The breakup of a cult | In Focus

It’s OK to admit you were drawn in. I certainly was.

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

Rich Elfers, “In Focus”

Fifty-one years ago, I left the cult to which I had devoted seven years of my life. I left because I saw the corruption and immorality and lies of the leadership. I felt disillusioned and betrayed. I had joined because I craved certainty in a chaotic world. I left, struggling to understand how I could have been so naïve and trusting. My life was turned upside down.

I see the same thing happening to many Trump supporters since President Biden’s inauguration, especially those who believed in QAnon, the conspiracy theory that stated there was a plot by the “deep state”—some government officials who with media personalities were secretly controlling the nation. President Donald Trump, according to the theory, had been recruited by the military to save the nation from these individuals.

Millions of Trump Americans believed in “Q”, a high-ranking government official who communicated through cryptic messages predicting that Trump would save the nation. According to the conspiracy theory, the deep state’s members would be rounded up and arrested and sent to Guantanamo Bay to be incarcerated, tried, and executed. They expected a national blackout at noon on inauguration day and were told to buy CB radios and stock up on food. Trump was supposed to declare martial law before carrying out mass arrests.

Among those who were believed to be members of this deep state were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They were supposed to be arrested. That didn’t happen. Here’s what NBC News writers Ben Collins and Brenda Zadrozny shared in an article entitled, “Some QAnon Followers Lose Hope after Inauguration on January 20th, 2021”:

“Some QAnon conspiracy theorists, in public and private internet forums and chat rooms, were despondent Wednesday as their prophecy of an Inauguration Day coup to keep Donald Trump in power failed again as President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

“The situation left some QAnon adherents with no choice but to write off the conspiracy theory entirely, but others continued to maintain that it was still developing.

“As their predictions failed to come true, radicalized QAnon members expressed their sense of betrayal…. thousands of users expressed a range of reactions: confusion and realization that QAnon was in fact a hoax, as well as renewed commitment to the conspiracy theory, despite its unreliability.”

According to one source, half of Trump’s supporters believed in QAnon’s warnings. As I asserted in an earlier column, many of his supporters have a cult mentality. Trump offered a false sense of certainty.

Some will continue to deny that they had been conned and will double down, holding on to their beliefs even more fervently, diving yet deeper into denial. Many of those who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and did the most damage fall into that category. These are members of far right groups. One such member stated on a BBC interview that he and his comrades would cause Texas to secede from the Union.

Others will realize the hoax and become political agnostics, turned off totally to politics and withdrawing into their own worlds. Others will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

A few, very few, will actually grow and be humbled by their realization that they were scammed. They will see the stark contrast between the moderation, patience, and empathy of Joe Biden and realize Trump’s narcissism, lies, and denial for what it is—evil.

Character really does matter for all of us, especially in our leadership. My experience taught me that providing contrasts is what causes people to grow and mature. Without a contrast, it’s hard to see reality clearly.

I’ve incorporated that contrast in this column over the years to provoke my readers—you—to think. I’m not really concerned about whether you agree with me or not. Balance and moderation in all areas of our lives are what really matter when making decisions.

President Biden will provide a wonderful role model of how a president should act and think. The contrast is already clear. You who are Trump supporters now have a choice to make. Some who are not cult members may be able to accept Trump’s lies for what they were and move on, sadder but wiser. Others of you will double down in your denial, becoming even more fervent in your beliefs. Some will be so disgusted they will quit politics.

My hope is that there might be more of you that can face the facts of the past four years and be humbled enough to understand that we live largely in uncertainty; that it is a fact of life. It’s OK to admit error and grow. It’s a measure of one’s growing self-awareness and maturity. The choice is yours.


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