Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 2, 2024, in New York.

Former President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 2, 2024, in New York. (Doug Mills, Pool Photo, Getty Images/TNS)

Donald Trump is in court right now. But not everyone understands that this is not a “hush money” case. He isn’t charged with being unfaithful to his wife or even with paying a woman to keep quiet about his affair. He is charged with falsifying business records, which is illegal, no matter who you are.

I have read about the case, but I don’t know how I would vote if I were a juror. I am keeping an open mind.

The problem is that most of Trump’s supporters cannot entertain the possibility that he is guilty. Their minds are made up.

For many Trump supporters, this trial is a witch hunt — a sign that deep state enemies are determined to destroy their hero … their warrior for truth, justice and the American way.

If the evidence that comes out in the trial is damning, they will reject the evidence. If the judge is forced to discipline Trump for misbehavior during the trial [he fined Trump again Monday], they will dismiss him as a partisan with a grudge. And if he is found guilty by a jury, they will be outraged and believe that all of this has been manufactured by President Joe Biden to eliminate a political opponent.

Trump has become a hero for his supporters — the one person who can set the country on the right path. Some even believe he is anointed by God to save us. But heroes have a way of letting us down. History is full of political and religious leaders who turned out to have been false prophets, some even guilty of terrible crimes. And sports figures or actors who are widely admired and even idolized by their fans (a shortened version of the word “fanatic”) often find that their enthusiasm is betrayed. There is nothing wrong with having a hero, but hero worship is fraught with dangers.

Hero worship is a kind of willful blindness. It reveals a follower’s desire to cling to an imagined promise of a person, to infuse that person with a higher purpose that often isn’t there.

There are both positives and negatives to this kind of worship. On the positive side, it links a person to what they perceive to be a higher purpose, which is meaningful. But it can also be negative because it ties one’s personal identity to the hero, making it difficult for someone to accept the hero’s fall. If their hero falls, so does their individual identity, so, understandably, they cling tenaciously to their hero’s image. If their hero is exposed as a fraud, the meaning in their own lives is disrupted, even destroyed.

As Felicia Mackey states, “When someone is consumed by hero worshiping, it can completely alter that person’s life. They can become blind to any faults that their hero might have and can lack individuality because they’re trying so hard to be like their hero.”

These are difficult times, and many people are worried about the direction of our country. So am I. But we must resist the temptation to fixate on a particular person as the answer to all that ails us as a nation. It’s just not healthy to do so.

Dr. Saul Levine cautions in Psychology Today: “We seem to need these figureheads to give us some stability during challenging or frenetic times. When people have role models to look up to, they feel comforted, at least for a while. But all-encompassing worship of any one person inevitably leads to disappointment.”

All of us are human, which means we are all flawed. But hero worship goes well beyond ignoring someone’s flaws. We all need to beware of hero worship that keeps us from exercising our critical thinking about ourselves and the people we admire. Trump supporters have every right to think that he should be president again. And they have every right to agree with his policies. But they put themselves as well as their country at risk when they are absolutely unwilling to accept that he might be capable of committing crimes for which he should be punished.

So, let us choose our heroes carefully and never allow ourselves to be consumed by blind loyalty to anyone. Life is complex, and people are not always what they seem. There are real heroes in this world, but none deserve unqualified admiration or obedience.

Solomon D. Stevens is the author of “Religion, Politics, and the Law” (co-authored with Peter Schotten) and “Challenges to Peace in the Middle East.” He wrote this for

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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