In 1936, Aldous Huxley observed that if democracy is to work, one must govern with the consent of the people. (“Modern Despots,” by Aldous Huxley, reprinted for a 1936 article in Harper’s, February 18, 2018, pg. 37.) Thanks to gerrymandering and the Electoral College, who constitutes “the people” is in question. The nation has fallen into a rabbit hole where one-third of the country gives its loyalty to a president the remaining two-thirds disavow. Some have called for dialogue to heal a fractured society. But how does the majority communicate with the minority when the latter has given its fealty to a President who, absent a moral compass, manipulates their fears.
Gut feelings as T. M. Luhrmann explains, are beliefs not passively held but “actively constructed.” (“Worlds Apart,” by T. M. Luhrmann, Harper’s, Feb. 2018, pg. 28.) They are born in the isolation of our thoughts and in the absence of contradiction. Once constructed, the believer projects his feelings upon the world. He might choose to imagine a shooting star is a sign his prayer will be answered. Or, he may read an eclipse as evidence of God’s displeasure, or an epidemic as God’s curse upon the wicked. (Ibid pg. 28.)
Like water, belief seeks its own level. Once pooled with like-minds, defenders of the new geography build walls to protect it. All cults begin this way.
Donald Trump is a cult leader. He encourages his followers to build a wall of fear and preserves his power through his negative energy. Dialogue does not exist within a closed society much less with one external to it. Those who call for a national healing are premature. Our current president thrives on chaos and division. In this era, the most peacemakers can achieve is to hold the line. “They also serve who only stand and wait. (John Milton, On His Blindness.) Time and a new generation have a greater chance to effect change.