BELLWETHER, by CONNIE WILLIS is a book I have read many times. I read it often because it’s funny and finding something to laugh about has become increasingly difficult. Each time I read it, I notice something new that rings true. Too, too true.
Yesterday, someone asked me, “Why do people follow Donald Trump?” He certainly doesn’t do it on his looks or charming personality. He’s not handsome, intelligent, witty, moral, or clever. He’s a criminal, a fraud, a bigot … and he is cruel. So why do people follow him? Not merely follow him, but treat him as if he is the second coming (or first coming, depending on where you are coming from) of the Messiah?
Trump is America’s bellwether.
What, you ask, is a bellwether? Well, unless you keep sheep, you probably don’t know. A bellwether is the sheep that all the other sheep follow. Why do all the other sheep follow him or her? Because they do. There’s just something about that ewe that makes her their lead sheep. Without a bellwether, you can’t get your flock to do anything. Mind you, a bellwether is not smarter than the other sheep. She or he has just got that special “thing” that other sheep instantly recognize as “leadership quality.”
Without a bellwether, they will stand in the meadow, mill around, munch, baah, and squeal lamentations. They won’t do anything without a bellwether to lead them. But give them a bellwether and they will follow that ewe into nuclear war, into a fiscal deficit from which we will never recover, even into the jaws of a viral death or the ultimate climactic collapse of their planet. They will applaud his vindictiveness, vicious attacks, and forgive his obvious stupidity, and lack of education. Because he’s got that special something, you know?
Apparently we can’t help ourselves. We are sheep. Without a bellwether, we roam around baahing, blathering, bleating, and bemoaning our hopeless fate. Without our bellwether, we will wail endlessly into an uncaring world. That’s why you can’t talk to “those people.” They are not people. They are SHEEP! Have you ever tried to chat up a sheep? Give it a try. A goat, maybe might be conversational, but a sheep? I rest my case.
So I read Bellwether — again and as usual, it grabbed me. Having read it at least half a dozen times before, I didn’t expect a surprise, but suddenly, I was surprised. Aside from all the humor about chaos theory and fads, it explained the meaning of “bellwether,” a term I’d heard, used, and misused for years, but never understood. This time, I got it. The reason people follow insane, crazy, cruel tyrannical leaders is because they are stupid and just like sheep, they need a sheep with attitude to lead them to hell and back.
There is just something about that ewe!
That’s how a moron like Jim Jones can convince nearly 900 people to commit suicide and inject poison into their children’s mouths … and why these fanatics think Trump is right up there with God and Christ. You — me — us are not those people. We aren’t sheep. Our not being sheep hasn’t been much of a help to us, but i have to believe that somewhere along the line, smarter people will win.
Hillary Clinton got it wrong. She thought they were deplorables embodying evil. They aren’t evil, just incredibly stupid. It’s because, despite their human shape, they are ovine. Woolly-headed people who need a bellwether to tell them what to think, where to go, what to do. We no more recognize our bellwethers than does a flock of sheep. We follow them with the same mindlessness. Is it some atavistic instinct, embedded in our DNA? That some are born to lead and others to follow?
Bellwether suggests answers to previously unanswerable questions. Why do people vote against their own self-interest and do so many stupid things? They’re following bellwethers who are loose amongst us, the invisible shakers and movers. No longer invisible, we have given this particular bellwether a lot of real power … and guess what? He is using every part of his ovine brain to do as much damage as he can. Moral of the story? Never elect a sheep as president. It’s a terrible idea.
You should read this book. Whenever nothing makes sense, I reread it and suddenly, something makes sense that didn’t before. When all other explanations fail, look for the bellwether. He or she is the answer.