Less than thirty hours after even arch-supporters-never-parters scoffed and frowned and demanded action post-Helsinki, I’m riding in the backseat of a black Uber with the car radio on. My iPhone battery is dead again, so therefore, I’m all ears.
The voice on the speakers in unmistakable. Soft, squeaky, breathy intonations, words caught as if in a meatloaf sandwich sentence, stuffed together and then elongated at whim. I tune in, curious at how he will redeem himself, the disturbing press conference of yesterday replaying itself in the back of my mind.
Maybe, I murmur wistfully, remembering the collective voices rising in outrage, this will be the end of him?
But then I hear his voice. My hopes dissipate.
A slight affection and tilt of his vocal cords sounds throughout the walls of the car’s mopped-down leather interior.
His voice, as if Superman, promises to save and protect. An All-American implosion of fire-cracking sprinkles of hope that Good will encircle the Earth. My chest lightens and rises.
He drops his voice and appeals to the hearts of the people. Usually I don’t allow myself permission to be absorbed into the rock and sway of Trumps’ cradle, too repulsed to watch his speeches or listen to his interviews. But today, held captive in the car, riding down the river of his made-up, perverted brainwaves in which he is the only real thing that exists, I hear it.
The blood-curling, sweet-smelling, vinegar wash of charisma. Because he’s got it.
Like any successful, charismatic guru, despite how blasphemous or inane his words, I sense this: Trump possesses one of the greatest human powers; an ability to infiltrate into the hearts and minds of people. It is hard to admit it that despite all of his repulsive ways and inane soundbites, the charisma remains.
No matter the reality. Half truths, decimal truths, shades of gray. Weaving in, weaving out. Spreading seeds of hope like fertilizer, whispering promises that all has changed, all is good. Evil is good. Bottom is up. I am the Nile and I created me.
I’ve pondered about the concept of charismatic success before, wondering how a man such as Hitler- a brash, hatred spewing, (nonAryan looking!) person, could be so acclaimed and revered by the intelligent and cultured people of Germany. How did Hitler possess the ethereal quality of charisma? How did he break through their minds and into their hearts?
There, leaning back in the cool, black plush seats of the Uber and listening to Trump’s words, I understand.
I feel the way his intonation and speech bounces and nuzzles against my skin, the way his firm voice, reverberates against my own vocal cords as if from a generous, good heart that believes. For a moment, my heart wants to journey with him, too.
I feel-without my mind’s permission- the fibers around my heart tingle softly with hope, and in that infinitesimal moment of elevation and connection, I know for certain: this man is an abuser.
I think of Meg from A Wrinkle In Time, caught in the hypnotic melody of IT.
“Meg could feel a rhythmical pulsing. It was a pulsing not only about her, but in her as well, as though the rhythm of her heart and lungs was no longer her own but was being worked by some outside force.
“Meg gasped, trying to breathe at her own normal rate, but the inexorable beat within and without continued. For a moment she could neither mover nor look around to see what was happening to the others.
“Meg realize that the only way to speak was to shout with all the power possible. For everywhere she looked, everywhere she turned, was the rhythm, and as it connived to control the systole and diastole of her heart, the intake and outlet of her breath… (159, A Wrinkle In Time)”
There, in the Uber, I hear it, I feel it. The hypnotic melody of a manipulative man, promising, again, after so many blows, to change, to protect, to lead a vulnerable public, when we return to him and his rhythm, his version of reality.
I feel the wish to dust myself off, stop fighting, and walk right back with open arms. Tell us again what it will be like, dear leader. Fade those trials and tribulations of yesterday from my memories. Let’s be one.
For how satisfying it feels to be inspired. How desperately and thirstily our heart yearns for these feelings. And if a charismatic charlatan comes and gives us medicated feelings so similar it’s hard to tell the difference, how challenging it is not to imbibe it just the same.
I wonder in the back seat of the Uber as it approaches my home, how does a country break out of the cycle of systemic, charismatic, blindsided abuse?
I wish I had an answer. Again, my mind goes to Meg as I try to recall: How did she free herself from her abuser?
I search the book until I find it.
“With an immense effort she [Meg] tried to breathe against the rhythm of IT.
“But ITs power was too strong. Each time she managed to take a breath out of rhythm an iron hand seemed to squeeze her great and lungs… Suddenly she knew. She knew!
“That was what she had that IT did not have… But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?..
“She, in all her weakness and foolishness and baseness and nothingness, was incapable of loving IT. Perhaps it was not too much to ask of her, but she could not do it. But she could love Charles Wallace. She could stand there and love Charles Wallace. Her own Charles Wallace, the real Charles Wallace, the child for whom she had come back to Camozotz, to IT, the baby who was so much more than she was, and who was yet so vulnerable. ..
“I love you, Charles!” she cried again, her sobs almost as loud as his, her tears mingling with his. “I love you! I love you! I love you!
“And then the feel of earth beneath her, of something in her arms, and she was rolling over on the sweet smelling autumnal earth, and Charles Wallace was crying out, “Meg! Oh, Meg!
“Now she was hugging him closer to her, and his little arms were clasped tightly about her neck. “Meg, you saved me! You saved me!” he said over and over. (209, AWIT)”
I open the door to my Uber and thank the driver, grateful my ears will no longer beat along to Trump’s impressionable voice, as I shake from the remaining vibrations of his convoluted words.
Love to one another seems like such a vague, simplistic answer to solve such an enormous problem as an abusive, manipulative president.
But perhaps unbridled passion and care for our fellow man is the only answer.