During the true seismic shifts of history, most historians not on LSD will agree on the trend of “crisis cults”. These are groups who, during a time of radical change, will offer their followers the relief of magical thinking. While the roots of these cults change, the seed of their illogical belief is always the same: we can return the world to the way it used to be.
The most dramatic example of this would be Wovoka, the prophet that lead the Native American Ghost Dance awakening. The belief that new religious practices would bring back the bison, drive White America out of their homeland, and make them immune to gunfire would be, very quickly, revealed as incorrect. Most notably this occurred at the massacre of Wounded Knee, where the U.S. Cavalry wasted no time in proving that a Colt dragoon is a match for any shirt- even if it is prayed over.
On the far side of the world, the Boxer Rebellion would play this exact drama out for themselves. With the comforting distance of history, we can look back and wonder how they could ever convince themselves that their rituals would protect them? That their beliefs were a match for technology?
Much and more has been said about the Trump crisis cult, and to be fair it seemed like the parallels were there. That with one rage filled election we could turn America back to a country that never really existed. The last Ghost Dance of the Red Elephant out on the plains of America.
Whether Trump will make good on his promises, no one knows, least of all his supporters. But what we do know is that we fired a Cavalry regiment’s worth of grapeshot logic into their ranks, and they were immune to the volleys. It did bounce off their shirts. The Magical Thinking was ours.
For nearly a decade, the death of the Republican Party has been predicted time and time again. What we forgot was that movements like the Tea Party, like the Nazis, like Nelson Mandela’s ANC always fail, time and time again, until the time is right. Change comes during times of uncertainty. We just forgot it could rise from those we saw as beneath us.
Now, the crushing weight of reality washes over us. All of our best thinking led to the coming Trump years. We are the ones standing on the dark plains of America, watching the wounded Red Elephant spew a cloud of red mist as it bellows from the depths of its squeezebox lungs. It charges now, and the rituals that we worshipped: national dialogue, honest debate, and common sense have abruptly evaporated.