In his speech to the Republican National Convention last night, Donald Trump tossed lies, hate, distortions and fear-mongering harder than Jake Arrieta throws his four-seam fastball. The only effective batter who hit any of them was Bernie Sanders. Using the hashtag, RNCwithBernie, Sanders live-tweeted the speech, answering Trump’s nonstop fabrications with reality zingers like “Trump: ‘I alone can fix this.’ Is this guy running for president or dictator? #RNCwithBernie” or “What a hypocrite! If Trump wants to ‘fix’ trade he can start by making his products in the US, not low-wage countries abroad. #RNCwithBernie” and “Trump is wrong. The real cause of instability in the Middle East was the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. By the way, where is President Bush?”
And then there was the all-important rebuttal to Trump’s crude appeal to Sanders supporters: “Those who voted for me will not support Trump who has made bigotry and divisiveness the cornerstone of his campaign. #RNCwithBernie“
I could not keep up with the lies, distortions, racist appeals and hysteria. It was overwhelming me. I thought about the German people listening to Adolf Hitler before he was appointed chancellor in 1933. But that image is paralyzing to me. I needed something to give me strength. That’s when I thought of Harry Potter.
No, Trump is not Voldemort. He’s a Dementor.
“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life,” wrote J.K. Rowling in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Doesn’t Trump do just that when he talks about crime, terrorism or the state of the world and lays the all blame at the feet of the president or Hillary Clinton?
The good news is there are ways to protect yourself and others from this creature. Chocolate helps you recover from an attack. Reading Sanders’ tweets was like eating chocolate because you get another narrative that does not “glory in decay and despair.”
Perhaps some of you might be thinking this comparison is silly. Only serious fact-checking and point by point rebuttal of Trump’s lies and distortions will convince those who may have fallen under the Republican nominee’s spell.
That would be a big mistake. This morning I listened to a PolitiFact editor on MSNBC refute parts of Trump’s speech. I also read through the Washington Post’s “rundown of 25 of Trump’s key claims – and how they differ from reality.” These “fact-based” explanations can be long-winded and often confusing. Like reality, facts are dependent upon narrative. Mark Twain understood the relationship when he quipped, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” A talented film director or novelist can deliver fiction and make you believe it is real.
Trump has been called, and rightfully so, a demagogue, which according to one definition means, “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.” In other words, Trump spins stories for his own political (and financial) gain. His RNC speech incorporated real problems into a nasty narrative that played on the worst of human emotions. As columnist Timothy Egan wrote, “in a group, the emotions of the Trumpites pool to hatred and mob single-mindedness – all Mexicans are rapists, all Muslims are terrorists, all crime is rising, Hillary Clinton is the devil and should be shot.”
It was disturbing to hear the strong response from the convention crowd. It was frustrating to hear inept commentary on the news. It was alarming to read friends’ comments on Facebook that went from cynicism and dislike for both Trump and Hillary Clinton to assuming the population, especially white working class people, are irredeemably racist – full of hate and anger.
Which brings me back to Harry Potter comparison, a story that deals with problems of violence, bigotry and hate in a narrative that appeals to a different set of values than the Republican Dementor’s chauvinistic appeals to “make America great again” and to be the “law and order” president.
Instead, Rowling tells the story of people challenging fear and hate by joining together and finding common cause. By having confidence in each other, even those with whom you may have fought previously (Malfoy comes to mind), that the kind of world you want to live in is not one that bans Muslim refugees, scapegoats Mexican immigrants, disdains women, denies Black Lives Matter, dismisses climate change, builds walls, patronizes white workers, bullies disabled people and reveres ignorance.
This coming week in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention there will be other narratives from Sanders, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Clinton and from her newly announced vice presidential pick, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. There will be narratives coming from the delegates who are active in labor, civil, LGTBQ, and women’s rights struggles and from the mothers of those innocents who lost their lives from gun violence, police killings and racial profiling; narratives that thrive on the oxygen of the “beautiful struggle,” unity and hope.
Narrative trumps recitation of facts and truthful storytelling will trump Trump.
Photo: The Trump speech brings to mind the Dementors (as pictured) in the Harry Potter stories. The author Rowling describes them as “the foulest creatures that walk the earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the world around them….”