Body Snatchers…or…. What Happened to the Old You?

It was funny, until it wasn’t.

Body Snatchers…or…. What Happened to the Old You?
Theatrical release poster

If you remember the original 1950s movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you remember how terrifying it was. The bodies and minds of family and friends were replaced by aliens abandoning their own dying planet. They looked the same but were devoid of human emotion. The film reflected the paranoia and concerns about conformity, technology, and humanity at that time. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected in 1994 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."  And I’ll add, symbolically prophetic.

In 1989, Trump ran a full-page ad with a huge headline that ran in The New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post and New York Newsday, saying he wanted to “hate these muggers and murderers” and “they should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.” The five non-white suspects (the "Central Park 5") were later exonerated by DNA evidence and a confession from the real attacker. Trump still wanted them punished.

I hadn’t paid much attention to Donald Trump before the show, The Apprentice. He had an energy mix of arrogance and evil that I could feel while watching the show. And it was during that show, I realized he was a deeply rooted racist. His ease of use of offensive remarks made it obvious. When a Black contestant won, it was the only time he suggested a winner “share” the winnings ----with a white guy. I stopped watching the show and subsequently learned more about the history of racist behaviors by the Trumps; rental restrictions based on race at their properties, making Black employees go to the back of the casinos when certain guests arrived, and of course, racist remarks that have been recounted by former employees. Who can forget his aggressive and slanderous accusations against four Black men and one Latino man wrongly accused of a brutal rape in Central Park. Those who support him are clearly not bothered by his bigotry and other failings. But, back to the movie:

A California psychiatrist is called in when it becomes apparent human duplicates are being created from pods. The pods take the form of humans while they sleep---(boy, there’s a metaphor). They look exactly like the familiar person, but they are cold and distant and unphased by death and human suffering.

The parallels to friends

A few days ago, a good friend told me that it saddened him that people he had had close friendships with were now devoted Trump followers. He wondered if they somehow didn’t pick up on the racist queues and ignored his playing fast and loose with the law. Not to mention discounting his attempt to overthrow a legitimate United States election. And then he wondered; if they can follow a Trump, does it mean they were always in agreement with his racist values? Did they find white supremacy ok? Or were there pods in their basements? We laughed and then realized it wasn’t funny. We live in a time that is no longer right vs left, it is those who support democracy vs those who want this country to become an autocracy.

It made me think about past relationships, friendships with several people in the ride-or-die fashion who now follow the man facing so many lawsuits, he will be in court for the rest of his natural life. They support a person who embraces dictators and adversaries. A human who is apparently devoid of human emotion. What kind of people attend a gun rally days after 19 innocent children are gunned down at their school? What kind of monster tells insurrectionists to "fight like hell," and "You'll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength."  Back? Back from who exactly? Everyone here is an American, and those with Indigenous lineage are more American than others.

Is it a question of being indoctrinated to take on new beliefs or were they in alignment with Trumpism all along?

The Washington Post looked at this issue and found that the Trump era sparked bitter divisions among family members, neighbors and couples. A June study from the American Enterprise Institute,(AEI) found that 15 percent of adults have ended a friendship over politics, and of those who did, 22 percent volunteered that they had ended one over a mismatch in support for former president Donald Trump.

AEI found that Republicans tend to have more bipartisan friendships than Democrats: Just over half of Republicans, 53 percent, said they have at least some friends who are Democrats, while only a third of Democrats (32 percent) said they have at least some Republican friends. I would imagine that’s because the tenets of the extreme arm of the Republican Party are too vile for a Democrat to stomach. While the Democratic party is not one of saints, the party narrative does not publicly support white supremacy, voter suppression, the overturning of Roe v Wade, and attempts to villainize members of the LGBTQ community.

But I still struggle with the question; How can you have close friends of many races, religions, and gender identification while supporting the party that attempts to use law to sabotage their civil and human rights? I always had a feeling it was about the racism and there’s one study that affirms it.

The study is called "Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support," and Johns Hopkins political scientist Lilliana Mason is one of its co-authors.

Her data shows that Trump served as a common place where people who already held animus toward marginalized groups, gathered. This group was not created by Trump, they were already in that zone.

Mason concluded it's not that the Republican Party is creating animus toward people, it's that there's this faction of Americans who really dislike marginalized groups. And they're attracted to one party or the other based on the sort of the decisions of that party, and they're able to kind of hide within the party to make American politics more focused on the party and not on this faction of people who are feeling a lot of hatred towards marginalized groups.

Another expert, Larry Diamond, of the Hoover Institution, said Trump "has massive responsibility for creating the normative atmosphere in which extremism, hatred, racial bigotry and violent imagery have prospered and metastasized." He called out Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacists at the 2017 Charlottesville rally, to his praising of QAnon in late 2020.

Another bit of symbology from the movie that speaks to me is the fact that the planet of alien creatures is dying. Could it be that those with old stale hatreds of the past have taken to extreme measures to preserve their interests, like threatening a civil war?

I tried to reason away some of this, making the excuse that good friends of mine could not really be in support of Trump, maybe they were just Trump adjacent. But time has revealed that there is no moderation in the Trump effort to undermine democracy, targeted groups of people, free speech, freedom of the press, and the rest of our constitutional rights. It’s all or nothing.

I can’t miss a friend who would support these ideals in any way. It doesn’t matter if they lost their minds or found their bigotry, in my view, it is the unforgivable sin.

It was amazing how much they looked like people I thought I knew. Evidently, long before me, they had allegiance to a lower calling. For that reason, I am happy to have removed those “pods” from my life.

Myra Jolivet is a storyteller. First a TV news anchor and reporter. Then came PR work and consulting. That's where she is today - banging her head against the wall - trying to help CEOs and political candidates tell their stories well. Myra writes a series of murder mysteries She was a kid with an imaginary friend. That says it all.