SHAFAQNA – How many times over the past months have we heard US presidential candidate Donald Trump make derogatory comments against foreigners, Muslims and other social minorities, out of a misplaced sense of political righteousness. Under the slogan, Let’s make America great again, Trump has belittled, denigrated and demonized all those, he views as lesser – playing into bigotry, fear and xenophobia to garner support.
In between Trump’s outlandish calls to ban all Muslims from the US, to his advocacy for the killing of alleged radicals’ family members, and his most recent offer to “bomb the shit out ” of Daesh the press has had much to write about and comment on.
But who are the Trumpistas, Trumpites, and Trumpets? Who are the people following the tune of a piper who has piped arguably the most overtly xenophobic and racist presidential campaign in more than a half-century?
Sadly Trump’s supporters are regular Americans – nothing devilish about them, if not for the fascist ideology they champion.
If support for Trump’s racist and xenophobic appeals came mostly from easily identifiable racists and xenophobes, then it would be easy to marginalise and dismiss Trump supporters.
That his support cuts across all layers of ordinary America is what makes the rising likelihood of a Trump presidency both a real and horrifying prospect – and especially so for Muslim Americans.
His populist appeal is carried on the back of blaming America’s ills on the weakest among us. It’s an age-old slight-of-hand that many now elderly Chinese, German, Japanese and Vietnamese Americans know only too well. If Trump gets his way, Muslim Americans will re-trace a similar journey, which is hardly a stretch of the imagination given Trump has already hinted at civilian internment camps, ID badges and a database for Muslims
These largely middle-class, middle-manager, middle-careerist Trumparoos serve as a chilling reminder to the kind of passive evil Hannah Arendt revealed in Eichmann in Jerusalem. Executed in 1962, Adolf Eichmann was one of the “key organisers” of the Holocaust. He joined the Nazi Party not because he wholeheartedly believed in the cause, but because he believed it’d be an opportunistic career move.
“The trouble with Eichmann,” wrote Arendt, “was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
Equally, Trump-believers are terribly and terrifyingly normal. While they may not openly advocate or proselytise Trump’s anti-Muslim policies, their passivity normalises anti-Muslim bigotry, and even if Trump fails to reach the Oval Office, the normalisation of hatred will be his innumerable legacy.
Chris Hedges, a veteran war correspondent, notes that the greatest crimes of human history “are made possible by the most colourless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make the vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality.”
Impervious to consequence is the greatest sin committed by those who cheer Trump onward towards the GOP nomination and the presidency. They seek winning for winning’s sake, and care not for what consequences might follow winning. To this end, Trump supporters are as narcissistic as the Donald himself.
And when it comes to narcissism and the ascendency of Trump, there’s enough blame to go around – particularly if you wish to point said blame at television journalism, which long ago traded ethics and civility for ratings – thus turning political debate into street theatre and celebrity gossip. It’s this dynamic that allows Trump to dictate the agenda. Journalists no longer ask Trump about his call for Muslim ID badges. Instead they ask him what music he listens to in between his appearances on Saturday Night Live.
This is the normalisation of absurdity, bigotry and insanity. These normalisations gave us the genocides of Nazi Germany, Bosnia and Rwanda.
Trump supporters are no more or less normal than the bureaucrats and passive citizenry that allowed such atrocities to take place, and they remind us we should worry less about extremists, and more about the ordinary.