The Grand Illusion

It’s difficult to organize thoughts this morning after the election, but I have been getting some thoughtful words on Facebook and from friends that I think are important to express right now.   In discussion with a friend I was saying how Trump was never really successful at anything in life and his success is built solely on the illusion of his brand.  My friend responded “well isn’t that a sign of success?”  As much as it hurt to admit I think he’s right.   He has sold America an illusion, and America bought it.  He isn’t going to build a wall, he can’t bring coal jobs back, he isn’t going to magically fix inner cities, he isn’t going to make America great again.  Especially consider nobody really knows what that means, and how we define greatness is highly subjective.  We went on to discuss this illusion and how Trump’s illusion is really America’s.  Once again I couldn’t help but agree.  I’ve been mulling this thought over for a few hours and really makes sense.

America has branded itself over the years.  The country that can’t fail.  The country that does it right, and that other countries should look to as a model of freedom and democracy.  We sell the American Dream, and people believe in it, even though we have been struggling to deliver that for some time.  And when I say we’ve bought into it, I am talking about all of us to varying degrees.  We’ve even convinced many people outside the U.S. that this is the case. But it is an illusion as grand as the Trump brand.  We aren’t perfect and we’ve got a lot of problems.  There are other countries out there who are doing things better than we are.  We spend more time convincing other countries that we are the strongest and the best, and less time giving our own people something substantive to believe this is the case.  Obama called us the greatest nation on Earth.  Where is the humility?  Hillary referred to half of the voting population as deplorables.  How extreme is that righteousness?  Those of us who see behind the veil of Trump’s brand to what he really is, convinced ourselves that there would be no way Trump could be elected.  I included.  As a nation we have made some great progress at social justice and equality, but we’ve also let far too many people fall into poverty, we had some poorly executed and designed policy, even if well-intentioned.  We’ve made some terrible foreign policy decisions that has cost us money and lives.  And all these things are excusable, but we also refuse to admit it.  Why?  Because we are the greatest nation on Earth.

I believe that to earn that title, we need to have empathy, we need to have courage, and we need to have humility.  We also need to have honest introspection.  We have to create our sense of self-worth over substantive matters.  We have to demonstrate that we are as capable of celebrating our successes as well as admitting and learning from our failures.  These are the values that make for great people, and great nations.  I’m not sure any nation can be said to be there, but some are closer than others.  We have further to go than we’d like to believe, and I hope that in these next 4 years we can break through this illusion and find a way to heal a divided nation.   Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans for not reaching across the aisle.  That’s the beginning of the humility we all need to have.  All of us regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation are human.  That’s the love we need to have.  And then we have to ask “How can I live my life so that it helps raise all humans up?”  That’s the courage we need to have.  And we need to keep at these qualities, everyday of our life, because hate, self-righteousness, and fear are always with us, waiting to shake us fragile humans to our core.

36 thoughts on “The Grand Illusion

  1. Pingback: Trump et al.— The Global Storm | Marcus Ampe's Space

  2. ryan59479

    Every empire reaches its peak and declines, and last night I think we saw America reach that point. We have an uninformed, ignorant electorate that votes based on fear and insecurity. Fear and anger aren’t going to make anything great again.

    To me, the illusion is not just the American dream or American exceptionalism. I never really believed in those to begin with. To me the illusion is the social progress we’ve made.

    I have to question all of it now. Did we really make any actual progress in the last 30 or so years? Trump seems to invalidate any notion of societal progress.

    It’s woefully apparent that racism never went away. That tolerance didn’t spread. What we had was a thin patchwork of legislation that kept people from acting racist or intolerant, and a fat comfortable electorate that was happy to pretend as long as they kept doing better. But once they stopped doing better, and those minorities started gaining ground, the illusion was broken.

    I’m deeply ashamed of my country right now. Not just because we elected a dangerous bully to the highest office in the land, but because doing so shows the rest of the world we really haven’t learned anything or grown at all in the last half century.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely empathize with you. All of this is so hard to fathom. And I agree that we could very well be looking at the fall of an empire. Something that has happened to every empire throughout history. But how hard we fall is still is up to us. We can either develop some humility or stick with the illusion until the bitter end. Let’s fight for the former. Maybe more importantly, let’s not let a bully make us submit!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. ryan59479

      Totally agree. The DNC really screwed everyone over on this one. At the very least, Hillary should never have picked Tim Kaine as her running mate. Choosing a bland, middle aged white guy from Virginia was a stupid strategy, and guaranteed that she’d lose minority and millenial votes. She should have picked someone like Cory Booker.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My applause and agreement Swarn. Bravo! This is the bed we Americans as a whole have made for ourselves for the next 4-years, now we must sleep in it. And what specifically IS that bed? The U.S. House Reps and Senators, i.e. the Electoral College delegates, WE VOTERS previously put into office… actively or inactively, registered or unregistered representing our state’s political parties. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said Professor. I do think it’s time for some deep introspection as a nation. Whatever supremacy we held in the eyes of the world, I think is at an end. Now people still may fear us, but respect is lost. I hope we can figure out what we really need to do to have that true respect instead of people respecting the brand we sold.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I mean I’m not going to say we’re not… But it seemed like a trend that was happening anyway. Do you really feel that under Hillary she would have done anything to reach out to the people who voted for Trump? The divide I feel would have only grown. This is one of the main reason I supported Bernie Sanders so much because he was trying to address everybody and serve all people. And he was winning many working class people on his side. He was especially loved in those blue states…. Ones that we lost like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.. .I believe we would have won Florida too with Bernie. They love old Jewish people down there!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The only positive I think we’d have had with Hillary is Supreme Court nominees, and the protection of Roe vs. Wade. As well as a continuation of environmental policies enacted to clean our act up.

        Trump will do everything within his power to reverse these things.

        Everything else pales in comparison IMO.

        Unless Trump goes whacko and hits the big red button. Then we have other problems too big to worry about the other stuff.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. So true, the success of illusion is the illusion of success in this case. And the fact that our leading politicians think they can go pedaling the American Dream around the world as if we’ve got it all figured out – well, the conceit of that is just grand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Anna

    I am just so devastated by this outcome. Thanks for putting some of my emotions into words. We haven’t met many people since our move, so I feel isolated from others who share my grief. FB and blogs like yours have been a welcome outlet for me today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anna. At first I was feeling some despair like maybe I should take advantage of our citizenships elsewhere and make a new life, but I have been here in the U.S. more than half my life, and know so many good people. Taking advantage of my privilege and leaving is not exactly the most courageous thing to do. And what message does it send to my child that I let a bully make me feel defeated. If things actually do get dangerous well then that’s a different decision to make, but for right now good people have many battles to fight that we thought we wouldn’t have to, but they are worth fighting for. I really can’t see myself now abandoning so easily all the people in this country that have come to mean so much to me, and that includes you.

      I think the world today realized how fallible we really are, and we are no longer the nation that others look to as a symbol of equality and freedom, and maybe that’s a good thing for other to see, and for ourselves. Perhaps we have been living an illusion for awhile and we still have a bigger fight ahead of us than we realize. We have made much progress since those days of slavery, and the complete suppression of women. Let’s keep going. 🙂


  6. theancients

    A grand illusion indeed, successfully sold to many who themselves are perpetually disillusioned and fearful.

    While your friend makes a great point of the “successful marketing” to many as an “accomplished business person;” the truth remains and will always defy the deceptions. Truth will always trump whatever façade one chooses to project regardless of how many buy into said illusions.
    Thankfully, truth isn’t determined by illusions nor is it the consensus of the masses.

    The Book of Judges nails it in the story of the trees going forth to appoint a king to reign over them. All of the qualified trees rejected the offer; however, the unworthy/unqualified bramble agreed to reign as king over the trees and in its self-righteousness it makes claims/promises that it has absolutely no ability of fulfilling. Unashamedly, it also goes on to warn of the consequences for those who would disagree with it.

    This election was won via fear; and as we all know, hatred is just a branch stemming from the roots of fear.

    Based on my observations, DT doesn’t have to do much in terms of actually fulfilling his promises. He simply has to say he’s done it, and that he’s done a great, great, job of doing it. After all, who are you going to believe, him or your lying eyes and ears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point. Someone who built their campaign on illusion simply needs to keep that going without actually doing anything at all. I mean he literally doesn’t have any governing skills so I can’t imagine him doing much else but talking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. theancients

        You’re absolutely right about the lack of governing skills and I think this is where things will get ‘interesting’ moving forward, based mostly on the people he chooses as ‘advisers.’

        Any smart adviser, diabolical or otherwise can simply use his (DT’s) psychological profile to push through their personal agendas.
        He’s an easy study, devoid of humility.

        it will definitely be an interesting time observing.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. theancients

            a good read into my psyche as well, as I was aiming for a gentler, more diplomatic tone.
            please ignore my lack of capital letters as I’m having difficulty with this particular keyboard.

            Liked by 1 person

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  8. Yes, yes, yes. You are a better man than I, Swarn Gill. I cannot get past the sheet idiocy of it all. I hope one day I might. I do agree illusions are not helpful, and eventually must crumble (did you say that?!). 😉 And I also recognize the potential for extreme damage that can be done in a very short time. I am just inconsolable right now. Suspended in disbelief and the bald fact that no matter what progress we make, we will Always have to advocate for simple human rights some of us have worked a lifetime to achieve. I am weary at this point, and sad. Still waking up in one frame of mind, only to remember what we have wrought. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have experienced all those feelings. I am in my early 40’s but I told my wife where I didn’t want to live in a country where I had to fight for basic rights that we’ve already had and seem so obvious to keep. But my wife gave me courage and reminded me that this is not a time to flee but to fight…we might at a tipping point but with courage we can hopefully stop us from going over the edge.

      It feels so unfathomable and in these situations I try to read and really try to understand the other side, something that I didn’t pay enough attention to all this time…and I think maybe a lot of us weren’t. I feel the election of Trump has to be more about racism and misogyny these arguments become reductive and dehumanizing and I feel like I can’t just categorize people so easily. Maybe I’ve been doing it more than I care to admit. Either way I am desperate to understand the other side to try and make sense of all this. All I know is that is we are to be truly one people we have to start seeing everybody as people, and while I think that is a strength I possess, I haven’t exercised it well during this election or perhaps even before.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, bless you. My eyes have ever been wide open, as has been my heart. My entire family (huge) is Mormon, and I’ve long known who they would support. I sincerely try and understand that kind of thinking – after all, I spent 30 yrs. counseling all sorts of people. But after observing the blatant (not covert, as some would say) racism perpetrated against Obama for all of his eight years in office – complaints registered not because he was over-conciliatory, for example, but because he was, as one FB post recently stated, a ‘fake president with a tranny wife’ or a Muslim or … (fill in the blanks with the most horrible character slurs you can conjure) – as well as the escalated attacks on black citizens in general, not to mention the backlash against gay rights – well, dear Swarn, I am just … so …. weary.

        I was thinking about you while still trying to get breakfast together (!), and thought yes, your generation will Need your particular brand of compassionate, positive energy in order to deal with the world you have been handed. So I respect it, I do. Admire it, even. And now before I delete this entire diatribe in favor of the silence I’ve assumed since the election, I wish you the best. Aloha.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Not to be too pedantic, but Hillary didn’t refer to half the voting population as deplorables. She used the term “basket of deplorables”, which is arguably way classier, and she referred to half of Trump supporters, which would be somewhere around 1/5 of voters. A number of sources that have tried to quantify the actual percentage of Trump supporters that are racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc. have found her statement to be surprisingly accurate if not highly subjective.


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