Back in 2009 as I was working my way through a professional life coaching course, I had a peer / colleague who sent me an email that was political in nature.
I realized right then that what we were learning about being life coaches was in conflict with the nature of making one’s political opinion known. Your opinion is exactly what you’re trained to keep out of the conversation. You don’t betray your opinion because it doesn’t matter. Your client’s agenda is king, and your agenda not only should remain hidden, but in fact, should not even exist.
It seemed to me that broadcasting one’s political opinion, even outside the confines of a professional relationship, was antithetical to the process of becoming a coach at heart. On a practical level, since our nation is so divided along party lines, making your personal opinions known will essentially alienate 48-52% of your prospective clients. On a deeper, almost spiritual level, becoming an “ear” means learning to silence your voice. Your job is to support the growth of others, but not to tell them which direction to grow in.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently been to Thailand where I began to rediscover my voice as a poet, and I recognize that the point of being a writer at all is to share opinions (in my case, that comes in a variety of forms from poetry to fiction to creative essay). Furthermore, my desire to exhort my friends to growth includes a general appeal to be well-read, to be erudite, to seek to understand the world about you via a variety of travel experiences whether they be through books or on a bicycle or airplane. Getting to a different time and place is crucial for gaining perspective, which is, in turn, crucial for growth. When I write, I hope that I invite people to find different perspectives, and when that happens, I invite them to use their own ears.
I am writing this on “Super Tuesday” and by the time I’ve saved this overnight I expect to find that Donald Trump is most likely going to be the Republican candidate for the Presidency. I would prefer not to say which of the other four major candidates remaining (alphabetically, Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders) I am promoting, but I do say this:
We need to start looking past Donald Trump. He’s so good at holding the spotlight we think that if and when he goes away, it will be over. But Donald Trump represents a natural disaster which has already struck our shores and ripped its way from atop the purple mountains’ majesty and across the fruited plain. His demagogy is detrimental not only to how we will see ourselves in the future, but how the world will see us too– even if he isn’t ultimately elected! Demagogy means that he stirs people up by playing on their emotions and prejudices to win them over quickly and gain power. He is the living definition of this word! Another word that reflects the behavior we’ve seen at his rallies is mob-fascism. We should be very concerned that fascism in some form is on the rise. It will not end with Trump, whether he is elected or not. There are people who are hungry for the controlled environment that comes with fascism, and there are apparently a lot of them. Donald Trump doesn’t seem smart enough to create this wave; but he sure knows how to surf it. He will mock anyone and everyone for a laugh, and that is how it starts. Incidentally I have seen many conservatives point out that programs like SNL, which were very edgy in the 1970s as they poked fun at homosexuality, also paved the way for gay marriage. Making fun of things is the first step to making them okay.
Trump is making it okay to beat people up and throw them in the street without their coats, and that is what the fascist mob is hungry for.
Now, I’m not saying Trump is a Nazi, because he’s not. But I would like to point out that the World War II Axis Powers included Mussolini’s fascist Italy and Hitler’s Nazi Germany working together. Trump working with Putin, for example, would be a pretty bad deal for the world. And we know they are mutual admirers.
The fires of fascism were already in Smaug’s belly here in the United States, rumbling about inside a sleeping beast, hibernating during the winter of anti-intellectualism. Trump, in his craving for popularity, perhaps silly as a dwarf whose eyes are only on the gold, has aroused that dragon. Sooner or later, we’re going to get burned. Trump may lose to Clinton or Sanders (I daresay he will, though he’s defied every pundit who says surely he can’t continue to rise). But for the people, this desire for the fascism-sponsored cotton candy sugar rush of self-righteousness multiplied by fear that he offers as flippantly as he tosses the coif on his head, no, this is not going to go away. Within another four to eight years, another demagogue may rise on Trump’s shoulders and take this country into some truly dangerous places, and growth, as sponsored by erudition, will have to hide behind multiple levels of false identities on the internet as though it were the worst kind of explicit and graphic images.
Mockers ultimately do not like to be mocked, nor do demagogues, no more than terrorists do. We saw what happened at Charlie Hebdo. Can we imagine that a party here might eventually be serious and dangerous enough to go after a Late Show host? You’d better believe it can happen.
Growth promoters will not be able to call themselves things like “Adam G. Fleming.” Am I speaking doomsday? Not entirely. Will all be well if Trump loses the presidency? No, it will not. Smaug is awake, and he is not happy. He will feed. The danger is not Trump, it is the wave he’s surfing, a wave that’s getting bigger, not fading. The real danger is in thinking that Trump is the wave (just because we think the hair he sports is the biggest wave we’ve ever seen). With or without Trump the wave is going to cascade across our beaches and suck some part of us out to sea, probably a very innocent and beautiful part of us, probably that part that makes people around the world say to each other “I’d move there in a heartbeat.”
“Oh, wait, Adam, are you saying we should be afraid? Then you’re a demagogue yourself.”
I am not saying we should be afraid. I am saying we should practice erudition. We should read, we should have our eyes and ears open, we should see what is coming, and we should even be willing, if we would love our enemies and lay down our lives for our friends, to get out of the way when the mob mentality comes rolling. We should stand up and call the dragon by name, because otherwise people might just think it’s a friendly little earthquake which will pass and not something with jaws that’s on a warpath. I’ve often been curious what made the difference between Jews who left Germany in the early 1930s and those who stayed until it was too late. I think there are a lot of factors and it’s probably impossible to narrow it down to one thing, and it’s not pleasant to say “they didn’t see this coming” because it sounds like blaming the victim. But if some really deep crap is coming down the pike, I don’t want to be the one who says “I’ve invested too much here to leave” and put my children in harm’s way. I won’t be a victim. When people say they “would move away” and we don’t take them seriously, we’ve forgotten that at almost all times, there is some place in the world where they are moving away. Usually those refugees are leaving well after the time when it might have been expedient. If I’m going to leave, I’d like to think I’ll do it before it becomes so difficult.
This is why I feel it’s worth standing up and making a political statement, even though I’m a coach who isn’t supposed to have an agenda: it’s because I do have an agenda, the coach really does always have an agenda, the coach always has had an agenda, and that agenda is authenticity and growth. I hope for an America unafraid of growth and the unpleasant changes that come with it, not for a mockery of what makes America great, the plastic masquerade of success and righteousness as a glossy film over the ugly head of control and fascism.