Last night Trump told the nation that "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." He then talked about jobs, terrorism, and crime and echoed this fix it and fix it fast approach: "We're going to win, we're going to win fast." "We can solve this problem so quickly." "Believe me, it'll happen, and it'll happen fast." He presented no substantive plans or policies to back up these promises. He relied on fear mongering to attempt to blind us to the lack of actual solutions, as he has done throughout his campaign. Why do we fall for this? Because we are a country primed for this rhetoric through the quick-fix, instant gratification promises of a culture of consumption. Donald Trump is the diet pill many Americans have been wanting.
A culture of consumption relies on fear mongering to get us buy things. It tells us to fear being fat. But losing weight is hard. Confusing. Frustrating. Grueling. So we turn to the quick-fix, instant gratification, no sweat necessary lure of the over promising and under delivering diet pill. You know, the promises that you can lose weight while still eating whatever you want. You know, the put a plastic wrap around your waist, wait 10 minutes, and voila, instant weight loss! Never mind that these diet pill, quick-fix formulas and gadgets, wraps and powders, herbs and potions do not actually explain how they help you lose weight. Or at least do not tell you all the negative side effects you might experience. But we fall for them. And, fair enough. Even if you follow the traditional diet and exercise plan, it doesn't always work. Or at least doesn't work as quickly as we want it too. It can be complicated. Nuanced. Complex. And we don't have the patience or energy or resources for that.
Enter the American Dream and American politics. American culture has long promised a work hard = success formula which many people have not seen realized in their own lives. We're working hard, or trying to, but where is the payoff? Our economy has let us down and we're not seeing the American Dream in our paycheck-to-paycheck, how am I going to keep up with this mortgage let alone pay my kids' college tuition lives. At the same time we're staring at our debt piling up we try to wrap our minds around global concerns like ISIS and climate change. But it can be complicated. Nuanced. Complex. And we don't have the patience or energy or resources for that. We don't want 20 point plans from politicians about how to fight terrorism. We want simple solutions so we can sleep peacefully at night and not worry. Enter Donald Trump. He offers quick-fix, instant gratification rhetoric on the economy, on terrorism, on immigration. Create jobs, bomb them, keep them out. All without detailed plans, without examples of how exactly he would carry out these plans. And, all without much humanity or understanding of the complex historical, racist realities shaping the current society in which we live. But we're so relieved to have someone just tell us the answer already that we buy it. All this critical thinking, gray area, looking at issues from different angles, patience and complexity is too much for us. So finally we have someone who confidently, boastfully tells us that he has the answers and he's got our backs. When Trump says that he has a plan to destroy ISIS but says he won't tell us what it is, instead of questioning that we breathe a sigh of relief and say, yes, someone different! Someone simple! I can just pop this pill and keep going on with my life without having to make any sacrifices. Without having to stretch or grow or learn.
The problem, of course, is that diet pills don't work. They over promise and under deliver. And the things they do deliver are hefty price tags and often awful side effects. They make complicated, beautiful, strong, capable, unique bodies seem like problems that we have to instantly fix. And we lose a lot in that calculation. Just like we lose a lot in the calculation to believe Trump's boastful, quick-fix and vague assertions about Making America Great Again. We whitewash history and we sanitize the oppression of human beings into something that we can create a rally cry around. We lose the ability to learn from the mistakes of our country's past. We lose the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. We lose the ability to practice humility and to reflect on our own faults. We cheer for anti-political correctness. But what if we recognized that much of what we deem "political correctness" is simply a call to treat others with dignity? With respect? With, dare I say, love? That is my biggest concern about the diet pill promises of Donald Trump. We lose the ability to love other people, to see the humanity in our neighbors, in refugees, in people who think and act differently from us. And, make no mistake, loving people is hard. It's really, really hard and it requires sacrifice. And complexity. And nuance. But this is exactly what it means to be human. To honestly face our past, and be better. To look into the eyes of others with love and openness rather than with fear. Let's be brave and not fall for the quick-fix that is sure to disappoint. Trump keeps telling us he loves us, but I'm not buying it.