Playing The Trump Card

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Soundtrack “An American Tune” by Paul Simon.

Does copper rust? I sure hope not, because the statue of liberty is crying. Democracy has taken a wrong turn, and all of the soldiers who fought and died for such ethereal things as justice, equality and freedom have been betrayed. Our democratic foundation was built on the belief that all men (and woman) are created equal, but the outcome of our recent election has revealed cracks in these tenets that we once held as self evident. We have been mislead into an “us against them” world, creating a myopic America where those with different cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and racial heritage are no longer welcomed or tolerated.  In fact, they’ve been singled out and blamed for our financial, social and national woes.

Our president elect has exploited these divisive beliefs in order to single himself out as the only person with the power and knowledge to solve our problems. He’s gained power by preying on our weakest of emotions—–fear! This is a primal emotion that causes us to dehumanize those that are different from us (please see Hitler and the Jews as an historical reference). This is the antithesis of what Hilary Clinton had proclaimed “We are stronger together.” Hate is the stepchild of fear and hate separates us and makes us politically weaker. Striking a single match of hate can ignite a firestorm capable of burning down the noblest of palaces.

I guess I thought we were better than this. Better than the hate spewed by an authoritarian fascist. It seems as though our blessed pledge of allegiance and our beloved “God Bless America” our merely flimsy words we’ve chanted until they’ve lost their meaning. And now, I sadly see the difference between pledges and actions, ideology and reality, democracy and rhetoric, integrity and malevolent tweets. Our covers have been pulled back to reveal something ugly and hate driven—–hypocrisy and bigotry.

Those that our weak and fearful give up their power to authoritarian leaders who will make decisions without their consent. After all, it’s easier to have someone give simplistic black and white answers in a kaleidoscope colored world. Those that want simple answers to complex social issues are willing to suspend their belief in decency, empathy and fairness in exchange for a catchy soundbites like “Make America Great Again”. Such slogans feel good to shout and fit neatly on bumper stickers.  They’re emotionally potent but anemic in details and substance. What has always made America great has been its ability to create opportunity for all of its citizens, not just the ones who fit into a narrow minded definition of “American”. The American melting pot has morphed into a sifter, allowing  only those of a certain pedigree to call themselves “American——enough”.

Donald’s “Trump card” has always been to delegitimize his opponents. Eight years ago he attempted to delegitimize President Obama by claiming that he was not born in America and therefor not eligible to be president. He tried to delegitimized Carly Fiorina by exclaiming “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for a face like that?” He tried to delegitimize Megyn Kelly by insinuating that she was asking tough questions because she was menstruating. He tried to delegitimize a reporter by mocking his disability. He tried to delegitimize Mexican immigrants by lumping them into a single group and claiming  “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapist”.  He followed this up by stating “They’re some bad hombres”. He delegitimized females by objectifying them and claiming that because he’s rich and famous he can kiss whoever he wants and grab any woman by their privates. He tried to delegitimize a judge who was presiding over his case by claiming that because he was of Mexican decent that he would not be impartial in doing his professional duties. He attempted to delegitimized Hillary Clinton by repeatedly addressing her as “Crooked Clinton”.

I’m still trying to comprehend why folks would vote for someone as caustic as Trump. I’ve come to believe that his inflated charisma is due to what I call the “Kardashian Effect”. We live in a culture that’s hypnotized by celebrity worship. Individuals become celebrities simply from their incessant media exposure.  Their sole talent is in extending their fifteen minutes of fame by being a provocateur.  If you’re trending, you’re winning.  If it smells it sells. And, if it spins, repeat it again.  Being civil and polite is so pedestrian, while being inflammatory and irreverent is sexy——and more importantly, it entertains and it sells.

And with fame there comes many benefits.  Fame allows one to manufacture counterfeit truth.  It then offers a megaphone so that this truth can be broadcasted far and wide.  Fame provides celebrities with a teflon conscience and an alzheimer’s memory.  And finally, it comes with a get out of jail free card, “I’m rich and famous, so the rules and laws don’t apply to me……”

Trump once claimed, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” I can only imagine Trumps twitter feed after such an incident “Today I shot and killed an individual on 5th Avenue. I believe he may have been an illegal Mexican immigrant rapist who practices the Muslim faith and was most likely an operative for ISIS.”   His millions of twitter followers would read the tweet, nod their head and respond with “Good job”.  As the saying goes, the only bad press is no press and the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about. The media is the message. It no longer matters what someone says or does, what matters is if they’re accruing media time by creating drama. The individuals who dominate the media landscape and exploit their notoriety, are the people who are mapping the future of our culture.

We’ve become victims of the Stockholm syndrome. We’re willing hostages to a 24/7 media obsession. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that the media is are our caretaker, our savior, our guardian of truth.  If something is said long enough and loud enough it becomes reality. Perception isn’t reality, perception is propaganda. Truth and reality is no longer the message, entertainment and ratings are the message. We surf the internet or change channels until we find our preferred brand of reality.  Where do you acquire your version of truth? Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Rush, Bill Maur?

The pundits and the professionals newscasters have become puppets to whatever or who ever gets the highest viewer ratings or the most clicks on social media. Being outrageous and offensive allows those who are skilled manipulators a platform to garner attention and followers. It makes them appear to be “The next big thing” If it bleeds it leads. If it smells it sells. If it spins, repeat it again. News and politics are no longer about facts or checks and balances, its about entertainment.  Trump is a showman, an entertainer, a master manipulator. He knows all the magic tricks, the art of distraction, deception and misdirection. When life becomes complicated, we may choose to suspend reality—-to believe in magical thinking.  It’s naive to believe that someone can snap their fingers and make a white dove appear——and it’s equally foolish to think that someone can  wave a magic wand and make eleven million immigrants disappear or sprinkle magic dust on the ground and suddenly have a 2,000 mile wall appear—-paid for by the Mexican government.  Some tricks are illusions, while others are outright lies…..I suppose “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people  all the time”. Abraham Lincoln

As our democracy slips into a downward spiral we must be vigilant. Our leaders will be looking for scapegoats to blame for our countries financial, social and national woes. First they’ll marginalize those that they want to exclude. They’ll say things like “They’re American, but not as American as us”. The second step will be to delegitimize those that they want to sequester. They’ll say things like “They’re not Americans and they’re not like us”. The third step will be to dehumanize those that they want to eliminate. They’ll say things like “They’re not American, they’re not like us——they’re subhuman”. This is a predictable pattern that has been employed throughout history by fascist authoritarian leaders who are seeking to gain and sustain their power.

I’ll leave you with some suggestions to consider as we enter into this new area of designer realities and malleable truths……

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be hypnotized by celebrity. Fame does not equal integrity.
  2. Advocate for your own education. Just because someone or something is on the internet or TV does not make what’s being represented accurate or true.
  3. Be extremely suspicious of someone who is offering simple answers to complex issues. Slogans, soundbites and bumper stickers are tools to encourage magical thinking.
  4. Do not fall into the trap of generalizing, stereotyping or profiling one group of people as being the sole reason that a problem exists.  These prejudices need to be run through your bullshit detector.
  5. Never bargain away your freedom, liberty or justice as an end to justify the means.
  6. Don’t be manipulated by fear. The only remedy for fear is courage. Question authority, demand facts, stay on point, demand verifiable results not anecdotal statements. Repeat your question until you’re satisfied with the answer.
  7. If someone minimizes, delegitimizes or dehumanizes a person or group of people, tell them that this is America, a land where all men and women are created equal. Reiterate that our Declaration of independence guarantees all citizens life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Remind them that thousands of men and women have fought and died to preserve these inalienable rights and that they’re not negotiable and will never be compromised.
  8. Don’t be fooled by a herd mentality. Just because a lot of people are saying something or doing something does not make it right or ethical.
  9. Don’t become emotionally attached to your beliefs. Do your research, pay attention to details and facts. Look at issues with an open mind and test your outcomes by playing the devils advocate.
  10. Get out of your bubble.  Don’t rely on a specific news network, a celebrity or a group of like minded friends to be your only reference point when assessing ideas and information.

It’s impossible to legislate morality, but I pray for the day when we evolve to the point where compassion, empathy and acceptance are valued more than power, greed and intolerance.

Trump-ing The Truth

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As the old adage states, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just may just get it”. And in a word the republican party has what they’ve been wishing for “Trump”. He has picked up a mirror and placed it up to the face of the RNC. And, if the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then his beady little eyes reflect a narcasitic abyss.

Sitting at the head of the RNC table is Trump. And, those not offered a seat at this table include, Women, Immigrants, Mexicans, The Disabled, Muslims, LGBT, Veterans, Unions, Planned Parenthood and pretty much anyone who doesn’t hold the values of old white males still living in the “bad old days”. His tools of the trade include hate, fear and divisionism. As any totalitarian leader knows, employing these measures is the easiest way to inflame and manipulate the masses. It’s an “us against them” mentality. It thrives on a shallow myopic view of the world. It’s a philosophy that seeks to pit us against one another rather than unite us. It encourages walls rather than bridges. It feeds on intolerance and inflexibility. It allows no room for compromise and if you look at the disfunction and polarization of our legislators, then you will understand what I’m talking about.

A strange paradox has arisen in regards to those who say they will vote for Trump but don’t support his ideals. That’s like saying “I don’t support mass killings where AR-15 weapons are used, but I won’t vote to outlaw the sale of these weapons”. This is CRAZY THINKING.

Thinking before you speak is a sign of maturity and wisdom. Trump brags about not needing a TelePrompTer and prefers to blurt out whatever he is thinking or feeling at that particualr moment.  His unscripted speeches and tweets reveal someone who is insecure, manipulative and belligerent. Separately his rants may appear inconsequential and entertaining, but collectively they add up to someone who is flipant about their biases and prejudices. The sum of his rants are as great as his ego……And as he would put it “That’s HUUUGGGE”!

He dismisses the need for“politically correctness”. He seems to think that opposing “politically correctness” allows him to say anything he wants regardless of how mean, rude and immature it may be. He calls women pigs and objectfies females based on their body image. In his words “A woman who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.”   He has made disparaging remarks during a debate concerning presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.  When describing her appearance he stated “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” He posted a picture of a challengers wife (Ms.Ted Cruz) intended to demean and disrespect her. His immature actions include callously mocking a disabled news reporter by sarcastically mimicking him in a cruel and unflattering manner (that type or behavior isn’t tolerated on a school yard).

Does dismissing political correctness allow Donald the right to revoke a news agencies press pass because they challenge his stance on specific issues? (that sounds more like a fascist  way of silencing ones critics).  He has called into question a federal judges integrity because of his Mexican heritage (Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stated “That’s textbook racism”). He discriminates against the entire Mexican race by insinuating that they are rapists, drug dealers and criminals.  His simplistic answer for stoping immigrants from entering the United States is to “Build a wall and make Mexico pay for it”.  With a similiar cavalier swagger he speaks about creating an enforcement agency to round up and deport millions of Mexicans.

His prejudice knows no limits. He spews hate and casts suspicion against all who are followers of one of the worlds oldest and largest religions.  His agenda demands that all Muslims be denied entrance into the United States.  What’s next?  Do we demand DNA samples from all who want to enter the United States?  Do we imprison and banish those that don’t meet Donald’s definition of Aryan?

He denies science by failing to accept that climate change is a major threat to our planets future.  This is sure to please the oil and coal industries. His allegiance to the NRA will make it virtually impossible to outlaw automatic weapons. And he’s the one who’s claimed that he would not be influenced by special interest groups—Yeah, right!

His mean spirited attacks go completely against what America stands for. In reality his racist strategies are no different than what ISIS propaganda attempts to do, which is to demonize anyone who doesn’t conform to their religious and political ideals. Inclusiveness unites us and makes us stronger, exclusiveness only breeds contempt and violence against those who hold differing religious, political and philosophical views.

Donald believes that if you say something long enough and loud enough it will “Trump” the truth (no pun intended). The news outlets that continue to allow him a free forum for spewing his divisive tirades are only playing into his propaganda machine. He is of the rich, for the rich and by the rich. He preys upon our insecurities and fears.  “They” hate Americans.  “They’re” taking our jobs.” “They” aren’t like us.  “I will make America great again.”

America doesn’t need to be made great again.  America has been great sense its inception. What makes America great is the Bill Of Rights and our Constitution.  Trump overrides the promises of freedom and liberty that is promised in these documents when he redefines who  is eligible for these protections.

He is a master at manipulating the system for his own personal gain. His tax returns will reveal a man who is more interested in amassing a financial empire rather than paying his fair share in taxes. His Trump University and business dealings reveal a man devoid of integrity. His flawed character is displayed in his inflammatory tweets and hate laden rants. He has incited his followers to be violent towards those who protest at his rallies. He once stated “I want to punch him in the face.” Is that presidential or diplomatic? Is that the kind of behavior we expect from the leader of the free world? Once again, THAT’S CRAZY TALK!

Language is sacred. It’s the tool of poets, politicians, teachers and preachers. What we say and how we say it defines us. Listen closely to what Donald says, his choice of words and his voice inflection. Don’t defuse the things he has said by giving him a free pass or writing it off by saying “He didn’t really mean it, he was just being funny”. Such comments may seem funny and “entertaining” until you are on the receiving end of such hate and disrespect.

Those that support Trump may believe that after all is said and done they will be able to wash off his fifthly rhetoric with a sponge bath. I don’t think so. You can’t wash off a tattoo nor can you redeem your integrity by claiming ignorance or naïvety.  Those in the Republican Party that fail to denounce Trump and his ideology are complicit by their silence.  By choosing not to say or do anything is making a choice.

Politics is seldom taken personally until it hits home. It’s easy to say “That’s not my problem, it doesn’t affect me”. But in fact, when the validity and freedom of one person is jeopardized, it weakens freedom for all of us. It starts when we allow politicians and ideologies to single out and dehumanize those that are cast as“different”. This group becomes a scapegoat for all the current political and economic ills. Then comes the laws and justifications to marginalize that targeted group.

We must be our brother and sisters keeper and stand up for them when their rights and freedoms are called into question. This reminds me of a piece written by Pastor Martin Niemöller regarding the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Don’t allow Trump and his divisive rhetoric go unchecked. Now is the time to put him and his manipulative and mean spirited tactics to shame. In solidarity there is strength—with compassion comes understanding and in the long run a whispered truth has more power than a screamed lie.