The most accessible analogy for the toxicity currently plaguing our nation is an abusive relationship. For the people who spend decades wondering “How did X society let X issue get that bad?” one need look no further than the dynamics of abusive relationships. “Why does so-and-so stay?”
In hindsight, it’s easy to understand. Nobody is outwardly abusive in the beginning. Hitler, Jim Jones, and the rest were not militaristic, overtly violent people during their ascension. Like a charming date, people fall (hard) for the person who meets their needs and makes them feel special. History criticizes those unable to see the subtle ropes that gradually ensnare every aspect of the victim’s life, those who ignore the severity of their situation until those ropes are used to hang them. We profess “Never Again,” and demand to remember exactly how it got this bad in order to ensure it never reoccurs.
And then we forget. Nostalgia filters out the unpleasant and we romanticize “good old days.” Excuses and justifications are made. We forget how different the forest looks when one walks among the trees.
In the early stages, the praise drowns out any voiced concerns. “Quit whining, you’re just sour grapes!” Enthusiasm and reverence, cultivated over months of promised bliss, meet the challenge of any apprehension. “He’ll drain the swamp—you’ll see!” “You just don’t know them the way I do!” The more outsiders express disdain, the more appealing our newfound champion becomes. “We’re going to be great again!” “You don’t understand; they love me!”