Donald Trump is a spinner of illusions and that is his superpower.
Now and again, I watch clips on YouTube of old interviews with Trump, when his face was smooth and he was more soft-spoken and articulate. He comes off as poised, frank, at ease with himself, and (of course) mind-blowingly rich, though according to a 2018 New York Times investigation, his debt burden was staggering, his wealth came entirely from his dad, and he was continually ripping off contractors and defrauding the government.
Still, I could see someone placing their trust in him, at least for a business deal, back in the ‘90s. I can see how he nonchalantly got away with fleecing people his entire life.
So I think his followers today are under a powerful spell, and that Trump has created yet another illusion. Those of us who are not susceptible to that spell tend to look with disdain on those who are hypnotized by it.
But what illusions do WE labor under? (I’m pretty sure we all have illusions.)
Speaking for myself, here is one: the illusion that given the same psychological and cultural conditioning of any given Trump supporter, I could still never have been one myself, because I’m just too sensible for that.
Illusion #2: I – and the people in my little world – are simply “better people” than the hardcore see-no-evil Trump supporters. (And I’m thinking back right now to Hillary Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” gaffe in 2016. My belief is that that is what lost her the election.)
Illusion #3: The sense that, given the vast power of our know-no-bounds, out-of-control, right-wing-extremist U.S. Supreme Court to wreak destructive changes in our country, no action I take, as one “ordinary” individual, really matters in the long run.
And also, for an action to really matter, it needs to be taken on some kind of a big stage or grand scale – that’s a related illusion.
Illusion #4: Fear of missing out (aka FOMO) is a type of illusion that separates me from this present moment, replacing real life with fantasies.
Illusion #5: Regrets are a type of illusion, because they entail an assumption that things could be different from how they are right now when in fact, obviously, they can’t be.
Illusion #6: Any time it looks like something will never change – whatever it is – even something as basic as the sun coming up every day – it’s an illusion. Some things just change more slowly than others. (I guess it’s reasonable to expect that the sun will continue to rise every day for the rest of my life, though not forever. But there isn’t much else I can think of – especially relationships – that won’t change during the course of this short lifespan. Though I guess, for now at least, my opinions feel pretty solid!)
Illusion #7: Illusions of what constitutes success. Any time I think I see someone who’s truly “made it” – it’s an illusion.
Illusion #8: Any time I allow myself to believe that I “really know” another person, there is an element of illusion involved.
Illusion #9: Any time I blame myself or anyone else for anything at all, it’s a mistaken way of thinking. In other words, a delusion. Does a delusion count as an illusion? I think so. (But I still think Trump should go to jail. My philosophical thinking on this is complicated.)
Illusion #10: Fulfillment resides in the future (or maybe the past), not right here, right now.
I’ll stop there for now, though I’m sure I could think of more illusions. What about you?
My Letter to Liz Cheney
I snail-mailed this letter on Monday, and after Tuesday’s hearing I was even gladder that I wrote to her:
July 11, 2022
Dear Representative Cheney,
I know you get thousands of letters. I’m sure many are threatening and degenerate and stunningly ignorant. And then you probably also receive many like this one – expressions of gratitude for your courage. I cannot imagine how surreal it must be for someone in your unique position – a lifelong staunch conservative and the daughter of a famously “hard right” Vice President of the United States – to be showered with love and praises by so many liberals.
Yet here we are, Ms. Cheney. You have responded to the call of history and risen to the occasion for our country, and your integrity is breathtaking. And I’m humbled because – quite honestly – for a very long time, I assumed that people on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me – especially the most intelligent and articulate ones like yourself – were all essentially cynical.
In a word, I was deluded. And not that my delusions ever specifically harmed or annoyed you – or indeed, ever came to your attention – but I do want to tell you that I’m sorry all the same for my previous misconception. I bow to your patriotism and I feel kinship with you in my American identity.
At this moment, I can’t even begin to speculate on who is “right” – you or me – on any number of issues that might otherwise divide us. But I’d like to imagine that if we ever met, you’d recognize a fellow American in liberal-voting, pot-smoking, pro-choice, social-spending, ecology-loving me, as I do in you. (And you probably would too.)
In the meantime, I just want to thank you. Your dignity and clarity have been (and continue to be) awe-inspiring.
I’ll add one thing. I think Merrick Garland owes it to you to indict Donald Trump. Yes, he owes it to the entire country. But very specifically, given all that you’ve risked and sacrificed in the service of truth and democracy, he owes it to you.
Thank you again, Ms. Cheney, from the bottom of my heart, for being so honorable and brave. You are a great American and you’ll go down in history as a great American, no matter how this plays out. I made a small donation to your Congressional campaign online just now and it’s an honor to have done so.