By Theodore Hodge
In part one of this article, we discussed Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s word of the year, surreal, and its impact on our collective sensibilities. It will not be a stretch to proclaim Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign as the most surreal event in the world. Yes, although only a domestic election, is it not written that “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”? Besides the word surreal, we shall also examine two other words: ‘post truth’ and ‘xenophobia’, chosen by Oxford Dictionary and Dictionary.com, respectively. How did these words play a phenomenon role in the ascendancy of the man many describe as the “most unqualified” and “most temperamentally unfit” to be president?
First a brief definition of each word; post truth: “facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Xenophobia is briefly described as, “fear or hatred of foreigners, or strangers…” In the American experience this year, no two words could have been better chosen to explain the nightmare with which we are collectively doomed. As we look back in retrospection, the Donald Trump for president campaign singularly seized one bold and disturbing strategic tactic: Besmear and besmirch strangers. Its “make America Great Again” slogan was a deliberate manifestation of that dubious goal. To accomplish its aim, the campaign went out of its way to be as aggressive, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, vitriolic and fully clothed in incivility. To accomplish this aim, it appealed to the vilest human instinct, bigotry; to set neighbor against neighbor.
Perhaps it should have come as no surprise since Trump’s ticket onto the spotlight was a vicious and unconscionable attack on the character of President Barack Obama and the senseless campaign to paint him as an outsider; not even an American with a slightly different or unusual pedigree, but someone who was not even an American to begin with. This unusual and caustic agenda catapulted Trump into the spotlight; unfortunately, his message was found appealing to various segments of the American body polity. Now all he had to do was to build on the platform by including Mexicans and Moslems, and to a certain degree, even to include legitimate American citizens of certain extraction, mainly Hispanic.
We were soon to find that Trump’s message had awakened a large segment of the slumbering masses, or what they used to call the “silent majority”. Those archaic and irrational feelings of xenophobia were not dead but had only been suppressed and lay dormant. It only took a knock and a tease from the great manipulator for the vices of racism, bigotry, and sexism to raise their ugly heads. And as in the fable of Pandora’s Box, they could not be coaxed inside the box again.
But how was such a monumental message conveyed to the sleeping masses? That’s where the word chosen by the Oxford English Dictionary becomes significant: ‘Post truth’ is briefly defined, “facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” This is a significant development in the age of social media. No matter what professional journalists or other professionals said about the issues, there was a counterview by some highly opinionated nitwit or simpleton whose opinion was accepted as equally valued. The candidate himself took to the airways in the nontraditional formats of Twitter or some other form of social media. The biggest discovery of the year is of a category of news referred to as “false news”. Overall, news consumers didn’t really care about the sources of their news, as long as it appealed to their sensibilities emotionally, or justified their preconceived notions. It is fair to say that reasoning fled the coop, leaving the American populace exposed as mostly dimwitted, and unenlightened; gullible to schemes and scams.
Donald Trump, US President-Elect
So now, as we citizens of the world, especially those in the American cultural melting pot, enter the New Year, we are faced with ugly realities we have been forced to sweep under the rug or hide in closets up to now. We must collectively confront the forces we face; we will either have to reshape our world or our world will be reshaped by the circumstances we have allowed to engulf us through our own complacency. This is a call primarily to all Americans and subsequently to all citizens of our common world. Why? Because we have collectively fallen for the concept of globalization. Since the end of the Cold War, America has assumed the enviable position of the world’s singular Super Power, effectively equating globalization to Americanization. We are forced to revisit the truism “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold”. Under Trump, it may surpass the common cold and turn into an acute condition, a pneumonia whose devastation will top charts comparable to the Black Plague.
It is thereby evident beyond a doubt that the year 2016 was an anomaly in many ways, but no event manifests that sentiment more than the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. I am of the opinion, as many are as well, that this does not represent America’s best hour. Americans now have an obligation to exercise the tenets of democracy to overcome this dark period in this Republic’s history. Goodbye to 2016 as we welcome the year 2017. Godspeed.