Part Two: Collective Mentality


“From one dog all the dogs bark.”
Marty Rubin

 

Please read Part One: Opposition or Enemy first. I believe it will help you to understand my train of thoughts as I venture into the twilight zone in Part Two.

After six long hours in the brutal heat, the line was moving again. This time, I noticed people depositing their lawn chairs on the side of the road, or carrying them back to their cars. Earlier in the day, Ron went dumpster diving and returned to the line with his treasure…a lawn chair! It now dawned on me why people were leaving their lawn chairs behind. The doors had opened into Freedom Hall and lawn chairs were not permitted inside.

The crowd was subdued and we were all anxious to get a reprieve from the heat. The air-conditioned building was only a few steps away! As we stood in line to have our belongings inspected and pass through the metal detectors, a large screen flashed images of the 2016 election results, along with the faces of Hillary, Pelosi, and President Obama.

Then, the collective chanting began…”Lock her up! Lock her up!”

I laughed to myself. The election was over. Trump is the POTUS. “Lock her up for what?” I asked myself.

People were chatting about fake news, and laughing about a protester in a wheel chair who was allegedly arrested by the police because she dissented outside of the assigned protest area. “She can walk,” one Trump supporter said. “Yeah,” responded the chanters. “She can walk. She can walk.”

There was an announcement over a loud-speaker. If a protester was spotted in the protected area, people were to point at them and yell Trump, Trump, Trump and the police would come and remove them.

I looked around suspiciously. Did anyone suspect that we were the opposition? Did we stand out among a sea of red MAGA hats, Trump 2020 t-shirts, and Finish the Wall signs? Would people yell Trump, Trump, Trump and point their fingers in our direction?

I began to feel tinges of uneasiness, but I brushed them off as silly. How did our friendly line neighbors feel about us? They offered us pizza! They offered to drive me to a bathroom so we wouldn’t lose our parking space! They lent me an umbrella to protect me from the harsh sun!

“Silliness!” I reassured myself!

Yet, the large screen kept flashing propaganda, inciting the crowd, encouraging them to mob together in a collective mentality of anger, revenge, and an ‘us against them’ mindset.

We passed through the check point and metal detector. The security officer inspected everything in my backpack… my camera was taken apart and all my credit cards were removed from my wallet and inspected individually. When he pulled out the large plastic bag at the bottom of my pack he asked, “Why do you have a plastic garbage bag?”

Wisely, I knew not to make any wise cracks, but oh! there were so many answers I had on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I politely responded that the grass was wet, and I used the plastic bag to sit on.

The capacity of Freedom Hall is 8,500 people. We ordered our tickets a week in advance and I had my phone ready for them to scan our tickets. Surprisingly, no one asked us to show our tickets or IDs. Nothing! We were told to go to the sections behind the podium and find seats. The problem with that was that we had been in the hot sun for six hours waiting to see POTUS and the seats were behind Trump. I wanted to see him from the front of the podium.

We found another section closer to the front and convinced the aisle attendant that we were told to sit in this section. Later, we realized that they wanted the seats packed behind POTUS, if there were empty seats in the auditorium.

It was fascinating to watch the crowds file to their seats, the technicians line up the cameras, journalists perfect their commentary, and the Secret Service and local police inspect every detail to insure the safety of everyone.

A wave began! Ron joined in the fun, while I prepared my camera. The crowd was enthusiastic and Freedom Hall was at capacity. I expected the venue to be packed. We live in a very red state.

Yet, when Trump arrived, the dynamics of the rally changed. At first, we were excited to see POTUS. We respectfully clapped and stood when he entered the arena. Up to this point we were feeling comfortable. We had nothing to hide. We never felt like we were enemies. We were here to be a part of history. No agenda, no fear!

Trump was feeding off the energy of the crowd. Maggie Koerth-Baker pointed this out in a fascinating piece at FiveThirtyEight. “The technical term is “emotional contagion,” the same kind of effect that occurs at big football games, comedy clubs, and political rallies.”

I never considered the difference between individual and collective mentalities. But, she makes some interesting points in describing what we perceived at the rally. People tend to mimic the behavior of the group. Ron described it as a mob psychology. In the late 19th century, an anthropologist named Gustave LeBon came up with the idea that “being part of a crowd turned civilized people into barbarians.”

Trump used the Johnson City rally to attack three potential Democratic rivals in the 2020 presidential election. “They got some real beauties going,” Trump said of the potential Democratic field. He criticized Cory Booker, called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”, then went after the former vice president, describing him as “1 percent Biden” until former President Barack Obama “took him off the trash heap.”

He defended Kavanaugh and asked us to pray for his family. I questioned his lack of empathy and understanding for all the victims of sexual abuse and Dr. Ford’s heart wrenching testimony.  Why not pray for them, too? Is praying polarized now, too?

The crowd roared. They booed at the mention of the word Democrats. They chanted “Lock her up!” “Build that Wall!” For me, it was a horrifying display of a crowd gone mad.

Do people lose their will, control, and ability to reason when they become part of a crowd? Have my new friends in our six-hour line lost their minds, too? What about my friend who is an avid Trump supporter? She arrived at 6 am to be sure she and her husband got front row seats in the rally. Was she chanting and booing? Does she think I am the enemy?

“People don’t lose control, but they begin to act with collective values,” says Stephen David Reicher, a sociologist and psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who has studied violence among modern-day soccer hooligans, race rioters, and, this year, Trump supporters. “It’s not your individual fate that becomes important, but the fate of the group.”

That sense of collective identity describes why the crowds were subdued while standing in line. Until Trump incited the collective mentality of hatred, intolerance, and division, the people we met were polite, respectful, and friendly. He is a master of manipulation and deceit.

When Trump said, “The Democrats are the party of crime” that was the last straw. I shook with anger and an overwhelmingly profound sadness for our country. We left the rally with a sense of hopelessness and fear for the direction our country is headed.

The Trump rally taught me a lot about relationships. Individually, we can be kind and helpful  to each other as long as we don’t broach the topic of politics. I don’t know if we will ever to be able to talk politics with our friends. Trump has polarized us. The United States has become a place with a sense of fear and anger…fear that what we value will be taken away. Trump incites this fear at his rallies. He shouts that what we value is under threat and will be taken away, that in order to make America great we need to exclude those who threaten our values. Anyone who opposes him becomes the enemy.

His rhetoric amplifies the collective mentality. In their eyes, I am now the enemy, one to be shunned and feared because my beliefs and values do not sync with the crowd. For me, it is a dangerous path to go down. I see no light at the end.

Finally, I have never been to a Democrat Rally. We wonder if we will see the same division and hatred. Probably so! The world is mad! Character assassinations exist on both sides. It truly saddens and repels me. We should all be insulted by politics and lousy corrupt politicians with vested interests. I ache for my country!

Part three is my interview with my friend who is an avid Trump supporter. She has graciously allowed me to ask questions about her perception of the Trump Rally. I trust her and she trusts me. I told her I would not use her name, but I want her honest opinions and I know she will help me understand how we can begin to heal our divisions.

 

 

37 thoughts on “Part Two: Collective Mentality

  1. I guess I got lucky. Several years ago I was going to head for Nicaragua. Instead, I ended up in Cuenca, Ecuador. So far it’s been better than I deserve, but events in Central America show how suddenly and radically things can change.

    I’ve checked in at your blog a few times over the past six or seven years, and today just wanted to see if there were any new thoughts, given the recent ugliness. As your last three posts show, yes, and it isn’t geographically confined. Unfortunately we are still living in interesting times.

    The tone of the “Collective Mentality” post reminded me of something I read just last night: “Brave New World Revisited, revisited” at https://spectator.us/2018/10/brave-new-world-revisited-revisited/

    “When Huxley revisited the ‘Brave New World’ of 1932, [in 1958] he saw that vision as becoming all too real. It is alarmingly prophetic in describing our own reality. The toxic triviality that Huxley warned about now lies beneath the buzzwords of our contemporary vocabulary: alternative facts, fake news, post-truth. As he saw, we are all complicit in this dystopia of leisure. Unlike his former pupil Orwell, Huxley showed that in the West, we need not control by coercion. We control by confusion. Now, that’s really scary.”

    On the other hand, your description of what happened at the rally reminds me of Orwell too.

    “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.”

  2. I wonder how the Germans felt at Hitler rallies. I wonder if it was a lot like this. A quiet minority in the crowd just hoping that what they are hearing isn’t the real Germany.

    • Shelley, when we watched the Trump rallies on TV, I was reminded of the Hitler rallies. But, I was hoping it wouldn’t be the case when we attended it live. There was a point in the rally that we began to fear for our safety if our cover was blown. Trump incited the crowd to such anger, that I believe nothing would have stopped them from violence.

  3. Reading ‘from afar’ through a foreigner’s eyes, this saddened my heart, and I physically felt its reaction. My main thought o was “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ” – and wondered why can’t people just love one another, remember that we all have faults, and if not- let them throw/hurl the first stone.

    Like the other, I will leave this on the screen and read it again when offline at home.

    • Oh Lisa, human behavior puzzles me so. I don’t think we will ever find comparable neighbors anywhere in the world. Here in the states, our neighbors are meth addicts…no kidding! And we live in a beautiful oasis close to the oldest quaint town in TN.
      In Nicaragua, our neighbors had mental health issues and life was a challenge trying to ignore them…especially when they crawled over our fence at night and sabotaged our property.
      We live in a crazy world. I think we are going to become hermits. HA!

      • At the river mouth in Jama, my neighbor the ladrone- kept me on my toes! He lived in a make-shift tent-house, so I tried to overlook his tendencies to take things – but when he stole my binoculars, that was a great sin.. grrrrrrrrrr. Now in Poza Honda, I feel very blessed to have such sweet neighbors/neighborhood, where the closest store is surely 5 kilometers away – but it’s soooo blissful. There’s always room for the two of you if you need a timeout!

  4. Look at the riots to keep a conservative, any conservative, from just speaking on a campus or people running a conservative couple from a restaurant and we can see that this type of thing runs in both directions. It’s what makes the whole dyamic so very dangerous. As I said yesterday, people do things in a group that they wouldn’t do on their own, It’s not only in politics, it’s in sports and other areas. It’s sad and it’s frightening.

    janet

  5. I have attended Democratic gatherings – the inauguration of President Obama, for example, as well as women’s marches and while they are not quite the same, let me assure you that they are not as your describe in this piece (at least they were not when I left the US – like you, I’m living in Central America). I look forward to reading your Part 3 as I have no Trump supporters as active FB friends – there were some posts from them that pushed me to the point where I either I friended them or hid their posts but remained FB friends. Perhaps they have done the same to my posts which are undeniably progressive and pro-woman but I try hard to not be mean spirited about Trump supporters. I think your Harry Truman is spot in and makes me so sad about to where the US has declined. Thanks for these insights.

  6. As loving neighbours we’re always respectful of the democratic phenomenon just south of the 49th parallel. It’s hard to miss. However, the divisive hatred that is rolled out and testified to in these events and indeed from the White House is frightening and far reaching. It’s also very sobering because in many ways, humans have been known to fall into the “actions speak louder than words” quagmire when encouraged. The four young white supremacist men brought to justice this week in Virginia apparently felt compelled to arrive at the now tragic rally in Charlottesville ready to MAGA in their own chilling and disheartening way. It will be interesting to see if the POTUS will react to this latest news considering the deadly outcome of the rally was blamed on “both sides” by the President.
    The normalization of hatred appeared to spread across the border (and around the world for that matter) in 2017. We shouldn’t blame the POTUS for the escalation of white wing extremism in Canada though. Racism and hatred for visible minorities ALREADY exists here. In January 2017 it was extremely disheartening to learn of racist violence in Canada when a 27-year-old white male arrived at a mosque in Quebec ready ready to kill Muslims. He entered a Muslim house of worship in Montreal and killed six men and injured 19 more while they prayed. Yes, we have a lot to do as well. Thank goodness this type of action is not and never will be a collective mentality on either side of the border.
    When we look across the border, our feelings are similar to those of Nicaragua. We feel bewildered and sad for the people and the country. Please have hope, stay the course, be true to what you feel is right and wrong and know you have friends nearby.
    Take care,
    Chris & Heather

    • Chris and Heather, your words of wisdom ring strongly with me. Returning to the states, I have been blinded for a while…too much turmoil here to see beyond the borders. My bewilderment in Nicaragua used to consist of…Why don’t we have electricity today? or Why don’t the farmers make hay for their cattle to eat in the dry months?
      Now, my bewilderment is much deeper, more profound. I ask myself…Why would Ortega kill students? or Why does the hatred and vileness exist in the states?
      There is very little I can fix. I want to extend a non confrontational hand across the division. But, realistically, I find this extremely difficult to do. I had a blogging friend of many years who unfollowed me yesterday. He said, “ I always find it amazing that for us on the right, the left preach tolerance.”
      I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but shouldn’t we all preach tolerance regardless of our political stance?
      I will try to stay the course, as difficult as it may be. Hugs to you both.

  7. The enemy is: common sense, tolerance, respect, understanding, compromise, diversity, truth, honesty, other cultures and believes and all that makes us different from each other. Mob mentality is a dangerous animal. Good place to hide under that Kiwi hat Debbie.

  8. Thank you, once again! 1. for attending, 2. for having an open mind, 3. for sharing your experience. I, too, am so sad about the radical division along party lines and the long-term consequences this will have. Rarely (ever?) have I been ashamed to be a US citizen, but now I do question our perceived desire to ascend to greatness again.

    • Magnolia, I had a bumper sticker on my car once that said, “Born OK the first time.” When leaders of our community, country, and world tell me that I am not OK, that I need to fear my neighbors, make them my enemy, and exclude others who have different values than me…something is terribly wrong!

  9. Sounds like the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show”… or maybe an evangelical tent revival… or a UK football match. Its all pop culture… entertainment. Yet on a darker note, this is also political populism… the kind that erodes democracy and any serious attempt at good governance. Your return home has given you new inspiration to write. You have stepped away from your own culture for a decade and can now see it from a world view. Please keep writing about what you see.

  10. BUENOS DIAS DEBORAH!!!! COMO ESTAS???

    LOVE YOUR ARTICLE , BUT WHY GO TO SEE THAT SHIT ??? NOW U KNOW…STAY AWAY!!
    A BUNCH OF DUMB ASS HOLES ! AND TRUMPS IN TROUBLE ….AGAIN , IVE SURE YOUV’E HEARD THE ””’FAKE – HAHA NEWS’,,,, BUT THOSE CONVENTIONS ARE PRIMARILY FEAR BASED , ANGRY AND DISGUSTING . IM SOOO GLAD I DO NOT LIVE IN THE STATES …!!!!!!!!!! YEAHHHHHHHHH!!!! THE STATES IS FALLING APART NO MATTER WHAT YOU HOPE FOR .WELL, FUN READING ABOUT THE SAME BULLSHIT….

    BEING A PART OF A CROWD ….WHAT DO U GET????? ””” B A R B A R I A N S””

    AND THATS THE TRUTH !!!!!!!!!!

    • Steve, I was puzzled by the reactions of friends telling me that I was brave to go. It has nothing to do with bravery. It was a study on human interactions individually and collectively. Secretly, I kind of wanted to be arrested. I’ve never been arrested before. But, in order to be arrested I would have had to be obnoxious and confrontational. Maybe next time! Haha.

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