Football and Christmas: how Trump is destroying two American traditions.

football  christmas

Malignant narcissists love to ruin holidays and other events that bring people together. It’s common for a narcissist to ruin Christmas, anniversaries, or birthdays by picking a fight, gaslighting or insulting the guest of honor or the attendees, or finding ways to turn everyone’s attention on themselves and make it all about them. The truth is, the narcissist hates it when they aren’t constantly the center of attention, so ruining everyone else’s fun is often the easiest way for them to accomplish that. It’s also a way to keep others from having a good time. Malignant narcissists hate to see other people happy because, to them, life is a zero sum game and if others are happy, they see it as a threat to their own ability to be happy (the truth is, they are incapable of genuine happiness) and become envious of those who can. So if they are at a party or other gathering where people are celebrating, they will do anything they can to become the center of attention and ruin the fun of others in order to “right” things (by taking away the happiness of others).

On the national level, in America, we have two traditions that are shared by millions of people of disparate backgrounds and historically have had a way of uniting people who may not otherwise agree or have much else in common. These traditions are professional football and Christmas.

Christmas is celebrated not just by Christians, but also by many Jews, atheists and people of other belief systems. It’s become a secular and national holiday, and while I deplore the commercialization of Christmas, it certainly serves as a yearly reminder of the importance of family ties, close friendships, and generosity. Although many (understandably) become depressed during the holiday season (especially if they lack family, friends or money to buy gifts) and have every right to not celebrate it at all, I think most people see Christmas as a positive and enjoyable thing, and of course many also recognize the religious meaning of Christmas too.

Christmas brings together people not just of different religious beliefs, but also people of every race, ethnicity, creed, gender identity, age, and lifestyle. Everyone from the liberal childless high-powered urban career woman to the Latino factory worker supporting his wife and five children to the conservative Christian farmer’s wife get a day or two off of work, decorate a Christmas tree, and give gifts to the people they love on December 25th. For the most part, people feel a sense of togetherness and joyfulness during the holiday season, and are caught up in the excitement of decorating, cooking and shopping for those they love.

NFL football is much the same way. While it probably has fewer fans than Christmas (I’m one of them), football is a huge deal to many Americans of varied backgrounds, education levels, political ideologies, interests, and religious beliefs. It tends to bring all these people together in support of their favorite team (and against the opposing team). As long as the players are out there on the field, football fans can put aside their religious or political differences, and forget about race and social class and come together in solidarity to support their team.  Football, like Christmas, fosters unity and community.

How Trump is destroying Christmas and NFL football.

takingaknee

Trump is a malignant narcissist and because he is, he hates anything that brings people together and causes them to celebrate together or find common ground or unity.   Because he is miserable and empty inside, he hates happiness and joy in others.   He has homed in on Christmas and football because these two traditions are associated with community and fellowship.  Perhaps even more importantly, they are traditions associated with America, and though Trump will never admit it, he hates America and the democracy and liberty for all it represents.   He is hell-bent on destroying those things that make us Americans and transforming us into a thuggish Russian-style dictatorship.

Christmas was his first target.   Even during his campaign, he (and his sycophants on Fox News) railed on about a nonexistent “war on Christmas” — a manufactured “crisis” focusing not on the spirit or meaning or even the holiday of Christmas itself — but on meaningless and shallow trappings  of Christmas like the proper method of greeting:  “Happy Holidays” was suddenly a Very Bad Thing, even though Happy Holidays has been said for many decades without anyone ever blinking an eyelash.   His unreasonable rages against red Starbucks coffee cups that lacked Christmas decorations on them was similarly petty and shallow  and had nothing to do with Christmas itself.

Last fall, Trump attacked football in a remarkably similar manner.  He became enraged when black football players exercised their First Amendment rights by “taking a knee” during the singing of the National Anthem instead of standing for it.   For those unfamiliar with what “taking a knee” represents, it’s an action of protest against police brutality against people of color — not a disrespect of America, the Anthem, or the flag.  In fact, it’s because these players who take a knee love the America we used to be and the one the Constitution stood for, that they are peacefully protesting against the return of racism and violence to law enforcement during the Trump era.  There is nothing wrong or disrespecful about exercising our freedom of speech, a right we are promised by the Constitition, but Trump acts as if it’s an unpardonable sin and a personal affront.  He doesn’t seem to understand that what makes a person a great patriot isn’t whether or not they stand for the Anthem or salute the flag, but whether or not they have the integrity and courage to hold up the truth, and seek justice, freedom, and the upholding of the Constitition.    Anyone can salute a piece of cloth or stand for a song.  But not everyone can stand up for the values America claims to uphold.   Trump certainly can’t — and he won’t.

I also don’t think it’s an accident that football is closely associated with Thanksgiving — a holiday that specifically celebrates inclusiveness of the “other” (white settlers sitting down to dine with native Americans) and family unity.

Note the similarities between what Trump is doing to Christmas and NFL football.   He is using a sport that normally unifies people and zeroing in on a trivial “optic”  in order to create discord and divisiveness.    In much the same manner he focuses on shallow details such as the design of a throwaway cup or the wording of a Christmas card instead of the secular (unity and community) or religious meaning of Christmas,  he is focusing on black football players’ failing to stand during the Anthem instead of on the enjoyment and sense of community the sport of football brings to so many Americans.    In zeroing in on the inconsequental and trivial and getting Americans to focus on those instead of the thing that brought them together in the first place, he is dividing people within two revered traditions that used to unify us.

The end result is that people are no longer able to enjoy Christmas as they once did because they now have to worry about whether or not they should say “Happy Holidays” (to be inclusive) or “Merry Christmas.” (to please Trump).   They have to worry about what kinds of decorations they use or what their throwaway coffee cup should look like.  The whole issue is ridiculous because people have always said “Merry Christmas.”  They have also said “Happy Holidays” as long as I can remember (and that’s a long time).   Football fans now have to worry about whether they should stand for the Anthem or sympathize with the black players who are protesting police brutality (not America itself).  They can’t just focus on the game and have a good time.

Both of these things are Machiavellian thought control tactics intended to divide us and create discord in an already deeply divided and tribal country.   The intended goal is control.   The more we are divided as a nation, the easier we are to control.   Such manipulation of public sentiment is standard practice in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes.

Malignant narcissists like Trump can’t understand genuine human emotions or ideals, so they substitute meaningless slogans and phony platitudes and symbols like a flag or an Anthem or MAGA hat or a greeting card message as a pale substitute.   People with heartfelt passion for the actual ideals these symbols are supposed to represent can see right through the facade of “patriotism” or “Christmas spirit” or whatever else the narcissist is trying to convince the world they are standing up for, when the sad reality is they stand for nothing because they are so empty inside.

Football and Christmas.  Two traditions as American as apple pie.   I wonder how he’ll use apple pie as a tool for division.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Let’s party like it’s 1399.

Originally posted on December 30, 2017 as The Unholy Alliance That is Ushering in a New Dark Age. 

Although I have made few editorial changes and no factual updates to this article, I’m reblogging it in light of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ and Jeff Sessions’ quoting of the Bible to justify the inhumane separation of children and babies from their parents at our southern border (it’s not just illegal immigrants this is being done to, but to mothers and children legally seeking asylum) as well as the incarceration of children in what can only be called concentration camps. Using the word of God to justify these cruel atrocities and human rights abuses — inflicted even on innocent children — is the pinnacle of blasphemy as well as an egregious example of the Trumpian GOP’s constant gaslighting. In fact, the Bible takes a very dark view of those who would deny refuge to a stranger and inflict abuse on children. I won’t list all the quotes proving that here for lack of space, but anyone with a cursory knowledge of the Bible knows this. Jesus was himself a dark skinned immigrant whose parents were fleeing from persecution in their home country, and I have no doubt that in Trump’s America he would be separated from Mary and Joseph and thrown in a cage like an animal. Let’s not forget that the Bible was also once used to justify slavery and even by some Nazis to justify the extermination of six million Jews and other “undesirables.”

middle-ages-execution-pic1

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. –Sinclair Lewis, 1935.

This article is going to be dark.  I wasn’t looking forward to writing it, but I must do so. Dark as the subject matter is, it’s the light within most of us that makes us able to know when darkness is descending and take the necessary action to avoid being annihilated by it.

Education and science are under attack by an unholy alliance between right wing evangelical Christianity and far right politics.    This has been going on since the late 1970s (The Moral Majority was the first obvious sign this was beginning to happen), but only now has the situation in America become critical, so critical we are fast losing our democracy and becoming a fascist state.

Protecting democracy and liberty is the primary reason why the Founding Fathers made sure the Constitution protected the separation of church and state.   It’s not because these men regarded religion as a bad thing.   In fact, some of them were personally quite religious.   It’s because mixing the two always corrupts both.   Enter politics into religion, and religion becomes authoritarian and punishing; enter religion into politics and  government becomes the same way.   Religio-fascist, authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan became that way because religion (in their case, Islam) was allowed to infiltrate politics without regulations to keep its excesses at bay.   Islam itself became corrupted due to the influence of radical Islamists (ISIS and the Taliban) who wanted to make their religion about politics and use it as an excuse to control the people.    The same thing is happening in America with certain factions of evangelical Christians (dominionists) who believe their Godly duty is to force others to think and behave the way they do. And they have created a God — a cruel, narcissistic, sociopathic, constantly enraged God devoid of empathy or love — in their own monstrous image.

Christian Taliban1

I realize not all conservatives are like this — if I made this table, I would substitute the term “Trumpist GOP and Dominionism” for “Republicans and Conservatives.”  I’d also leave out the term “Muslim” since most do not support ISIS and Sharia Law.

Unfortunately — but not surprisingly, given their belief that they have been chosen by God to “take dominion” over other mortals and the planet itself —  the highest echelons of government are now populated by toxic dominionist Christians who believe tyranny and oppression is the God-ordained way to rule a nation and the only way to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.    I’ve come to believe the real reason so many right wing Christians hate Muslims is because they see radical Islam as competition for their own desired Christian Taliban — it’s the same damn thing with a different name!   Trump and his cronies don’t seem to hate Saudi Arabia or its richest, most powerful rulers at all (Trump seemed to be having the time of his life when the Saudis treated his arrival last spring like the arrival of a beloved king) — they only hate powerless Muslim refugees coming to America to escape from that oppressive regime.    Radical Christian extremists and malignant narcissists like Trump who crave and admire only power and wealth have far more in common with regimes like Saudi Arabia’s than they do with western democracies where the people have a say in how they are governed.

Authoritarian religion –whether Christian, Islam, or some other faith system — tends to attract people with narcissistic or sociopathic personalities, and research has shown that people with these personality types also score high in authoritarian traits.    Authoritarian religion provides a handy way for people without a conscience or with sadistic tendencies to justify their abuse and judgment of “the Other” — anyone who they believe is inferior to them — or anyone who threatens to shine the harsh light of the truth on them.    It’s easy to say, “Well, it’s what God wants” or “it says right here in the Bible” (which more often than not, is a faulty interpretation of Scripture anyway) than to say, “I’m a sadistic SOB who wants to control you and make your life a living hell.”   Malignant narcissists do not want to take responsibility for their inhumanity; they’d much rather blame it on someone else.  If they can “blame” it on God, that’s even better, because then they can tell you “it’s for your own good.”

A personal story.

A few years ago, I had a falling out with another blogger who wrote about narcissistic abuse.   We are still not on speaking terms, and probably never will be again, but recently I started to read her blog again, not just because she happens to be a good writer, but because during the past few months I’ve actually found her blog inspiring.   I won’t go into all the details of what led to the falling out, but one of the reasons was because of the woman’s religion.   She had made some critical — even cruel — comments about and to me, using what I felt to be her fundamentalist Christianity as a weapon of judgment and intolerance.   From what I could observe from her older writings, she appeared to be stuck in a victim mentality, unable to move forward in her recovery due to her tendency to judge others harshly because of her fundamentalist Christianity.   I saw no evidence of any real self awareness or willingness to self-criticize.   So, at the time, I dismissed her as a covert narcissist masquerading as someone with “only” C-PTSD.

But apparently I was wrong.  It seems like Trump’s election changed her in a positive way.     She wrote about what she saw happening with politics and the religious right, and became increasingly critical of both.   She began to realize that her fundamentalist church was infested with malignant narcissists who judged her negatively for her poverty and health problems, believing, as they did, that wealth and good health were proof of God’s approval.   It wasn’t long before she ditched her fundamentalist church and began to seek answers outside religion.    This actually didn’t surprise me, since I always got the impression her religion was a bad fit and she was miserable within its confines.  This woman was clearly intelligent and well educated, but it was almost as if she had been trying to force herself to adapt to a restricting mold that didn’t allow her to grow as a human being.   She was telling herself lies that she knew were lies, because of the fear of Hell and judgment.   Freed of that, suddenly she was exploring and seeking answers in secular fields like science and psychology, and her mind seemed to blossom.  At the same time this happened, she seemed to develop more tolerance and empathy toward others.  Most impressive of all, she began to develop an ability to self-reflect and as a result, began to make changes to herself.   Her writings indicated a new insight into herself I hadn’t seen while she was under the thrall of toxic religion.    She seems happier than she ever did, and a lot less angry in general.   She’s exploring old interests and talents that she had neglected while she was in that church, and more positive things seem to be happening to her now too.    I’m sure being happy and using one’s mind to question and explore the world aren’t sins, and God is not judging us harshly for doing so.   If God didn’t want us to ask questions or think critically about things, he would not have given us brains!

I won’t link to her blog here or even name it, due to the fact we stopped speaking several years ago, but her most recent article about the religious right’s war on science was one of her most enlightening and insightful.    It was also very dark and unfortunately all too true.   In it, she criticized the religious right’s scorched-earth mission of squelching all independent thought and critical thinking, which has led to an all out war on secular education itself and an accompanying celebration of ignorance and superstition.

The war on science and education.

Religio-fascist societies always attack education and science as the enemy, because the ability to think and ask questions challenges their belief system.   This always leads to the decimation of civilized society and overpowering oppression, premature death, human suffering, and covert or overt genocide to “purge” the society of undesirable populations (I believe the current GOP’s tax bill and attempts to destroy the social safety net is a covert attempt to dispatch the elderly, poor, disabled, and sick).    Such rigid and cruel regimes held power during the European Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church doubled as government and forbade the questioning of religion and condemned scientific thought, even sentencing scientific thinkers to be burned at the stake (the Catholic Church has since renounced and repented for this dark period in its history, and today embraces science, and since Vatican II, this includes the acceptance of evolution).  It happened more recently in countries of the Middle East, with radical Islam taking over government and leading to the oppression of women, expansion of the death penalty to include personal or sexual “immorality” like homosexuality, abortion, contraception, adultery, and even a child’s disobedience to their parents; and other human rights atrocities.

“We made God in our own image.”

Any religion whose dogma regards the fight for human rights as a sin (as dominionist Christianity and radical Islam both do), is one where God isn’t benevolent or good, but is a false entity made in the rulers’ own image:  their God has become a malignant narcissist who does not care about the well-being of his creation, demands adulation and worship, and only approves of and rewards narcissistic or sociopathic behavior.    Leaders of such religions shift the blame for their society’s ills to their most vulnerable or powerless members (the poor, women, immigrants, or others),  gaslight their followers and those under their rule by saying that we, as humans, are unable to determine what God deems good because we are so “depraved,” and hence the means, no matter how cruel, always justify the ends.   Dominionists believe that only certain “elect” (God’s “golden children”) have been given dominion over creation — with wealth and power being proof of God’s favor — and must do whatever it takes to destroy the old ways  (which includes jettisoning empathy for the vulnerable) in order to usher in God’s kingdom.   Apparently, they forgot about God’s grace and mercy and the earlier fundamentalist belief in free will.

7-mountains

The 7 “mountains” of the New Apostolic Reformation (dominionism)

There are two glaring problems with dominionist doctrine.  First of all, if humans are so depraved, why is the cruelty of certain powerful religious people okay to God but not the benevolence of others?  Second, their doctrine flies in the face of everything Jesus taught in the New Testament.   It’s interesting the dominionists rarely quote from the New Testament, unless it’s from the missives of Paul, who lived after Jesus and seemed to have harsher views toward women and sexual behavior than Jesus himself did.     They justify cruelty by misinterpreting Scripture to fit their harsh  narrative.   As one example, they often use the verse, “Those who do not work do not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) as proof that Jesus was a Republican who didn’t believe in helping the poor.    What Jesus actually meant was that if you are an able bodied person who can work, you shouldn’t sit on your ass expecting handouts.   This is common sense!   But Jesus never said we shouldn’t help people who truly are in need — in fact, the New Testament (and even parts of the Old Testament) are full of verses instructing us to care for the “least among us.”  Dominionist evangelicals cherry pick from the Bible and conveniently ignore the many passages telling us to be inclusive and loving toward the most vulnerable members of society, while glorifying the the most punishing parts of the Old Testament as God’s true nature.

America today is extremely narcissistic, and celebrates narcissistic, even sociopathic, values.   It’s become an orgy of malignant narcissism, and its associated traits and values (lack of empathy, arrogance, coldness, racism, sexism, sadism, bullying, dishonesty, cheating, unchecked power, greed, revenge, war, division, destructiveness, and hatred) have become synonymous with both the Trumpian Republican Party and far right Christian extremism.  These two groups, thanks to Trump and his far right evangelical supporters and donors, have become increasingly merged to the point it is sometimes hard to separate one from the other.    This, of course, is part of their plan — destruction of the separation between church and state would allow these sociopaths to carry out their plans to destroy or punish anyone they dislike, all in the name of God.   It’s heresy of the highest order, but there are people who really believe a white, conservative, Christian society is the only kind of society acceptable to God.   To them, science is a creation of Satan and critical thinking or questioning of any kind is flirting with the devil.   That’s why they hate education and science so much: because only the gullible and uneducated will unquestioningly believe — and obey — such a toxic and destructive doctrine.    They want obedient sheep without working brains.   That’s the most effective weapon they have, and the one that will catapult us into the new Dark Age.

The Prosperity Gospel and positive-thinking movement’s connection to authoritarian Christianity.

The “prosperity gospel” used to be a seemingly harmless, feel-good vaguely Christian doctrine that gave people permission to not feel guilty or ashamed of achieving great success or wealth, or about their desire to have those things.   It held that God wanted his people to be successful in life and in fact it was their duty to strive for that.   While I can’t argue that there’s anything wrong with ambition or wanting to be successful (who wants to be a poor failure?), the real problem started when the prosperity gospel (and other “positive thinking” belief systems) began to regard the emotions of guilt, remorse, and shame as something shameful in themselves.  Anything went, even if to get what you wanted, you had to exploit or hurt others (which is why Ayn Rand became so popular in recent years).   It wasn’t okay to feel guilty — unless you felt guilty about feeling guilty!   But guilt, though unpleasant (and unhealthy when excessive) is necessary for civilized society.   The ability to feel guilt (and the related ability to feel empathy) is what separates sociopaths and narcissists from people who care about other people.

At the same time the more new-agey positive thinking movement (which also eschewed guilt and shame) was gaining steam, the prosperity gospel (basically a Christian version of the positive thinking doctrine) and Christian evangelism/fundamentalism were beginning to merge.  It wasn’t long before having great power or wealth, rather than being a sign of a Pharisee or false prophet, became a sign of God’s favor.   Christianity as taught by Jesus in the Gospels was turned on  its head into its polar opposite!   Given that sociopaths and malignant narcissists tend to be attracted to any religion that tells them their power or wealth is holy,  soon the prosperity gospel took on a dark cast by demonizing those without such power or wealth as somehow sinful or even evil.  The Christian Dominionist/Reconstructionist movement (which had been considered  “loony fringe” ever since Rousas Rushdoony published his Institutes of Biblical Law in the 1960s), now known within evangelical circles as the New Apostolic Reformation (don’t read late at night if you don’t want nightmares), exploded into the upper echelons of the Republican Party.  Suddenly, it was perfectly okay for a narcissistic sociopath like Roy Moore to run for Senate, regardless how immoral his personal behavior (in his case, alleged pedophilia and stalking teenage girls) because he also promoted the extremist Christian doctrine that fit in so well with far right Republican politics.

What they really want.

Both dominionist Christianity and Trumpian Republicanism are fascist movements that believe anything they do is alright, as long as it achieves their desired ends:  unlimited accumulation of wealth and power (which includes unbridled corporate power), ending the right to vote for anyone who isn’t a white male property owner (this is actually part of their overall plan and explains why they don’t seem to care anymore what the public thinks), repealing the First Amendment, putting women back in the kitchen without access to contraception, removing laws that protect women and children against abusers, decimating the social safety net (getting rid of Medicare and Social Security is a big part of their agenda), denying facts and science, rolling back all protective regulations, including those that protect our planet; building walls to separate us from our allies, revising history so it supports their fascist agenda (the insistence that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian nation is one example of revisionist history used to justify the legislation of Sharia biblical law), denying access to education unless it’s fundamentalist religious education, privatizing all public goods and infrastructure so nothing is free (anyone like toll roads or for-profit prisons and fire departments?), and oppressing, punishing, deporting, and killing anyone who isn’t rich, Republican, Christian, or white.    How very Christ-like of them.

The means to achieve their nefarious ends simply don’t matter, no matter how immoral or how many people they hurt.   It’s okay to lie, cheat, steal, break the law, deride the FBI and the Justice Department, collude or conspire with hostile foreign powers, even to the point of treason;  accumulate obscene amounts of wealth on the backs of the working and middle class, emotionally harass and abuse, gaslight, blame-shift, project onto, mislead, arrest without due process, and inflict draconian punishments on others who don’t fit their ideal or who dare to speak out against such harsh treatment.   They talk about “small government” but that only means small government for them — they are above the law,  you see.    They want to inflict a Big Brother government on all the rest of us lowly ingrates.

trump_supporter

Ignorance and moral bankruptcy.

Of course this is all incredibly sad and scary, but what’s even more tragic is that one third of the country is seemingly so ignorant they support Trump and his billionaire, white supremacist, and evangelical cronies’ vision for America and the world.   I don’t really think they are as ignorant as they seem.   I think they are perfectly well aware of the fascist hell on earth that Trump and his minions are aiming for.    It’s even beginning to dawn on a few of them that maybe Russia was involved in the 2016 election, and maybe Trump did collude with them.   But that doesn’t faze them one bit:  now they say that maybe Russia is better than America, and that Trump was in his right to collude with them.   Far right extremists and trolls are still promising civil war against the rest of us if he is removed or impeached.

No, Trumpists are not all ignorant.  After reading many comments on right wing websites and studying the right wing mindset in depth over this past year,  I have come to believe that people who like Trump and the new Republicanism are attracted to it precisely because it is so sociopathic.    They love it for the same reasons the rest of us hate it.   They don’t care if they lose their healthcare or their rights — as long as they get to see the people they hate suffer.   Trumpists are people who are either narcissistic or sociopathic themselves (how else does one explain the preponderance of Internet trolls and neo-Nazis among them?), or who have severe codependency issues and look up to narcissists and sociopaths as viable leaders.   They want a strongman leader and admire dictators, either because they don’t want to have to think for themselves and gain a perverse sense of security from being told exactly what they have to believe and do, or because they are narcissists and sociopaths who regard higher human values such as empathy, kindness, fairness, compassion, civility, generosity, and love as “feminine” or weak.   On the contrary, it’s the strongest and most spiritually evolved people who are able to embrace these higher values and act on them.    If Jesus, the embodiment of these virtues, were to walk on Earth today, he would be despised by the religious right.  I’m pretty sure they would persecute him all over again.

Going forward.

It is not too late to nip this cancer in the bud and return to America as the land of freedom and democracy, even improving on what we had before — preferably with some new checks and balances put in place to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.   But the hour is getting late and the cancer is metastasizing.   One positive effect of Trumpism and the carnage it’s creating is that finally, higher human values like I mentioned in the last paragraph are being given the respect due them again.  There is a general recognition by two thirds of Americans — even by traditional Republicans (both Bushes are among them) — that these values have been devalued for so long that they are now are nearly nonexistent in American politics, and demonized where they appear (compassion and kindness are now “socialism”).  Narcissism has run amok, ignorance is admired, and greed has been glorified.   Sociopathy is now becoming acceptable.  Over time, these vices have been turned into virtues instead of the destructive forces they really are.  But there’s a painful awareness now, a passion for truth, and a desire to repair or reclaim what has been lost or damaged that I see now among most people.  Two thirds of us strive to be rid of the invasive cancer of societal malignant narcissism, a desire that wasn’t evident before 2017.    In addition, like the narcissism blogger I discussed in the beginning of this article, some of us have been transformed spiritually in the face of this existential darkness, and in spite of the ominous threat of being silenced held over us, we are finally finding our voices.

I have to believe that good will always “trump” evil (pun intended).

It always does, in the end.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Jessica’s last words

I was so touched by this story I am reblogging it.

Her mission is our mission

On March 10, 2015,  my daughter Jessica took out a piece of paper and wrote out one last letter to me. She used a pink marker (her favorite color) as she jotted down her last thoughts. It was her last attempt to explain to me that life had gotten to much for her. That all the bullying and pain that she had endured from the previous year and a half had finally taken over her mind. Helpless and hopeless she ended the pain that she fought so hard to be free of. I know she didn’t do this to hurt me. She was ending her pain and what she thought was a life that couldn’t get better.img_8924-2

I carried a copy of that note in my purse for  3 years. I thought  about what the words meant to me and I decided to have her last thoughts      …

View original post 341 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Missing normal.

I was going to write a post, but this piece (I don’t know who the writer is) sums up my feelings as well as I can.

normal

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ask the Question. Ask the Direct Question.

I was heartbroken to hear of the suicide death of Anthony Bourdain.   I loved his shows about exotic cultures, food, and everyday life in faraway countries.  He always seemed so happy and had a life anyone would envy — traveling all over the world and writing about it for a living is my idea of heaven!  Many people would say the same thing about fashion designer Kate Spade, who also committed suicide earlier this week.

Depression and suicide doesn’t discriminate and can affect even those who seem to have great lives. We just don’t know what sort of inner demons Bourdain (and Kate Spade) struggled with.

If you struggle with depression or have suicidal thoughts or ideation, please reach out and talk to someone you trust. Don’t keep your depression a secret — it’s a medical illness, not something to be ashamed of.

Peace from Panic

(Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741)

Image result for images of anthony bourdain

This morning I woke up to the tragic news about chef and travel host, Anthony Bourdain. Death by suicide.

Heartbreaking. And after the shock earlier this week, the suicide death of designer Kate Spade.

My husband and I love to watch Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, “Parts Unknown.” He was an amazing storyteller. He traveled to both popular and remote places around the world to get his stories. My favorite episodes were when he visited unknown villages, and I learned about another culture’s cuisine and way of life.

In his interesting, quirky, and cool way, Anthony would sit with locals and have in-depth conversations over a meal. People opened up to him. He had a special way of delving…

View original post 365 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Getting unfollowed by a friend.

did-i-do-something-wrong

Someone I’ve been blogging buddies with for 3 – 4 years just unfollowed me (on Twitter — I don’t know about here on WordPress yet because I can’t keep track of who is following me and who is not so for now, that will remain a mystery).

I’m more hurt than I expected to be, since my friend and I hadn’t spoken in some time.   There was never a falling-out or disagreement or parting of the ways (that I know of), but we just sort of lost contact.  I noticed some time ago that she stopped commenting and even Liking my posts.   I did know she was very busy with her family, and writing a book too.   At the same time, I started getting politically involved and the focus of my blog changed along with that.   Maybe that’s what the problem is.   It’s not that my friend disagrees with my feelings because I don’t think she does, but I think politics is just an area she doesn’t like to focus on (and I can’t say I blame her for that, if that’s what it is).   But, I’m not sure that’s what it is.  It could be anything really.

I don’t know.  I’m kind of hurt, so I sent her a DM asking why she unfollowed me, because I really would like to know.    I valued our friendship, even though I wasn’t that great about keeping in touch or answering messages promptly.      Maybe she unfollowed me by accident — it does happen sometimes.   Since she still has an active blog and a Twitter account, I know it isn’t one of those cases of “disappearing friends” that suddenly are just gone and you have no idea what happened to them or even if they are still alive.

If you are reading this and you know this is you I’m referring to, drop me a DM or an email please?

*****

Further reading:

When Bloggers Just Disappear

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Trump is deliberately isolating us from our foreign allies.

refusing_to_shake_merkels-Hand

Trump refuses to shake Angela Merkel’s hand at a meeting in the White House last year.  Notice how she is trying to engage him but he refuses.  This is deliberate on his part.

Trump  is busy imposing sanctions on countries we have always been friendly with, creating trade wars with these countries, so now they are imposing tariffs.   This, of course, will drive up the prices of everything even higher (while our wages remain as stagnant as they’ve always been).   Notice how the price of gas has skyrocketed since we pulled out of the Iran deal?

But it’s about a lot more than trade wars.  It’s not just Middle Eastern countries Trump is reneging on deals with or putting sanctions on.  No, Trump is deliberately alienating our former allies in Canada and advanced Western European democracies (not to mention Mexico, our formerly friendly neighbor to the south),  in favor of aligning us with other authoritarian regimes, regardless of their ideology — Russia, NK, China, and Saudi Arabia are the most obvious examples.  Because none of these regimes are democracies and are in fact brutal dictatorships, they could not be of help to us.  They serve as Trump’s allies and even as his flying monkeys, even if he is only using them for his own selfish ends and to enrich himself, his family, and his benefactor cronies.

It’s entirely predictable Trump would do this. Like all narcissistic abusers, he is separating us from outside parties who could or would help us if we needed it (and we might).  Abusers do the same thing: they isolate their partners from friends & family so the victim is totally isolated & alone and has no where to turn when things get really ugly or their lives are in danger.   Isolating is a very effective technique used by sociopathic narcissists to weaken and cripple their victims from ever leaving or getting help from outside parties.  Isolationism and alienating former allies has the same effect on the populace of a country cursed with an authoritarian, sociopathic leader.

Not only will there be no help coming to rescue us after Trump has turned all our allies into our enemies, we will also be left behind technologically, scientifically, educationally, socially and in every other way, as the rest of the developed world moves far ahead of us, while we regress back into the Dark Ages.   It’s just so sad, so incredibly sad.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Floodwaters.

This is a local creek.  Due to all the rain we’ve had, many areas are flooded and this creek has turned into a river!   It’s MUCH wider than it is normally.

Yes, that is wild bamboo growing on the left.

I promise I will have the Florida pictures up very soon.

pigeon1

pigeon2

 

 

Posted in nature photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Happy World Otter Day.

It’s my day — World Otter Day!

worldotterday

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The dumbing down of American candy.

candy_store

American commercial candy is bad, and in recent years it’s gotten a lot worse.   Maybe my standards are too high — I’ve had European chocolate, gourmet chocolate made by independent candymakers, and marzipan, which is popular in many parts of Europe but just never caught on with American tastebuds (American cakemakers, for example, seem to stick with horrible, overly sweet, rubbery fondant as a cake covering instead, when marzipan tastes a lot better and works just as well as a pliable covering).

So go ahead, feel free to call me a coastal elite or a food snob, but when it comes to candy, I really think American candy companies target the lowest common denominator and as a result, most of it is terrible, barely even edible.  This is comparable to so many other things in America, like our shallow infotainment reality-show “documentaries” (compare ours to BBC’s documentaries, which actually educate and still entertain), our big-special-effects-but-no-substance “blockbuster” movies that entertain but have no real meat or meaning, and are populated with comic book cardboard characters without real depth.

American candy years ago used to be better.  At least it was made with real sugar and other real ingredients, and the variety of types of candy bars was better.   The strictly-for-kids candy (Garbage Pail Kids, Nerds, Runts, gummy worms, and the like) that is usually kept on the bottom shelf of most convenience stores, has always been terrible, but that’s okay since it isn’t marketed to adults.  Kids love that shit.  I did too.  Hell, I still do when it comes to gummy bears and SweetTarts.   I even like some of that cheap bagged candy that hangs from hooks and is sold at 2 for $1.00 or whatever.  The lemon drops are great and I have a soft spot for circus peanuts, spice drops, and orange slices.   What I like about it is it never pretends to be anything other than what it is — cheap candy marketed to kids and sometimes old people who feel nostalgic for the penny candy of their youth (Starlight candies and butterscotch disks are good examples of the latter) — and it’s priced accordingly.

No, here I’m talking about mass marketed brand-name candy that’s usually covered in chocolate (most always milk chocolate), that gets displayed on the eye-level store shelves where you can’t miss it.  Seriously, 90% of that candy is inedible.  Here’s my list of gripes.

Stale Reeses Hell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stale vs. Fresh Reeses.

Now I love me some Reeses Peanut Butter Cups — as long as they are fresh.   When fresh, they’re pure ambrosia.  I could eat a whole case of them.   But more often than not, when you tear open the wrapper of your Reeses, you find a dried up hockey puck that looks grainy and splotchy and has that greyish-white cast to it (I found out that stuff isn’t mold or anything bad, it just means the fat/cocoa butter has separated from the sugar and the sugar has risen to the top, but it still makes the cup taste terrible).  If you bite into it when it’s like that, the peanut butter is like sand and has absolutely no flavor.   I’ve wound up throwing the cup away when it’s like that because they taste so gross.

Reading the expiration dates doesn’t work because they are indecipherable and in some sort of code instead of actual dates we can understand.  So you take your chances.   Maybe they need to use a cellophane wrapper so you can see the actual cup through it before you waste your money on something you may or may not be able to eat.

Some people who have noticed this problem think Reeses changed its formula to save money, but I actually think it’s a storage issue, since occasionally you do get a fresh Reeses and they taste as delicious as the ones I had as a kid.   I think when the temperature gets too hot, they partially melt, leaching the cup of some of the peanut oil, which leaks out and leaves the peanut butter filling sandlike.

Here’s an open letter from a customer asking H.B. Reese what the hell happened to their cups that makes most of them taste like sand.

Butterfinger vs. Reeses Crispy Bar vs. Fifth Avenue/Clark Bar.

butterfinger_5thave

Fifth Avenue (on the left) wins, hands down.  Apparently, most Americans prefer the neon-orange sickly-sweet Butterfinger (on the right).

Way back in the day, Clark bars were a thing.  So were Fifth Avenue bars, which were my absolute favorite for many years.   I always loved the Fifth Avenue for its thick rich (real) chocolate coating which enrobed a peanuty, vaguely molasses-flavored honeycomb-type of candy filling that made a satisfying snap when you bit into it.  It was vaguely salty and not too sweet.   Eating one was pure heaven.   Clark bars were good too, though not in the same ballpark as Fifth Avenue.  They lacked that molasses taste and the chocolate coating was thinner.

Now I can’t find them.  I’ve looked everywhere to find one, and all I can find is  Butterfinger bars, which are filled with a sickeningly sweet hard-candy filling that tastes like dried up peanut butter corn syrup with added neon orange color.  There is no molasses flavor whatsoever.   The chocolatey coating tastes waxy.  Reeses Crispy Crunchy bars are almost as bad, saved from their overwhelming sweetness by an overly-generous covering of ground peanuts.  The chocolate coating is okay.  I’m not a big fan.  Bring back Fifth Avenue!

The American obsession with gooey fillings.

caramel_neugat

I’m not a big fan of caramel.   It tastes good in cakes (and caramel frosting is to die for), but it’s ubiquitous in American candy and is way too sweet.   To make matters worse, the “caramel” in commercial American candy bars just isn’t very good.  It taste fake and is way too chewy and nougaty.   Real caramel should be thinner and more viscous, like the caramel in higher end chocolates.   I’m not a fan of gooey, chewy fillings in general, whether it’s caramel, nougat, or (ugh) marshmallow.   I was never a big fan of Snickers, which are the most popular American candy, I think (maybe Reeses has beat them now).   I never understood their appeal.  They’re too gooey, too sweet, the chocolate coating is bland, and I’m not a big fan of the nuts either.

Cadbury Creme Eggs? Gross.

egg

Years ago, when they were introduced here in America, I thought I might like the Cadbury Creme Egg, because Cadbury is an English candy and being the Eurocandy snob that I am, I thought it might taste better than American chocolate, but alas, I was wrong.   Cadbury, in my opinion, is terrible — too sweet, too milky, and not chocolaty enough.  Not that Hershey’s is any better  (at least Cadbury avoids that sour-milk aftertaste).   They are both bad in different ways.  And the fondant filling in the egg is just plain gross.  It looks disgusting, just like raw egg, and it’s sweeter than eating a bowl of sugar cubes covered in maple syrup.  After eating half of one of those things, I threw it out and never ate another.

Marshmallow Peeps?  No, thanks.

peepsmain

Overrated.  I have nothing more to say about these.   They’re probably considered “kids’ candy” but are usually sold with the holiday candy and other stuff marketed to the grownups, so I’m including them here.    I suppose they’d look cute as a decoration on cakes or something.

Mounds vs. Almond Joy.

mounds_almondjoy

I never felt like a nut.

Mounds are actually good.  Not as good as Bounty bars, a British brand which was discontinued here back in the ’90s, but still good.  Their real dark chocolate coating is smooth and intense, and the coconut filling is sweet but not too sweet, moist but not too moist.

Spare me the Almond Joys though.  Two sad, runtlike almonds pressed on top of milk chocolate so bland it tastes like Nesquick.  Also, coconut filling does NOT go with milk chocolate.  Such a sweet filling needs the contrast of the less sugary dark chocolate.

 

The American obsession with Pretzel fillings.

pretzel_mms

Why?

Pretzels don’t belong inside a chocolate bar.  I don’t like pretzels much to begin with — it’s basically stale bread.   I do not want pieces of stale bread in my candy bar or as a filling in my M&Ms (what the HELL were they thinking?)  But it seems like every new candy bar made has pretzels in it.  It’s the candy version of Pumpkin Spice!   Hell, there are probably Pumpkin Spice flavored Pretzel candies.  Please make both these awful trends stop.

Milk or dark chocolate? 

milk-chocolate-vs-dark-chocolate-rivalry-18082

Milk chocolate can be good if it’s made well (usually European though Dove Milk is good too), but for the most part, American milk chocolate is bland, too sweet, and often grainy.   Dark chocolate is generally much better, and is finally gaining some traction here due to its health benefits so it’s being used more often in commercial candy, but milk chocolate still dominates.

I do like the chocolate bars you can find in the high-end candy section of the grocery store (usually found in the baking isle) such as Ghirardelli and I do love the sea-salt/dark chocolate trend.    I’m still a sucker for plain M&Ms (without the weird fillings), York Peppermint Patties, Mounds, dark chocolate Kit Kat bars, and fresh Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  But on the whole, American commercial candy is just not very good, and seems as dumbed down and cheaply made as so many other things in America.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments