Whether it be fear or love, the ability to generate an emotional response is the key to any successful campaign. However, throughout history more often than not we find ourselves looking at leaders who turn to the fear of the people in order to gain their vote, their confidence, and their trust. Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Bush, Abbott, Turnbull. All leaders who turned to the fear of the people to fuel campaigns that only seek to exert control. There is no leader that demonstrates this more today than Donald Trump.
“Make America Great Again”. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.” Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” “They’re not coming to this country if I’m president. And if Obama has brought some to this country they are leaving, they’re going, they’re gone”
Donald Trump’s campaign is built on the production of fear. He has presented himself as a rampant xenophobe, racist and misogynist in his media appearances (he denies this, of course.) He continues to recycle the ideas that many conservative media outlets would have us believe. He’d have us believe that not only Americans but also the global community are on the losing ground. That we should fear the invasion of dangerous people who are different from him, that these enemies are not only abroad but are living amongst us all. Trump would have us believe that their economy is collapsing and that things will only get worse. And as a result he has created a common enemy to unite his followers, raised the fear levels astronomically and assured that if he is elected he will provide a solution to dispel the fear and save us all. To Donald Trump he is not only the leader that we need but also the one we deserve.
Yasmeen Alimiri was one of the many victims of verbal violence at Trump’s rallies. She was standing in the press pen when a man called her a “terrorist”. After that, many others soon began to shout in agreement. Another man in the crowd motioned to a police officer and gestured to Alimiri, “Are you there for this terrorist?” A college student refused to give her directions to the bathroom stating, “You are a member of the media, and you are disgusting and sleazy.” It’s important to note that Donald Trump has used the same adjectives in his speeches. What’s worrying is that his words are resonating on a global scale and there is a high possibility that he will win the election.
Writing during WW2 British philosopher Bertrand Russell noted that, “Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear,” and there is immense truth to this idea. How does one possibly see beyond the atmosphere of tension and fear that is being painted by those we are supposed to look towards to represent us? How do people see beyond the rhetoric that has conveniently provided another for us to turn our backs against? When we succumb to our fears we are no longer able to think rationally. It is in these moments that we lash out and treat people inhumanely.
We cannot buy into these fear mongering tactics. Tactics which feed on the current environment of fear, tactics that belittle the issues and reduce them to simple black and white problems, tactics that continue to perpetuate racist and sexist sentiments. This is not who we are. Together, we need to stand up against the true bullies who continue the ongoing hateful narrative that so many have bought into. This is not the time to turn against one another. This should be the time of spreading unity and love, to look at those who have been pushed at the margins for the color of their skin, for their religion, for their gender, and let them know that we stand with them. Fear is not an emotion we can succumb to. Fear is not an emotion that will motivate us. Fear will not define us.
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