Author’s Note: It’s entirely possible I watch too much C-SPAN. I don’t know. But I do know it gets increasingly difficult for me to understand what’s going on in the formerly United States, how we got here, and why we put up with it. Part of it, of course, results from the polarization to which we’re perpetually subject. That polarization leads us to emotional responses to people and, particularly, to political candidates. (We much prefer emotion and feelings to thinking and reality.) So, we vote for candidates we like (?!) or, more frequently, for the candidate we dislike less than the other candidate.
At any rate, this post is a reaction to what I’ve seen of late. If you disagree with me, I’d love to hear from you. And if I hear from you, I hope you’re willing to support your disagreement with a sound argument, derived from valid premises. If that argument is supported by a demonstrable fact or two, it couldn’t hurt.
According to Encyclopedia.com, cult of personality was introduced into the popular vernacular by none other than Nikita Khrushchev who used it in 1956 to denounce none other than Joseph Stalin by saying: “The cult of personality acquired such monstrous dimensions mainly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person.”
Well, you can’t really blame a guy whose regime was responsible for killing 20 million people or more for indulging in a little self -self-glorification, can you? You could also throw in the estimated 20 million Soviet troops and civilians who died in World War II. But that would constitute gilding the lily.
That notwithstanding, the term was introduced to me 32 years later by the band, Living Colour. But I don’t really care whence the term derives. I’m much more interested in the way it applies today, right now. Encyclopedia.com goes on to say cult of personality is:
a pejorative term implying the concentration of all power in a single charismatic leader within a totalitarian state and the near deification of that leader in state propaganda. Totalitarian regimes use the state-controlled mass media to cultivate a larger-than-life public image of the leader through unquestioning flattery and praise. Leaders are lauded for their extraordinary courage, knowledge, wisdom, or any other superhuman quality necessary for legitimating the totalitarian regime. The cult of personality serves to sustain such a regime in power, discourage open criticism, and justify whatever political twists and turns it may decide to.
Pejorative term, indeed. As we continue to learn right in these here United States, those who enjoy cults of personality appoint others of their ideological ilk to do their bidding, regardless of the legality, the Constitutionality, or the cost of that bidding. What do we end up with as end products of those cults? Here are some modest examples:
- An incoherent President who is, and is making the United States, a global laughingstock.
- A Vice President who’s a one-person laugh track for a tragicomic farce.
- An Attorney General whose model for recollection and sensory perception is Schultz.
- An FBI Director whose disquisitional style is like a water balloon — squeeze it here, it pops out there.
- A Director of Homeland Security whose refined incompetence, obfuscation, and deliberate ignorance to art forms high enough to be considered sublime.
There’s a cause-and-effect relationship between the integrity of our election system and our faith in it. I have no idea if either of those things will ever be restored. But I do know we’ll get — and have gotten — exactly what we’re willing to settle for.
Whatever the answer is, it’s not the cult of personality.