Friday, August 17, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1627 - The frightening force of a powerful personality

  “Why do all these people believe Trump? It’s obvious that he lies all the time. They have documented his lying more than 3000 times in the year and a half he has been president. It makes no sense!” I get some form of this question very often. I may not answer the question, but I address it. I think it’s the frightening force of a powerful personality.

  During the election, one of my grandchildren by foster relationship was a Trump supporter. I talked with him on several occasions. He is well over voting age. Each time my grandchild agreed that it made no sense to support Trump for president. However, the next time I would talk to him, he would be supporting Trump for president.

  I eventually took another approach. I simply asked him why he supported Trump, and I listened. In so many words, he said something like this: “I like the way he talks. I like the way he talks about people.  I like the way he jumps on people. He will say anything. He is so strong.” I thought to myself that he talked about Trump like he was a television wrestler. But I realized that he was responding to the Trump personality, not his positions on issues. I was addressing issues, and he was responding to personality. He did not care about the issues because he was in the emotional grip of a powerful personality. I saw firsthand the hold that a powerful political personality can have on a person.

  During my lifetime, I have seen the power of personality. I see it every time a person is in love. The truth can stare them in the face, and they will not see it. They say love is blind, so you can’t see a person’s faults. I say that they are within the force field of another personality. The power of personality acts on us as individuals. It also acts on us as a collective group. Personality is sometimes so overwhelming that it blinds people. Well, it does not blind them. They see but refuse to accept. They hear but reject their hearing. They perceive but deny their perceptions. The frightening force of a powerful personality.

  One reason such personalities are so overwhelming is because they believe what they are saying in the moment. I interacted with such a person some years ago. He could know something was not true, but as he talked, he came to believe what he was saying. Because he believed it, others believed it. I ceased to interact with him.

  Based on my nearly 76 years of living, I see how some people accept what such powerful personalities say. The truth becomes what the powerful personality says it is. I recently heard President Trump say: “Don’t believe what you hear! Don’t believe what you see! They are all lies.” Therefore, the only source of truth is what comes from him. For those who believe him, he is almost God.

  It is my perception that so many of us believe what we want to believe. In jury trials, we, lawyers, first try to get a jury to want to believe our evidence. We do that by demonstrating the pain and suffering of our clients. We first get their sympathy. We then transform sympathy to empathy. If a jury empathizes with our clients, they will usually conform that evidence to their empathy.

  Hustlers succeed because they first tell us what we want to hear. They have a peculiar sense of what we want to hear or see or perceive. Then they give it to us in words. At the same time, they take from us that which is much more valuable. Our history is filled with examples of our being told what we want to hear. We wanted to hear that enslaved people were glad to be enslaved. We wanted to hear that segregated and oppressed people were happy and that the races get along. We wanted to hear that Native Americans were the reason their lands were taken, their culture smashed, and their lives snuffed out. We wanted to hear that Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in concentration camps because they were a great danger to America.

  President Trump said, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and I would not lose a vote.” Fifth Avenue is one of the main avenues in New York, and there are always lots of people to witness such a shooting. However, President Trump has proven to be right. He has not shot anyone on Fifth Avenue, but he has shot democracy in the stomach right before our very eyes. He has shot several critical institutions in their sides as we looked on. He has shot the character of many persons in the back on national television. He has shot American businesses and American allies in the legs. He is still shooting, and he has not lost a vote. The frightening force of a powerful personality.

  Sometimes a powerful personality seizes on our general grievances and substitutes them for our own falling short. Then he/she asks us to see that which never was and then blame society’s most vulnerable for every conceived problem. It is a powerful position that corrupts our sense and values and visions.

  However, we have seen the power of a powerful personality manifest itself many times in other countries. In fact, we have seen it in this country. Many do not believe that we have ever seen it take over this country. Therefore, we did not believe it could happen. But it has happened.

  We should be careful how we point the finger. The truth is that we are all subject to one powerful personality or another. I have certainly believed people I should not have believed. So I say, let’s examine ourselves to see what we refuse to see, hear and/or accept. Then we may begin to understand why certain people believe these things that the President of the United States says. The frightening force of a powerful personality.

Epilogue – Understanding is important. To understand, we must listen not only with our ears but also with our hearts. We must be able to put ourselves in the place of those we want to understand. Only when we understand are we able to help others understand.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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