People Who Can Laugh At Themselves Never Become Bullies

The joke was on Trump at the 2011 WH Correspondent’s Dinner; It’s been on us ever since

Think of a well-known bully: Donald Trump, for instance. While Trump loves being an entertainer and making people laugh, he’d never entertain his followers by making them laugh at him. Trump’s notorious for his inability to laugh at himself or to be the butt of anyone’s joke (as Barack Obama learned when he poked fun at Trump during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner). Barack Obama, for comparison’s sake, CAN laugh at himself; in fact, he’s as notorious for being able to laugh at himself as Trump is for not being able to. No one considers Barack Obama a bully. That’s not a coincidence. Even a cursory glance at history proves the point. Hitler didn’t get famous as a painter — or as a guy good at telling jokes. Stalin wasn’t known to poke fun at himself. Nor was Pol Pot or Mao or Mussolini or any of North Korea’s ruling Kim family. Had any of them had a sense of humor, they would never have become monsters. Their sense of humor would have kicked in first; they would have laughed so hard at themselves for even thinking such a stupid thing that the idea would have died right there. Having a sense of humor is essential to having a healthy psyche.

When bullies like Trump or Vlad Putin laugh, it’s always AT someone, never with them. Trump savors other peoples’ pain and hardship. Others’ suffering excites him. His niece Mary Trump has personally experienced it.

Think about the ways Trump thinks one “gets” a laugh. He infamously mocked journalist Serge Kovaleski (who he knew and who’d interviewed Trump many times)

Back when Trump was president, occasionally his people would insist that some awful thing Trump said was just him “joking”. That was always especially galling. The press can’t get it through their heads that it’s not up to Trump or any racist whether or not they’re racist; racism is in the eye of the beholder, not the racist. Racists think their racism is justified; that’s why they’re the worst people to ask! Along those lines, allowing a bully to mischaracterize an act of bullying (that got caught) as him just “joking” — that also demands to be called out.

For starters, the evidence says clearly that Donald Trump has zero sense of humor. It goes without saying since he can’t laugh at himself — and if you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s the proof that you have zero sense of humor. As a matter of fact, it was probably Trump’s not having a sense of humor that prodded him over the line to run for president.

Trump hit the ground already compromised by Putin (a fact the entire GOP leadership knew was true — they even discussed it OUT LOUD a month before nominating Trump!) Putin’s another bully with no sense of humor — although Putin’s pretty good at sounding like he’s funny. Like all bullies, Putin and Trump surround themselves with lesser bullies. The world in their heads is all dog eat dog; humans are just different flavors of Alpo. But, what does an alpha bully di tutti bullies do when all the beta bullies suddenly turn on him? Surely the Big Bully can’t be too surprised when the lesser bullies turn on him or simply abandon the sinking ship. That’s what they would do.

Unfortunately for Vlad and Don, in their bully world, bullies who lose power often lose their lives either in the process or in its aftermath. Putin knows this for a fact. Trump’s about to learn that lesson the hard way. Trump would have been far happier had he lived out his days as the ordinary, bankrupt bully he was, a petty tyrant running a mom & pop money laundering & corruption shop. Playing with the big bullies will not end well for Trump. When his actions cause the downfall of all those other bullies? They won’t be happy until they’ve had a moment or two to personally tell Trump just HOW angry they are.

Unlike Putin, Donald Trump WILL face justice. There’s not stopping it now. It’s ludicrous for our news media to think Trump or the GOP has any political future. The FBI’s raid this morning on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office was the beginning of the Big Reveal. While the feds are going after Giuliani because of his relationship with Ukrainians, those Ukrainians are all Putin backers — which means they’re all assets owned outright by Putin. Like all roads, this one too LEADS TO RUSSIA.

Russia is the ultimate punch line here. It’s the payoff to the sick, awful joke that was the Trump presidency. The Trump presidency was the sick, awful culmination of the Republican Wet Dream of permanent minority rule. And what, after all, is the Republican dream of permanent minority rule than the biggest joke of all on the majority?

America’s “Second Coming” Will Begin The Instant Donald Trump Is Gone

William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” rings in my ears every day. He was describing the chaotic aftermath of WWI as it rippled through Europe. He also was thinking about the Spanish Flu epidemic that nearly killed his pregnant wife.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”. That sounds exactly like now, doesn’t it? There is no centre. There hasn’t been for a while — we just didn’t realize it. The Democrats, to their detriment, have played to that centre more than they played toward their Progressive base. The Republicans on the other hand, have played to their base exclusively. The result — as Yeats put it —

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Yeah — our world feels full of anarchy. Worse — it feels like

The best lack all conviction while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Boy, is that us. There are some whose gaze is fixed on what’s happening. There are journalists — citizen & otherwise — who’ve grasped the Truth and shouted it as loudly as they could. But, like Yeats wrote. “The best lack all conviction”. You can’t beat evil without conviction.

And we are absolutely fighting evil.

Here’s where I break ranks a little with Yeats. Well, I break ranks with the chronology. Yeats’ magnificent poem famously ends like this —

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

We aren’t heading towards that moment where the rough beast comes round at last, we’re already in it.

Donald Trump IS the rough beast.

Though he wrote the poem in 1919, Yeats has been credited with anticipating the rise of fascism that was already beginning to percolate in Europe. Whether or not Yeats actually anticipated it, the rough beast was definitely present — as he is now, here in America.

That’s the bad news. It’s also the good news.

Just as Yeats’ poem falls apart without a rough beast toward which the whole enterprise is pointed, the Republican coup d’etat that began on election day 2016 would collapse in on itself were Donald Trump to suddenly vanish from the stage.

Were Trump to, say, succumb to one of the myriad illnesses stalking him (you think if he were truly healthy he’d be hiding his health info from us?), there is no “Plan B” in place. Within Trump’s family, there’s no succession plan. Trump wouldn’t dare create one because he knows his “beloved” children would instantly begin plotting how to carry it out. Because that’s exactly what HE did.

As Mary Trump spelled out in her excellent memoir about her experience growing up the niece of this horrible man, Trump has plotted against everyone in his family to get his hands on as much of daddy’s money as he could. Even in a nest of Trumpian vipers, Donald is the viper-iest.

Ivanka thinks she’s the golden child — probably because daddy’s told her things when he “wanted” things. Don Junior apparently believes he’s the political successor to his dad’s political empire. Oy. Eric may not be quite as stupid as everyone things, but then, he might be.

If Donald Trump were to suddenly succumb to a stroke or heart attack — even if he were merely incapacitated — all hell would break loose. The centre would not hold.

Within Trump’s family, they’d all go rogue against each other — maybe not to their faces — but behind their backs?

What about the world outside the Trumps though? After all, that’s where all the compromise has gone down. Everyone gets that Trumps stay loyal to Trumps because they’re Trumps. And while everyone also gets that Republicans stay loyal to other Republicans because they’re Republicans, that doesn’t play quite the same way with Trump. Because Trump isn’t and never was a Republican.

Trump never was a Democrat either. He’s always been a Trump. That’s his party — and he turned the Republican Party into him.

The Republican Party may hate Trump but they saw a way to achieve their end through him. They want permanent minority rule. If Donald Trump & Russia are how they achieve it? So what.

The Republicans have no succession plan either. If Trump suddenly couldn’t serve as POTUS, Mike Pence would become president. But Mike Pence can’t hold this gang together like Trump can because Mike isn’t a boss, he’s a foot soldier. No one currently beholden to Trump (for whatever reason) is beholden to Pence which is why Trump disappearing from the stage would be a “get out of Trump jail free” card.

A political party based on the idea of “every man for himself” would suffer the fate it deserves as the rats all climb over each other to try and escape. Mike Pence is very definitely just such a rat.

Remember — Paul Manafort brought Mike to the dance. Paul needed a compliant vice president who absolutely would not balk when he learned certain ugly secrets about Trump’s campaign — like it’s deep association with Russia. Apparently Mike fit that bill.

Mike Pence is compromised. So is Mitch McConnell. So is every single Republican who’s known from the get-go what current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan knew as far back as the 2016 convention: that Russia owned Donald Trump lock, stock & two smoking, corrupt, treasonous barrels.

That’s what happened on election night 2016: Russia pushed Trump over the finish line, helping the Republicans seal their coup d’etat with a victory stolen from the American people. We will come to see Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan through a very different lens. Trump didn’t pull off a surprise victory to snatch the Electoral College from Hillary Clinton. Russia first softened the environment by pounding it with propaganda borne of the proprietary polling data Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort handed to Russian Intelligence Officer Konstantin Kilimnik. When enough targeted Black voters were polling their reluctance to vote for Hillary (now that they were thinking she might be a closet racist thanks to all those ads showing up on their Facebook pages), Russia knew it could hit the voting machines — flipping just enough to make a Trump win believable.

That’s 77,000 votes across three blue states.

We don’t know for certain yet that that happened because no one — despite everything we know — has ever done any forensics on all those machines. Those machines — we now know — are incredibly vulnerable. Hacking into them — via the internet — isn’t even challenging. That’s probably by design. The majority of machines are manufactured by companies owned by Republicans — who’ve made their allegiance to Republican politics known. Considering how corrupt & corruptible people are in general — and Republicans are in particular — bet the ranch on those voting machines being part of the corruption.

The past 4 years have opened our eyes kinda like Alex’s eyes were opened in “A Clockwork Orange” — they’ve been pried open, giving us no way to not see every bit of the Trump Shit Show. That show though includes a lot of harsh truths about America’s failings. Racism has always been our fatal flaw — not because we were or are racist (tribalism is hard wired into us) but because rather than resisting our inherent racism, we indulged it. We allowed it to tell us that though “All men are created equal”, if those men are Black or brown or anything other than white, they aren’t equal.

Donald Trump didn’t invent American racism of course, he merely gave it permission to speak its vileness out loud. He didn’t invent corruption, he merely excelled at it (like he’s excelled at nothing else). He didn’t invent treason, he merely used it to get elected.

Living in America has never felt so perilous — or so filled with a need for change. Yet, as terrifying and exhausting and frustrating and insane as it feels, there’s also some very real hopefulness in the mix. If we can accomplish the systemic change that needs to happen? We will make America a more fair place where more people have the very real possibility of living their dreams.

I look forward to proving F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong when he wrote “There are no second acts in American lives”. We Americans definitely have a second act in us and probably a third and a fourth. We can’t get there though until we send this bloated orange rough beast to prison for the rest of his life.

Why Doesn’t The American News Media Ever Ask “WHY?”

Our news media tirelessly report every vile utterance that tumbles from Donald Trump’s bloated orange lie hole. On the bright side, at least a few of them have begun to find the courage to stand up to Trump — to refuse to accept his bullshit — refusing to accept the lies. But, unfortunately, most of the press still fears losing access and so refuse to do anything that might anger Trump or his snowflake staff.

When they cut back to the “studio” (whatever & wherever that is these days), the host plus talking heads will ask why Trump behaves this way. They’ll ask why most Republicans continue to follow Trump blindly. They’ll wonder how anyone could run on the things Trump and the Republicans are doing. Some journalists will scratch their heads so hard, they’ll create permanent divots in their scalps.

They’ll all ask “why” as if it was a mystery deeper than the Mona Lisa’s smile.

But, problem is, they’re not actually asking “why”. They’re using the word as a kind of shrug. What they’re really saying is “I guess they ‘do it’ just because they do”.

How “it is what it is” of them. Except, no. No one does anything “just because”. People doing bizarre things might not be able to articulate why they’re doing it but something inside them is causing them to do it. There’s a motive. It may not be satisfying to outsiders or even logical. But there’s a motive.

Donald Trump lies because he’s a sociopath. He behaves like a spoiled child because that’s what he is (ask his niece Mary Trump; better yet, read her very good book). He kowtows to Vladimir Putin because he’s beholden to him — because Putin knows things about Trump that are absolutely, positively criminal. But then, so do we. We’re staring at them all.

Why does Donald Trump do what he does? Basically, because he’s a criminal. There’s a whole mountain range of evidence. Shame the news media refuse to either look at it or, having looked at it, refuse to accept what that evidence is telling them.

Maybe the better question is why does our news media suck at its job?

John Lewis Was A Case Study In HOW We Could “Do Unto Others”

I once wrote an episode of The Outer Limits (the reboot on Showtime) about a cool future technology that’s used for dark, nefarious purposes. Yeah, that could be pretty much any sci-fi story. This tech asked a question — what if we could take the talents, skill sets or abilities from one person and “implant them” into another person?

The downside to this technology — in the episode — was that the skill set couldn’t be in two places at once. If it was being implanted into someone else, it’s because it no longer existed in its original host. In the episode, the character “Mad” Joe Dell’s legendary jazz chops could be removed from Joe Dell and given to someone who’d bought them — from the company that took them from Joe Dell.

The excellent Bill Cobb plays the character Joe Dell — a legendary jazz musician whose jazz talent gets “taken” from him by a new technology — and implanted into someone else — who’s paid to get it.

Joe Dell (and most of his family), thought Joe was moving into a retirement community. There was no explanation for his rapid decline into total dementia — and then his death. But Joe hadn’t actually died. He’d been warehoused — until every last drop of his jazz chops could be squeezed from him.

The episode ended happily. Joe’s teenaged grandson Ronnie catches on to the monstrous scam being pulled and gets his grandfather back — legendary jazz chops mostly complete. So, here’s my storyteller’s sighed “What if…?”

What if we could transplant John Lewis’ legendary humanity, his empathy and humility into the heads of every single Republican?

But the “skill set” we’re talking about isn’t like jazz talent. It doesn’t require all the micro-skills being a jazz legend demands. All this skill set requires is that we care about other people at least as much as we care about ourselves. Ya know — “Do unto others” and all that.

What if we could get Republicans to “Do unto others” like it was a super power? Or a normal human capacity…

Imagine if Mitch McConnell forgot how to be a cynical treason turtle and, instead, cared about America and every human living within its borders.

Imagine if Bill Barr put down his perverse Dominionism and, instead took up Jesus’ message.

Imagine if Mike Pence’s sanctimony suddenly morphed into love of something other than Donald Trump’s ass.

Imagine if every single Republican who thought Jesus wanted them to be rich vs decent suddenly realized, “NO! HE WANTS US TO BE DECENT!”

We won’t bother imagining any scenario where Donald Trump suddenly acquires humanity. Mary Trump’s book spelled it out clearly and emphatically: Trump has no capacity for humanity and probably never did. He’s a sociopath just like his daddy. Indecency is hard-wired into Trump’s corrupt DNA.

But, if everyone else suddenly acquired John Lewis’ innate decency — if every Republican who’s enabled Trump (in other words, every Republican who still proudly calls themselves “Republican”) — then we wouldn’t have a problem with Trump. Our collective decency would not tolerate his presence.

He’d be gone already and no longer a clear & present danger.

I know — that’s why stories are stories and reality is reality.

But a storyteller can dream, can’t he?

The Sins Of The Father

I’m only about halfway through Mary Trump’s fascinating analysis of her stunningly dysfunctional family. She pulls no punches: if her uncle Donald Trump wins a second term, she writes, “It would be the end of American democracy”.

I absolutely believe her. Not only does Mary Trump bring an insider’s knowledge of the Trump family, she bring a trained clinical psychologist’s eye to the subject too. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a good writer, too, with a good eye for telling detail.

In her preface, Ms. Trump quotes a line from the 1984 movie version of Frankenstein which hewed more closely to Mary Shelley’s original. The Monster is filled with both passion and rage. If he cannot be loved to his liking, he’ll make up the difference in rage. That’s Donald Trump, says his niece. But the monster does not make itself. Someone else does that. In Trump’s case, it was his father Fred who truly birthed this bloated orange beast.

Imagine — America is teetering on the brink of catastrophe because Fred Trump was a shitty father. But that seems to be the case. Fred Trump’s terrible parenting skills — which went along with his greed, ignorance, lack of empathy, corruption, racism and cruelty — created the monster that is Donald Trump.

This is not to apologize for Donald Trump, but to explain why he is how he is. Our news media keeps asking the same dunderheaded question: WHY does Donald Trump behave this way. They seem to think it’s just how he “is”. But no one just “is”. We’re all a product of forces mostly beyond our control. Especially while in childhood.

It’s incumbent on us to punish Donald Trump to the fullest extent the law allows — and for EVERYTHING he’s done that violates the law. Same goes for everyone in Trump’s family. They’re all co-conspirators (in addition to being members of a crime family). The entire GOP are also co-conspirators — how can they not be? These pirates aren’t hewing to Trump entirely out of brand loyalty. They’re hewing to Trump because they’re guilty of all the same crimes and face the exact same legal jeopardy.

The majority of us did not vote for Donald Trump. We definitely didn’t vote for Fred Trump — yet that’s who we’re really dealing with here. The sins of the father have been visited upon us.