According to thermodynamics, chaos is the natural evolution of any isolated system. That is, things tend to become more—rather than less—chaotic over time. Molecules default to speeding up rather than slowing down, creating energy, randomness, and disorder. Entropy, or this degree of randomness, will never decrease in an isolated system unless influenced by the external environment. A glass of water tends to get warmer, not colder, as the molecules speed up and create thermal energy. The only way for the system to lose heat is if something outside the system (e.g., an ice cube) acts upon it to absorb some of that energy. The heat is not lost, just transferred.
Like the glass of water, everything in the universe gradually declines into disorder, or entropy. Think about your kitchen utensil drawer or vegetable garden. If you don’t actively manage them, will they become more ordered or more disordered over time? But there is an edge of chaos, a point right before complete disorder, and January 6 could represent that edge of chaos in the United States. Amidst the pandemic, a fumbled vaccine rollout, a new, more contagious strain of the virus, the highest death & infection rates, and the general effects of social isolation and fear, we had a domestic terrorist event where armed insurrectionists breached the capitol upon instruction of the president. America had reached the edge of chaos.
This was not a shock. It was the natural, expected progression of the entropy brought on by Trump, or what I call enTrumpy. Its molecules (i.e., his loyalists) have been increasing in energy for years, moving closer and closer to complete chaos and disorder. Applying the second law of thermodynamics, the expected result of ever-increasing enTrumpy is a climactic event thrusting us to the edge of chaos, a glass or orange water reaching its boiling point.
Ironically, while Trump has touted ‘law and order’, that is precisely what he avoids. From day 1, he has embraced the quote from Petyr Baelish, using disruption and chaos to climb the ladder to the Republican nominee and presidency. Law and order means that events are predictable, they follow a pattern. That way to power is more like a staircase, with each step requiring competency and governed by decency and reason. Power through chaos is a free-for-all where the strongest grabs the first rung on the ladder, climbing with disregard for rules or decorum.
Essentially, Trump has always known that if shit hits the fan, anything can happen, so he keeps slinging it up there. He’s like a child at a party given the first crack at a piñata. He knows there are rules, but instead peaks under the blindfold, busts it open, and grabs all the candy for himself while wielding the bat. Sprinkle in some name-calling, narcissism, a big ego, hate speech, and you have yourself a bully. A bully creates chaos to gain control and achieve power. The events of last four years prove this point. Each hate-filled Tweet and lie-filled video was a rung on his ladder to power and dissension. (It’s no coincidence that some of the flags at the incited terrorist attack had the flag of a fictional country, Kekistan, named for Kek, the god of chaos.)
But we have not reached complete chaos. We are at the edge. Chaos theory says that organisms self-adjust at the brink, employing creativity, flexibility, and innovation to avoid chaos. This is known as ‘adaptation to the edge of chaos’, and humans have already shown our capacity to adapt. Think about the creativity, flexibility, and innovation displayed across the global community to avoid complete chaos from the COVID-19 pandemic. So how can we come back from the edge of Trump’s chaos? How can we decrease the enTrumpy in the glass of water? We drop in ice cubes, i.e., we give him the silent treatment.
Silence is often characterized as cold. We give someone ‘the cold shoulder’. A terse reply is ‘chilly’. You ‘ghost’ somebody by ending all communication with them—how cold! We can transfer the heat and energy away from him simply by not giving him the space in our minds or mouthes that he has fed on the past 4 years. Giving voice to a person is a choice. We chant ‘Say His Name’ and ‘Say Her Name” to make sure we don’t forget George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Silence is not an option with #BlackLivesMatter. Conversely, Donald Trump is a name I hope we never have to say or hear again. The best way to take power away from a bully is to ignore them. If the other kids simply walk away from the piñata—or don’t invite the bully to the party—the power dissipates. Loyalists praying to their fake Trump god will realize his America is just as fictional as Kekistan. As the silence grows, the rungs on his ladder will get more and more slippery.
Trump certainly needs to be held accountable, responsible, and liable for his actions, but we do not owe him our collective headspace. While it is natural to enjoy watching the powerful fall from grace, it isn’t helpful for a country trying to restore itself to order and civility. Starting January 21, we shouldn’t need to think about him anymore—courts and governments will take care of all the messy bits.
Trumpism is not going away. It is only a matter of time before a savvier, more capable disciple takes up the mantle. Once again a strong, unified voice will be required to keep us from the edge of chaos. But in this moment, silence may be our loudest expression, an ice cube to slow down enTrumpy.