…can essentially get away with anything…

People talk about breaking paradigms. I’m not sure anyone in modern times has shattered them, ground them to dust, then paved over them like Dear Leader.

It occurred to me that he’s essentially broken the underlying assumptions that form the fabric of public society.

He’s discovered that the only thing stopping a person from doing whatever the hell he wants is caring what others think of him. If you don’t care about being seen as honest, then why bother being honest? If you don’t care about being seen as kind, then why be kind? (I’m assuming the “you” here is a sociopathic narcissist, of course, not any sort of normal person).

Trump loves spectacle. If he lived in Oklahoma and earned $50k a year, he’d probably own a jacked pickup truck and go to monster truck rallies. He’d awe his buddies by pulling stunts like driving the wrong way on freeways or riding on the roof of his own truck.

But he’s a billionaire, so he builds gilt buildings and acquires women and runs for president. Three years ago he essentially said to someone “Hold my Perrier” and kicked off a presidential campaign. People kept expecting him to fall off the roof of the truck, but he somehow managed to keep the show going this long.

The hillbilly version of Trump would get arrested and thrown in the drunk tank, but Billionaire Trump can get away with things because rich people can do that.

When people around him try to exert control, they’re doing it like they would if he was Bill Clinton. Bill did crazy things, too, but he wanted to be liked by his peers, he wanted to at least be seen as trustworthy, so when people slammed him for sleeping around with interns he reacted, he tried to justify himself . . . or pretend it didn’t happen.

Trump doesn’t care about the fabric of trust and honesty and expectation that ties most of the society together. He reminds me of a nihilistic teenager who might get drunk and jump off a bridge for no reason other than that he can’t see why it matters.

We’re watching Trump prove that a rich person with no ties to society can essentially get away with anything. He’s the personification of every paranoid thought I’ve ever had about rich people not caring about anyone else.

People keep thinking if they just point out VERY CLEARLY that Trump just did or said something outrageous, he’ll come to his senses, but he literally doesn’t care; so long as the adrenaline rush keeps up, he just plows ahead.

Here’s my deeper fear. (By the way, I’m not by any means the first person to say this, I’m not claiming the slightest originality…)
My fear is that the Trump Show is being used as a distraction, a red cape waved in our faces while truly evil humans slide even further into power in our society.

Sleight of hand on an absolutely grand scale.

Do we need a ‘Bill of Responsibilities’?

It’s popular in America to say that we support our troops. I agree! But I don’t think it’s nearly enough to say ‘thanks for your service’ or to buy a meal for a veteran or active duty service member.

I think we might need a “Bill of Responsibilities for Citizens of a Nation Contemplating Sending Troops Into Harm’s Way”

Here are some seed ideas we could consider adding to such a Bill of Responsibilities:

1) We as citizens have a responsibility to make sure that our President and legislators are as transparent as possible within the limits of national security about where our troops are being sent into harm’s way, and why.

2) We have a responsibility to ask our legislators to make certain that we’re using our military assets (who are our friends, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nephews, and nieces) for vital purposes, and to hold those leaders to account when we feel that those soldiers’ & sailors’ lives are being put at risk for no good reason.

3) We have a responsibility to the men and women we’ve asked to serve, to give them the medical, psychological, & psychiatric support they need during and after their service.

4) We have a responsibility to support the families of these men & women while they’re serving and, if they’re wounded or killed in service, that we continue to support their families. Families of active duty service members should not be depending on welfare, food stamps, or charity to make ends meet.

5) We have a responsibility to service members who are being demobilized, and to veterans, to be sure they’re given support during the transition to civilian life. Not just a hot meal at the airport on the way home, but job training & help finding work. Most of the skills that people learn in the military can be used in civilian work, but it’s not always evident at first glance how those skills can be useful. I suggest that fully-paid tuition to any state college would be a nice benefit for anyone who completes their enlistment.

The most important of these responsibilities may be the first. We citizens need to be critical observers of our president & lawmakers, to ensure we’re sending troops into harms’ way for only good reasons. So many things are hidden behind the label of ‘national security.’ Let’s find out what’s going on.

Civics… without the simpering patriotism

After the resistance is, eventually, successful*, Americans of good will have to be ready to work hard — probably for many years — to rebuild our civic structures. I’m trying to imagine what a strong civic life would be like, stripped of the old adoring nationalism & of many of our old illusions… (like any hint of American immunity to dictatorships) …and I like what I see.

For one, I think that at the local level, it’s important to get everyday people involved in politics much more often. Seeing for yourself how hard it is to do the work of organizing & governing, while also learning where things can go sideways, would be incredibly valuable. I suspect that many people who end up corrupted by graft & favoritism don’t realize anything is happening at first, don’t think that they’re compromising their principles. Then your ability to frame whatever you’re doing as “not that bad” kicks in and… boom you’ve been corrupted. When you see it up close, you might then be more aware of — and wary of — the evidence of this happening at the state & federal levels.

Mandatory classes in civics might help. Make it part of the fabric of what kids learn. Science, technology, engineering, math, reading, critical thinking, writing/exposition/speaking, geography, history, philosophy; and how they all build on each other. A true liberal arts education, 1st grade through college.

If this sounds overly optimistic, I’ll only suggest that we don’t really have any choice. If we don’t do something different, we’ll not only never fully recover from Trumpism, we’ll have more Trumps forever.


A note about the phrases “simpering patriotism” and “adoring nationalism.” I always associated enthusiastic civics education of children with the supposed civics classes that groups like the VFW held in my hometown. I shuddered at those, without examining why. Now I realize that whatever actual civics instruction happened there, was almost certainly swamped by the heavy-handed America First agenda. You know…  “America first, right or wrong.” It’s like what I said to an old high school buddy after I discovered that he supported the use of torture in the War on Terror that the US has been prosecuting for the last 16 years: If we’re acting just like the bad people, how are we good people? If we can’t see where the problems are in our systems, how can we fix those problems?



*yes, I know I’m being insanely optimistic here.