The Terrible Truth Is: Donald Trump Knows Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

Let me be clear first: with one profound exception, Donald J Trump doesn’t “know” anything! His bloated, orange treason-head is utterly devoid of coherent thought beyond how to keep filling his greedy maw. All that cobwebby space between Trump’s ears and beneath that awful haircut is filled nearly to bursting with one piece of absolute certainty. Donald Trump knows who he is. He knows what he is and he loves that entity and knows how to sell it. And he knows that most of the rest of us — love him or hate him — will buy it. Though it pains me to say, the terrible truth is Trump is a better storyteller than I’ll ever be. I’ll certainly never have his audience. Trump has made the American news media his perpetual bitch and used them — he’s still using them — to tell a story that simply isn’t true. About Trump. About us. But, he knows because his own life proves it, the more he repeats his lies, the more they’ll become “the truth”. Whole religions have risen because demonstrable unreality replaced reality. You’ve got to have done some pretty effective storytelling to get hundreds of people not only to drink your Kool-Aid but feed it to their kids. That’s exactly what Trump is doing.

And we are going right along with him though we don’t have to.

Trump’s a bully. So’s Vladimir Putin (though Putin’s the bigger bully by far). The lessons learned on the schoolyard never get disproven. Bullies, if unchecked, run a sick, twisted show the rest of us have to perform in. Even if a bully’s actions don’t directly touch us, still, their impact on the schoolyard will ripple and those ripples will touch us eventually and then repeatedly. Around us,, some people cower because they naturally play beta to the bully’s alpha. But, others cower not so much at the bully’s power, but at the bully’s effect on the schoolyard. They buy into the bully’s power over the bullied and cynically begin to believe that’s just how it is. The bully will win because (they now see) bullies always win.

Except that’s not true. Most bullies, in the end, lose. In time, another bully rises up and kills them. That’s the tingle at the back of every bully’s neck that never goes away. It’s Tony Soprano always having to wonder if one of his fellow diners in the restaurant he’s eating in plans to bust a cap in his head before he’s finished his pasta. Bullies know that there’s always another bully out there, gunning for them. They know that though most of us will cower, some of us will come for them instead. They may not know us intimately, but they do know how we’ll react to them. They calculate their storytelling accordingly.

Putin’s a spy by training. Spycraft, by its nature, is all about storytelling. Sometimes to explain the truth and sometimes to make the truth unknowable. It all depends on what the spy needs to accomplish. The Hitlers of the world know how deeply tribal hate runs inside most of us; it certainly runs deep inside of them. Being mostly lizard brain themselves they grasp how easy it is to trigger other lizard brains emotionally and then to action. It’s all about fear. Authoritarians and fascists tell and sell “fear stories” to the fearful. They understand that, regardless of their own complicity in their problems, the fearful are much happier blaming their misery on “the other”. Self analysis is hard even for those willing to do it. For those unwilling to do that hard work? They’ve walked into the marketplace of hateful bullshit with their credit card in hand and no limit on the card.

The Trump’s of the world see the rubes coming. Whatever their grievances are — justified or unjustified — Trump plays to them. Magnifies them and turns them into “a cause”. And then he turns to the news media and sells them a story, too — that what he’s doing, ugly as it is, is legit. That’s how things like “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” get normalized and legitimized. Things presidential contenders could NEVER say out loud and get away with — well, now they CAN say those things out loud — and get away with them. They know that we’ll buy “But, her emails!” too — because we’ll buy everything! And we’ll equate “But her emails” with “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing”, thus equating Trump’s very real racism and rape mentality with entirely unreal obfuscation.

Hey, “both sides do it, right?”

Despite the fact that the MAJORITY of Americans don’t want what Donald Trump or the GOP want (we voted against it FFS!), America teeters on the precipice of authoritarianism. How is that even possible?

Simple: because Trump knows us better than we know ourselves.

Despite the fact that the majority of Americans want what Joe Biden wants, want what’s in his Build Back Better package, our news media has us convinced that we might not get those things anyway because the Democrats can’t get their shit together. That’s a piece of storytelling all by itself. The MAJORITY of the Democratic caucus supports what Biden and the Progressive wing wants to do — because their constituents want it too. Ask Joe Manchin’s actual constituents policy by policy if they want what Joe Manchin is negotiating away. Then ask — since he’s not doing it for the voters in West Virginia, on whose behalf IS he negotiating? Then ask if we were talking about a shootin’ war somewhere versus a “war on poverty in America” would we even be having this conversation? We wouldn’t. Regardless of its rightness or wrongness, we always have money for war and never a question of “how’re we gonna pay for this?”

That’s Republican storytelling working its dark magic.

But, here’s where their storytelling magic and its debilitating effect on us suddenly runs out. What Trump and the GOP are counting on — America going along with their criminal hijacking of our democracy (that their version of our story is THE story) — won’t work because it counts on a character detail that simply isn’t present in America’s story. Homorgenous cultures like Germany’s circa 1900 (or any of the European nations and their cultures) were the product of at least a thousand years of different tribes from the same place slowly forging into (in Germany’s case) one German-identifying “nation”. Hitler rose to power despite the majority of Germans hating him (hell,, Hitler was Austrian, not German!). In part, Hitler succeeded through sheer schoolyard bullying. But, in much larger part, Hitler succeeded because he understood the schoolyard and understood how to play the schoolyard’s commonality — nationality — to his advantage. The German tribe was quite large at that point — and very, very “German” even if their passport wasn’t.

Down deep, even the “Good Germans” felt more German than good.

Nationality is key to “national socialism”. America’s sense of “nationality” is entirely different from Nazi Germany’s. Oh, yeah, sure — a third of Americans DO see nationality the way the most fascist Germans did. But they’re only a third — and that’s at best. Feeling white superiority is one thing. Acting upon it is something else entirely. The bottom line on bullies is they’re cowards. If they don’t trust the group will be there to hold their victim down so they can beat that victim? They’re keeping their hands in their pockets. White supremacists know down deep that they and everyone like them are cowards. If they had an ounce of real confidence, they wouldn’t worry about being replaced. They’d go out and compete like big boys and girls.

Should America stumble into its worst case scenario — and the Trumpist Party (that’s who and what the Republicans are now and will be forevermore) literally seizes power (by whatever means which is exactly how they’ll accomplish it) — their moment of triumph will evaporate right before their eyes because they won’t get the willing compliance of a “nation with a common history”. Those white nationalist tribalists will, instead, find staring back at them (and not up at them) the faces of every other tribe — all the ones they shat on, enslaved, denied rights to, abused or thought could never, ever challenge them for supremacy. Not a one of those faces will be compliant.

Or going along to get along because they all know where that leads.

If there is to be a Second American Civil War, it won’t go the way the people who want that war to happen think it will. Witness the number of Americans who won’t go back to work because, frankly, who wants to be a slave? That’s what the corrupt, right wing money has done to our economy — turned most of us into economic slaves, chained to a system we can’t escape and so we go along to get along. Or, at least, we used to.

The Second Civil War won’t be fought with guns. Oh, the right wing will fight that way. They’ll use violence because violence is literally all they have. But, arrayed against them will be the intellectual might of E Pluribus Unum. America’s diversity is what makes it truly exceptional. And America’s diversity will not kowtow to racism, bigotry, misogyny or treason. America’s diverse citizens believe wholeheartedly in America even if those who think they’re “more American” don’t. The many tribes that make up “America” will stand against (and will defeat) the one tribe that stands with Donald Trump.

Okay… I was wrong. Donald Trump does NOT know us better than we know ourselves. Trump’s fatal flaw is what I thought his strength was — he knows himself. He knows only himself and, because he’s counting on “himself” to be there at the moment of truth, he’ll fail.

And that’s because he doesn’t know us. He has no idea who we are and doesn’t care. Same goes for everyone who still puts that “R” next to their names (important life hack, Republicans: if you stand with a monster — even though it’s just because that’s where the money is — YOU are a monster). None of them know or appreciate yet who we are and why we will NEVER let them get away with this. Neither the villains of the piece nor our professional storytellers (the news media) get who we are or what that means about our reactions.

Let’s please, please, PLEASE keep reminding ourselves that WE do.

Everyone Has Their Point Of View But Not Every Point Of View “Has A Point”

Does a raging, racist a-hole have a point? We know they have a point of view; they’re happy as hell braying it. But do these guys have a point to make? Do they? Is their racist, ignorant point really one we should take seriously?

Consider the professional criminal. He knows what he’s doing is completely against the law yet breaks the law anyway. The possibility of punishment is just part of the cost of doing criminal business. As the professional criminal — let’s say he’s a car thief with his eyes on your car — deliberately commits a crime (stealing your car) — he has a point of view in this scenario. So do you — now, a car thief’s victim. But the only point the car thief is making here is that your possession can be his. It’s a bully’s way of thinking. Your point of view is a crime victim’s. From the rule of law’s point of view, a wrong has been done you. The rule of law then has a “good point” to make here. Justice must be done. You, the crime victim, also have a “good point”. The injustice was done to you and that injustice needs to be fixed in whatever way we can. As for the perp? He’s the odd man out. The only one here who’s “point” was “bad”. In a court of law? His point describes a criminal.

How the hell did we get to a place where any point of view — regardless of how bad (meaning counter productive, incorrect or just plain illegal) — can be held up as being equally valid to a good point of view? The answer’s the same as why our news media used to present climate science and climate denial as equally valid points. Our news media all did that but no one did it with less self awareness and more counter productivity than our TV news media. At some point, when this is far enough in our rearview mirror that democracy can breathe a little more easily, we will have to give the news media its report card. A few will have passed the course with honors. But only a few. The overwhelming majority of American journalists have failed America completely because they drank the “both sides do it” Kool Aid.

“Both sides do it” insists that journalists be completely “neutral”. Theirs is not to judge anything. If the person in front of them is a cannibal, it’s not for the “both sides do it” journalist to judge the cannibal for being a cannibal. Cannibal and human victim have equal points of view here. The eater and the eaten are exactly the same. The cannibal’s point is as valid as his dinner’s.

The press is quite clear on what the Republican Party are doing to America. Between the breaking news (that’s always breaking) and the talking heads with their hair very much on fire, the point gets made over and over again: the Republicans are no longer interested in democracy because democracy is no longer interested in them or their ideas. The Republicans have a political problem on their hands that the Democrats don’t. Having become almost exclusively a white grievance party, the Republican agenda is focused on retaining power that a rapidly diversifying America is actively voting away from them. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is not a political cause, it’s a cultural safe space. It is the real promise of “All men are created equal” (so long as we understand that “all men” means literally “everyone”).

“Both sides do it” journalism insists that since Republicans do everything for political reasons, Democrats must therefore do everything for political reasons, too. So, when a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter’s ability to vote, the thinking goes, both the vote suppressing Republican and the suppressed Democratic voter are BOTH behaving politically. That is utter bullshit. The Republican is openly violating the Democrat’s Constitutional right to vote. They’re committing a literal crime albeit for a political purpose. It’s a crime all the same.

The Democrat here is NOT behaving politically regardless of what “both sides do it:” journalism says. Just like the car thief’s victim isn’t behaving like a criminal when they go to the police, neither is the suppressed democratic voter acting politically when they report the crime being committed against them. But, because our news media assumes both sides do everything for the very same reasons, they fail to see the Republicans’ actions as criminal (since, perversely, the Democrats’ reaction isn’t!) In this instance, they’re flipping “both sides do it” back onto itself. If the Democrats aren’t criminals then neither are the Republicans.

I was sexually molested twice, when I was fourteen, by the religious director of the large northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged. I’ve written about it here. Those criminal acts rippled across my life for forty-five years, causing profound havoc. Fortunately, this demon no longer haunts me — in large part because I stopped seeing it in a “both sides do it” way. I held myself responsible for having been molested. I equated attacker and victim. That, I can tell you, was a bullshit point though it was my point of view.

If I had been so lucky as to have seen my attacker prosecuted for what he did, and if my attacker had been put on trial, both our “points” would have been presented at trial. My point would have been from the victim’s point of view — and it would have been valid. My attacker? What “point” would he make to try and impress the jury that he didn’t do anything wrong? That a fourteen year old boy wanted his attention? The fourteen year old boy would absolutely refute that. That the fourteen year old boy deserved it? The adult version of that boy can tell you absolutely that he did not. The only point my attacker can have or make is that, as he stood behind me on those two occasions, he decided to go with his urges — despite the fact that he knew those urges were wrong and, in fact, illegal.

Stone cold fact: not every point of view has a point. Let’s tweak that to “not every point of view has a VALID point”. And, when our news media — towing the “both sides do it” line — gives validity and credence to points of view undeserving of that validity, they empower bullshit and give bullshit the very real potential to completely overwhelm Truth. That’s how you get a Nazi Germany. A North Korea. A Vladimir Putin.

A Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party.

Icing v Cake

How many times has a cake with amazing icing disappointed because the cake itself — even if it was good — simply couldn’t match the icing’s enticing promise? Or, more basically, how would we feel about being served a piece of cake that promised greatness but delivered its opposite (while making us physically sick)? . Icing’s a great metaphor. It sets up a promise that the cake beneath better deliver on — that’s how “cake” works,. The icing in the brick designed cake above is funny, clever and a great enticement to sample the cake within. But, what if the situation was reversed slightly. What if beneath every bit of icing meant to look like a brick was a real brick? Okay — clever icing but it leads to a terrible final experience — no one wants to eat an actual brick, right? Or, even if we iced the brick with the best butter cream icing available? We can make that brick look incredibly appetizing — until the moment you bite into it and wreck your teeth. Expectation v Reality. And sometimes? Flat out bullshit v reality.

Sometimes we go even further: we sugar coat poison then serve it up to people.

Politics is “Icing v Cake” on steroids. So’s religion. That’s what makes both so vulnerable — the most toxic political or religious cake can be hidden beneath Kool-Aid flavored icing a la Jonestown. Nobody went to Jonestown to die. That wasn’t the “icing” they bought into. They had no idea how diabolically evil a cake Jim Jones was baking for them all. “The Peoples Temple” sounds lovely because it’s icing. Consider what that icing looked like BEFORE the massacre: The Peoples’ Temple that Jones founded in 1955 was racially integrated and counter-cultural; Jones advised his adherents to live a communal, socialist life style filled with shared purpose. Strip away fifty years of accrued cynicism and you can sorta kinda recall how much more “innocent” we were. Innocence and icing love go hand-in-hand. That’s not a knock, it’s just a fact.

Most of the 918 people who died at Jonestown walked in the door expecting one thing — the glorious icing of happiness but, instead, ended up dead because the cake itself was utterly poisonous. Figuratively and literally.

The Republican Party is another “Icing v Cake” situation. Their icing says they’re a political party. The cake beneath is something entirely different. The cake — and we’ve experienced samples of it for five long years now — is flavored with greed and power lust and even treason. The odor it gives off is pure, unadulterated corruption. Our news media however cannot see the cake below the GOP’s deep red surface. To them, it’s just a red cake doing things red cake does. They’ll even ask the red cake how it tastes — not an unreasonable question but you have to know as you ASK the question that the answer is going to be totally biased. “I taste great!” says the red cake even though, fact is, it tastes like an anal wart covered in putrescence.

That’s like asking a racist if they’re a racist. How the hell would the racist know? He’s too much of a racist to give you any sort of an honest answer. Want to know if someone’s a racist or if the cake they made tastes okay? Ask someone ELSE. And don’t ask someone who hasn’t sampled the cake, ask someone who’s experienced racism directly. Even better, ask someone who’s experienced the racist’s racism directly. They’ll tell you — even as the racist shakes his head in earnest denial — not only THAT the racist is a racist, but just how MUCH of a racist the racist is. Racism, of course, is one of the cakes always available in America.

Cleaning up America’s cake is going to take some time. Republicans and conservatives have been hard at work the past decade destroying our pantry, making our stored ingredients vulnerable to rats and roaches and other gnarly creatures. Worse yet, Republicans sold us out to their crazy friend Vladimir. What else are we to make of “icing” that looks as screwed up as this —

Alas, our news media are icing junkies who have a limited tolerance for cake. That’s a product of “both sides do it” journalism which insists that both sides make exactly the same cake; they just frost them differently. That is absolutely not so. Republicans like their cake dry as hell — white as hell, too. Angel food is ideal because it’s white. Any chocolate on it better come from a jar so they “keep a lid” on it at all times. Progressives and most Democrats are far more open-minded about cake. They make a point of embracing all the kinds of cake there are — especially the multi-colored kind with the chocolate icing.

Marie Antoinette famously said (was famously misquoted actually) “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants of Paris were starving because they had no bread to eat. What she really meant, of course, was let them eat icing. Rich Marie knew better than to promise the rabble anything as nourishing as cake.