April 1st 2020
It doesn't take long living in America to conclude that it is a very cultish place. It's no accident that, from Jonestown to Waco, cults rise and fall with regularity in this country. Nowhere else in the developed world would a white supremacy cult like the KKK be considered part of the culture's fabric. Fraternities in colleges abound, and for the older man, there is the well engrained but exclusive Mason societies.
A good argument could be made that it is the misplaced fervor of a cult that has currently taken America by storm. It is almost indistinguishable from the right wing evangelical Christianity that props it up. The governing body of the USA right now under the authoritarian leader Donald Trump, is quite rightly referred to as Trumpism. Because it isn't government as usual; it is an "ism." A cult, by definition: an emotionally whipped up following around a populist leader. America has been going in this direction for quite some time, probably as far back as Ronald Reagan. Nietzsche said that when actors start becoming political leaders, watch out. But America didn't watch out, and now it has a TV personality, a mega-star wannabe, calling the shots, somewhat more dangerous than a mere actor. Jafar has come to the palace, and he is close to getting his most ardent wish, which is to become the all-powerful cosmic leader.
In the Disney movie, Aladdin, the hero was always going to save the day. That's why he is in the story. For a long time in America, it has looked like no one was going to save the day. Mitt Romney kind of faded in and out of that role, but he's no hero. Now we are in a global crisis, a pandemic, and the movie looks even grimmer. All the evil little trolls, evil little Mitch McConnell and his minions, are running around behind the curtain, installing their judges and their supreme court candidates, disenfranchising voters, syphoning off money to the corporations that support them. All is lost. For a long time, that's the way it has seemed.
And yet. The optimist in me keeps looking for some silver lining. The world has gone into lockdown because of an insidious little virus, smaller than a human cell that is floating around and replicating itself in a kind of minute megalomania, an almost perfect allegory for the American political landscape. Everyone is losing money, people are locked away in their houses, people are dying.
And yet, and yet, our air is now far less polluted; the canals in Venice are running so clear, dolphins are venturing there; families are together; children too young for boarding school are back at home with their parents. Babies in daycare are in the arms of their mothers. People are helping each other, singing to each other. It's almost like the morning after the Grinch stole Christmas.
Perhaps the world needed a reboot, like when you unplug the computer entirely to try to fix a problem. Perhaps that organizing Gia principle made us stop and look around at what our lives have become, the better values we have lost. Perhaps what we have to learn here again is a little humility. A little humanity. Not an "ism" of any kind, just whatever o'ertook the Whos down in Whoville and had them singing whatever inexplicable nonsense Seuss had his Who's sing on their Christmas morning without any gifts at all.
So, there might be a hero in our story after all. Not another overweight, overblown, authoritarian male leader. Not another "ism." What we need and perhaps what we are getting, if we turn the prism just right, is something with heart, a new light. That's what is going to save the day. And maybe, just maybe, that something is us.