I woke up feeling sad this morning.

earth

I woke up feeling super sad.   I woke up thinking about the state of our planet, and the fact that it’s mostly America’s selfish and shortsighted corporatist leaders that don’t give a damn about taking care of it or leaving it intact for future generations, who are at fault.   The things they do don’t just affect life and the environment within our own borders; their actions affect the entire world.  But they don’t care.

Greedy corporatists are concerned only about short term profits.  They gleefully go about raping and pillaging the land and dumping toxic waste into our oceans.   They think nothing of destroying the earth’s beauty and delicate ecosystems for short term gain — at the expense of human life, animal life, and all our ecosystems that sustain and nourish all life on this world.

I remember back in the 1970s when the EPA was formed and finally, polluted rivers, lakes that used to catch on fire from the petroleum deposits on their surfaces, and dark,  sooty unbreathable air in the cities began to clean themselves up because of new regulations that kept further pollution at a minimum or even eliminated it completely.

After several decades passed, the differences really began to show and these formerly toxic places became clean and liveable again.  Lakes and rivers that had been poisoned with industrial waste became swimmable and even their water became drinkable in some cases. It became possible to see a clear view even in big cities instead of a miasma of lung clogging smog.

Now we have a group of wealthy sociopaths  running everything, corporatists who want to ditch all those regulations and take us back to the bad old days.  They don’t care about our children, about animals, about future generations, or the future of life in general on this planet, as they happily go about blowing up mountaintops for more coal deposits, fracking for more oil, clearcutting forests, digging in the Gulf of Mexico and in our oceans for yet more oil, and destroying our beloved national monuments that bring joy and wonder to so many people, to sell to the highest bidder.   They make fun of those of us who hate what they are doing.  They call us socialists and snowflakes because we care about endangered species and want to preserve the earth’s beauty and want laws to protect our home from human exploitation and greed.

“Corporations and far right capitalists who want to get rid of regulations say it’s because they prevent growth. They want unlimited growth, even if the loss of protective laws destroys life on this planet. Guess what else is characterized by uncontrolled growth that kills? Cancer.”

This is a beautiful, unusual planet that evolved in a way perfectly suited for all kinds of life. Maybe in some other solar system or galaxy there are other earthlike planets suited for our kind of life, but we are not that advanced yet and have no way to travel to those planets, if they exist.   In the meantime, this planet is the only one we have.  If it dies, we go with it.

The planet is being destroyed by these greedy corporatists who don’t care about it, or anything on it, and stubbornly refuse to consider sustainable technology that other countries are doing, and it makes me so angry and sad.  That’s why today I woke up almost in tears.

If we don’t change our ways soon, we are going to be responsible for the extinction of so many species and the destruction of so much beauty and unique plant and animal life, and that may even include ourselves. Some people even believe humanity is about to become extinct, because the earth will prevail somehow, and do what it needs to do to rid itself of us, if we don’t do the job ourselves.   Maybe that’s true, and if it is, maybe we deserve that fate for how we have treated the only home we have.

If you’re a religious person who believes God created the earth, what right do we have to treat it the way we do?   Even the Bible tells us God wants us to use the earth sustainably and be stewards of it, not destroy it.  Right wing Christians who insist that taking care of the environment is a sin because it shows a lack of faith that God will replenish what we use are talking out of their arses.   That’s like saying that teenagers who throw a party while their parents are out shouldn’t have to clean up their mess because that would show a lack of faith in their parents’ ability to do so.   Maybe it’s true God CAN clean up our mess and replenish what we destroyed, but really, why should he?   Why would we deserve anything but annihilation if we blithely destroy the home we were given?

It’s just so damn sad.   For whatever reason, human empathy seems to be disappearing and without it, only death and destruction awaits.  Even higher animals have empathy.  We need to work on getting it back, and we need to teach children how important it is to care about each other and about other species too.   The lack of empathy is what’s wrong with our country, and with the whole human species.  Our lack of it will ultimately spell the end of life as we know it.  We must stop our predatory, selfish ways and reverse them, and we need to do it immediately, before it’s too late.

I love this beautiful planet.   It’s a rare gem in the vastness of space and we are blessed to be able to call it home.   I deplore what selfish, arrogant people are doing to it in the name of greed.   They don’t ever stop to think that they aren’t invincible either.  When the planet dies at their hands, they will die too.

Advertisements

Why “A Wrinkle in Time” is an important book in these dark days of Trumpism.

AWrinkleinTime-2018-BookCover

2018 book cover.

Sarah Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian states who often appears on MSNBC to talk about the Trump presidency and its similarity with other autocratic regimes, shared her thoughts with Flood Magazine   in which she uses the plot of Madeleine L’Engle’s famous 1962 young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, as a metaphor for the dark political days we are living in.     As a lifelong fan of L’Engle’s Newbury award-winning science-fiction/fantasy novel (and being as against Donald Trump and his regime as I am), Kendzior’s words really resonated with me:

“It’s a good book for children to read now, growing up during the Trump administration,” Sarah Kendzior told me. “The rejection of conformity, the emphasis on compassion.” She’s called IT a “fascist monster,” comparing his brainwashing of Meg’s brother Charles Wallace to the “normalization” of Trump Times. “One of the scariest lines in the book is, ‘Just relax.’ Just give in, we’ll take care of you. Relaxing is much easier than trying to combat IT. That’s what happened to us as a nation—people had faith in institutions and checks and balances, but it comes down to individuals’ willingness to uphold those things,” Kendzior said. Lucky for her father, Meg takes responsibility, defeats IT, and rescues him by virtue of thinking hard and getting angry.

Kendzior is right.  “Wrinkle” is very much about empathy, using one’s brain to solve problems, and the age old battle between good and evil.   Madeleine L’Engle, who died in 2007,  was a Christian who often explored religious and moral themes in her works, without ever becoming preachy or self-righteous.   Rather than reject or deny science (as many evangelical Christians today do), in “Wrinkle,” she embraces science — specifically quantum physics and the possibility of alien life — to tell a riveting and rather dark story about a 13 year old girl (Meg Murry) who is forced to use her righteous anger to fight against an evil force that has kidnapped her father and is about to take over the universe.     I agree with Kendzior that kids today should read this book.  (The movie, which I believe is being released in theaters today, couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time in American history — although I have heard the reviews for the movie aren’t that great, so maybe it’s better to stick with reading the book.)

Meg isn’t alone in her quest.  She has help, in the form of three mysterious and sometimes humorous old women (L’Engle has described these women elsewhere as guardian angels rather than the “good witches” they appear to be).  Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which have supernatural powers and can appear or disappear at will.  Mrs. Whatsit is also able to shapeshift into a being who is a cross between an angel and a centaur.   There is also Meg’s telepathic 5 year old brother, Charles Wallace, whose ability to empathize must be off the charts and who also has a genius level IQ.  Finally, there is Meg’s new friend Calvin O’Keefe, seemingly average in most respects, but who, like Charles Wallace, seems to possess an impressive ability to empathize.

The story revolves around Meg’s father, a physicist who had been working on some top secret project involving quantum physics, and then suddenly disappeared and was never heard from again.   There’s some kind of connection between his disappearance and a concept he’d been working on called a “tesseract,” which refers to a 5th-dimensional  shortcut that can be taken through time and space by “folding” it.

Meg is a relatable but not always likeable girl.  She is brainy, awkward, unsure of herself, and apparently not very popular with most other kids because she’s not perky or upbeat all the time (I loved Meg when I read this book at age 11 or 12 because she was exactly like me!)   Meg’s reaction to things tends to be to get angry or sulk.   Her teachers have expressed concern over her rebellious and uncooperative behavior and her falling grades.  Since her father’s disappearance, her problems have only gotten worse.    Her little brother Charles Wallace is the family’s youngest child and has an uncanny ability to always know when Meg is upset, and even know the exact details of what she is thinking about.    Calvin O’Keefe, while he seems to be Meg’s opposite in many ways (he is popular, athletic, and only “average” IQ-wise) also is unusually understanding and empathetic of Meg’s emotional needs.

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, who have ensconced themselves in an abandoned house in the woods near Meg’s home, come to the children one stormy October night.  Soon the kids find out these old women are celestial messengers and know where her father is — and that only Meg can be the one to save him.   Soon the three kids are embarking on a journey across the universe, traveling by “tessering” through space and time.

awrinkleintime60scover

1960s book cover.

Meg is at the center of the fight to return her father from the forces of darkness that have captured him, and the evil and powerful entity (IT) that has engulfed and now controls a large part of the universe.     Along the way the reader is treated to alien worlds and creatures.  The world on which her father is held prisoner is a terrifying planet of total conformity and utter control, in which people are literally turned into programmed robots.   Anyone who deviates from the “program” in any way is coldly disposed of.   This is also the planet where IT resides.  Some of the worlds Meg visits (that have not yet been engulfed by IT’s dark forces) are populated by beings with high levels of empathy and altruistic love.  On these worlds, Meg finds the emotional and physical replenishment she needs to succeed on her quest. On one planet, she is nurtured back to health after almost losing her life by a huge and ugly but maternal creature Meg comes to call “Aunt Beast.”

Like Meg and her companions, we who resist Trumpism are on a journey to fight a force that, like IT, seeks to gain complete control and enforce lock-step conformity.    It’s a force devoid of empathy, atruistic love, gentleness, and compassion, because those are values of the Light, which are alien to the dark forces of Trumpism.    Trumpism holds a dark, violent, and toxic masculinity that insists that the Light is weak and feminine, or “socialist,” as somehow virtuous.   Darkness hates the Light because it’s petrified of its power to expose the truth, so it will gaslight you and try to make you believe that goodness is really evil and evil is good.      Light values are the same ones Jesus taught in the Gospels (and almost every humanitarian spiritual leader has encouraged, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.)   Ironically, the darkness of Trumpism, while insisting it’s based on Christian values, has in fact twisted and perverted Christ’s true message of love and inclusion into its polar opposite.

Like Meg, we in the resistance are going to be forced to go outside our comfort zones (Meg got quite sick while “tessering” at one point, and always did find the shortcut  frightening).  We can’t be tempted to “give in” to darkness just because it seems easier or because we’re being told that fighting it will only cause us more trouble than lying down like sheep and and accepting it.   Like Meg, we may need to use those qualities we dislike in ourselves, especially anger, to fight off the darkness before it consumes everything it touches, including our souls.

A Wrinkle in Time has aged well since its 1962 publication.  While the language the kids use in the book seems dated and overly formal (what kid calls their mother “Mother” anymore?), the book was well ahead of its time in its attitudes toward women and their intellectual aptitudes (Meg’s mother is a successful microbiologist).   The battle between good and evil is as old as humanity itself, and is especially well told in this classic and entertaining book.   The Christian message of the story is clear, while never beating you over the head with religion or Christian symbolism.   I worry about kids today being brainwashed by the sociopathic, nationalistic, racist, pro-violence, anti-woman, anti-science, and anti-education messages of exclusion and intolerance they are hearing from Trump and his followers.  A Wrinkle in Time is a great anecdote to that and if kids aren’t into reading, I’m sure seeing the new Disney movie can’t hurt them any.

It’s also a book that adults can enjoy too, and since reading the article I linked to above, I just started reading it again.

We are at war. What do we do now?

 

rosietheriveter

So.  The oligarchs got their wish last night, under cover of darkness.  In secrecy and total lack of transparency, in the dead of a December night, they passed a tax bill that robs the poor and middle class to further enrich the 1% and the corporations.  An almost 500-page document with scribbled handwritten notes was presented to them hours before they had to vote.  This is a terrible way to govern.  It is the way things are done in third world dictatorships.

Not only is this bill, should it become law, going to gut the middle class and cause many of them to fall into poverty, it robs the most vulnerable members of society of healthcare (by repealing the ACA mandate), sneaks in a “fetal personhood” law, and gives huge tax breaks for things like private jets and vacation homes, but takes away the child tax credit for average families and the ability of teachers to deduct necessary things like school supplies.   It also cuts Medicaid and other programs many people rely on.

It also will explode the economy by adding 1.3 trillion to our national debt, which is their legacy to our children and grandchildren.   The GOP is aware of this, and don’t care, because it works for them.   It gives them a handy excuse to gut or eliminate Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare later on (neither Social Security or Medicare are entitlement programs — they are trust funds we’ve been paying into our entire working lives!)   But I don’t expect them to be there when I need them in a few more years.  I have no idea what I’m going to do then.    But the Powers That Be will just find a way to blame the Democrats for the economy collapsing and making it necessary for them to enforce draconian austerity measures that are necessary to repair the economy.  Of course, what they say is all bullshit and is just gaslighting.   They never take any responsibility for the damage they do; all they do is shift the blame to others.

Their ideal America is not one where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   They prefer one where the rights of most of us are stripped away, where voting is suppressed or we can’t vote at all, where dissenters are punished for having a voice,  where honest and ethical reporters are jailed or silenced, where immigrants are deported or locked up, where toxic authoritarian evangelical Christianity is the law of the land,  where women are chattel and property, where slavery is allowed, and the rest of us serfs toil 6 or 7 days a week (because eventually two day weekends will be abolished as well since that was a right that came about due to labor laws of the early 20th century).  Our lives will be brutal and short, just like they were in the Dark Ages.   At best, their ideal society will be a replay of the Gilded Age, which was a horrible life for most people too.   These criminals running our government won’t be satisfied until not one penny is left for us, where the middle class is gone, and we are living in a feudal society where the mighty oligarchs look down from their gated mansions up on the hill at the great unwashed masses of the impoverished existing in their shanty towns down below.

I need not go on about the horrors of such an America, but it’s what they want and it’s closer at hand than most people realize.    The oligarchs have declared war on us, and their greed knows no limits.   Their God is Mammon.  They will kill us either passively (by taking away our means to live or be healthy) or aggressively (that might be coming) in order to keep enriching themselves and feel not one iota of remorse or regret, for they have no conscience.  They gaslight us by insisting that their greed, meanness, and consciencelessness is somehow “godly” or “defending freedom.”

They lie to us by insisting that “more jobs will be created” if the ultra-rich pay less taxes, but four decades of trickle-down economics and the recessions that always result from GOP economic policies have proven this does not work.   Yet, in their willful ignorance, conservatives keep insisting trickle down economics does work, or that if it hasn’t, this time it will (what’s that saying about insanity and trying the same thing over and over?)  But in reality, it’s we, the so-called “parasites” and “useless eaters” who are the real job creators, because it’s demand for products and services that create jobs, not tax breaks for the rich.  Without us to buy their products and services, they would all go out of business.  If we get to keep more of our money to spend, we buy more and that’s what creates jobs, not tax breaks that are mostly invested in offshore banks and used to buy elections and control politics.   Most economists now agree trickle down economics doesn’t work and only creates more inequality between the richest and everyone else.   The greedy oligarchs, not us, are the real parasites on society.

This isn’t a rant against the rich.   I know most wealthy people aren’t like this.    I think most of the rich are still decent human beings, unwilling to rob the rest of us to line their own pockets, but the ones with the most power and the ones who have bought our government and greatly influence elections — the Kochs, the Mercers, the DeVos family, the Adelsons, etc. — have declared war on the rest of us, helped along by the complicit Republican Party, who are beholden to their oligarch donors.  I think the Citizens United decision was possibly the worst thing to happen to democracy and the death blow that made such a pathocratic, kleptocratic government possible.

I am beyond disappointed and heartsick at Susan Collins’ and John McCain’s decision to vote yes on this bill.  I mistakenly believed they were both people of conscience and would not put party before country, greed over people.  I was wrong.   Back in July, I wrote a glowing tribute to John McCain after his dramatic “no” vote on Obamacare repeal.   I will be removing that post, since he proved last night he’s no different than the rest of them and has sold his soul too.

And now they want to repeal Net Neutrality too, which will mean we will have to pay more to read what we want to read or view what we want to view, or not get to access it at all.   It’s a form of internet censorship, which makes it easier for huge corporations to control the web, at the expense of the small business owners, everyday people, and small-time bloggers like me.    If Net Neutrality is repealed, we bloggers may find our traffic has dropped drastically, since so many people will no longer be able to access our sites.   If we earn an income from blogging, or sell things online, we will be hurt financially by the repeal.   I have an awful feeling it’s going to pass.

I feel like I’m grieving a death, the death of my country.  It’s not a sudden, merciful death; it’s a long, drawn-out painful one.   What makes it worse is knowing that this country that used to be “the shining light on the hill” for the rest of the world, is now seen as an enemy by advanced western democracies, a country that has turned on its own people and is now turning us against each other.   We are no better than a third world dictatorship (with nukes).   The criminal enterprise posing as our government literally is trying to kill us — or make our lives as painful and oppressive as they can until we die.   It’s slow genocide.   That’s not an exaggeration or a conspiracy theory.  These are bad people with evil intentions.   They want us to go away because we are in their way in their quest for unlimited power and wealth.    But eventually it will destroy them too, for without us to buy their goods (or not able to buy their goods), how will they maintain their opulent lifestyles?

When people begin to die, it won’t just be because the poor, the old, the sick, the disabled, and even children will have their social safety net that keeps them alive stripped away and be forced to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile, repressive, and unhealthy environment.    It won’t just be because the air, water and land they’re deliberately destroying will eventually kill us.  I’ve also seen a number of comments on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) from people feeling so hopeless and scared they’re  actually considering suicide.   People will kill themselves because they have lost all hope.   They feel like the bullies have won and believe there’s nothing they can do.   We have an abusive president, and an abusive cabal of conscienceless operatives, who want us to feel that way.   They want us feeling worn down, exhausted, and ready to give up — because when we give up, they acquire complete control.   That’s how Hitler was able to get away with his crimes.  The German people were complacent, and with only a few exceptions (White Rose Society), most people gave him the benefit of the doubt or called him a “buffoon” and believed he was a bad or incompetent leader but essentially harmless.  Or they felt so beaten down and afraid they did nothing.    I see many Americans and the American mainstream media acting much the same way.   That has to stop.

They are waging a war on empathy.    Empathy and having a conscience and sense of real morality (not just being anti-abortion and anti-gay) is seen as something bad by this pathocracy who has wrested power and forced their will on us in darkness and secrecy.    They are sociopaths and and narcissists who believe empathy is a weakness, something for “snowflakes” and “those dirty liberals.”  They believe in authoritarian strongmen who show no mercy.    Their spiritual leader is Ayn Rand, who thought empathy was evil and selfishness a virtue.   Her un-Christian, un-American philosophy is hardwired into their minds, even those who profess to be Christians.   This is a spiritual war, a literal war between good and evil.   There can be no goodness in a society that thrives on selfishness, military might, greed, racism, sexism, and hatred.  There can be no goodness in a society where the only measure of a person’s worth is their success in obtaining power and wealth (or their being born into it).  There can be no goodness in a society that treats its most vulnerable members with hard-hearted callousness “for their own good.”

We are facing our shadow, and the sickness in America that has been hidden for at least 40 years is now right on the surface for everyone to see.   That’s good, because it’s not until the symptoms of an illness become visible, that action is taken to eradicate the disease that caused them.   That some choose not to see the symptoms, or believe those symptoms are actually signs of good health, proves how deep and pervasive the sickness really is.   This cancer of selfishness, sociopathy, greed, and narcissism must be eradicated, and fast.

But how do we do it?   Calling our representatives, sending them letters, going to protests, posting snarky memes, signing petitions, and waiting around to vote in rigged elections obviously isn’t enough.   I don’t have any good ideas.   But we must keep fighting this malicious power however we can (without breaking the law — for now at least) and never, ever give up.   It’s when we give up that it’s all over and they own us to do whatever they want with.  Let’s learn from Nazi Germany and not allow what happened there happen here.   Let’s brainstorm together.   But how do we keep fighting evil without succumbing to despair and hopelessness?   I don’t know.

I did have one thought.  We could register as Republicans (as odious as that is).  That would throw a monkey wrench into their voter suppression efforts and also keep us from being tracked down and surveilled.   We could still vote for who we want to vote for.  What do you think?

As down as I feel today, this clip from “Animal House” put a smile on my face.  Bluto is right — let’s get going!   #Resist!

You are also invited to join my Facebook group if you’re wrestling with Trump trauma like I am.   You will be required to answer one question.  Trump supporters are not welcome.

https://luckyottershaven.com/2017/02/18/post-trump-trauma-support-group/

Empathy burnout and the normalization of the unthinkable.

whatever

While I don’t hold Trump or his administration directly responsible for the increase in mass shootings and killings this year, there definitely seems to be a lot more of them than ever before.  I think the national mood where people have become so divided and where hatred and violence have become almost normalized have been a contributing factor to these killings. It seems that almost every week now, there is a news story about yet another mass shooting or terrorist attack (to me, this includes white nationalist domestic terrorism) here in America. I feel more and more like we are living in a third world country where these sort of things are commonplace.

When the news broke today about the shooting at a Texas church, where 25 worshipers were killed, my first thought was a detached, almost bored, “again?” This was followed by the cynical thought “I sure hope it was a white guy who did it, and preferably a Republican” (because a Muslim, black, Mexican, or liberal shooter would make my side “look bad” and contribute to even more Trumpian cracking down on people’s civil rights).

My reaction shocked me. I didn’t feel much grief or outrage for the people who lost their lives in the one place — a church — that’s supposed to be a sanctuary from the world and all its problems. I didn’t think about the families who would be grieving for their lost loved ones or about all the innocent injured people who would never be the same again even after they physically recovered. No, I automatically politicized the atrocious event. My only real concern was that the shooter had best be a white conservative or just someone who “snapped” under stress.

A month ago, a man opened fire on 500 innocent country music lovers in Las Vegas and 58 of them died. I reacted more strongly to that event, and I don’t think it was just because more people were killed that time. I think it was because I still saw these kinds of events as abnormal; tragedies like that that just didn’t happen here in America. But even then, I had already begun to normalize such events in my mind. In June of 2016, when 49 people were shot in an Orlando nightclub, I cried. I doubt I would have cried had that happened anytime this year. In fact, I worry that if 9/11 happened today, it wouldn’t have anywhere near the gravity it did seventeen years ago, and after a few days of outrage and grief, I’d just forget it happened, like I have with all the terrible events this year.

empathyburnout

I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to others about my growing indifference and cynicism and they have told me they feel the same way. I’ve also have noticed the way it seems to take a lot less time for us as a nation to recover from such events. The Las Vegas shooting has been all but forgotten and is barely mentioned in the news anymore, as the daily bombardment of other terrible or frightening news overwhelms us and eclipses that terrible event. Would we be so quick to forget something like that a year ago? Ten years ago? If 9/11 happened today, would we have already moved on with our lives? I’m afraid we might have. In fact, rather than bring us together in solidarity as a nation the way it did then, I’m afraid 9/11 would have divided us even further into opposing political camps, with some demanding martial law or even tossing Muslims into concentration camps.

I think America is experiencing a psychological phenomenon called empathy burnout or compassion fatigue. It’s a common condition among people who work in the helping professions. When you’re continually exposed to the hurting, the dying, the sick, and the victimized, people begin to unconsciously put up an emotional shield to protect themselves.   In other words, they lose their capacity to empathize, at least for the group of people they’re helping.  I’ve read this sometimes goes so far that some people even begin to resent or feel contempt for their vulnerable charges.  Compassion fatigue is the reason why there’s such high turnover in professions like social work, firefighting, police work, teaching, emergency services, and nursing.

When compassion fatigue begins to infect an entire country, and we all begin to psychologically wall ourselves off from the world and stop caring, such events become “normal” to that society, and we become less able to recover our national sanity at the one time we need it the most.

We can’t afford to lose our capacity to feel pain and empathize with the victims of atrocities like these mass killings.    But since we also need to emotionally protect ourselves, I think the only way to avoid compassion burnout is to take frequent breaks from the news, as addictive as it has become in these times.   Spend time with your friends, your family, and immerse yourself in non-news related interests and hobbies.   Spend time with animals or in nature, or engage in volunteer work (but not so much you get burned out).    Remind yourself that these are not normal times we live in, and these events are not normal.   It’s also important to remember that the emotional numbness we may be feeling when we hear of such events don’t mean we’ve become bad people or that we don’t care, but is a normal reaction to trauma, and these are are all trauma-inducing events, even though they may not directly affect us.

We also should be working toward tightening our gun laws, but that’s another topic which I won’t elaborate on for now.

Fake empathy.

Most US Presidents, following a national disaster like Harvey, have spent time with survivors — comforting and talking to them, serving them food, and sharing hugs and even tears.

Donald Trump not only took several days to visit the people of Houston after Harvey left it devastated, when he arrived there, he spent more time bragging about the size of the crowds (as if he was at one of his rallies instead of at shelters where he had a captive audience) and what a “huge storm” Harvey had been.  He talked more about how Texas could handle things because it was so strong than he did actually offering words of support and comfort to its people.    Most outrageous of all, he told the survivors — people who had lost everything and were staying in crowded shelters — that they seemed “happy.”

Sure, he provided some good “optics” — picking up and kissing babies and pretending to serve food to the survivors — but his words to the people who were his captive audience were hollow, inappropriate to the occasion, and extremely awkward.   He also didn’t miss an opportunity to diss the media and Hillary Clinton.

The mainstream media gave him a pass, fawning all over him for having at least tried to act presidential, when they should have been calling him out on his inappropriate, callous, and outrageous words of “support” to these devastated people.

This morning he decided to put an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), an Obama-era program that ensured that young people who were brought over from other countries as children — a program that required its recipients to either be working or attending school.   By ending DACA, he doomed these productive, intelligent young people to deportation back to the countries their parents brought them from (with a six month delay).   That would mean that these kids and young adults, the vast majority of who are high achievers and are benefiting our economy,  would lose everything.   They would be stranded in foreign lands they couldn’t remember, in some cases knowing absolutely no one.  For a party that calls itself “pro-family,” his heartless and cruel decision will tear families apart and destroy lives.

Trump also had a history of failing to acknowledge Americans who have died in tragic accidents, most recently the 12 sailors who died in an accident on a Coast Guard ship.   Not one word was ever mentioned about those sailors, but this was far from the first incident in which Trump — unlike past presidents — just didn’t seem to care.

Watching Trump, I believe he not only has no empathy, he also has no conscience.  That to me indicates a sociopathic, not merely narcissistic, personality.    He actually seems to delight in causing pain and suffering.  I do think he is in fact sadistic, and enjoys pushing policies that will traumatize and hurt people.

When he talked about Harvey, he seemed almost gleeful over how “big” and “powerful” the storm was.   He seemed almost proud of it and acted like the Houston survivors should be proud of it too, as if it were some national monument or sports record.  I think he could relate to the storm.  He can relate to anything that’s powerful and destructive and destroys lives, because destruction and chaos is the only thing he understands.

Now he’s traumatizing the entire country by playing chicken with an equally unhinged narcissistic sociopath using nuclear weapons.   Nuclear war is a real possibility.    We are in grave danger of annihilation.   But it’s just a game to these two — and we are pawns in their game.  We are expendable because we aren’t people; we are merely objects to be played or discarded at whim.   Trump’s ego is much more important than human life, and he is willing to kill us all to save his ego.

A friend told me her young daughter comes home everyday crying because she’s so afraid of nuclear war.   She’s just 12, and can’t sleep.  She can’t concentrate at school and is withdrawn and depressed.   My friend told me she has had to send her daughter to a therapist to try to address this trauma.   But this girl isn’t alone.  Many people are being traumatized by this president’s actions and threats, but he will never care.  Nor will he stop his destructive and dangerous behavior.

Going back to Harvey,  Joel Osteen, the multimillionaire Prosperity Gospel preacher who holds his church services in a huge stadium, refused to open the stadium to flood survivors until he was finally shamed into it.    He held a service to pray for the survivors– and passed around a collection plate for donations to the cause — even though the people at the service were the survivors themselves! Who does that?

Trump’s evangelical “spiritual advisers” offered only “thoughts and prayers” to the flood survivors– not any real tangible help such as money, food, clothing, or time spent comforting families. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with praying for people, but when “thoughts and prayers” are used as a substitution for any real help, they are as meaningless as a Hallmark card.

I’ve noticed this is something narcissists will do in lieu of offering any real help.  They will condescendingly say, “I will pray for you,” or promise you they will send their “thoughts and prayers.”   Another thing they will do is offer you phony and hollow platitudes, slogans, and sayings in place of actually offering you a listening ear, compassionate advice, or any real empathy. There’s a huge emotional disconnect — they can’t relate to you with any depth or as a person with real feelings.  Instead, they try to mollify you with a few canned words printed on a card or a meme — and then put a guilt trip on you if you aren’t grateful for their lame and shallow efforts at “comfort.”

They also victim-shame.   They airily tell you your life would be better if you just acted more happy, smiled more, or acted more positive.   Now sure, there’s a place for positive thinking, and I agree that positive people tend to draw in more positive things in life (I have seen this work for myself).  However, there is a limit to this.   There are times such an attitude is just plain callous and insensitive, a way of dismissing the very real needs of people who have suffered misfortune through no fault of their own.   Narcissists absolve themselves of any responsibility or having to offer any real help by insidiously blaming the victim by telling them “if only you were more happy/positive/smiled more, etc. ”

During his sermon for Harvey survivors, Osteen told the people — most who had just lost everything they owned — not to play the victim.   I’m sorry, but how are people who have just lost everything they owned playing the victim?   They are victims, and as such, they should be showered with real compassion, not condescending platitudes about positive thinking.   They should also not be expected to donate to their own cause (especially when Osteen himself owns a 15 million dollar home and is one of the wealthiest men in the country) and most of these people had no access to cash or their bank accounts.

I think this conscienceless, heartless administration has been especially hard emotionally on people who have suffered abuse at the hands of people like them and also on people who are empaths and very sensitive to their spiritual darkness.

 

Why I’m no longer going to troll-tweet Donald Trump.

trolltrump

Since Donald Trump won the election, one of my favorite pastimes has been trolling him on his favorite social media platform, Twitter.    It’s a lot of fun dreaming up snappy and sarcastic counter-insults to his constant stream of inappropriate, crass, self-centered, angry, and fear-mongering tweets.  It’s even more fun when strangers Like them or retweet them to their followers.   I won’t lie — I get a little boost of self-esteem from that, and even though I know Donald Trump will probably never see the insults I send him, knowing others do and agree with me makes me feel a little, well, vindicated.   It also relieves the existential stress of his presidency just a little.

But troll-tweeting Donald Trump all the time is like shouting into an echo chamber.  It’s as useless as mindlessly switching channels on the remote control.   It isn’t going to change any minds or make anyone think.  It isn’t going to inspire or enlighten anyone.  In fact, sending Trump insults on a daily basis is really displaying exactly the same sort of hateful rhetoric the far right seems to have in excess — and which I’ve been seeing more of on the left too.

America is more polarized than I’ve ever seen it, maybe even since the Civil War.  We seem divided beyond repair.   The comments sections of political articles are war-zones and getting worse by the day.  Like slowing down to gape at a car wreck, I don’t want to see all the verbal bloodletting — but I can’t help myself.   I have to look.   What I see is sickening and scary.   All that hate is soul-eroding.   I don’t want to be a part of that anymore.

Jesus instructed us to pray for our enemies and turn the other cheek.  By that, he didn’t mean that we have to put up with hateful rhetoric, bullying, name-calling, and aggressive behavior.   It doesn’t mean we have to submit to forces that go against our most deeply held beliefs and morals.  Far from it!  What I think he meant is that we have to fight our enemies a different way — by trying to muster up some empathy, a quality their side seems to have very little of these days.   Narcissism with its accompanying lack of empathy and sense of entitlement is exactly what got our nation into the sorry mess it’s in now.   It’s our national disease and maybe that’s why everyone is so obsessed with narcissism lately.  Trump is merely the mirror forcing us to look at ourselves, and the reflection is ugly and painful.    His presidency is the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed as a nation for 40 years.   We finally hit our bottom.  We got exactly what we deserved.

But it’s not hopeless.

I think the antidote is for those of us who are willing or able to try to counteract that by showing exactly the qualities that are held in such low esteem these days.   We need to stop fighting fire with fire — and maybe with water instead.  Try to understand, even if we do not agree.   It might take a long time, but at least it’s a beginning.

This doesn’t mean enabling those who wish to destroy us or our democracy.  God, no.  But it does mean realizing the far-right hate-mongers are angry and scared. They’re acting out the way they do because they are are so afraid of everything outside their own warped reality.   We should pity them instead of hating them.

They fear their savior will be revealed soon as the fraud, criminal and charlatan he really is.   That’s why they’re lashing out at resisters now with extra vehemence and rage, even threatening to start Civil War II on his behalf (if you doubt me on this, type #civilwar on Twitter.  There may be civil war.  Some of them are talking about forming militias.   I don’t know how serious these threats are.  But I do know that with the external threats we’re facing right now with North Korea and China, the last thing we need is a civil war.  We can’t stay strong against outside enemies if we’re weak from within, and right now, we are ready to shatter like a cheap wine glass.

Trump is encouraging his far right supporters to act the way they do because he is terrified of being indicted.   He is acting very guilty — and he very likely is guilty.  His aggressive behavior at his rallies and hate-mongering  is intended to distract from Russia and his other probable illegal activities and scare us into submission.

We can’t submit to Trump or his supporters because that’s what they want from us.   They want us to fear them as much as they fear the truth.   If we back down, they will win.  That cannot happen!   But at the same time, we also shouldn’t fight them back using their weapon of hatred either.   We should lead by example and show them there’s a better way — a way out of the darkness that will bring us back together as a nation again.

Remember those WWJD bracelets that were so popular back in the ’90s?   Those days seem very far away now.   I wish more Christians tried to act like Jesus, but so many now preach values that are the polar opposite of what he taught.

So I like to pretend I’m back in the 1990s and ask myself, “what would Jesus do?”

I’m sure he wouldn’t troll-tweet Donald Trump.

When I started this blog, I wrote mostly about narcissistic abuse. I was enraged at the narcissists who had tried — but failed — to kill my soul.   In the early days, I wrote blog posts filled with rage and hatred toward narcissists, but eventually I moved away from that.  I went through a phase where I tried to understand their way of thinking instead (which enraged some other narc-abuse bloggers) but that was the only way I could begin to see my own narcissism and how it was holding me back.    I’ve been working on that and trying to become a better person.   I feel like it’s working, and now I’m ready for bigger things.

In a way I feel like I’m going through that process again.   I’m past hating on Trump and his supporters.   It’s time to move on.   There’s too much hate in the world.  Why add to it?

So, I decided I’m not going to troll-tweet Trump anymore even though it’s fun, sometimes ego-boosting,  and relieves stress.   I will keep on sharing relevant articles, studies, memes, and blog posts that state what I believe is the truth.  But even more importantly, I’m going to pray that some people on the other side may be cured of their truth-blindness.   In fact, I’m already doing that.  That’s the best way we can love our enemies.

Rich people are more narcissistic and less ethical.

entitleddouchbag-e1493664670394

Time Magazine published several articles citing studies showing that the wealthy are more narcissistic and less ethical than average folks.

Wealthy Selfies:  How Being Rich Increases Narcissism

Why The Rich Are Less Ethical:  They See Greed as Good

The Rich are Different: More Money, Less Empathy

Contrary to popular belief, the rich give less of their income to charity than even poor people, by percentage of income.   The poor are more, not less, likely to be grateful and less, not more, likely to feel entitled than the rich.

I think these articles explain a lot about our current government, which is full of narcissistic, unethical, even criminal billionaires, their wealthy donors (The Koch Brothers, the Mercers, Russian oligarchs, and others) and the apparently unlimited power they wield.   Great wealth, insatiable greed and a sense of entitlement is what has allowed these people to take control of all three branches of government and gerrymander state elections.  Sure, both parties are corrupt and there are rich donors on the left too (the alt-right loves to scream about George Soros), but they haven’t had nearly the influence the donors on the GOP side have had, and at least their donations are transparent — they don’t hide behind front organizations the way the Kochs or the Mercers do.   We must get the money out of politics now.

Trump’s budget, repealing the ACA, the triumph of evil, and the rebirth of community spirit.

bigstock-Phoenix-56031092

I absolutely hate Trump’s projected budget, as well as Trump’s Obamacare replacement, which although is nearly universally hated  not only on the left but on the right too (albeit for different reasons), is likely to pass this Thursday when Congress votes on it.

This administration not only wants to repeal Obamacare and take from the poor and middle class to give more tax breaks to the rich, they also want to eliminate (not just cut) the EPA, as well as Meals on Wheels (which help many disabled elderly and half a million disabled VETERANS), after school programs that help single moms, free legal services that help the poor in civil cases, federal grant programs for colleges, the NEH and NEA (both which promote arts and culture to the masses for free or nearly free), NPR (the only place on the radio where I can get the factual news while I’m driving), PBS (how can anyone hate Sesame Street? Really?), and many,many other programs that help families, and the poor and middle class.  Not only that, but they want to privatize public education, making it impossible for the poor or those who live in rural areas to send their children to school at all.  A voucher just isn’t going to cut it for these people, many of whom voted for Trump.   Next I expect they’ll try to repeal the child labor laws.  “Send those kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to school to work to teach them about the value of hard labor,” they’ll say.   “Let’s make America great again — like it was in 1900.”

Let’s stop kidding ourselves by making excuses like “more jobs will be created” and “taking away entitlements will force people to be self reliant.”   Nearly 40 years of trickle down economics has shown it does not work.  It doesn’t create more jobs and the money funneled to the top doesn’t trickle down to the most vulnerable Americans whose poverty, illness, or advanced age is almost never their own fault.   It’s become popular to blame them though for all the nation’s ills, instead of the greedy corporations and billionaires who keep taking and taking and taking and seem to be voracious in their need for more and more tax breaks and perks.     This is typical “blame the victim” mentality on a national scale.  Their greed and narcissism is off the charts and is destroying our country. The destruction or privating of everything good about America, and destroying its people and the environment we live in is exactly what they plan to do.

It’s time to face the ugly truth about this presidency.  I believe this budget (and the repeal and “replacement” of Obamacare) is actually an intentional death sentence for the so called “nonproducers” — the most vulnerable members of society — the poor, old, disabled, and sick.   Remove their only hope for healthcare, then take away all the popular programs that fill in the gaps and help many of these vulnerable people have better lives, keep them alive, and keep them from becoming totally ignorant. Many will die.  Those who don’t die  or suffer with chronic medical or mental conditions will be faced with lives so difficult and painful they may be forced to suicide.  But this administration doesn’t care.   In fact, letting the vulnerable people kill themselves off is probably what they want.   They are evil.   They want people to suffer. They want “the little people” to have nothing.  They don’t even want us to have clean air or drinking water.  They don’t care.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be next.   What will happen to all the elderly, disabled, and sick who rely on these programs? What will happen to the nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid to cover their expenses?  Guess they’ll all be tossed out in the streets and be forced to move in with their adult children, whether those children have the means to take care of them or not.   If they don’t have adult children to care for them, they will die lonely, painful deaths with no one to care.

Yet these same far right conservatives wring their hands and shed tears over the unborn.  Once you’re born though, it’s “bootstraps, baby!”  Your child is sick?  You shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.   Don’t have the money to buy health insurance for your child?   It’s not our problem!

stephencolbert

It’s all because they want to keep everything for themselves.  They decry socialism as the ultimate evil and tell lies about long wait times in European countries who have universal healthcare and other social programs that help their people.  But I don’t know one European or Canadian who complains about having to pay higher taxes in exchange for having decent healthcare.   In fact, every one I know is very happy with their single payer healthcare, and feel very sorry for us that we don’t have it.   They wonder what is wrong with us that we still think healthcare should be for profit and don’t share their philosophy that “wer’re all in this together.”

I would be more than happy to pay higher taxes for single payer healthcare.  I sure as heck would rather pay taxes for programs that help people and cultural enrichment programs like the NEH and PBS and NPR  than I would for a ridiculous, unnecessary wall or for even further buildup of the military and nuclear weapons than we already have.

They say socialism is evil, but they are hypocrites.   They believe in socialism alright — socialism and welfare for the wealthy and for corporations (remember, corporations are people!); but rugged individualism for everyone else.   These people have no empathy.  They have no conscience.  They are morally bankrupt.  Their hearts are black and shriveled like prunes.  You can see it in their hard, cold, dead eyes and cruel smiles.

What they really are trying to do is thin the herd and create a banana republic that cares only about the wealthy 1% and f*ck you if you aren’t one of them.

But there’s a plus side to this.  People will be so outraged if this budget (and the ACA replacement) goes through and these programs are abolished that charitable giving and community spirit will increase to levels we have never seen. Many corporations, celebrities (almost all who are liberals), and other compassionate wealthy people (they do exist!) will set up funds to fill the vast hole left by the Republicans or to fund the dying programs so they stay in existence — or create new ones. Grass roots organizations and community organizations will spring up to help their neighbors and fellow citizens. There will also be backlash from the left the likes of which has never been seen before, and Republicans are nearly guaranteed not to win another election.

Within the ruins these hardline conservatives leave in their wake, emerging from the ashes they leave behind of a once great nation that cared about the common people both here and around the world–the proverbial phoenix will rise again.  People will start to take care of each other again, because we will have no other choice.

Rich people see the world differently.

richpeople_nymag

I’ve long noticed that middle, working class and lower middle class families seem to care more about each other and show more empathy and generosity to each other than upper middle class and wealthy families, who often seem cold and unsupportive, even to their own. Many upper middle class families, including my own, seem to take the “sink or swim” attitude even to their own children. They refuse to offer either emotional or financial support when you fall on hard times. Their attitude is, each man or woman is an island and no one is responsible for you but yourself. They don’t seem to believe in lending a helping hand when one of their members falls down or is having difficulty. In fact, too many seem likely to kick that person when they’re down and blame the victim for their troubles. “Well, if she had only done this or that,” or “she never listened and this is what she gets,” or “well, she always made such poor choices.” If you’re not doing well, they seem embarrassed or ashamed of you and may even exclude or shun you.

In middle to lower-class families, there just seems to be more empathy and understanding and emotional support shown to other family members who are having difficulties. They seem more likely to listen without judging or shaming, and will even try to help financially when they can, even though they might not be able to afford to.

Of course, this isn’t an ironclad rule. There are many well to do families who are very emotionally supportive and empathic to one another, and may also give generously to charity. There are also many dysfunctional lower class families who treat other family members horribly. But the class differences in empathy is a pattern I’ve noticed, especially as someone who came from one of these cold as ice upper middle class families. I think narcissism runs rampant in the upper middle class even more than the truly wealthy, who are more secure in their status. In my own family (we were far from rich, but I suppose we were solidly upper middle class), I might as well have been an orphan, for all the “love and support” I got from them over the years. Now I’m a source of shame for most of them. Oh well, too bad. I feel like I’m a better person than they are because I don’t judge people based on their physical appearance, financial status, or job title.  I look at what’s inside, or at least I try to.

I thought it was just me, but apparently there is empirical evidence that supports the idea that rich people are less empathic and care more about themselves while the less wealthy feel more like “we’re all in this together.”   This article from NYMag.com  explains the research behind this finding.

Rich People Literally See The World Differently

By Drake Baer, for NYmag.com

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/02/how-rich-people-see-the-world-differently.html

The way you view the world depends on the culture you come from — in a granular, second-by-second sense. If you present a Westerner and an East Asian with the same visual scene, for instance, the former is more likely to focus on individual objects, and the latter will likely take in more of the scene as a whole. East Asians are more holistic in their thinking, the research indicates; Westerners are more analytic.

The same thing is happening with people who are from the same country, but belong to different social classes. With America’s top one percent of earners earning 81 times the average of the bottom 50 percent, the research shows how the wealthy and the working classes really do live in different cultures, and thus see the world in different ways.

One of the most powerful examples come from Michael Varnum, a neuroscientist at Arizona State University. In a 2015 paper on empathy, he and his colleagues recruited 58 participants for a brain-imaging study: First, the participants filled out a self-report on their social class (level of parents’ education, family income, and the like) before sitting down for an EEG session. In the brain-imaging task, participants were shown neutral and pained faces while they were told to look for something else (the faces were a “distractor,” in the psych argot, so hopefully the participants wouldn’t know they were being tested for empathy).

*****

Read the rest of this article here.