The days are shorter and the wind bites cold. This is the time of year for transition, from outward to inward, at least among boreal people in the middle of a vast continent. The endless possibilities of summer have closed down and the time comes for reflection.
That’s what the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are really all about. America always has a lot to be thankful for but at the same time much to consider on a day apart. One of these is our public discourse and values, soon to be practiced around a large table for many people. Why do we place so much value on a hero who will save us? Why do we place so little faith in our own ability to make things better?
Every family has at least one. Let’s call him Uncle, a relative distant enough to be dismissed. Let’s assume it is a man, for that matter. Every family has someone who honestly believes that Trump can do nothing wrong at all. It’s never been clear what people like this expect from Trump other than saying exactly what’s on his mind at any given moment. The lack of “political correctness” seems to be the main draw, certainly, but that phrase in itself has very little meaning.
Trump is simply a hero to many. And he’s not the only one.
On the left, there are still those who think that Sanders could have / could yet save this nation. They are a bit more silent after a year in the woods, but recent allegations against the Clinton campaign revved the hero worship up again. If only we had someone at the top who would just put everything right, the theory goes, we’d have our country back.
We also have heroes in entertainment, and superhero movies are always a draw. Why?
Revelations of sexual harassment by, let’s be straight up here, just about every man in power save a few exceptions, are rocking our world. It seems as though everyone is dirty, nasty, controlling, evil, whatever word you want to put to it. This is much more fitting with a new openness created by distributed media, like this, and the destruction of the “Great Man Theory” which has been a trend in history for many decades now.
This process seems to only make people yearn even more for a hero.
There is nothing we can do about this with law or regulation. This is a purely social phenomenon, but it deeply influences our politics. There is a natural need for leadership even in a truly open society such as ours. Great myths like the origin of Thanksgiving itself are necessary for people to feel united and together. The yin and yang of democracy demands a certain level of self-leadership, yes, but also social leadership.
Today we seem to have it both ways at once. People expect so little in social terms, with even basic respect and decency not in any way required as a normal part of social discourse. But we still want a hero to save us from … ourselves? It’s not clear what the heroes are supposed to actually do to make things better in our daily lives.
A few people go crazy in the space between, grabbing a gun and killing a few on their way out.
As the days grow shorter we’re left with just ourselves and those we gather with. We can make anything of this time that we want, but many will simply endure it. It’s a recipe for madness, but personally and culturally. We expect far too much of our “heroes” and far too little of ourselves. The process of these heroes letting us down confirms all of our worst fears – that the world is simply getting a bit darker every day and the cold winds will gnaw our souls away from our bones.
It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Renewal is possible and essential. That’s what the holidays are actually for. With a week to go before Thanksgiving now is as good of a time as any to start counting our blessings and getting to know just who we really are, getting to know what will really make us happy.
Hero worship makes no sense at all, especially today. We’re a free people who live in a world which we all make together. Let’s start with that.