The President of the United States is, arguably, the most powerful position in the world. Being the “leader of the free world” comes with great responsibility as the sheer scale of the impact that their decisions have is immeasurable. Any word or action, no matter how good its intent, will move the country and the world, for better or for ill.
This isn’t to play apologetics for someone at the top of an immoral hierarchy. Rather, it’s to point out that leaders always have tough choices to make, even with seemingly insignificant matters.
Unfortunately, there are far too many ways to demonstrate how Donald Trump has abused this prestigious role for his own benefit at the expense of his subjects. Trump’s cult of personality blinds his most devout followers, converts the reactionary and paranoid, and sways Republicans at large by ensuring they “tow the party line” in his favor. All the while, the president only takes responsibility for his actions when it’s most convenient to him.
Trump’s embrace of fundamentalist Christians pushing rapture theology on the populace is one of his most powerful and dangerous weapons. Rapture theology is a fairly recent development in Christianity and is at the heart of the Republican party with somewhere between 25%-33% of Christians aligning with it. Anything can be justified through God’s will with their twisted interpretation of what’s intended to be a much more peaceful religion.
Here’s how fundamentalist Christianity, “thinking for yourself,” and leadership all relate to Trump’s recent insanity of “suggesting” that we inject disinfectant into ourselves to cure COVID-19.
Genesis II’s “Miracle Cure”
Christianity is the predominant religion in America, so Christians are all across the political spectrum. But, there’s a stark difference between “being a Christian” and having the support of Christianity as an institution. At this point it’s no secret to anyone half-heartedly paying attention to politics that the evangelical Christian base exclusively supports the Republican party.
This is the same base who believes in rapture theology, which encourages followers to spend their time preparing for the end of the world and converting as many people as possible. Rapture theology is worthy of its own discussion and should be treated distinctly differently from Christianity. Suffice to say, it’s a relatively new breeding ground for conspiracy theories, indoctrination practices, and authority figures to peddle their wares.
Such wares can include survival gear, rations, “end of the world” preparation materials, and, sometimes, “miracle cures” that those “fake” doctors don’t want you to know about. These cures are typically vitamin supplements, an obscure plant with little/no medicinal properties, or a personalized “healing service” that has its roots in social engineering and persuasion tactics.
The Guardian investigated Genesis II, a Florida-based Church of Health and Healing, after one of Trump’s infamous press conferences. It doesn’t seem to push rapture theology, but the church is little more than a MLM scheme to sell various chemicals as “miracle cures.” Genesis II’s miracle cure in the form of a disinfectant: chlorine dioxide bleach.
Dubbed as a “master mineral solution” (MMS), Genesis II “Archbishop” Mark Grenon suggests that his customers, and their children, put a few drops of bleach into their drinking water every day. This is being marketed as a cure for a plethora of medical conditions and diseases including malaria, AIDS, and COVID-19.
Please don’t make us explain why drinking bleach is a terrible idea.
As it turns out, Grenon and 30 of his “flock” had written letters to Trump imploring him to consider their bleach products as a treatment. A few days later, Trump mentioned his horrendous “inject disinfectant” commentary during a press briefing. Yes, this is the president of our country and it’s not a dream.
If you’re wondering where this disinfectant nonsense came from, this is probably the source. And this isn’t the first time Trump has copied “advice” from other people and pasted it into a public statement, a suggestion, or an official policy. Typically, all it takes is for someone from FOX News, another right-wing pundit, or a CEO tweeting at the president to get their “perfect” suggestion into Trump’s head.
While Trump really could be gullible enough to sincerely say disinfectants are worth looking into as a potential cure, it’s more likely that Genesis II slipped him some money under the table in exchange for a promotion. It’s not like his coronavirus press briefings are much more substantial than corporate advertising anyways. Christian fundamentalists and Trumpers alike fall for his words hook, line, and sinker, so why not make a few bucks in the process of “informing the nation?”
Trump Wants Us to “Think for Ourselves”
The defenses for Trump on this disinfectant insanity are equally absurd. Aside from the traditionally dogmatic MAGA & KAG “lemmings,” there’s one argument in particular that stood out from the rest. It goes something along the lines of:
“Trump is trying to make people think for themselves by presenting potential alternative COVID-19 treatments for people to look into themselves.”
First of all, Trump, and Republicans in general, are no strangers to anti-intellectualism because its adopters are easier to control.
More to the point, this is part of the “4D chess” argument that’s not only popular among pro-Trump zealots. It’s also prevalent among the following conservative-leaning snowflakes: skeptics, libertarians, survivalists, preppers, constitutionalists, anti-government crowds, truth-seekers (conspiracy theorists), reactionaries, and, of course, Republicans who only know how to tow the party line. Trump’s cult of personality extends beyond partisan lines, though he has more reach to those who “don’t trust anyone” or “see all sides of the issue” or “think for themselves.”
Even if the person touting this argument is “apolitical,” all “thinking for yourself” means in this distorted context is to be inherently distrustful of anyone left of the Republican party.
But, let’s give this argument a little more charitability and assume for a second that Trump truly is trying to get us to think for ourselves. Consider the following:
- Is risking human lives for the sake of testing disinfectant injections really the best way to encourage free thinking?
- How do people have the time or mental fortitude to deep dive into a topic when they were one paycheck away from bankruptcy before COVID-19?
- People who do research for a living (including writers) know how difficult and time-consuming it is to properly and comprehensively look into a topic, fact-check, verify the information, and find reliable sources.
If our president was really trying to get us to “think for ourselves” in a productive way, he’d be dropping hints about our broken criminal justice system, ecological racism, our failing education systems, and our crumbling infrastructure. Instead, we get pep talks about how wonderful our military industrial complex is, how GDP was soaring before COVID-19, and how Wall Street and CEOs will save us. America only encourages the upper echelon of society to think for themselves, not the average worker that they depend on.
The Truth About Leadership
Not to state the obvious, but Trump isn’t a real leader. He turns “advice” from the highest bidder into policy. He extracts wealth from taxpayers through his family businesses. Trump cares nothing for the subjects he was elected to lead and America keeps making excuses for his incompetence.
America keeps electing failures as leaders. Why?
There’s too much emphasis on the hierarchy of leadership itself and not enough attention given to what a leader truly does.
A leader doesn’t lead a “flock”; they guide “packs.”
The pack leader, the alpha, ensures that all of its “subjects” are taken care of before addressing its own needs. An alpha’s responsibility is to its pack, not solely to its own interests. Most of our politicians, like Trump, will only save their own skin and lash out when anyone questions their authority.
Another fundamental flaw with how Americans perceive leadership has to do with how we perceive ourselves as lowly followers. All too often the followers see themselves, and leaders see them, as a “flock.” This immediately imposes a sense of “mindlessness” onto the subjects and removes any sense of agency. The resulting lack of confidence and self-respect might be the core source of this profound devaluaization that Americans experience at large.
We’re too quick to discredit our own worth as an individual, our abilities, and the greatness that we’re all capable of in our own ways.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as a “flock” that needs to be directed, we need to think of ourselves as a “pack” that works together. A pack looks out for one another through mutual aid, not charity. Every member of the pack is valuable and has their own strengths, even if it takes time to find those abilities.
We’ve been misled to believe we must operate as a flock instead of a pack. This is why we keep going out of our way to make excuses for the incompetence of American institutions intended to look out for us. If we’re to fix our broken systems, we need to respect ourselves enough to want, and have the confidence to enact, that change.
By shifting our view of leadership from a position of utmost authority to a position of guidance and safeguarding, we could truly make America into something we keep glorifying it as: exceptional.