Detoxification is essential to human life. Every cell of the human body must routinely detoxify. From the cellular level, these toxins are transported to our organs of elimination – the kidney and liver, to be processed and expelled. Organizations, institutions and governments also become toxic and must purge these life-threatening poisons. Culminating in the siege of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the world has witnessed the fact that democracy in America is under siege. It has become toxic. This article examines the challenge to detoxify democracy in America; a process I refer to as detoxracy.
In a previous piece, I suggested an enduring component of Donald Trump’s presidential legacy will be characterized by the phrase “The Magician of Myth;” the ability to craft beliefs and a narrative composed of elements that really do not exist. In other words, lies. Furthermore, Trump was successful in not only crafting multi-faceted deceptions, but false narratives accepted by tens of millions of Americans. As evidenced by the attempted siege of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, Trump’s deception inhabits not only people’s belief systems and worldviews, it translates into human behavior; destructive and deadly behavior.
As this reality relates to detoxracy, the US is faced with detoxing from this deception. As it relates to detoxing from alcohol addiction, some suffer from the onset of a condition referred to as delirium tremens. This malady includes the following symptoms: severe confusion, nervous or angry behavior, extreme hyperactivity, confusion and hallucinations. (Note that Delirium Tremens and Donald Trump have the same initials, DT. The emphasis in the word detox also includes the letters DT).
In his book, The Believing Brain - From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies - How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, author Michael Shermer states: “We are also more capable than any other species of self-deception and illusion, of fooling ourselves.” It is important to keep in mind that Biden received 81,283,098 votes, (51.3 percent of the votes cast); while Trump garnered 74,222,958 votes, (46.8 percent of the votes). A poll in January 2020 is prescient regarding what US voters currently believe: “A majority of Republicans believe there was widespread (election) fraud. Those voters were most likely to cite information from Trump and Fox News as the basis for that view: 55 percent of Republicans who believe there was widespread fraud say Trump is one of the sources that lead them to that conclusion, and 45 percent say the same about Fox News.” (MorningConsult.com). Translation: There remain an estimated 40,822,627 US citizens who voted for Trump who remain captives of the enduring deception, perpetrated and perpetuated by Trump et al, that the “election was stolen from us.”
There is a plethora of research on victim responses to burglary (an unauthorized intrusion into your life and having something of value stolen from you). For some 40,822,627 US citizens who voted for Trump and believe the election was stolen, these emotional reactions include anxiety attacks, depression, guilt, feelings of anger, sleeplessness, loss of trust, cynicism, isolation, fear and PTSD.
Detoxing from enduring deceptions and lies perpetrated by Trump remains both a priority and a strategic challenge for America. Tens of millions of Americans feel betrayed and deeply wounded by these deeply held falsehoods. What fringe elements of this demography of the deceived will do over the next four years of the Biden administration remains a national domestic security concern…as evidenced by the actions of domestic insurrectionists on January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington D.C.
As evidenced by the vote in the 2020 US Presidential election, America remains deeply divided. Why?
According to the Brookings Institute, by 2045, multi-racial ethnic residents will outnumber the current white majority in the US Trump has stoked the fears surrounding this reality. Clearly, another legacy of the Trump presidency is that he unequivocally inspired, encouraged, cultivated and complimented those who harbored racist and white supremacist sentiments. Trump provided a platform for these people and granted them permission to emerge from the shadows of American society and into the mainstream. Trump endowed racists with official legitimacy.
From the day he announced his candidacy for President, the demonization of certain groups of people became a hallmark of Trump’s tactics. He referred to Hispanic immigrants as “criminals and rapists.” He condemned Black Lives Matter protests and calls for reform of law enforcement practices in the US. He separated asylum seeking children from their parents at the southern US border with Mexico. He referred to white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia as “good people on both sides” of the protest – that left one dead and many wounded in a violent race-based encounter. Trump consistently stoked the fires of fear of the other within the US This is true both domestically as well as internationally – insulting the character and integrity of America’s allies while cozying up to a cadre of dictators and maligned oligarchs who had formerly been considered America’s enemies.
These divisions within American society will remain serious, legitimate realities for American democracy to overcome. Fear has been used as a weapon of despots throughout the history of human civilization. Trump re-ignited the flames of fear in American society. During 2020 in the US, over 58,250 wildfires burned an estimated 10.3 million acres (4,168,262 hectares); the most destructive ever recorded in history. For forested areas, it may take 2-6 years for the burned trees to die. Post-fire, even after 15 years, as many as 80% of these forests still contained no new trees. The point is the destruction wrought by Trump by using fear as his flame thrower has tangibly scarred the American landscape. The destruction of deeply embedded division will take decades to overcome. Trump’s divisive legacy has also injected toxins into the soul of American democracy - and the souls of tens of millions of those who reside therein.
A quote from author Charles Handy wrote in his book, The Age of Paradox is pertinent here: “The deeply frustrating lesson of history in the American West and elsewhere is this: human beings can be a mess—contentious, conflict loving, petty, vindictive, and cruel—and human beings can manifest grace, dignity, compassion, and understanding in ways that leave us breathless." Such is the nature of challenge – and the possibility - to detoxify from the age of Trump’s divisiveness.
The damage of denial and delusion
At the time of this writing, deaths from Covid-19 in the US have soared beyond 400,000 people; an unacceptable and avoidable human tragedy. Actually, it is a travesty. Trump’s denial of the potential destructive abilities of the Covid-19 pandemic and his deluded, inept handling of the same continue to ravage American society. Remember, it is his public remarks that include “it’s a hoax, it will simply disappear, no need to wear a mask, inject disinfectant to get rid of it,” etc. all reveal the depth and breadth of his denial and delusion regarding the most profound modern-day global public health crisis we have ever confronted.
From an economic perspective, Covid-19 continues to decimate the American economy. Unemployment rates remain around 7% nationally. Healthcare coverage is for some, not all. Millions are behind on rent and mortgage payments. Businesses continue to fail. Jobs have been lost forever. The labor force requires retraining. Children remain incarcerated in government facilities along the US Mexico border – separated from their parents. Student loan debt is crippling the financial security of millions. The climate crisis continues to re-arrange dramatic weather events, inflicting billions in damage annually. Although Operation Warp Speed delivered several Covid vaccines in record time, the process of vaccinating the populace remains mired in operational challenges.
The damage from the penchant for denial and delusion by the Trump administration is incalculable. Furthermore, millions of Americans remain entrapped in the attitudes and beliefs that spawned Trump’s worldview and policies.
Detox is a natural process essential to sustaining human life. If this process in the human body is impaired, the health of the entirety of the human organism is at risk. In the case of human kidneys, they function to prevent toxins, excess water, waste, and other impurities from accumulating in our bodies. When the kidneys become impaired, people must rely upon dialysis – an external mechanical process to perform these essential functions.
Detox is a process; not an event. It requires determination to live, to escape the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that have come to threaten our existence. The United States is not the first nation to become poisoned by the toxins of deception, division, denial and delusion. It is not the first nation to be led astray by the lies of an elected leader.
The necessity to detox the democracy in the US is firmly underway. The delicate dialysis required to repair the damaged kidneys of America is being deployed. The purge of the toxins that have poisoned the soul of American society has begun. It will be a process; not an event.
What’s the prognosis for American democracy? I’d put my money on the 81,283,098 American citizens who voted for change. These Americans voted for a return to health; to escape from the barrage of bellicose bullying, bullshit beliefs, and bad behavior.
Bet on the emergence of a better, stronger and dignified American democracy. The recovery is underway.