Monday, December 5, 2016

The Cult of Trump Scarily Similar to Scientology

I came across a documentary on YouTube the other day called Going Clear and felt compelled to watch it when I saw that it was about Scientology and that it was based on a book by Lawrence Wright, an author who hits me over the head with reality. Wright reports on all kinds of terrible news with such a calm demeanor. Just imagine you have the most blissful bed in the world with a lovely down comforter and plush pillows, and then when you start reading Lawrence Wright, or watching him in some documentary, he manages to rip the covers off the bed. Then he flips your mattress to reveal that your so-called “safe haven” is actually infested with bed bugs. And those bed bugs are going to eat you alive.

So while I was watching this documentary and having my security blanket ripped from my bed, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between our President-elect, Donald Trump, and the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

Maybe it was the orange comb over, or the smug expression that initially made me think of Donald Trump. But I soon realized there was much more to this resemblance than physical characteristics.

The most startling and disturbing similarity I noticed was the callous greed that consumed both these characters. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer who experienced his first shot of fame and fortune with the release of his book, Dianetics, in 1950. When the hype surrounding his book faded, he created a religion called Scientology, which exalted him as a saviour. His claim that Dianetics was a holy book increased sales and kept the money pouring in. These two men, despite what they have claimed, were never motivated by the desire to help people, only to make themselves richer and more powerful.

In 1993, Scientology earned a tax-exempt status in the United States, which means they can accumulate mass amounts of money and never give anything in return. Similarly, Donald Trump has managed to evade paying taxes, and although he has not released his tax returns, we can deduce from his old tax records that he hasn’t paid a dime of federal income taxes since 1995. Both men have been responsible for swindling gullible people and manipulating them into being their loyal followers.

L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, and in the last years of his life avoided paying taxes by taking to the sea. He and a group of followers cast away on a boat, and L. Ron Hubbard was the captain of this crew, which he called the Sea Org. These people were made to feel like they were part of an elite group. Likewise, the students at Trump’s fake university were made to feel as if they were special and destined for greatness, when in reality, they were just being taken advantage of.

The leaders of Scientology have invested in real estate all over the world, much like Donald Trump has. And when foreign governments, such as Germany, became critical of their presence, Scientologists referenced the Holocaust, saying Germans were treating Scientologists the same way Germans had treated the Jews, a ridiculous and offensive claim, but a tactic that has been used in the Trump playbook. During the election campaign, Eric Trump, Donald Trump’s son, compared the media’s treatment of his dad to their treatment of Clinton and said the media were warming up the gas chamber for his father. For most people who can detect foul play, invoking the holocaust is a clear manipulation tactic, but it serves the purpose of making people, who in reality are comparatively privileged, feel as if they are a persecuted minority. We heard this several times in Trump’s speeches and on conservative news outlets. This nonsense talk plays into lower-class white people’s insecurities and fears that there is a war on Christmas or that actual persecuted minorities, such as Muslims and Hispanics, are coming to America to cause problems.

Another similarity I found impossible to ignore was both these men’s treatment of women, which is appalling. L. Ron Hubbard physically, emotionally and financially abused his wife, Sarah. The documentary tells of a time Hubbard punched her in the face because she was smiling in her sleep and, so he thought, dreaming about another man. And of course Trump’s record for abusing women--seeing them as either objects of pleasure or ridicule, and bragging about sexually assaulting women--is horrifying and disgraceful.

Trump has been called out for underpaying, not paying, or sending bogus bills to residents of Scotland for a wall built around his golf course. (There must be some weird rush of power this man feels when he tries to make people pay for walls. I can imagine little Donald Trump in kindergarten building a wall out of blocks and telling his kindergarten classmates, “You’re going to pay for this wall.”) Scientology leaders also get away with paying their employees far below the minimum wage, meanwhile collecting vast sums of money from suckers on their spiritual path to become “clear,” which is Scientology’s version of Nirvana. But as opposed to meditating or praying to reach that highest level of enlightenment, Scientologists are emptying their bank accounts and making huge, unreasonable sacrifices.

If history teaches us anything, it’s that we need to beware of leaders trying to fill us with hate and fear in order to serve their evil agenda. People who create phony religions or who use pre-existing religions to try to manipulate and scare people should be fiercely rejected. And it is possible to stand up to bullies. Scientologists are notorious for harassing critics and activists who have stood up to them. In the same vein, Donald Trump has gone on the Twitter war path against people who disagree with him and he has incited violence at his rallies.

Such phenomena have left me feeling overwhelmed and distraught, but we mustn’t despair. As I say to my students who are disappointed when things don’t go their way, “This is a learning opportunity.” But we cannot despair and we can’t just sit back and reflect on what we are learning from this mess. We need to take action. Both these men, Donald Trump and L. Ron Hubbard, have ruined people’s lives. We can’t allow the normalization of what is happening: the increase of hate crimes, ignorance, and hatred. We need to stand up for what’s right and if we do that together, these two bullies will eventually be revealed to the world as sniveling con men and cowards.

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