fear, hatred and insecurity to which Duke appeals and with which America's white underclass has struggled for years. He knows them. He knows their spirits, their needs, their thoughts and their desires, but he is not like them, nor does he want to be.
What is troubling, though, is that he is bringing them out of the woodwork, them and their racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic selves. He is giving them voice, and is emboldening them to vent their feelings, including their racial hatred. They feel listened to and affirmed, and more than ever, now they want to be heard.
Most of "the elite" have not heard nor have they been interested in listening to this group of people, which is why, or one of the reasons why, this group of ignored Americans are more interested in getting "outsiders" into elected offices. These will be the people who will save them, they believe. These are the people who will give them voice, give them jobs, and give them back their status as privileged white men.
The promises of Mr. Trump are filled with hope for people who lost hope many years ago. They are pregnant with the growing desire of making America what it used to be, before the era of globalization, the land of the free and the home of the brave... white, Protestant males.
What will they do, though, if Mr. Trump wins and cannot deliver? The poet Langston Hughes asked the question, "What happens to a dream deferred?"
Other ethnic groups in this nation pretty much know. What the nation doesn't know is what this angry demographic might do if their dream of having America "back" fizzles and dies, Mr. Trump and his bravado notwithstanding.
What happens when the bile sac caused by unacknowledged and pervasive white supremacy bursts? America has a troubling spirit, and it has been bubbling for a long time. What will happen when the build-up of hatred and bigotry and racism explodes?
We may very well get the answer to that question sooner rather than later.