People in the West need heroes. Western civilization is predicated upon heroic figures advancing the cause of liberty. Heroism is not a collective quality: it is an individual virtue that inspires respect and impels emulation.
Whether as a cracked bell, a New York harbour monument, or the crowning adornment of their legislature, Americans in particular idolise freedom. Individual freedoms are the bedrock of the United States -- a foundation many feel has eroded over the past several decades.
Turn to any US media outlet: Collective identity politics has worked like miasmic leaven through the dough of daily commentary, poisoning public discourse.
Democrats and Republicans alike stoke these flames of internecine conflict, which helps mask their own crooked ambitions and practices. "Divide, distract and dumb down" have become the operative framework for politics and journalism. Ordinary folk feel helpless in the face of a runaway state and the vacuous but vicious media Establishment that promotes and protects it.
The press, tasked with keeping elected officials in check by the Constitution, are in fact so cosy in their relationship with their charges they hold an annual dinner to celebrate their confederacy. For many, the Fourth Estate has devolved into a wagging finger of objurgation for enforcing and maintaining the reigning orthodoxy. The most evident and pernicious aspect of this agenda is “political correctness."
Average people are left wondering who is safeguarding their interests? What does Joe the Plumber get from his tax "investment" besides bromides, foreign conflicts, crippled vagabond veterans, crumbling infrastructure, tent cities, bankrupt municipalities, food stamps, drug abuse, foreclosures, criminality, pollution, violence, illness, unsafe drinking water, unprotected borders, gated communities, rapacious banks and empty platitudes? Yet not a moment passes without galling television images of jet-setting politicians addressing problems nobody elected them to take up.
Little wonder Donald Trump’s arrival on the US political proscenium has energized the Republican Party’s nomination race. An A-list celebrity, Trump has been hovering about the periphery of American public life for decades. Love him or not, he is a household name thanks to the media conglomerates that made him one.
From cameo appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s show, to the covers of more popular publications than any other living public figure in the USA, 14 seasons as the boss on "The Apprentice" cemented Trump’s celebrity apotheosis. The only other US politician with a similar career trajectory was Ronald Reagan.
The intersection of American news media and show business makes it hard to draw clear distinctions between the two. Celebrities and professional athletes garner headlines by involving themselves in international intrigue: Sean Penn visits a Mexican drug lord, Leonardo DiCaprio lectures the United Nations, and Dennis Rodman calls on North Korea’s Leader.
A familiar Hollywood plot concerns the outsider who resolves an injustice beyond the ability of ordinary folk to do so. In the popular American imagination such figures are trustworthy, courageous and compassionate, combining a strong work ethic with self-assurance, patriotism and common sense. It is no accident that Trump’s political persona is modelled on such a thumbnail sketch, even if unconsciously, as this heroic individuality has all but vanished from public reality.
Is it surprising then that people have lost faith in career politicians and seek outsiders to champion their cause? Cue Trump’s "siren song" -- a return to greatness, pitched by one of America’s celebrity capitalists.
In the Gothic horror novel, "Frankenstein," Mary Shelley's titular "hero" sees only the positive aspects of his design -- that is, until he brings it to life. When the creature awakens he recoils in horror, recognising the flawed nature of his handiwork. Once he resolves to undo his mistake, he and his wretch are locked in a struggle to destroy the other. Gruesome as the crimes of the creature may be, Dr. Frankenstein’s character becomes less sympathetic with each page flip, while the former becomes more so.
America's entertainment and news media complex created the larger-than-life Donald J. Trump. Like the wretch in "Frankenstein," Trump is a mirror for his Creator’s shortcomings and shortsightedness. People see Donald Trump as having the courage to speak their own unspoken thoughts and they love him for it. And, as he reminds them at every opportunity, he loves them right back. In an America founded on personal liberties, he asks why should anyone be afraid to say anything at all.
A large swathe of Americans believe this tough and canny Washington outsider with the strange hairdo will set things straight. In "Frankenstein," the wretch kills its creator before ending its own existence. Trump vowed to destroy “political correctness,” kindling a spark of hope he will live up to his dauntless rhetoric and “Make America Great Again."
Shelley composed a fictional horror story. Will Trump’s nomination end as one too? Had Dr. Frankenstein accepted and loved his creature, would the tale be so horrific? Shelley’s novel has a fixed ending, but for America and Donald Trump a different outcome is possible. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Stay tuned: this US election season is a page-turner.