It seems as though Donald Trump is taking a page out of a George Orwell book and using it as personal self-help.
Today, classical dystopias touch on social conditioning in starkly accurate ways. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the caste- system of the ‘World State’ parallels America’s financial hierarchy which ensures the same: cyclical poverty for the lower class and inequity for the lesser 90%. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Jack (a would-be Trump) goes power-mad, contributing directly to the death of Piggy (progress) and the destruction of the conch shell (democracy). Trump’s rollbacks on human rights and his anti-democratic push to delay the 2020 election operate in tandem. The list goes on and on.
There are even real-time movements that reflect dystopian themes, such as those in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The red costumes of the suppressed women in Gilead have become a symbol of the Me Too movement over the past two years. Perhaps it is worth reconsidering how truly “fiction” these works of dystopian ‘fiction’ are.
The deeper we venture into the twisted societies we read of in middle school — the Gildeads, the World States, the Anthem-esque Dark Ages — the luckier we feel to live in a democratic safe zone. But our Constitution may prove fallible, our government threatened from within. Near-dictatorial leaders, tribalized parties, anti-outsider mentalities, fear- governed citizens; it is difficult to distinguish between Orwellian and Trumpian dystopias. Orwell’s Animal Farm may as well have been called “The United States of America- 2020 Edition.”
How was it that authors like Orwell and Golding predicted so accurately the state of our nation years and years ago? Both authors, for example, had depicted in their stories the reality of war and disorder, drawing in on Stalin’s rise to power and the emergence of the Nazi party during World War II. As it evidently remains: history repeats itself. These authors were not so much clairvoyant, as they were foreshadowing.
Trump — like Animal Farm’s pig dictator ‘Napoleon’ — ‘stands for the people.’ More recently, the president has attempted to roll back rights for transgender patients, has painted the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement as a ‘symbol of hate,’ and has made it extremely difficult for migrants to claim asylum in the U.S. As the political party of swine would insist, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” But Trump convinces us, “There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have.”
Napoleon and Trump hold a tight rein on their supporters by presenting “alternative facts.” Napoleon reminds his followers that the evil humans are still out there and orders defenses to be built. Some of the more dogged Trump fans still believe he is the savior from Chinese job-stealers, Muslim terrorists, Mexican drug dealers, crooked Hillary, and sleepy Biden. As long as they place those fears in the minds of their followers, they hold control.
Still, the storytellers subtly remind us that there is hope. Like the arrival of the naval officer at the end of Lord of the Flies, there is hope that someone stronger and better qualified will swoop in and save us. Or like the discovery of free-will at the end of Ayn Rand’s Anthem, there is hope that society will rid itself of historical wrongs and create a better one altogether.
With the upcoming 2020 election, there is hope that our country’s Napoleon will be voted out of office and the world will be created anew.