There are certain popular words these days that, once they are pinned on a person or institution, even if there isn't a morsel of truth in it, are automatically assumed to cancel them out...permanently. Words like...
That last word has been on my mind a lot lately. People sling it about quite casually without, I'm glad to say, really knowing what it means.
I say "glad" because their naïveté betrays that they've never been in a cult. Kudos to them.
But I have been. Twice. Neither time by choice. My first cult was my family who behaved more like a cult than a family. The second one was the denomination I was educated within. Along the way out of 'em, I learned a lot about cults and I believe we should be "impeccable in our word" before we lightly hang titles like "cult" on anyone or any movement.
"Cult" is a very specific term with a very specific set of criteria that must be met for the label "cult" to really apply. Since 2015, I've been using the excellent Cult 101 Checklist provided by the International Cultic Studies Association to figure out, for myself, what is or is not a cult. Here's the "lite" version of the checklist.
To Be Fair
If you were to get your "facts" only from the Mainstream Media as Richard Weber clearly did when he wrote The Dangerous Cult of Trumpism for The Hays Daily News, I guess I could see how a Trump rally could appear like a cult meeting to a biased mind.
But to be fair, you would then have to apply the word "cult" to every political rally and every National Convention, for both parties, time immemorial. There's the chanting (of political slogans), the wearing of branded t-shirts, "Get out the Vote" crusades, campaign fundraising, the raa-raa camaraderie of like minds and the excitement when the presidential candidate finally mounts the podium on that final night of the convention to deliver his/her Acceptance Speech before a shower of balloons descends.
How I love it all! Yeah, obviously I'm the daughter of a Political Science Major and have adored watching both party's National Conventions since I was seven years old. That was the year Dukakis challenged Bush. Remember him?
Basically, if you hang the word "cult" on one party, to be non-partisan, you must then hang it on both parties.
But I can tell you that "Trumpism" is about the furthest you can get from a "cult" if you're willing to observe it from a non-Mainstream Mediae-sque neutral viewpoint which Mr. Weber clearly is not.
A Trump Rally is the John and Jane Does of America collectively letting out a huge sigh of relief.
They go not because they're brainwashed but because they've been unbrainwashed, red-pilled, they've woken up, #walkway...however you want to phrase it.
It's a political rally, yes, but more in the sense of C. S. Lewis' quote, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one."
They were brainwashed for many years to believe that they were in the minority and that, regardless of whom they voted for, nothing would ever really change in Washington. Taxes and egregious laws like Obamacare would continue to grind them into financial ruin. That's where I was four years ago, paying almost $200/month for health insurance I couldn't afford to use. It was horrible.
These are the people of the Silent Majority. People who always felt alone. People who hopelessly cast their vote every four years for the "lesser of the weevils."
Meet John Doe
If you want to understand the so-called Cult of Trump, watch Frank Capra's 1941 movie Meet John Doe starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. That wasn't a cult either. It was a party!
Just like the Jane and John Does in that movie, Trump supporter come in droves to the rallies knowing they can't snag a seat inside, cognizant that they could watch via YouTube livestream from the comfort of their own living rooms, not to be cultish or elitist but to meet friends and no longer feel alone. They want to shake hands and chat with others who feel and believe as they always have. To tell Donald Trump, "We're with you, Mr. President. You proved you had our back for four years. We still have yours."
It's like John Doe said:
You know, I never thought much about people before.… You know, lately I've been watching them while I talked to them. I could see something in their faces.... Maybe they... [just] wanted somebody to say hello to.
Listen to what they shout. Rarely is it, "Trump, Trump, Trump" or "Trump, Pence, Trump, Pence." If Trump were really the "malignant narcissist" they claim, that would bother him. He'd try to get it started, but he doesn't. In fact, at the recent rally in Henderson, NV, he told the standing, excited crowd to sit down and relax.
No, shouting "Trump, Trump, Trump" was so 2016. Now it's just, "USA, USA, USA" and "FOUR MORE YEARS." Yep, that's chanted at every convention, regardless of party (the latter only if your candidate is up for re-election, obviously.)
If you disagree with Trumpers, you're still more than welcome. They may engage you in spirited discussion or challenge you, like C. S. Lewis' tutor "The Great Knock," to "clarify your terms" and make sure the facts on which you base your beliefs are solid, but that's about it. You're more 'n welcome as long as you're respectful.
Not Buying It Anymore
So please, Mainstream Media (and Mr. Weber,) don't insult our collective intelligence by slinging the loaded word "cult" willy-nilly, especially if you haven't been in one, don't know the criteria, don't substantiate your claims from unbiased sources and don't understand what's really going on.
Wait, you actually expected us to just take your word for it!?! "C'mon, man!" Americans have been red-pilled. We've woken up.
We don't believe you anymore.
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