A HANDS-ON LOOK AT HOW WE GOT FROM THERE (2016) TO HERE (2021) UNDER THE RULE OF EX-PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
However we define Trumpism, there is no denying its existence in the United States of America. Its effects were on full display during the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol. The question we now face is whether Trumpism should be primarily defined as a political or personal condition.
The tactics used to promote Trumpism began with the political slogan Make America Great Again. Those four words symbolized the Trump campaign’s claim that the nation was in desperate need of recovery.
The MAGA slogan worked wonders with those already convinced that Donald Trump represented something “great” about America. His purported wealth and worldwide brand delivered a pre-packaged sense of competency and vision.
Yet that is not what Donald Trump ultimately wound up selling. Instead, he saw an opportunity in convincing people that the nation had abandoned them. That gave millions of already disgruntled people the idea that they had something genuine to complain about. Whether they knew the true sources of their purported misery, or whether they were justified in their self-proclaimed victimhood did not matter. Trump tapped into their anger. That was all that mattered.
To his retinue of pledged supporters, Trump added the support of the evangelical Christian community by choosing a dogmatically zealous Mike Pence as his running mate. The implicit promise in that action was banning abortion and installing some form of Christian theocracy on the nation.
Safely delivered from political criticism by his religious associations, Trump engaged with far-less-admirable brands of populists. Specifically, he offered approval to avowed racist groups as “good people” and chortled with glee as militia groups and violence-prone police threatened to bust heads as a means to maintain order.
All the while, he continued the drumbeat against illegal immigration and repeated his warlike call to ‘build the wall.” That brand of xenophobia resonated with Americans convinced that brown people were freeloaders and stealing their piece of the American pie. Others welcomed Trump’s dog-whistle racism as justification for their own terminal prejudices. Meanwhile, the wealthiest MAGA supporters happily embraced Trump’s “I’ve Got Mine” mentality because it promised a return to tax policies favoring their economic status.
As illustrated in the Trumpism Spectrum, it is easy to trace the initial migration from slogans to tribalism, and from religious legalism to populism. All these tactics were designed to cement a coalition of committed collaborators in the Make America Great Again cabal. Anyone that criticized that cabal was accused of Trump Derangement Syndrome, a supposed mental condition that caused people to act irrationally in response to the ex-President. But that invented term was itself a form of gaslighting, an attempt to make sane people feel crazy about their grip on reality.
Adding to the mix was the rising influence of conspiracy theorists including QAnon, a willfully ignorant and semi-mysterious source of insane accusations and outright lies invented by some Internet gnome lurking on the outskirts of humanity. While Trump griped and whined about the supposed lies contained in the campaign-driven Steele Dossier, he did nothing to counteract rumors that Democrats were involved in human sex trafficking or the daily piles of Right-Wing garbage pumped out by the political right, including but not limited to Fox News.
As Trump’s presidency proceeded, he relied on an increasingly aggressive mix of propaganda to cover up his many illegal activities and political graft in defiance of the emoluments clause and bans on pursuing campaign aid from foreign governments. He was impeached twice for his corruption, but excused by Republican henchman in both the Senate and the House. A few freely admitted that he’d cheated and even broken the law on several counts. But they are power-driven hypocrites and political whores of the worst kind. They are loyal to their party and traitors to our nation.
The only place that Trump’s lies and cheating seemed to catch up with him was during the Covid pandemic when it became obvious that he was both incapable and unconcerned about protecting Americans from a deadly disease. Rather that amend his ways, Trump’s authoritarian instincts drove him to evolve from a man in a perpetual state of denial of his real performance to a man recognizing his failures. Those he feared more than anything else, and in an effort to protect himself from legal and financial jeopardy, he began to plot ways to steal the election in 2020.
This was nothing new, as even before the 2016 election Trump refused to commit his approval for results if he lost. He merely expanded on this tactic in 2020, denying in advance that he could possibly lose. When he did, he launched the Big Lie that the election was “stolen” from him. This lie was invented to foment unrest among his deplorable cabal of truth-denying bigots and zealots. It also appealed to the selfishly wealthy along with the fearful politicians that stood by him through two legitimate impeachments for corruption.
But the sickest loyalty of all is the continued support for Trump even after the acts of sedition conducted by Trump supporters at his direction. The violent, multi-front riots brutalized police officers and left people dead as a result of the insurrection. In the end, Trump invented a brand of fascism that entirely suited him, as he stood watching it all transpire on television even while his violent mob sought to capture and kill the Vice President of the United States. Trump didn’t care. Like his fast-food mentality dictates, he was “having it his way.”
That’s how we got from There to Here over the last six or so years. Looking back at the progression as illustrated on the Trumpism Spectrum graphic, it is pretty clear that it will be too hard to go back through time and fix things. Instead, we need to race forward in the near term to prevent it from happening all over again in 2022 and 2024. Trumpism is a toxic brand of hate-driven politics that was used to beat the nation over the head with an American flag. Despite his ugly pleas, we owe Donald Trump nothing in the way of compassion or compensation. He has done nothing to earn either privilege nor does he deserve it. He is no longer an American in any sense of the word. He is nothing but a greedy traitor, a perpetual con man and an abusive sociopath with nothing to offer the United States of America but an end to the great experiment that launched a democracy worthy of admiration by the whole world.
But under another four years of Trump, that great experiment would cease to exist.
The riots and attack on the US government at the United States Capitol building are proving one thing: America really does need to be concerned about the rise of fascism in this nation.
All summer long during protests against the murder of Black citizens by police were conducted by Black Lives Matter and other social conscience groups. Some of those protests were marked by looting that harmed businesses. That was enough for Trump and his supporters to claim the two responses to police brutality were automatically related.
We can turn to the nation of Spain for perspective on the relationship between protests for social justice and independence. I happened to be in Barcelona on a vacation in 2019 during the weekend when originally peaceful protests turned ugly. The issue in Spain was a call for “self-determination” by citizens of the Catalaonian region. They sought independence from the central government in Spain over issues of taxation. Catalan residents sought to secede from Spain. Right-wing defendants of Spain’s traditional national structure and constitution sought to crack down on the protests.
That’s when things turned sour in Barcelona. As reported on Reuters.com, “Barcelona town hall said 400 garbage containers were set ablaze on Wednesday and estimated that the city had suffered damage totaling more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in two days. Some city residents condemned the rioting. “This doesn’t represent the majority of Catalans, whichever side they are on, be they pro-constitution or pro-independence,” said Joan, a 50-year-old small-business owner.
The political issues in Spain differ from those in America, yet the cycles of protest and governmental crackdowns and pursuant violence on the part of “protestors” is quite similar to patterns in the United States.
As Reuters reported, “Young people draped in Catalan flags congregated peacefully, tossing balls and skipping rope. Later the mood turned ugly, with protesters setting fire to cafe chairs on the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya street at the heart of the tourist district.
Earlier in the day, thousands of students took to the streets, some hurling eggs at police holding riot shields. Marches from around the region are due to converge on Barcelona on Friday and unions have called a general strike for the day.
“It’s not about who is a separatist and who is not – it’s about human rights,” said Aila, a student who declined to give her family name.”
Black Lives Matter and Antifa
That sounds so familiar. Here in America, hundreds of thousands of protestors also sought to stand up for human rights. Their cause was calling attention to the series of Black people shot or suffocated by police. The incident with George Floyd in which an officer put a knee on the man’s neck until he died went viral and served to illuminate the cause of minorities around the world.
But Trump and his supporters appeared unmoved by the calls for change, and protests escalated as a result. Property damage was rampant, and a loosely organized group calling itself Antifa rose to national prominence as Trump sought to place blame for the violence on an enemy he target for derision by his supporters. That meant Trump lumped everyone together in one supposedly “evil” group that he blamed for property damage. But the people seeking social justice weren’t willing to live with that accusation. They persisted in peaceful protests. I witnessed the “rebound effect” of peaceful protestors while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer following weeks of unrest. The boarded up businesses were decorated with messages of love and reminders of why the protests were initiated in the first place. That may have been no comfort to businesses affected by the lockdowns, but that effect was not solely the result of protests. There was the scourge of Coronavirus that Trump refused to address. That incalcitrance toward any authority other than his own was the cause of more suffering in the United States than any protest, Antifa or not, could muster. That’s the reality Trump sought to avoid.
The problem with the Trump tactic is that was successful with his supporters and his Republican allies eager to shift blame away from the President by siding with him in the depiction of all protestors as the “common enemy.” That means the original cause of the social justice protestors––justice for Black citizens and change in brutal police tactics––was effectively left behind. That is exactly how Trump likes it. His entire tactic in politics is to distract from the bad things he’s done and/or approved by redirecting blame toward anyone he depicts as the “common enemy.” In that regard, he has quite familiar company in history.
The concept of propaganda
Consider this excerpt from the Nuremberg 1934 rally, in which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels outlines the premise and purpose of propaganda:
“The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.”
He goes on to state, “Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow it to willingly and without internal resistance devote itself to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”
In the case of Donald Trump, that “purpose” in mind is keeping power at all costs. That aligns with his central goal of self-interest. His policies fulfill promises to others that can help him keep power. But his actions aside from that are all about winning and protecting access to power.
That explains his lies to cover up the threat of the pandemic in its early stages. His central goal in presenting information about the Coronavirus was to protect his image going into the 2020 election. To do that, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus and how many people it could possible kill. His interest was in protecting the economy upon which he believed his re-election depended. Yet his selfishness backfired as the virus raged through the American population, threatening to overwhelm hospitals as thousands died from Covid-19. The economy reeled. He raged against the lockdowns proclaimed by state governors as necessary to curb the spread of the disease.
That was Trump’s version of a “protest.” Yet it was his original inaction and refusal to engage the federal government in meaningful distribution of PPE and support for state efforts to conduct testing and reduce infection rates that led to the United States becoming the nation whose citizens were banned from traveling to countries around the world. Trump cynically and ignorantly blamed “testing” as the reason why the infection rates were so high. “If we didn’t do so much testing, there wouldn’t be so many infections,” seemed to be his reasoning.
The confusing mix of disease and outrage
So the summer months were a confusing mix of disease and outrage as American citizens endured the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus even as Trump refused to wear a mask in public and an entire ‘protest’ movement of Anti-Maskers sprung up within his movement. They claimed that wearing masks infringed on their personal freedoms. Men like noted conservative and former presidential candidate Herman Cain refused to wear a mask in public. He contracted Covid-19 and died as a result.
That incident describes the twisted reasoning and dangers of Trumpism.
In the same way, it was Trump sending out federal troops in a fascist show of strength in Portland and other cities that led to increased resistance and more radicalized response in cities across the country. The Trump administration resorted to posting unidentified, heavily armed guards in Washington, D.C. in one of the most fascist demonstrations of governmental secrecy in American history. No one knew who those guards reported to, or what their purpose was other than to serve as a threat that the right to protest at all was under threat.
Then Trump marched across the street in the company of military personnel while flash-bangs and other deterrence methods were aimed at peaceful protestors gathered around a church in Washington. Trump held up a Bible (upside down, it appears) in clear demonstration of the religio-fascist relationship he maintains with zealously bigoted evangelicals calling for outright theocracy in American government.
Trump supporters long to point toward his “policies” as signs of his success the last four years. But even the supposed lists of accomplishments now circulating in defensive memes are rife with contradictions. His supposed Mideast accords are little more than disguised acts of Zionism and anti-Palestinian intrigue. Trump’s forceful collapse of the Iran nuclear control deal is enabling the re-establishment of that nation’s programs. HIs tax cuts did nothing for the middle class while enriching the wealthiest Americans, and his inaction on Coronavirus crushed millions of jobs while Republican Senators and Congressman fought significant relief bills to help everyday Americans. If one were to draft a program to make American lives worse rather than better, there is none better than the lack of platform resolved by the Republican Party and the sycophantic support they’ve granted their Fascist in Chief. The GOP, as I’ve previously written, simply got pimped.
This arc toward fascist takeover of American society was not lost on Trump supporters whose beliefs about American justice were formed and fomented by propaganda spouted by Trump well before the 2020 election even took place. Upon losing, Trump declared the results “fraudulent” and proceeded to carry out 60 fraudulent lawsuits that were in turn rejected by courts on the basis of no evidence to support them.
None of that stopped Trump or his fascist henchman Rudy Giuliani from continuing their attack on democratic processes. Right up to the certification of the Electoral College votes, Trump and Rudy G collared Republican Congressman, Senators, state governors and even election officials. They issued dictates and threats. When all this continued to fail, Trump called his supporters into action in Washington. He directed them to march on the Capitol in hopes that the disruption would delay or cancel the counting of Electoral College votes altogether.
The riotous mob did invade and seek to destroy the Capitol building and its occupants. They came armed with ties in hopes of kidnapping the Vice President or the Speaker of the House. Anyone they regarded as “treasonous” was a potential target. Even those tasked with defending the safety of the Capitol building were subject to fascist fury. A Capitol guard was slaughtered by “protestors” using a fire extinguisher to pound the life out of him.
It’s his own fault, not ours
All of this is inescapably the fault of “President” Donald Trump, whose impeachment for attempts to corrupt the 2020 election were both justified and accurate. So was the Article of Impeachment about obstruction of justice, an action that Trump has taken multiple times and in multiple ways during his administration, all while crying out that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
But the witch hunt that sprung into life on January 6 was one driven by those who support Trump, and no one else. It bears echoes of the witch hunt conducted by Michigan Trump supporters who first stormed that state’s Capitol building, then conspired to kidnap the state governor.
The witch hunt also burst into murderous flames in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young kid inflamed by propagandistic rhetoric about the actions of Antifa, and not the cause of their concerns, shot several people to death in what his supporters immediately claimed as an act of “self-defense.”
It won’t be long before Trump makes the same claim for himself, that his supporters were acting in on his behalf, as an act of “self-defense” against the supposedly fraudulent results of the election. That is the Big Lie upon which all of Trumpism now depends. It is one Trump originated even before the 2016 election took place. It is a lie he will likely repeat until his is in his grave. He simply can’t accept the reality that Antifa exists in direct relationship to his fascist persona and the actions it has begotten.
That is the ultimate irony in all of this. Trump supporters refuse to understand that Donald Trump brought this upon America, and upon himself.
I looked up the history of the acronym GOP as a shorthand for the Republican Party. The Wikipedia page on the Republican Party says this:
“The term “Grand Old Party” is a traditional nickname for the Republican Party and the abbreviation “GOP” is a commonly used designation. The term originated in 1875 in the Congressional Record, referring to the party associated with the successful military defense of the Union as “this gallant old party”.
I’d always thought it stood for Grand Old Party, which is just as lame. But these days, the Republican Party is anything but Grand or Gallant. So the old terminology is moot. I propose that we give the GOP a new set of more accurate terms to replace its traditional claims to grandness or gallantry.
GOP and dying wishes
The option I propose, given the Republican Party’s tactics over the last fifteen years or so, is a far more accurate description of how the GOP operates. We’ll get to that in a moment.
But first, we need to understand the nature of the most recent hypocrisy. That is the installation of a third Supreme Court justice by decree of Donald Trump. We all recall how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell self-righteously claimed that no President up for election within the year should be granted the right to nominate a Supreme Court judge. So McConnell blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination, only to invite Trump’s last-minute nomination of a constitutional originalist to replace the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dying wish was that her replacement would not be named until after the election.
The GOP has for decades been whining about so-called “activist judges” on the Supreme Court. Their concerns have focused on the idea that supposedly “liberal” justices are legislating “from the bench” by voting in favor of civil rights, economic parity, corporate responsibility and environmental justice in America rather than dragging the nation back to an interpretation of the United States Constitution before slavery was outlawed, women had the right to vote and America was a population of just 2.5M people. But here’s a fact that matters: The country is 130 times larger today according to the United States Census Bureau. We have fifty states, not just a few. We are a diverse nation thanks to immigration over dozens of decades and a couple centuries. The Constitution as it was originally written was never sufficient to cover all that change. The Founders knew that, which is why the power to commend Amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were implemented. To ignore that wisdom is to kick the Founder right in their constitutional nuts.
Yet that’s what some in the GOP love to do.
The idea that America is the “same place” as it was 243 years ago is an example of the controlling, abusive notion that all the Amendments and beneficial changes in law and policy installed since that time are meaningless affectations adopted by a whimsically feckless population of liberals.
Ironically, this country would not even have the Second Amendment if things had stayed fixed in place as Constitutional originalists would have it. On that subject, perhaps they’re correct that amendments can be used for ill-suited purposes. After all, America does not seem capable of managing “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…” Now we’re being gaslighted by vigilante militias and the GOP, both who claim to represent an originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment that ignores that opening phrase in favor of the latter, “…the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
That is the gaslighting tactic (a lie by selective judgment) upon which activist interpretations of the Second Amendment now depend. As a result, Americans are literally being gaslighted to death by rampant gun violence in the streets, doctrinally motivated mass shooters armed to the teeth, and self-professed militia members playing soldier while claiming self-defense.
Why do all these people deep-down claim to want to arm themselves? Many claim that their armory is to prevent the government from having too much power. Here’s a sobering fact: more Americans have died from gun violence on American soil than all the soldiers killed in wars on foreign soils.
That means we are being gaslighted by the idea that guns are the path to safety in America. The people who make that claim (through the NRA, and other bodies) form one of the GOP’s pet voting blocs. Some equate even the idea of personal freedom with gun rights.
Yes, our country had to fight for its freedom to gain liberty from the rule of England. Guns are useful tools in war. That’s what they were invented for. That’s why a well-regulated militia truly is necessary for the security of a free state.
But it is principles, not guns, that form the true foundations of freedom.
Liberalism and democracy
It was liberalism and the determination that America should be independent from the rule of a king that established the country in the first place. There is also the issue that the nation’s Founders recognized the danger of establishing or enforcing a state religion, so the Separation Clause was written specifically to avoid the rule of one religion over the country.
These days the Christian evangelical community persists in claiming that the United States of America is a “Christian nation,” founded on “Christian principles” and therefore subject to the directives of theocratic directives from whatever source they might be issued. This is another form of gaslighting, a way to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.”
These are crazy times we live in. To perpetually insist that something is true that is not true, especially by accusing those most affected by that untruth of being wrong, is psychological abuse. So is being a bully over every issue that confronts you. That is what the President of the United States does every single day of the year.
That is also the central tactic of the GOP these days. Choose any principle; be it racism, feminism, gay rights, environmental protection, even the rights of an individual in comparison to a corporation, and the GOP finds a way to flip those concerns around as a means to gaslight people into submission. Crazy times indeed.
Racism and the GOP
When it comes to racism, the GOP inherited the originally vicious views of Southern Democrats and turned into a voting bloc first exploited in dog-whistle fashion by the grandfatherly visage of President Ronald Reagan. The Southern Strategy persists through the era of President Donald Trump, whose open appeal to racists to gain votes for his re-election includes patronage and Retweets bragging that there are “good people” on both sides of the debate over civil rights in America. He doesn’t bother to explain what kinds of “good people” want to persecute blacks and send American citizens “back to Africa” or whatever racist taunt they choose to exhort, but Trump doesn’t care about such details. He is happy to gaslight principled citizens into questioning their own good judgment by wondering what the President means by describing angry white citizens as “good people.”
Blacks and police brutality
The scourge of police brutality toward black people in America is so longstanding and frequent that movements such as Black Lives Matter emerged to heighten awareness of the problem. But conservatives gaslighted the issue by pumping out alternative slogans such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. Rather than address and acknowledge that 200+ years of racial suppression continues in this nation, the opponents of full civil rights for people of color selfishly claim persecution for themselves.This is gaslighting at its worst.
The GOP encourages this attitude of denial with its support of Trump and the specious slogan Make America Great Again. Those words are a dog-whistle act of gaslighting unto themselves. They insinuate that the advances in civil rights, environmental protection and religious equanimity established by the Constitution are illegitimate.
Constitutional originalism is gaslighting
Now the Senate has installed yet another constitutional originalist in the Supreme Court. This is an outright act of the sort of judicial activism against which the GOP has railed for decades. It is gaslighting in its most extreme political form.
That is what the GOP stands for these days: Gaslighting Over Principle.
We’re stuck with it for the time being, but there will come a moment in history when the tables turn again. That may come sooner or later. But gaslighting does win the day on November 3, the country as we’ve known it for 243 years will cease to exist, and we’ll all be subject to the violent instincts and abusive advances of a highly conflicted man and his dysfunctionally self-absorbed family.
That’s the choice we’re making on November the third. We can let ourselves be gaslighted into insanity, or we can stand against the GOP and its lying tactics, sycophantic whorishness and cloying lust for power, black eyes and all.
Last night I watched one of the most compelling documentaries I’d seen in a long time, a National Geographic biopic that traced the study and exploration of Mars, the planet on which the human species has long projected visions of other life in our solar system.
Alas, the truth of the matter is the magnetic forces that keep earth’s atmosphere and water in place were disrupted on Mars long ago, so the whole planet is fucked.
While there is evidence that water once covered significant portions of Mars, even gouging out massive canyons at some point in the planet’s geological history, all that H2O evaporated into space when the guts of the planet turned inside out, splitting a giant, visible gash in the surface while all traces of water disappeared.
Yet the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is still making plans to send people to Mars. We’ve already sent a series of amazing rovers to study the surface. These machines take massive amounts of photographs and even dig core samples to analyze rock composition. Next we’ll send a rover that will be digging through sedimentary layers to see if there are samples of fossilized life hidden below the dusty void.
Mars is a beautiful planet in its barren stolidity. There is a HiRise satellite orbiting Mars with a HiRes camera has beamed back 200,000 images of the planet from top to bottom. Along the way, it documented the movement of giant dust devils towering twelve miles high. These traced fantastical patterns on the surface.
They also likely blew the gathering dust off the solar panels of a Rover that was shutting down due to lack of power. The machine was only expected to run for 90 days anyway, so the fact that it lasted 14.5 years on Mars was an enormous gift to science. It finally died when a massive dust storm blocked out the sun so long that temperatures dropped so low it killed the rover for good. A few scientists cried over that. The rover didn’t even get a decent burial.
It really does get cold on Mars at times. At the poles, the temperatures drops to 190 degrees below Celcius. Patches of white visible on the top and bottom of the planet are dry ice formed of CO2, not water. When the sun hits them as seasons change the dry ice builds up pressure and explodes.
All this fascinated me. The photos of the surface are surreal. Massive sand dunes mix with barren rock. A mountain standing 90,000 feet tall sticks out of the surface. That’s three times taller than Mount Everest. Even Reinhold Messner would have trouble scaling that one.
An imposing place
The fact of the matter is that Mars is an imposing place. Conditions seem far worse than the moon. The worst part of life on Mars seems to be the radiation problem. Either the planet is just plain radioactive or there is nothing blocking the sun’s rays from killing people who hang out on the surface. I didn’t quite understand that part.
Scientists think they’ve found a solution to that problem in a set of giant volcanic tunnels where people can hide below the surface and even build big cities there. Seriously: that’s the plan. There are even people crawling around in caves under Spain to practice for this scenario. This is all going to take place within a generation. People will be going to Mars in the name of exploration. That’s why we’re doing it. Because human beings “have to explore.”
It just seems like such a dead end. Surely a few brave pioneers flying along for seven months to reach Mars will go stir crazy first, then be faced with a crazy landing only to try to make do on a planet as inhospitable as a bowl of Grape Nuts without milk.
I love the space program and always have. I support funding space exploration and think it’s important to the advancement of knowledge among the human race. What I love about it as well is the technology that emerges from this process.
But I also love what it tells us about our own planet. Right now, we know that our planet is heating up due to just over one hundred years of human activity that has pumped out trillions of tons of carbon dioxide. That greenhouse trap is keeping the heat of the sun’s rays from bouncing back out into the universe. It’s not a novel concept. It doesn’t take that much imagination to appreciate how and why that can happen.
The earth exists in the most delicate balance of all the planets in the universe. Our watery planet is perfect for our existence because we all evolved in sync with its biotic potential. Nothing exists randomly. Every form of life on earth remains because it has the right survival potential for current climatic conditions. We’d have to create all that on Mars. In short, we’d have to play God to our own needs.
A few years back, a chunk of black meteorite was determined to have emanated from a galactic collision on Mars. An asteroid striking that planet sent shards of rock flying into space. Eventually one of those hand-sized rocks plunged into earth’s gravity and was collected in the deserts near Morocco or some dry spot like that. It came through the hands of a collector into the realm of scientists who spliced off a piece and found traces of water inside. Eureka! Mars was once wet.
But it isn’t any more. The climate changed. The same goddamned thing could happen to Earth. What is so hard to conceive about that? Human arrogance blocks it out.
The Earth is changing right now. Droughts are getting more severe. Fires are raging everywhere. Wine plantations are migrating up mountains for growing conditions.
There are people who deny that fact because they refuse to think beyond their own selfish, ideologically clogged noses. They are the snots of economic and religious prejudice. They likely haven’t studied the look and feel of a planet like Mars, where nothing lives perhaps except a batch of bacteria at some volcanic vents. We don’t know that for sure yet. But even that form of life doesn’t offer much hope to supporting human survival. We’d have to import everything we need to make it work on Mars. It’s 140 million miles away. And it’s smaller than Earth.
So I’m an advocate for taking a harder look at what we’re doing to life on Earth while we study what the prospects for life on Mars really are. Sixty years ago people imagined their might be Martians living there, and great cities awaited to be discovered. What we’ve discovered instead is a burned out sphere with rocks that look like a dumped out bag of granola and cinnamon. The bad news is that they’re not any more edible than Mars is livable.
Let’s focus on what the biblical notion of dominion really means to the human race. We’d better take care of what we’ve got, or Life on Mars will be all we have.
The town of Crystal River, Florida sits at the mouth of its namesake ninety miles north of Tampa. The river empties into the Gulf of Mexico where its mouth widens into a brackish bay rimmed with marinas, waterside homes and canals reaching back toward land. These channels have long attracted sea cows, these days known as manatees.
The local economy of Crystal River feeds off the presence of these large, watergoing mammals. They are a tourist attraction in nearly all seasons, with tour boats taking curious adventurers out in the bay on warm summer days to peek at manatees in their natural habitat.
Some people don’t get it
But people left to their own devices sometimes fail to grasp the impact of human contact with a such seemingly benign beast. And in some Florida locations, people seek to love them a bit too much. In a story reported on Smithsonian.com, “As Florida native Ryan William Waterman just learned, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission takes its manatee safety seriously. After posting several photos on Facebook of himself and his two young daughters playing with a baby manatee, Reuters reports, the authorities arrested him. According to the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is illegal to molest, harass, disturb or—as Waterman found out—hug a manatee. Federal laws also protect the species, which is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s Red List.”
The eager father didn’t just touch a baby manatee. He lifted it out of the water, posed his daughter sitting on its back, and then returned it to the water. Wildlife officials noted that the animal was experiencing what appeared to be cold stress from having been removed from its native habitat.
Don’t abuse the manatees
The Florida Wildlife Commission website describes the consequences of abusing manatees. “Manatees are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy, or molest manatees. The state of Florida has also established regulatory speed zones to protect the manatee and its habitat. The zones are located where manatees live or travel regularly or seasonally. Anyone convicted of violating state law faces maximum fines of $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 60 days. Conviction for violating federal protection laws is punishable by fines up to $100,000 and/or one year in prison.”
There seems to be a general respect regarding safety of the animals near Crystal River. Motorized craft cruising out from the canals make their way slowly through No Wake zones. Between them, a daily flow of of vacationing kayakers paddles around a point in the bay to reach a once-secluded clearwater springs called Three Sisters, a massively popular tourist attraction.
Rush hour at Three Sisters
The water in the spring is indeed Crystal Clear. But kayaking into the pool on a summer day is like navigating a rush hour intersection on the Gold Coast of Chicago. Kayak traffic bottlenecks at the entrance of Three Sisters where three or four embedded stanchions force people to navigate between them. Those impediments keep people from ramming into each other. Inside the lagoon people run their boats up against the shore despite signs posted by the National Wildlife Refuge system not to do so. They also stand on rocks below the surface despite other signs warning them not to do so. The smell of cigarettes wafts across the water as families parked on large super rafts roll about laughing and talking at the top of their lungs.
Girls laced up in stringy swimsuits with naked butt cheeks mix with rotund men in soaked tee shirts lolling about uncomfortably in colorful kayaks. A few handsome young paddleboarders make their way into the cove as well. There are people of every nationality and language chattering away as if the crystal waters were nothing more than a local suburban swimming pool. Of course, there is not a manatee to be seen.
On the first trip up the canal leading to Three Sisters, my wife and I missed the entrance. We paddled past the large waterside homes to a place where the clear water grew quite still. Even the sea breeze did not reach back into those spaces. It was quiet for the most part, with a few other kayaks sitting calmly as couples talked quietly. One noted that they’d actually seen a water moccasin snake a few meters back. At the far end of the canal we paddled through a u-shaped culvert beneath a local street. Finally the canal hit a dead end behind a Mobil station. Such is the condition of nature in the State of Florida.
That twenty-minute period of paddling was the most peace to be found during a two-hour paddle trip. But on our way out of the canal we approached a family of mixed ages piling off their kayaks and rafts to swim in the water. They paid no attention to our approach, neither the young or old, including one intrepid little spright with water wings and a lifesaving vest.
We waited patiently for them to cross the canal and slipped between the next round. A young father or uncle among them exclaimed how warm the water had gotten where they were swimming. In most pools, we know what that means. Someone just pissed in the water. But this warmth was likely the product of the sun striking the water at that point in the canal. Things warm up quickly in that case. That is one of the reasons why the manatees like the canals during seasons when the surrounding waters generally get cooler. Apparently one of the most popular manatee winter resting spots is the cooling pond nuclear power plant up the coast. The animals reportedly show up by the hundreds, bumping one another as they share the warmth.
All along the canal where we paddled there were manatee protection signs at almost every residence warning boats to drive at a slow speed. There were also signs instructing swimmers to stay off the stone walls rimming the canals because those were private property.
At the moment we paddled past those stone walls, the young father or uncle swimming around with the kids clambered onto the edge of one of the walls with one hand. He was likely bracing himself afloat to support one of the tadpole swimmers of which he was suddenly in charge. All of the family members bore shiny black hair and brown skin. Their accents suggested a Latino origin of some sort.
Suddenly a voice roared from a bit further down the canal. “Stay off the walls!” a man hollered. “That’s private property!”
The young man quickly hollered an obscenity back at the man. The approaching kayaker was clearly a man in at least his sixties with white hair and wrinkling pale skin. He paddled urgently toward the swimmers with a spaniel perched on the front of the boat. “I will take your head off with this oar!” he yelled ahead.
“I will mess you up, bitch!” the young man screamed back. The invectives continued as we paddled toward bay. There was no empathy from either side of the argument.
It was fair to assume that the man with the dog on his kayak was a local resident looking after the rights of those who live on the canal. His job would have been endless that day in August, because there were thousands of people on the move, a watery rabble one might say, paddling in and out of that canal and the Three Sisters lagoon.
It all makes for a lawless environment as a whole. There are no lifeguards inside the cove. There is no one monitoring boat traffic in or out of the canal. A motorized pontoon boat even traversed the narrow waterways where children swam. Out in the bay, there was a local sheriff out checking boat licenses . But he was busy with the big stuff, not paying attention to the little stuff taking place in the smaller channels.
Flags of glory
Many of the pontoons and motorboats parked along the canal wars bore large TRUMP 2020 flags. One lone craft bore a pair of Anti-Trump flags mounted to the back. One wonders if those neighbors are friendly with one another or not. It hardly seems likely.
The entire scene was a manic mix of American freedoms and personal rights. Like so many American waterways and streets and alleys in America, the nation is currently running on premises of vigilante justice.
That is why the conflict between the angry kayaker and the defiant swimmer escalated so quickly, and was so jarring to witness. It seemed a microcosm of everything wrong with America right now. The white guy clearly approached the situation too aggressively. That elicited an equally disrespectful response from the Latino guy swimming with his little relatives. Both felt they were protecting something dear to them. Yet both were in some respect exhibiting behavior that was immensely out of line with the scope of the situation. But everyone was somehow trying to make a point, and everyone was losing in the process.
That type of overwrought reaction seems to describe the American scene as a whole. The environment at Crystal River is uniquely symbolic of how American consumerism mixed with self-centered recreation, rabid patriotism, and abuse of the environment combine to create a warlike atmosphere even in the most historically significant of places.
We paddled back to return our kayaks only to find two women in black and white swimsuits standing waist deep in front of the beach where a batch of young men waited for us to return our little crafts. The two women seemed oblivious to the fact that they were standing right in the way of a commercial enterprise trying to do business. Neither of them wore a mask, either. Their arms were crossed and their expressions showed concern over some topic they were discussing. This selfish lack of self-awareness seems to be rampant in the world today. It happens at grocery stores where people focused on choosing green beans ignore other customers. It happens on the roads where drivers putz along in the left lane determinedly unconcerned that their presence impedes all other traffic. And it happens in the Congress and Senate where politicians preoccupied with their own ideologies refuse to turn an ear to anyone else.
So we sat idling in our kayaks for a couple minutes as the women stood hip deep in the water. We hoped they would notice that we were trying to come ashore, but after watching the kayak guy flip out at the swimmers back in the canal, our appetite for confrontation of any kind was gone. Thus we sat there patiently until someone trying to launch their kayak from shore less than politely asked them to move out of the way. Faced with the nose of a plunging kayak, they did move a few feet to the side. That’s when we quickly paddled our boats ashore. This is what America has come to. We’re all daily witnesses to casual abuse by force selfish distraction.
That’s the same force of will that once produced motorboat gashes in the backs of manatees swimming innocently in the canals of Crystal River. The laws passed to protect them actually serve to protect people from themselves in this world. There’s a vital lesson for America in that bit of history.
Manatees and the law
On shore, we returned the laminated bay map to the the kayak workers on shore. The back of the card also contained warnings against touching or abusing manatees in any manner. “Do not jump on their backs,” the card stated. “That has happened.” The card also listed a number of other stupid things that people have done to manatees over the years. Those antics were clearly the behavior of people acting selfishly and without regard for the well-being of the manatees. Like the man who dragged the baby manatee ashore, there are so many people in this world stuck in their own frame of reference it is getting difficult to know who can be trusted to act with civility, and who cannot.
Too many people assume that the law does not apply to them. Or, they believe it is their right to interpret the law according to their own selfish terms. Some folks seem to think that the act of flying a flag or defending a wall entitles them to act out their aggressions. The same goes for wearing a badge or claiming some status; be it race, religion or nationality, that confers them special status.
On the other front, there are many people taking insult too quickly. Some assume that prejudice is automatically at work and that a genuine threat is at hand when some of what goes on in this world is the direct product of cultural misunderstanding. Identity is one of the most powerful of all emotions, and when those come in conflict with each other, look out. It is all the product of human tribalism, and the craftiest of politicians know how to leverage those forces to gain votes and popularity.
That is why the nation is at such risk right now. If people can’t understand something as basic as leaving a peaceful manatee alone in its element, we are doomed to behave like ugly brutes on land as well. This is particularly true when our leaders can think of nothing better to do than make fun of the appearance of a creature such as a manatee rather than appreciate the wonder and uniqueness of their existence. But that’s where we’ve come in the last five years, and America as a concept is sinking as a result. When people feel powered to disavow the need for decorum, driven forward by inspiration from people with ugly spirits and angry hearts, it’s not just the manatees that are at risk. It is all of us.
Recently a long-ago classmate from high school showed up on Facebook. He Friended me and began complimenting bird photos that I posted to my wall. The connection for the first few weeks seemed genuine. He’d never been a nature guy to my knowledge but had lived next to a forest preserve back in the day. Perhaps his upbringing near the wilds had emerged as a deeper interest in his retirement.
He posted photos of his own, images of birds and such around his property. Then one day a cryptic post appeared on his wall. It was rife with jingoistic and politically flirtatious language that was all too familiar to me.
Bald Eagle. Photograph by Christopher Cudworth.
He claimed at the moment to have a neutral stance on the state of the nation these days. Perhaps he was an Independent of sorts? Even a Libertarian? Over the years plenty of that cropped up in social media too. And then there are the supposedly objective among us, who view all politics and government as the scourge of life. “They’re all crooks,” goes the line.
Meanwhile, the comments kept coming about nature and birds and such. He knew that I was a birder way back in middle school and high school, earning the not-so-complimentary sobriquet “Birdman” from friends who found the hobby ridiculous. So I continued our friendly repartee and helped him identify some species that showed up at his feeder from photos that he’d posted.
Then came the Purple Post. My new-old-friend had decided to “lift the veil” on his political affiliations and made a statement to that effect with a closing statement: Vote Trump 2020.
I wasn’t shocked. But I was disturbed. My concerns were specific and real. If he claimed to love wildlife and the environment so much, how could he possibly support what Donald Trump has been doing to our country’s laws and regulations that protect clean air and water, conserve both common and endangered species, and honor key acts governing even archeological and paleontological resources?
The list of attacks on these protections is long. I call them the Trump Killers, because he’s presided over legal and political attempts to kill every one of these laws. Here are the major policies that Trump and the Republicans have set out to kill, or have killed already.
The point in posting this list is to help people connect the dots between the wildlife my supposed Facebook Friend loves to enjoy and the laws that provide protection and habitat for these living things to survive. That’s a simple enough concept, right?
Yet in Trumpian fashion, his love for Trump is so ardent yet so shallow that he likely has no idea that any of these actions are being taken. He lives near one of the few habitats where Kirtland’s warblers breed in Michigan. Birders have worked to help protect that and many other species. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act alone is designed to protect hundreds of species that travel to our country during spring and fall. Does he even know why such laws are important? Doubtful.
Too many Trump supporters appear to come from a background where science is considered a worthless opinion. Some of that stems from religious prejudice wrought from an evangelical mindset based on biblical literalism and its intellectually retarded offspring, creationism. Some 35% of Americans tend to abide in that worldview, and the consequence is that men like Trump and his greedy Republican allies grant carte balance to industrial polluters and environmental abusers because, it is claimed, the human race has dominion over the earth.
Eastern Bluebird. Photograph by Christopher Cudworth.
That is the absolute brand of cognitive dissonance at work in Trumpism. It aggressively fails to recognize the connection between these environmental and resource acts and our nation’s contribution to their survival. In other words, Trump supporters completely refuse to connect the dots between the things that actually make America great and the things Donald Trump does to destroy them. And if you question their passive-aggressive practice of posting provocative Pro-Trump memes and then whining when you challenge them, the first instinct is to gaslight all those with the gall to present evidence of the President’s own lies and contradictions of his own statements. They want to make you feel like it all never happened. “You must be crazy,” is the implication.
And sure enough, when I commented on my friend’s Purple Post, he immediately made a baiting statement that he “knew I’d be first to comment.” In other words, he was taunting me and others. Just as predictably, his Trump-loving friends chimed in with memes supporting Trump and ridiculing those who don’t “get it.”
And finally, one of those Trump Lovers branded me a Trump Hater.
That’s the “go-to” dismissal for all Trump supporters. It implies an irrational hatred for the President. It directly aligns with the so-called Trump Derangement Syndrome that Trump supporters use to paint those who oppose them as radical leftists who oppose true American virtues. But it’s interesting how many terms it actually takes to insult those who oppose Trump.
The hypocrisy in all this is quite evident. If a Trump supporter loves birds and wildlife but does not understand that the President is doing everything he can to gut laws protecting those resources, that’s plain stupid and irresponsible. And if a Trump supporter claims to value civil rights yet wants to deny those rights to gay people or people of color, that’s an insult to the entire notion of what civil rights mean. And if Trump supporters claim to love life yet refuse to limit access to weapons capable of slaughtering dozens of innocent people in minutes, then they are lying to us all.
That is the dynamic that exists across the entire spectrum of Trump policies. Claims to virtue counteracted by repression of those whom the Trump world hates. And Trump himself is the most consistent lawbreaker. From breaching emolument laws on conflicts of interest to pressing foreign countries to interfere in our nation’s elections, Trump has flaunted our Constitution and its foundational premises. He refuses to respect the rule of law and at the same time uses it to punish those causes he considers his enemies. He is the most hateful acting of all Presidents, fueled especially by hatred for Barack Obama, whose legacy he has steadfastly and vengefully tried to erase.
Bobolink. Photo by Christopher Cudworth
But it’s the birds that illustrate this whole hatred thing the best. Many of those laws listed above were actually implemented with collaborative approval by Republican Presidents and members of Congress and the Senate. But Trump hates them all. The real Trump Hater, in an active sense, is Trump himself.
So I’ll not abide the insults and the targeted claims that I’m somehow “deranged” for opposing the nasty things this President is imposing on our country. They are hateful in every respect, a testimony to the selfish and shallow fraud of a human being whose grasp of even the most simple concepts is at best questionable. Yet he calls himself a genius and brags about his intellect, all while gutting the purposes of our public education system, our civil rights and our heritage as a haven for the desperate and the poor. Donald Trump is the most hateful man on earth right now, and his supporters love him for it. Yet they call us Trump Haters.
LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells ‘you’re fired’ after speaking to several GOP women’s groups at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
That’s a sickness of mind and an ugly testament to the twisted mentality required to vote and approve the actions of a President who is a bully, a despot, and a fascist in every aspect of his demeanor and conduct. In other words, he is a man genuinely worth of hate, but his supporters instead grant him a brand of worshipful love that resembles a cult.
So we supposed Trump Haters are for the birds, and many other good things in this world, including civil rights for all, a fair and equitable economy that does something other than shovel money to the wealthy, a foreign policy that respects rather than manipulates and brutalizes our allies, a nation free from religious oppression as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and a country where guns are not the final word on respect for law.
But those who love Trump apparently hate all these things, and hate the world as well, because they’re willingly glad to destroy it in order to keep their man in power.
The Coronavirus pandemic is not just a medical and cultural threat. It is also a lesson in theology. The idea that human beings are “specially created” beings that stand apart from the rest of nature has been blown asunder, and forever, by the fact that this virus and many thousands of others are threats to human existence and known to jump from the rest of the animal world to infect us.
So much for the creationist contention that God spares human beings from such humble roots. Our gut bacteria was already proof that we’re biologically dependent and derived from the raw stuff of creation. But this novel disease has put an all-new face on the fact that human beings share our guts and DNA with every other living thing on earth.
Denial still rules
Yet despite this biological threat to human health, there are Christians in strong denial of the dangers posed by Covid-19, the deadly disease caused by the novel Coronavirus. Some pastors have openly defied governmental orders not to assemble due to the risk of spreading the disease. Others claim that their religious freedom is being restricted by orders not to hold public gatherings. Perhaps the belief is that people sitting together in prayer are immune to the disease? But given clear evidence that church is no protection from the disease, it is legitimate to ask if pastors and other religious leaders really care if their congregations live or die? Cynics have questioned whether some of these pastors care more about the contents of the collection plate than the lives of the people in their pews.
It is far more likely that it is the idea of giving up some aspect of religious authority that makes pastors so defiant toward the public safety recommendations issued by government, medical or scientific sources. Among all the perceived threats to orthodoxy, it is religious authority itself to which its advocates so ardently cling and become anxious, angry and resentful when challenged.
John the Baptist and Jesus both dealt with that problem in the religious authorities of their day. Martin Luther later challenged the Catholic Church over its imposition of indulgences and today’s selfish televangelists rake in millions of dollars in tithes and offerings but when a public crisis hits, their voices suddenly go silent, their church doors close, and they look for ways to blame those they hate for the crisis.
But most just hide behind the protection of their personal mansions until it is safe to come out again. In other words, they are theological hypocrites who couldn’t give a rat’s ass or a bat’s wing about the lives of people on whom they depend for their wealth.
Special creation indeed
Perhaps these religious leaders really are encouraged to flaunt scientific and medical advice based on the biblically literal notion that human beings are “specially created” and somehow immune to a deadly disease that reputedly sprung from the flesh of bat. Instead, creationists console themselves with the biblically literal notion that God molded human flesh out of dust from the earth, and that we have nothing much to do with all that DNA and genetics stuff that connects us to the rest of the world. That’s the worldview of theological hacks like Ken Ham, progenitor of the Answers In Genesiswebsite and its expensive temples constructed to cater to his ego, the Creation Museumand The Ark Encounter.
Supposedly these websites and facilities provide answers to all of life’s pressing questions about the origins of life, including ‘science’ in the name of God. Yet during this Coronavirus pandemic not a word of insight, advice or practical solutions emanate from the likes of Ken Ham and his ham-handed assemblage of quitter scientists. They are all theological and scientific frauds hiding behind a grand excuse to make money on the creationist schtick.
Anachronism and crisis
And people die because anachronistic beliefs have nothing to offer us in the face of a medical crisis. Thoughts and prayers do nothing, or else people would be indeed huddled in churches rather than dying in overcrowded hospitals. Medicine and science works because it depends on knowledge from the theory of evolution to determine how viruses mutate, replicate and transmit from one living thing to another. It takes an idiot to choose wishful thinking over medical cures for disease. Creationism is a deadly worldview.
It is only an egotistically naive desire to feel better than the rest of nature that drives creationists to such selfish extremes. But the Coronavirus isn’t choosy about who it infects or how well they survive. It only does what it was designed to do, mutate and move on. In that respect, it seems like a heartless invention of God to create such killers. If that’s how it works, it is the religiously literal that have the most to answer for, not those who understand that the human condition is an evolutionary function just like everything else in the universe.
Today a Facebook Friend posted a story to his Wall that popped up in my feed preceded by the comment, “Trump Haters will not like this.” There was a photo of an airplane titled, “Russia delivers medical supplies to the United States after Trump-Putin call.”
Trump lovers adore projecting hate on those who do not worship their president. They even invented a term to describe those who resist the policies that Trump conceives or pushes into law. The term is Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).
The word deranged means “disturbed or disordered in function, structure, or condition.” The implication of TDS is that anyone who objects to Donald Trump must be a dysfunctional person. The purpose of abiding in this lump-sum psychological assessment is to make Trump’s cultural opponents second-guess their beliefs about the man by making people question their own sanity.
This is better known as gaslighting, a method of mental and social abuse described by Psychology Today as, “a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality.”
Trump himself is an exceptional gaslighter, well-known for branding any information with which he disagrees “Fake News.” He also regularly contradicts his own statements in full view of the public, then doubles down on the denial that he ever said such things in the first place. It’s not even necessary to provide links to examples of these Trumpian methods anymore. The practice is so common with Trump that no one can tell the difference between what Trump wants to believe, what he actually believes and what he wants the rest of the world to believe. There are no distinctions in the distinctive realities created by Donald Trump.
But meanwhile, Trump has been executing vicious policies behind the curtain of his public lying and displays of petulant patriotism. His efforts to kill the environment alone are worth contempt. All these laws governing quality of life, historical and natural sites, wildlife and environment, migratory birds and clean air, safe drinking water, noise control, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration, rivers and harbors, even the Eagle Protection Act, have all been axed by the pen of a deranged madman eager to privatize America to its own death.
As a result of Trump’s own derangement, especially toward President Barack Obama, two things are at work among his followers. The first is a willing form of cognitive dissonance to embrace the reality that Donald Trump seeks to impose upon the nation and the world. Most recently, the Trumpian claim that Coronavirus was not a threat in the United States was followed a few months later by a radical disclaimer that he knew all along that the risk of the pandemic was dangerous. He only admitted it when people started to die. So which was it? Trump does not care. Nor do his followers. And his Republican colleagues immediately started the actuarial calculations to decide how many deaths were worth protecting the fragile illusion of the Trump economy, which he did no real work to establish in the first place.
Instead, Trump chose to blame everyone but himself for the nation’s belated response to the COVID-19 threat. He most ardently blamed his favorite enemy, President Barack Obama. That tactic is highly favored by Trump supporters, along projecting what Hillary WOULD HAVE DONE as president, to explain all the bad that has ever happened in this country. But now Trump’s lying and selfish delusions while blaming others for his mismanagement of this pandemic is having a real cost to the people that support him. But to affirm his supposed authority, Trump even has the gall to interfere and even block distribution of needed supplies to governors who do not “appreciate him.” This is a deranged attitude if there ever was one.
Even as it blows up in his face, Trump continues to claim that his response to the pandemic is as “perfect” as his call to Ukraine when he attempted to coerce and corrupt the president of that country into doing his personal political bidding. Trump was impeached by Congress for that offense against the Constitution that he swore an oath to protect. Yet his supporters continue supporting his claims that the investigation and impeachment were all a “hoax.”
These are all the behaviors of a truly deranged man. The fact of the matter is that Trump Derangement Syndrome, rather than being a rhetorical accusation against his critics, is actually a literal description of its actual perpetrator. But Trump supporters love to project derangement on those who accuse the President of being out of line. This is the great sin of American culture today.
Standing up to the lies
So I did not back down to the Trump supporter who protested when I pointed out that his claim about Trump Haters was a disturbing example of the problems Trump has created for himself. The arrival of a Russian plane on American soil was yet another hint that Trump is beholden and more likely to ask favors of Putin than to stand up for America’s interests despite that nation’s consistent attempts to undermine our democracy. Trump loathes admitting that Russians helped him get elected in 2016 despite massive evidence from the Mueller Report that revealed how, where and when it was done.
On pointing that out, my “friend” on Facebook insisted that I was a “victim” of Trump Derangement Syndrome. So I went on the offensive and documented a concise and logical list of the ways that Trump is a proven fraud from his own University to his corrupt foundation. And my friend stated those things were “all in the past” and had no relevance now. I countered by stating that Trump’s deceit and lies are still much in evidence during his contemptuously bad response to COVID-19, and that his horrific methods are now costing thousand of American lies.
And at that, my friend folded up his post and took it offline like a little kid gathering up his red playground ball and running home while crying out, “I’m taking my ball and going home!” Along the way he Unfriended me, but not before playing the victim himself, by posting a comment: “I thought you were a good guy.”
I am a good guy. I just don’t like Presidents who lie and abuse other people. That does not make me either a bad guy or in any way “deranged.”
What we can all learn from this experience is that there is nothing more frail in spirit than a bully projecting their own hate on others. When their projected cruelty finally reflects back on them in the form of exposed victimhood and selfish aims, take their playground ball and run home to MAGAhood where nobody seems to care if people play by the rules, because it’s all about getting their selfish aims fulfilled in the end.
The chief problem America faces right now is a potential pandemic with Coronavirus spreading rapidly. A disease specialist named Michael Osterholm that was interviewed on the Joe Rogan show predicts the virus is just beginning to show its impact. Interestingly, he notes that children are some of the people least likely to be infected while adults in their forties and beyond are most susceptible. He also says that the disease spreads both by physical contact and through the air. This is new information to many of us.
Newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune have begun to release information from disease specialists as well. That is the function of a free press, to educate people without the barrier of censorship or control by factions that might benefit from controlling or influencing public opinion. In this case, good information can mean the difference between life and death.
Trump even compared this approach to the “perfect” phone call he made to the President of Ukraine. That call led to Trump’s impeachment after multiple officials associated with or managed by the Trump administration testified their concerns about the manifest corruption at work in the President’s efforts to bribe, coerce or manipulate Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, who just now swept a sea of delegates into his corner after a Tuesday election.
That dishonest action was deserving of impeachment along with the obstruction of justice that followed. Along the way, Trump blocked or attempted to block testimony that might compromise his own versions (and they were multiple) of what he calls “truth.”
Meanwhile, Trump maligns the press as “fake news” because it refuses to comply with that approach to information dispensation, otherwise known as propaganda.
It all led to a Constitutional crisis in which the House delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate, a body that first took an oath to conduct a full and honest trial and then refused to allow additional testimony even while confessions trickled out that Republican Senators knew that Trump had abused his power. But they were too afraid to vote using whatever shriveled notion of conscience they had left, and Trump was ostensibly exonerated.
This rewarded Trump’s dishonesty, and he loves it when that happens. His entire career is a testament to “winning” but he seems to love it best when it hurts others. That’s why he ran a show called The Apprentice in which he got to bully contestants by telling them, “You’re fired.”
In an article produced by a professor named Prof. David Honig of Indiana University, who teaches negotiation to college students, he examines Trump’s preferred method of achieving success. It is always the all-or-nothing approach in which he benefits. Honig notes that rather than approach negotiations through integrative bargaining, where both sides collaborate for mutual benefit, Trump prefers ‘distributive bargaining,’ in which he sees success as him winning when the other guy loses.
Honig writes: “Distributive bargaining always has a winner and a loser. It happens when there is a fixed quantity of something and two sides are fighting over how it gets distributed. Think of it as a pie and you’re fighting over who gets how many pieces. In Trump’s world, the bargaining was for a building, or for construction work, or subcontractors. He perceives a successful bargain as one in which there is a winner and a loser, so if he pays less than the seller wants, he wins. The more he saves the more he wins.”
Distributive bargaining has another facet that is not mentioned in Honig’s article, likely because he maintains the perspective of a teacher. But distributive bargaining has an even darker side than the tactics he mentions. Among its keen practitioners, distributive bargaining embraces the harsh philosophy that the ends justifies the means. In other words, even dishonest dealings are allowable if it means winning the day.
That’s why Trump’s dishonesty is now more dangerous than the Coronavirus itself. His emphatic claims that the disease poses no threat to the American way of life are just another case of distributive bargaining. But this time, he’s trying to bilk the American people into embracing a worldview that will literally kill people, possibly hundreds of thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong: Trump is not responsible for the Coronavirus or its spread in this country. But his selfish desire to have it just “go away” in an election year when he feels his power being threatened by forces outside of his control are an offense to his notion of distributive bargaining.
And if Trump feels there is no way he can win, he resorts to his most effective tactic of all. He lies, and then repeats the lies. Then he hire or forces other people to repeat the lies. His lawyers. His media buddies. Then he accuses those of questioning his lies of promoting “fake news.” This is Donald Trump’s entire way of life. It is how he has gotten him everything he wanted except one thing: actual respect.
But we don’t owe Donald Trump any respect when he lies to us. This is not about “respecting the presidency” anymore. Trump has blown through that protection ten times over. His properties and his children are stealing taxpayer money and enriching themselves through forced purchases and international contacts that funnel money back to the Trump family. Trump’s own University was convicted of fraud and fined $25M. His foundation was proven to be corrupt. There is nothing honest going on with Donald J. Trump at all. His thousands of lies to the American people on every subject he addresses are well-documented.
And how he’s lying to protect his precious economy, a benefit that he dishonestly claims as a product of his own policies. And even that is a lie, as President Obama’s economic performance the last three years of his two terms in office beat Trump’s any way you slice it. That means Trump got to sail along for three years, all while doling out tax cuts to the rich and lying to the middle class that they would be permanently “better off” once growth rates of 6% took over.
That was a lie too. He will lie until his hair stands on end if he thinks it will help him “win” somehow.
But the Big Lie that Coronavirus is harmless is one of the most dangerous of its kind. Experts such as Michael Osterholm project that 48M people could be infected before this is through. That does not mean they’ll all die. And it doesn’t mean we have to panic.
But being smart is critical in times like these. That’s not what Trump has been doing so far. He’s telling us all to choose to be willingly ignorant and believe that he’s got this thing under control through his “natural ability” to divine the seriousness of any matter under the sun. But most of all, he fears that the one illusion holding him afloat, economic prosperity, is now being yanked like that combover on his head in a high wind.
But Trump clings to the virus of dishonesty because it sickens his detractors and gives his supporters a supposed immunity to the truth. That describes the entire legacy of the Trump presidency and the sickening support his faithful lend to his credulity.
My 2007 book The Genesis Fix examined how religion affects politics, culture and the environment. This excerpt describes how some people like to fuse the three into one.
“Part of the reason doctrinal politics, economic aggression, and triumphal religious language make such a potent combination is that all three appeal to a sense of personal pride. Some people refuse to distinguish between the three. For a potent illustration of faith at play in the real world of business, we quote the May 5, 2001 obituary of one Carl Bagge, a successful businessman, former leader of the National Mining Association and former National Coal Chief. Mr. Bagge’s obituary outlined the passionate manner with which he did business as a strong proponent on behalf of the coal industry and coal-burning electrical plants. Mr. Bagge called clean-air groups “environmental elitists,” declaring evidence that acid rain came from the pollution generated by coal plants “inconclusive.” He also apparently saw his work on behalf of the coal industry as a religious mission. In reference to his occupation, he was quoted as saying; “We’re doing the Lord’s work here, people. Anybody who doesn’t believe that may as well leave, go and work for the other side.” When Mr. Bagge became president of the National Coal Association, he changed the group’s number to 202-GOD-COAL to reaffirm for its members that was the only force that could keep them from their aims. The number is still in use.
Mr. Bagge exemplifies the manner in which some people freely mix religion and corporate aims. People who have pride in their religion and their work often find it hard to keep the two separate.The only problem with a close relationship between faith and business is that close an association has been known to corrupt both.”