Sunday, January 17, 2021

How I Will Remember Donald J. Trump

  

Before 2015, I paid little attention to Donald Trump. I thought he was a buffoon and a grifter, as well as a spoiled rich boy who liked to tell people, "You're fired." He loved being the center of attention, and often said things to draw attention to himself. I often wondered how much of what he said he actually believed. If all of it, the man was delusional.

Now, I know he's delusional. I feel that he's taken the American people on a deeply unsettling journey through the terrified landscapes of his mind full of imaginary enemies, threats, conspiracy theories, and lots of fast food and golf. I know him better than I want to know him. And in fact, I wish I never had to endure the trip he's taken us all on the last four years. I am not sorry to see him leave.

How will I remember Donald J. Trump? 

The first thing will be his face: the orange skin, tiny eyes, fish mouth and thick jowls topped by thin blondish-white hair. I will remember his tremendous girth, revealed on the golf course as he took a swing at a golf ball. 

The second thing will be his total lack of curiosity, and demonstrated average (if that) intelligence. When I first heard that he'd won the presidential election in 2016, I was willing to give him a chance despite his appalling behavior during the campaign, because I believed that anyone who becomes president will aspire to do his or her best to serve the American people. I was wrong. DJT did nothing to learn the job, to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, or to respect historical norms and procedures. He plunged right into being a gangster and thug, turning the presidency into a mafia-like family enterprise, demanding loyalty to him personally, requiring complete obedience, and conducting business as if he were a street thug dealing in quid pro quos.

The third thing I will remember is his lack of respect for other people. In fact, I believe he doesn't really comprehend the existence of others because he is the only person that matters. And if his family members believe they are immune, it is only because they know nothing else and can conceive of no other way. They live to acquire money and power. They couldn't care less about anything or anyone else. And so, DJT thinks nothing of "grabbing pussy" or making fun of the disabled, thinks nothing of pronouncing himself a "great genius" and "the best president America has ever seen." As long as people adore him, he'll treat them fine. But challenge him and you are worthless to him.

The fourth thing I will remember is his dishonesty in all aspects of life. He lies in business as easily as he lies in politics because to him, what he says can only be the truth because he's said it. This, more than anything else, I'll remember as a sign of his complete disconnection from reality. The world according to DJT is a fantasy world in which he is good, powerful, all-knowledgeable, all-wise, wealthy beyond expectation, admired and desired by everyone. The reality is far different.

The fifth thing I'll remember is the fear that permeates everything DJT says and does. Especially the fear of losing, because in his world, he can only win. So in 2016, he lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2.9 million votes and he immediately claimed those votes were fraudulent and really belonged to him. In 2020, he lost the election to Joe Biden by 7 million popular votes and his response was to repeat over and over that the election was rigged, that those 7 million votes were his, that he'd won by a landslide. In his fantasy world he won, and reality must terrify him. 

The sixth thing I'll remember is his projections. He was actually quite reliable about them. Whenever he attacked someone for doing something -- lying, cheating, stealing an election, etc. -- you can be assured that in reality he was doing what he accused the other of doing. I used to think of it as deflection, but now I really think it was projection. Psychology Today defines projection: "Projection is the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal, or object. The term is most commonly used to describe defensive projection—attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another. For example, if someone continuously bullies and ridicules a peer about his insecurities, the bully might be projecting his own struggle with self-esteem onto the other person." 

The seventh thing I'll remember is DJT's total failure to lead the country at a time of crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic. We now have 400,000 Americans dead, and over 24 million infected. He could have saved lives from the beginning by addressing the public health emergency immediately (not calling it a hoax) and putting scientists in charge but instead he was more concerned about his re-election and TV ratings.

                                    DJT Addresses his Supporters on January 6, 2021

The last thing I'll remember about DJT is his speech encouraging his supporters to attack the U. S. Capitol at the time that Congress was meeting to certify the Electoral College votes in the 2020 election. He encouraged violent action in one way or another for four years, and this was the culmination. It was also sedition. I know that no one wants to say that word and DJT in the same breath, but if his supporters could be charged with sedition or treason, then I believe DJT could be too. He created the conditions for an insurrection, i.e. a rebellion against Congress and the U. S. government. How is that not sedition? How is that not treason? 

This coming Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., Joe Biden becomes the 46th President of the U.S. I welcome this with great relief tempered with the knowledge and certainty that it will take a lot of work and bridge-mending to repair the damage done in the past 4 years by DJT. I hope also that following the House of Representatives impeachment of DJT, the U. S. Senate will convict him of the one count of impeachment against him and he is forever barred from holding public office.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Where are the Cream Soups?


In Minnesota, we are now 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Teleworking continues but there are people who return to their offices one or two days a week as well -- I am one of those people. I work from home three days a week. Face masks have become a fashion statement. Hand washing has given a boost to hand lotion products to soothe the resultant dryness. Businesses have opened to 50% capacity. I'm getting my hair cut for the second time today. No one shakes hands or hugs anymore, and standing a minimum of 6 feet away from people has become the norm. In fact, my nerves sizzle when I see someone who's not wearing a face mask, or who sits down on the train too close to me. I no longer need to order my groceries 3 weeks in advance to be delivered on the weekend. 

But there are still shortages. In the beginning, it was a shortage of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfecting cleaning products, hand sanitizer, liquid soap, and of course, Clorox wipes. While I've heard that we won't be seeing Clorox wipes in the stores anytime soon, everything else has gradually caught up with demand. Except cream soups.

Cream soups?

Yes, especially Campbell's cream soups. Week after week I've ordered cream soups along with my other groceries, and week after week the store doesn't have them. Why? What's going on here?


A friend suggested that we try a different store, so one Saturday we drove to a different grocery store, still big, still a chain, still extremely busy. I found Campbell's cream soups at this store, in some cases, a great quantity of them for sale. But they didn't have Cream of Asparagus or the Gumbo soup that a fellow shopper asked me about. The shelf was empty. Another shopper asked her if she planned to make a certain casserole. Yes. The second shopper then suggested an alternative that was available, and commented that the Gumbo soup cannot be found anywhere. She had tried. 

I wondered at that point if Campbell's cream soups had become a favorite ingredient for casseroles, and perhaps other dishes. During the pandemic, with restaurants closed for so long and take-out only available, more people were cooking for themselves at home. They wanted recipes both fast and convenient. I thought of the baked chicken and rice casserole I make with cream of chicken or celery soup. Maybe that's the reason the cream soups are so scarce -- people are cooking more and using them as an essential ingredient. 

But you'd think Campbell's could keep up with the demand, right? Who knows. Normally, I don't eat cream soups often, but right now I'm on a doctor-ordered low residue diet and cream soups are an essential part of that diet. I would not have imagined 8 months ago that there would be a continuing shortage of Campbell's cream soups as a side effect of the pandemic.

I guess I'll have to return to a hunt for them at other grocery stores. 



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Whose Lives Matter?

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons


Yesterday, I happened to catch a little news on TV early in the evening and I heard a reporter asking Vice President Pence if he supports Black Lives Matter. He adopted a cloying tone of voice and responded that for him, he would always believe that all lives matter.


My first reaction was to think, "Oh, yeah. He just betrayed his ignorance." But then I had to stop myself. The very first time I heard the name "Black Lives Matter" for the anti-violence against Blacks movement, I was annoyed and thought, "But all lives matter, not only Black ones." I missed the point back then, but I learned to open my ears and listen hard to the Black voices who are patiently explaining to white folks what they mean by "Black Lives Matter" and the reason they feel so strongly that they must repeat it and repeat it.

I think rather than to say "all lives matter" or to ask "why don't all lives matter?" it's better to ask the question: Why do Blacks today feel the need to say Black lives matter? After all, that is what white folks need to be asking, not ignoring it altogether and insisting that all lives matter.


George Floyd
Because the answer is plain to see if they'd been paying attention. George Floyd is just the latest in a long list of Black lives that didn't matter to white cops. Reform has been promised over and over in the past, and you can be certain that if white lives were at stake, that reform would have been accomplished years ago. But because Black lives don't matter, white folks have dragged their feet in getting the reform done. It wasn't important in a society in which systemic racism exists and teaches that Black lives do not matter. This is the reason Blacks feel the need to declare over and over that Black Lives Matter.

By evening public ledger - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29584061

Recently, the president of the US held a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, initially scheduled for June 19, or the day that Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth. This was a double offense against Black Americans -- first that the rally would be in Tulsa, a city renowned for having burned to the ground in 1921 the prosperous Black neighborhood called Greenwood, killing hundreds of Black Americans in the process; and second, that the president would celebrate the re-opening of his re-election campaign on a Black American holiday in Tulsa. And then for the president to claim that no one knew about Juneteenth and he made it famous was absurd. Well, as Americans have learned when listening to this president, when he says "no one" he means "I" and he will take any opportunity to steal the limelight away from anyone. This is the reason Black Lives Do Matter. I believe Juneteenth needs to be a national holiday.

White Americans will never be free of racism until they take that first step in recognizing that Black Lives Matter. It's not about saying that Black lives matter more than any other lives, or that other lives matter just as much. It's about saying that finally, White America recognizes that it did not accept and treat Blacks as if their lives mattered to them. It's about saying that "Yeah, I get it. People who are oppressed and discriminated against by other people feel as if their lives do not matter. White people have oppressed and discriminated against Black people." It's only one step, but it's a crucial one.

Black Lives Matter.

Monday, June 29, 2020

"ON TYRANNY"

There's a saying that disasters bring out the best in people. That's been true in Minnesota at times (not always), and I'd hazard a guess that you could probably think of times in your lives when it was true, also. The US is currently enduring a political disaster, a disaster for democracy, and although I never thought Donald Trump was qualified to be president, he's turned out to be even worse than I ever imagined. He is a disaster of a president.

Having said that, there seems to be a movement within the Republican Party that has been taking advantage of Trump the demagogue in order to consolidate the party's power. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, the GOP has sought to establish a permanent majority in federal and state governments. A permanent majority means that opposition and dissent are not tolerated, and there is only one political party. A permanent majority means a dictatorship. What kind of dictatorship would depend, I suppose, on the people in office at the time they achieved their goal. Newt Gingrich, during his time as Speaker of the House of Representatives, helped the process along by destroying the processes and attitudes in government that allowed for consensus building and good governance as well as civil discourse. All Gingrich cared about was winning and power. He helped to set the stage for what America has today in Washington, D.C. as well as in states with majority GOP legislatures and governorships.

On Tyranny

Here we are, June 29, 2020, 40 years after Reagan was elected president, and we have another GOP president who is now following the script for establishing fascism almost to the letter.


I've also been working on a novel set in America in 2050 and it is a fascist America. In an effort to review what a fascist society is like, I turned to an expert, Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History at Yale University. Snyder has written extensively about fascism, totalitarianism, and oppressive regimes and what makes them tick. I've been reading his deceptively short book, On Tyranny, to familiarize myself with the methods of fascist oppression as well as how people can resist them.

 

The subtitle of the book is "Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." Snyder utilizes history of the last century for his examples illustrating his ideas, and they include Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini's Italy. He doesn't include Putin's Russia, but Putin has been leading Russia back to totalitarianism.

If you think this means heavy reading and boring reading, you'd be wrong. Snyder has a clear, precise prose style with a voice that is like reading along while someone is speaking. He published this book in 2017, and he discusses Trump's presidential campaign and how it fits into the steps to tyranny as well as the Trump administration's actions since the inauguration. In addition, and importantly, Snyder writes about what people can do to resist tyranny before it is established.

 Table of Contents: On Tyranny




 As I've been reading Snyder's book, I've been thinking primarily about my novel and what I want American society to look like in 2050 in that novel. But I've also been thinking about everything that the Trump Administration as well as Trump himself have been doing in the last 3.5 years and how closely they've been following the fascism playbook. It's been scary. But I suspect that Trump has not been dreaming it all up on his own. I really don't think he has the political intelligence. I think he's had the same help he had in 2016.

While the media hasn't been paying all that much attention to the Trump-Putin relationship, I think it is a student-teacher relationship. Trump admires Putin -- he's made no secret of that. He has done the extraordinary action of meeting with Putin without any witnesses which is unheard of for a president to do. So no one knows what they talked about. That alone makes me wonder, but I think there are other things that should make everyone wonder and want to know about their "special" relationship. I think there needs to be an investigation into their relationship. Is it based in Trump's business dealings in Russia?

Snyder doesn't write much about Putin, but he does write about Trump's campaign and the role the Russians played, helping him get elected. It would not surprise me if he'd asked Putin a long time ago to help him this year, too. Working with a foreign power to undermine the American election process would definitely meet the definition of treason, I think.

One thing that Snyder doesn't mention, at least not as far as I've gotten in his book, is how Trump projects onto others what he's been doing or what he's done. So when he calls someone a liar, it's because Trump's lying. When he says someone's committed treason, chances are it's because Trump himself has done so. Watch what he says. It's very revealing, and certainly not in the way he would want.

I encourage everyone to read Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny as soon as they can get their hands on a copy. It's not expensive -- $5 or $6 at Amazon. Think about America and American democracy. Your future living in a free society could depend on it.

Gina

Monday, June 22, 2020

No, Really? Deflector-in-Chief

The last year has been absolutely abysmal in America. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, the President says something else ridiculous, we're crashed by a microscopic virus, and a white cop kills yet another unarmed black man for no good reason -- actually there is no good reason for a cop to kill an unarmed citizen. I've been speechless, feeling almost overwhelmed by what's happening, and then dealing with coronavirus fatigue. I decided to let someone else talk, a friend who is thoughtful and capable of a real, reasonable discussion. His name is Bobby Fitzgerald. I'm now turning this post over to him.

That Tulsa Rally

Hi, this is Bobby Fitzgerald here. Thanks to Gina for letting me take over her blog today. I'm not a professional political operative, and I don't teach political science. I'm just an average thinking guy with opinions. I've thought of starting my own blog, and Gina agreed to let me try it out here. I have voted Republican in the past. I'm embarrassed to say I voted for the current president. What a disappointment to me he's been!

I wanted to talk/write about that Tulsa rally that didn't live up to expectations. Actually, it was kind of a failure, thanks to some enterprising teenagers who went online and registered for thousands of the free tickets with no intention of showing up. So the Trump campaign thinks it's going to have an overflow crowd. Not! Only about 6,200 people show up in an arena that seats 19,200. This after a really bad week with the Supreme Court handing the president two big defeats. I tend to believe that those enterprising teenagers probably saved some lives, i.e. keeping people from getting tickets to that rally where they could be exposed to the coronavirus, and making it possible for the people who attended to do some social distancing.

Phoro: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock
Now at campaign rallies you generally expect a candidate to talk about his campaign, right? Talk about what he wants to do in the next 4 years, describe his vision for America, describe what sets him apart from everyone else, all that. But that's not what the president talked about last Saturday night. No. He talked about giving the commencement address at West Point, rambling through what appeared to be a description of his day there, and then attacking the media every chance he got. He talked about the past, not the future; he attacked people, not talked about what he'll do the next 4 years. And I wouldn't have wanted to be a fact-checker on that speech, either. If you want to see a transcript of his speech, such as it was, check it out here. I'm really serious when I describe it as rambling and definitely not a campaign speech.

So, the president really isn't doing that great right now. I know I'm disappointed. My taxes haven't gone down especially. The economy really sucks unless you're a billionaire. I think you know what I mean.

Deflection Time!

Time to create some chaos! That's what our dear president likes to do. Something goes wrong for him, he comes out swinging about something else. So, I woke this morning to this headline: "Trump Baselessly Claims 2020 Election is 'Rigged' Months Before Any Votes Are Cast."

Yup. He can see into the future and claims that the election will be rigged. How? Why, what Attorney General Barr said on Fox News on Sunday: "He warned a foreign country could 'print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots' and that it would be difficult to figure out which ballots were valid." No, really? Where's the evidence? I want to see the actual evidence on which Barr bases that statement, and then I want to know what our federal government and its bang-up foreign policy is going to do to stop those foreign governments from interfering in our election.  (Of course, Trump encouraged foreign meddling in the 2016 election, remember? I'm sure Putin does.)

OK, stop and think, folks. First of all, who provides the absentee ballots?
If you don't know, shame on you! It's your STATE. Not the federal government. Each state takes care of the printing and distribution of mail-in ballots. How do they know to whom to send them? Well, people request them. I've already requested mine. I've done this before. There's an easy procedure -- anyone can do it -- to request the ballot, and then clear instructions for filling it out when it's received, and then mailing it in to the state to be counted. Ask your state who's going to be printing the absentee ballots. Simple.

Second, this is just more of the same attempts to suppress the vote in November. They are trying to limit the number of ways someone can vote in order to insure only their base votes them back into office. And they're doing it by trying to scare people into not getting mail-in ballots. These attempts are the actions of a terrified, obsessed person, folks. He's not made America great again, not by a long shot. The GOP knows it. You all need to do your best to inform yourself about the truth about what he's done to this country. He has not been loyal to our Constitution.


Third, this president wants to destroy the U.S. Postal Service. It has nothing to do with how well the USPS is doing, if it's in debt or not. It has to do with making it impossible to mail in absentee ballots. It's another way to suppress the vote, to make it as difficult as possible for minority groups to vote as well as the elderly, women, and everyone else. If he had his way, this president would probably not have the election at all, in my opinion. And you know what that means? He wants to destroy our democracy.

Now you see what's happened? I'm talking about his deflection which means his deflection away from his failures in the last several weeks has been successful. But I hope I've at least shone a light on his tactics.

He's the Deflector-Chief.