People don't want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some form of instinct, they feel they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they'll bless and follow anyone who gives them a justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue…out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness and their guilt.
The words were written over 50 years ago by Ayn Rand, but they couldn’t be more prescient in describing the anti-intellectual campaign of Donald Trump.
Trump’s answer to protesters? He advocates violence. His response to words is fists. He predicted there will be riots should he be denied the nomination at the Republican convention. The next day he states guilelessly he does not advocate the use of violence—like the hip hop artist Shaggy singing “It Wasn’t Me” when caught red-handed.
I am not willing to support a leader who appeals to our darkest nature and our fears.
Reality exists. Yet while one segment of society is outraged by Trump’s provocations, tens of millions seem eager to elect as their President a man who reflects the darkest values of the people.
Living in Malibu, California—a Heinleinian land of the lotus eaters if there ever was one—it’s tempting to ignore Trump’s thuggish tactics and tune out. We’ve got plenty of sand to stick our heads in, and a wide Pacific in which to be “out to sea.” But ironically, my son—in some ways the quintessential southern California surfer—has challenged me to re-think assumptions and explain just what it is about Trump that disturbs me so.
In the process, I decided to revisit Atlas Shrugged. It answers my question, "Why?"
If Ayn Rand had a poster boy of self-reliance and the self-made man, in many ways I was it. Raised like a wolf as a child of a single mother of four, I had no choice but self-reliance. Acting on instinct, as I had little guidance, I realized I needed to become educated and not only make my way in the world but leave my mark on it. The path was by no means straight and it often seemed the potholes were more of a reality than the paved highway.
Ayn Rand came to me because she was a sensation at the time, one of those things I had to experience for myself. And I did. She helped me understand my unusual nature and why I often felt I did not fit in with the crowd. She helped me organize my thoughts and—much more importantly, at least for me—my dreams. For the first time I understood my path and had some direction for getting there.
Ayn Rand understood people and their nature. I have watched and read the pundits trying to explain what is happening in the country during this election cycle and have not found anyone to articulate it as she did so many years ago. We have today in our country the heretofore sublimated dark side of millions of people who are now willingly making a virtue "of their sin, their weakness and their guilt."
They have found someone who is appealing to those false virtues as loudly as possible. Somehow, something that would have been deemed inappropriate by most people only a short while ago has now found an outlet and a leader who is a champion for the darkness. The "why" was not clear to me until I read the above quote, and then it became quite clear.
While millions of Americans are participating in this great con, I am not abdicating my duty to think and to engage in rational thought. I am not willing to support a leader who would have us give up the need to think, who appeals to our darkest nature and our fears.
Gary Verboon is a Malibu-based lawyer, entrepreneur, and father. A former Republican and now politically-active Democrat, he brings a real-life Open Objectivist perspective to Ayn Rand's timeless ideas.