Trump and 50 Shades of Grey

At the local writer’s meetup I attended this year, the service providers would distinguish between those that wrote for notoriety, and those that wrote from compulsion. Among the authors seeking notoriety, the success of 50 Shades of Grey was a scandal. While I was never moved to read the book, those who did complained that it was just poorly written.

But if you’re writing for the masses, maybe that is how you write. You write in the way that the soccer moms and housewives actually converse. You use concepts and terms that are familiar in their discourse. You give them something to talk about.

While the pundits at MSNBC tend to view Donald Trump’s presidential bid as a parody of a political campaign, that may be intentional. Trump’s attack on politically correct speaking may reflect his style of problem solving. Rather than crafting a consensus position that offends no one, you speak ideas that give you power over the situation. You categorize people and institutions, and force them to react to justify their existence.

So the Hispanic community includes law-breakers – of course it does, given that many broke the law simply entering the country. But when does inclusion bleed into harboring? Are there segments of the Hispanic population that shield criminals from the police? Trump may believe that his statements force the Hispanic community to consider its loyalties.

So also with Muslim communities and the Islamists in our midst, whether those are home-grown or foreign.

To his supporters, Trump may articulate their fears, and so bring them into political dialog that “PC” (politically correct) standards of speaking have denied to them. His impassioned and thoughtless policy pronouncements may reflect the way that they respond to and internalize frightening events. Trump’s popularity may reflect the permission he gives disenfranchised citizens to participate in the political process.

In the aftermath of the Prop 8 vote in California, I told a lesbian friend that “The gay community and its supporters lost because of intolerance in specific communities. But as a result of the election, we know who those people are, and we can reach out to them.”

Following a segment documenting support among his followers for Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim entry to America, a Muslim spokesman offered this wisdom: Yes, we should ask Trump’s followers if they support his position. But even more: for those that do, we should ask them “Do you know any Muslims?” If they don’t, we should then encourage them to “Go out and meet one.”

So: treat Trump’s political theater as a symptom. It’s value is to bring to light the psychological needs of a misrepresented segment of citizens. Don’t criticize Trump for the service he provides: look beyond him, and offer solutions and solace to those he attracts.