For all these years, since 2016, there is that agonizing question: why did people we thought were intelligent and rational vote for Trump?
My current answer — which I admit emerges from a sort of intellectual stupor coming from the exhaustion of trying to understand — is mass psychosis. I don’t blame it on Trump; I feel he and others inspired people vulnerable to heretofore unexpressed and irrational rage. And then came the pandemic and religious theater which further roused these Trumpified people to hand themselves over to the madness.
But how did people get there?
Last week, Sheryl Stolberg, in the Times, provided the best step by step description by telling the story of Randy Witt, an ostensibly reasonable man with a family who did not know about Witt’s secret life, not until after he died from COVID. Then they discovered he had gotten entwined in a social media platform called Gab, which promoted irrationality about COVID, vaccines and “alternative” therapies.
He came to his senses in the hospital, shortly before he died.
I found this piece particularly illuminating, not because it explains why so many people have gone crazy but because it relates how one man, who did not tell his own family or try to pull them into the madness, got into the madness and died from it.
The article does not offer a Why. It can’t.
In the absence of such an analysis, I’m struck by the impossibility that I could enter a platform like Gab and stay there, exploring and buying into the irrationality. Yet Randy Witt did.
So what flaw or anomaly is it in the psyches and/or brains of people who are drawn or leap into this maelstrom? The only potential answer that still makes sense to me is the enlarged amygdala, because it’s neurology, i.e., science.
But whatever it is, it remains prevalent among certain types. There’s a guy on Twitter (I’ll try to grab his name and apologize for not having done so yet) who goes around the country interviewing MAGA adherents and posts the videos. A few days ago, I saw his latest.
Someday, somewhere, somehow, somebody will come up with a persuasive analysis of why the brains of some people find it comforting to believe and speak publicly of such insanity, while the rest of us reject the idea that Joe Biden is actually dead and is being played by actors wearing masks. One of whom might be Jim Carrey.
In the meantime, my default fallback is optimism; it’ll be over. Soon.