Impeachment as a Struggle to Save Democracy From the Pathological Cult of Donald Trump

This important article by Paul Rosenberg addresses the pathological narcissism, psychopathy, and paranoia that’s behind Trump and his authoritarian and cruel policies — and details how he has transformed or is close to transforming every level of government to mirror his own pathology.

Impeachment is a good start to restore democracy.  At the very least, even if he is not removed, it has the potential to reveal the corrupt and pathological GOP for what it has become under Trump, thus swaying public opinion and support for Trump.  However, Democrats’ and the corporate media’s continuing failure to identify the psychological forces underpinning this pathocracy along with a desire (along with Never Trump conservatives) to “return to normal” (an impossibility) could ultimately make things even worse, even should Trump be impeached.

The complacency and silence of the American populace in the face of encroaching tyranny (compared to other countries under authoritarian threat, such as Hong Kong and Chile, where the People are demonstrating and protesting by the millions) is also pointed out as a worrying sign we might already be too far gone.

The parallels drawn to Stalin’s Russia and his takeover of Eastern Europe after WWII are chilling.

Impeachment as a Struggle to Save Democracy From the Pathological Cult of Donald Trump 

If you’re suffering in these dark times.

ladyliberty

“Ever since he was elected, I can’t sleep, I can’t function, I cry all the time.  I can barely work. I want to ignore the news, but it’s always there, HE’s always there, always sucking me in like a black hole, and it’s destroying me.”

“Trump is destroying and dismantling everything near and dear to me.  I don’t know how much longer I can go on.  I’m back to smoking and drinking heavily because I don’t know what else I can do.  It just seems hopeless.  He has destroyed the future.” 

“Whenever I hear the stories and see the pictures of those poor migrant kids and their heartbroken families, I just want to scream.  What kind of society separates families?  What kind of society imprisons children who have done nothing wrong?   What kind of society makes it a FELONY to leave food and water for hungry, exhausted, and thirsty women and children who have walked thousands of miles to escape from certain death in their home countries?  A cruel, heartless, psychopathic society, that’s what.  I wish I could leave.” 

“I feel like I’m living in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from.”

“This isn’t my country anymore.  Women are being treated as second class citizens, or chattel.  I feel like my daughters have no future here.  We are seriously considering leaving for a country that respects women and girls instead of treating them like the Taliban treats their women.”

“I’m scared every day.  The anxiety and grief is relentless.” 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ashamed to be an American. 

*****

These are actual quotes from people reacting to what’s happening in America under Dictator Trump.   What struck me about these comments is how eerily reminiscent they are of the sort of comments people who grew up with narcissistic parents or are in abusive relationships make.  The dynamics are identical;  what America is experiencing is simply narcissistic abuse on a very large scale.  The main difference is, it’s a lot easier to go “No Contact” with an abusive family.  Unless we are pretty well off financially or have family or close friends in other countries to help us get resettled, most of us can’t just up and leave.

In normal, civilized, democratic societies, politics doesn’t dominate people’s everyday lives.  Before Trump, I could ignore the news.  It usually bored me.  I had other, happier, interests.  People in functioning democracies have that luxury, and can focus on their families, friends, jobs, hobbies, educations, and other interests.

In failing states, and in dictatorships, politics dominates peoples’ lives because their very survival hangs on the day to day whims of their often cruel rulers, rulers who rarely make policies that benefit them and are very likely to make policies that outright hurt them.

There are four main ways people normally react to a formerly benign government being taken over by cruel dictatorship or other malevolent regime.  I have taken the liberty of borrowing Pete Walker’s “Four F’s” of C-PTSD, because what is happening to Americans is very much akin to C-PTSD and PTSD.   Even people who support Trump and his inhumane policies are analogous to the flying monkeys in a narcissistic family.  They cope by identifying with the abuser.  Some may be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  Trump’s confidantes and high level enablers, of course, are also flying monkeys (and Trump’s “golden children”) and are probably on the narcissistic or psychopathic spectrum themselves.   The rest of us are the scapegoats or “forgotten children.”

So, without further ado, here are the four primary ways people in failing states and impending dictatorships (and abusive families) react to the trauma (and make no mistake, it is trauma):

1.  Sell out to the political system (abusive family) and meekly succumb to whatever new laws and restrictions, no matter how draconian and cruel, are forced on them (the Fawn or Fear reaction);  

2.  Flee to another country (No Contact) if they are able (the Flight reaction);

3.  Numb the soul and mind through alcohol or drugs (there’s a reason, besides their highly addictive properties, why the opiates are a huge crisis right now: people are trying to numb their psychic pain).  It’s also why alcoholism is so high in certain failed states and dictatorships, such as Russia, Belarus, and Hungary.   Some people don’t turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, but are able to just turn off their emotions and feel nothing anymore (Freeze/dissociative reaction)

4.  Refuse to normalize what is happening, even though not doing so makes one extremely vulnerable to great suffering, and an overwhelming sense of sadness, existential grief, stark terror, and other unpleasant emotions that are part and parcel of a serious existential threat.  However, this painful awareness also leaves one open to righteous anger, a galvanizing force which can be the catalyst to changing a dangerous and toxic political system.  (the Fight reaction).

This last group are the survivors.   They are the ones who, by facing the reality of the trauma inflicted on them by their government, are most likely to create positive change starting in their communities, and finally in their state, and even on the national or world scale.   They tend to be the young, the people whose future matters the most, and whose leaders have so callously failed them in favor of their own self interest.

emmarodriguez

Emma Rodriguez, a victim of the Parkland school shooting, stands in silence for six and a half minutes, with tears rolling down her face, to protest gun violence at last year’s March for Our Lives event.  It was an extremely powerful few moments for everyone who watched.

One only need to look at the Parkland school shooting survivors (especially Emma Rodriguez) to see how great suffering can lead to great courage and eventually to change.   The same can be said about 16 year old Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg  (please watch this video), who has parlayed her terror about her own and her peers’ future into worldwide activism that has galvanized young people all over Europe to demand an end to the use of fossil fuels.  Not only that, the adult lawmakers are actually listening.

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So, if you are feeling a lot of emotional or mental pain right now, if you are grieving the America you knew when you were young, if you find yourself feeling terrified or close to tears, or angry much of the time, please know that these reactions don’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  On the contrary, they mean something’s very right with you, and you actually have an intact soul that is uncompromised by evil.    Once you begin to normalize the “new normal,” and accept it, that’s when your soul has begun to die.

Use mindfulness techniques, visualization, prayer, or seek counseling to deal with the unpleasant and painful emotions.  Mental health professionals say their caseload is WAY up since Trump became president.  Many of them, who tend to be politically liberal, are as upset and alarmed by this regime as their clients are, so they will be able to empathize and assure you that you are not the one with the problem, but reacting in a normal way to something that is abnormal.

Every time you feel the depression, fear, or rage crop up, remind yourself this isn’t bad: it just means you have an intact soul.  You just need to know what to do with those feelings.

Write about your feelings, like I do.  Write a protest song.  Sing!  Scream!  If you’re good at organizing and are fairly social, use your rage to plan a demonstration or a march in your community.   Write letters to your representatives.  Register people to vote, or volunteer to work on the campaign of a political candidate you admire.

Don’t forget you will need to replenish every so often and do unrelated things to take your mind off the political situation.  Balance is important.   If you need a day to rest, or go to a movie, or the beach, or just sleep in, don’t feel guilty.  Your body and mind needs these breaks to replenish so you can be more effective as someone who helps bring about change.

I also recommend reading Pete Walker’s helpful and easy to read book about C-PTSD, Complex C-PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.   Because that’s what we’re dealing with under Trump and the sycophantic GOP.

*****

Further reading:

The Four F’s of C-PTSD

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (book review)

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind

Why aren’t we flooding the streets to protest this presidency?

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Thousands of protesters flood the streets of Seoul, South Korea in a candlelight march to demand the removal of their despotic president on November 19, 2016.   They succeeded.

In America in 2019, no one is doing much of anything to protest or resist a despotic, sociopathic president who is a clear and present danger to democracy and the rule of law as we have always known it.   We are in grave danger of becoming a totalitarian, fascist regime with the loss of all our rights and protections, and yet are content to sit on our couches and tweet our discontent or just blithely go about our business as if everything is normal.

Why is that so?

There are many, many more of us than them.  The power is in our hands.  It always has been.  All we have to do is use it, as South Korea did in 2016 to remove their despotic president, and many other countries have done (even countries where speaking against the government is a crime), and yet we don’t.   Why not?

Sometimes I’m most clearheaded very early in the morning, before my head gets filled with the garbage of daily life.   I answered my own question upon waking up this morning.   I decided to post my thoughts on Twitter in a series of threaded tweets.  To my surprise, my thread went viral, with many retweets and hundreds of comments I am still trying to reply to.    It seems that my early morning musings hit a nerve, so I decided to post it here too.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

protesting

Entrepreneurs of hate

This is an important article for a dark time in history.

Please leave comments on the original post.

disorderedworld

Is it possible to transform politics around values such as empathy, solidarity and love? Many progressive commentators think so, and have laid out different plans to put these ideas into practice. But empathy and love seem in short supply in the actuality of politics today, crowded out by hate and intolerance.  In one society after another fear-mongering proceeds apace against poor people, immigrants, minorities and anyone else who is not part of the dominant group.

This article first appeared on Open Democracy Transformation.

View original post 1,338 more words

My biggest takeaway from the midterm election.

yourvotematters

I’m condensing and editing this from a Twitter thread I wrote the day after the midterm elections.  

Now that the midterms are finally over (although they aren’t really:  there are still votes coming in in some places, and there may even be recounts in states like Florida and Georgia),  my biggest takeaway is this: we can never, ever take democracy for granted.  We can’t assume it’s a gift that once given, just stays.

Because that is not the way democracy works.   It must be constantly maintained, not by politicians, not by pundits on TV, not by activists.  It must be maintained by regular people like you and me.  Unfortunately, for many years, we took democracy for granted and thought we could stay uninvolved in politics and let others do the hard work.  But once a large percentage of the population ceases to care to the point that they don’t even vote,  democracy is in trouble.   The very term democracy indicates that its existence depends on The People.   It depends on us.

Republicans were able to seize so much power because we let them.  Although other factors played a part in Trump winning, in 2016, we didn’t turn out in sufficient numbers at the polls to overcome everything that was stacked against us.   But those things were never insurmountable.   There are just too many of us.   Yes, Hillary won the popular vote (and I’m one of those people who think the electoral college should be abolished), Russians may well have influenced the results, gerrymandering and voter suppression  in some states is out of control, etc.  But, in spite of all the obstacles the GOP tried to set against us, the results in 2016 were still close.   Had we all voted (and not voted for third party candidates like Jill Stein), Trump would have lost and instead of becoming POTUS, today he’d be just another washed up and forgotten reality TV star who once ran for president.

But he is president, and now that we are stuck with him (for now), we are all learning an extremely sobering lesson in just how fragile democracy is, and just how easily one despotic man with too much power can start to dismantle all our checks and balances, and destroy democracy itself.   Many Americans, including myself, used to think about Nazi Germany and wonder how it could have happened.    We are now seeing in real time how it happened:  specifically, how seemingly normal people could come to support a murderous fascist tyrant.

We woke up, perhaps at one minute before midnight, but still not too late to flip Congress back to Democratic rule, which will mean there will be some vital checks put back on this presidency.  As a result, Trump, though he will still rage and threaten and bully the free press, our institutions, and everyone he doesn’t like, won’t be able to push through his tyrannical and cruel policies the way he has been able to over the past two years.  We will be able to relax just a little.  But we can never again become complacent.

Were it not for the efforts of the Resistance, and even more importantly,  regular folks of all races, creeds, religions, income levels, and lifestyles, turning out in record numbers to vote (many voting for the first time because they realized democracy itself was on the line) and had this election drawn a tepid turnout like other recent elections, we would have lost the House.   Instead of feeling hopeful and relieved, we’d be staring down into a black abyss of unfettered tyranny right now.

Had we lost, we would now be freefalling into fascism and Trump would have unchecked power, free to do anything he wanted to do. We would have lost our democracy and would soon become a dictatorship.

Things are far from perfect. We still have a heavily Republican Senate and a Judiciary that is moving further to the right and will most likely continue to do so as long as Trump retains the presidency.  But the good news is, Trump can no longer just do anything he wants, and he can’t break the law, because the new Congress will hold him accountable if he does.  The Russia investigation will continue, and the new Congress will make sure Trump doesn’t get to run away from or obstruct justice, unlike our current GOP Congress, which enables his crimes and lack of ethics.  He can also be forced to show his tax returns.  So even though Republicans are still top heavy in the Trump White House, we are in much better shape than we were before the election. Trump can scream and toss insults and threatens all he wants, but at the end of the day, he simply  won’t be able to get much done.

A Democratic Congress can also start impeachment proceedings. Before last night, Democrats had no power to do anything. The only power we had was our vote. And we exercised it in record numbers. Had it not been for us using that hard won right, and sitting at home, democracy would have died.

We’re not out of the woods yet though.   This isn’t over.  We still have a lot more work left to to do. Trump has done incredible damage which may take generations to repair.  Republicans (which has become a fascist party since Trump) still have too much power. But we, the People, took back some of that power with our votes, and that is a good beginning.

I hope we all learned a lesson that democracy takes WORK.  We have the right to vote, and we need to use it — or possibly lose it!   Losing our right to vote can happen much more easily than you think.  There are people in high levels in government that would love nothing more than to take away our right to vote.   We can never assume others will do the work of democracy for us. The responsibility falls on us.  A government run by the People requires the input of the People.   There’s no way around it.   Voting in record numbers is essential.

If we continue to vote in the kinds of numbers we had on Election Night, we can eventually overturn this entire sorry regime  and finally have the kind of inclusive, compassionate, prosperous, caring, honest, and fair government WE, not the oligarchs and religious extremists, want: one that works for the People, not just the ultra rich and corporations.

If you voted, you should feel proud that you helped to save democracy. I think last night proved that no amount of voter suppression or GOP cheating is enough to overcome huge numbers of people voting.

We still have a long road ahead of us and a country to save.  Let’s get going!

13 ways to get the most out of voting in the midterm elections.

voting

I have never voted in a midterm election before.    In the past, they never seemed that important.   Of course, I was wrong about that.  They are always important, but never before has a midterm election been more important than the one coming up on November 6th.   In fact, this midterm election is more vital to America’s future than any presidential election in history.   It’s a make or break moment in American history.

I think all of us who oppose Trump’s regime (I refuse to call it a “presidency”) know why this election is so important.   We currently have a situation where both the House and Senate are controlled by the craven, criminal, and corrupt GOP, which now is in lockstep with Trump and no longer even pretends to care about “We, the People.”   And now, with sexual abuser, woman hater, and far right Trump ideologue Brett Kavanaugh about to be confirmed to the Supreme Court (unless a miracle happens, he’s almost certain to be confirmed today), the Judiciary is about to be hijacked by Trump GOP as well.

Folks, I’m not going to lie.  We are in grave danger of falling into authoritarianism and fascism.

We, The People are no longer being represented by any branch of government.    The Founding Fathers set up a system with three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judiciary) that are supposed to provide a check and balance on a despotic president’s abuse of power so we don’t fall into tyranny.  That system has failed us.  We have become a nation of almost complete one party rule.   The election coming up will complete that process — or give us another chance to save our freedom and our rights.

Our last and only chance to save our democracy and regain our reputation as a moral nation that cares about its people, represents its people fairly, and respects and honors the Rule of Law is the midterm election, which is exactly a month from today.    If we fail — and that is a real possibility due to voter suppression, gerrymandering, Russian influence, GOP tampering with voting machines, etc. — any semblance of democracy will be gone and we will be in free fall into fascism and a miserable future for our children and grandchildren.

But I think if everyone who hates this authoritarian system they are trying to install gets out and votes, that we can overcome Trump’s GOP and reclaim democracy.  Even if we still have to put up with Trump for a couple more years, the consolidation of power we have been witnessing will be greatly curtailed.

Here are some handy suggestions for voters and potential voters.

1. Make sure you are registered.   You can check your status here.  Check it weekly, since many states are doing voter purges and just because your name is there this week, doesn’t mean it will be next week.

2.  If you aren’t registered, do it now!  (It may be too late in some places).  Here is a site where you can register.   Procedures may vary by state.   Here is where you can also find out how to submit an absentee vote if you are going to be away from the polls on Voting Day.

3.  Don’t believe the polls and news stories that crow about a “blue wave” happening.   It may not happen and these reports of the surety of a blue wave can lull you into complacency and make you think we have it in the bag.   We don’t have it in the bag, and you need to vote, no matter what the polls say.

4.  There’s a lot of disinformation on the internet, and in recent years there are websites that tell you you can vote online.   Ignore these!  You cannot vote online.  These sites are fake, and probably a sneaky voter suppression technique (if you “vote” online, you won’t show up at the polls).   They can also be dangerous and hack into your personal information or install malware on your computer.  Avoid them!

5.  Bring someone with you who has never voted before.  Explain to them why their vote is so important.   Educate them about what is happening to America right now, if they don’t follow the news.  You’d be surprised how many people don’t.  I used to be one of those people, until Trump.

Here’s something that happened.  The other day at the grocery store I overheard two ladies talking and one of them didn’t even know who Brett Kavanaugh was.  She said she doesn’t follow the news.  Millions of people really have no idea they are about to lose everything, all their rights and freedoms, even as we in the Resistance watch our beautiful country go down in flames. It’s our responsibility to educate these people, and get them to vote.  It’s a lot easier to educate an uninformed person and take them to the polls than wasting time trying to change the mind of a Trump supporter, who follow their own fake news stories and whose minds apparently cannot be changed.

If the person has no way to get to the polls, offer to drive them there.

6.  Even if you don’t bring a new voter to the polls with you, at least talk to people who have never voted before about why their vote matters.   Elections have been decided on one or two votes!   Your vote holds more weight in a midterm election than in a presidential one.   If there are any doubts, have them read this article (or read it yourself):

10 Elections Decided by One Vote or Less 

7.  Offer to carpool for people who want to vote, but have no transportation or can’t make it to the polls for other reasons (handicapped, etc.).   Put a sign offering this on a community bulletin board at your church, school, library, or another public place.  Many grocery stores have a community bulletin board.  Or put your offer on your social media page (if you’re a woman, be careful with this though and don’t offer to take a man with you unless there’s at least one other woman along for the ride).

8.  If you don’t have the day off work (most people don’t, which is a shame and one of the reasons voter turnout in America is so abysmal), take the day off!  Don’t feel guilty.   You are doing your patriotic duty to help save our country from creeping authoritarianism.   Lie and say you’re sick if you must, but get to the polls.

9.  Don’t be a purist.  This is not the time to vote for an Independent, Green Party politician, or for a member of any party that isn’t one of the two main political parties.  If you’re a liberal, moderate, or Never Trumper, a vote for another party candidate is really a vote for the GOP.    I hope you vote Democratic.   The new GOP is not your father’s (or even your older brother’s) Republican Party.   If you care about saving democracy, you must vote Democratic, even if you don’t particularly like the candidate, or don’t agree with their entire platform.   Hold your nose if you have to and just do it!

10.  Be prepared for long lines.   There are going to be many more people waiting on line to vote than in normal times, or even during presidential elections.   Bring a book or a Kindle with you so you can read while you wait, or at least your smartphone so you can browse the internet or text your friends.    Even better, strike up a conversation with other people standing in line.   Bring snacks and drinks too because you are probably going to get hungry or thirsty.

11.  If possible, demand a paper ballot.  You may not have that option, but it’s worth asking.  Paper ballots are safer because they can’t be tampered with like electronic voting machines can be.   Or submit an absentee ballot to get around that.

12.  If you get one, display your “I Voted” sticker proudly.   You just helped save democracy!

13.  If you don’t vote, don’t complain about what happens later.

If you think of any other voting tips, please put them in the comments.  Happy voting!

Going forward…

I found this meme that shows tips from Robert Reich and wanted to share it because I think it’s really important going forward.   Please share.

RobertReich

Why I resist.

makeamericakindagain

Some people have asked me why I resist Donald Trump.

There are many reasons.  Perhaps the two most important ones are these:

I resist so my adult daughter can enjoy the same freedoms women have for the past 45 years and not have to go back to a time when they did not.  Even if you don’t believe in abortion (which is perfectly fine), it’s not the government’s job to decide what a woman can and cannot do with her body.   That’s up to her and her doctor (and perhaps her husband and/or church should have a say IF she’s conservative).   I also worry about governmental attempts to restrict access to birth control and contaception education (both which prevent abortion).

I resist so my gay son can love who he chooses and not be persecuted or discriminated against for that.

But there are other reasons why I resist too:

I resist so future generations (including my descendants, if there are any) can enjoy a safe environment and clean air and water.

I resist so we don’t lose our right to speak our mind and feelings freely without fear of censorship or punishment.

I resist so migrant children and babies aren’t separated from their mothers and fathers and put into cages and abused both physically and emotionally.

I resist because I believe healthcare is a right and not a privilege.

I resist because I hate racism, sexism and any other form of making others “less” for things they have no control over.

I resist because I hate the culture of cruelty and exclusion this administration is encouraging and enabling.

I resist because I don’t believe criminals, sociopaths, malignant narcissists, abusers, hypocrites, greedy Ayn Rand worshipping assholes, white supremacists, religious extremists, and Russian traitors should be running our government.

I resist because I think science is important and takes precedence over religion in matters that affect Americans’ health and wellbeing.

I resist because every working American deserves fair treatment and a wage they can actually live on.

I resist because religion and government should never be merged.  Every time in history and in every country religion and government become intertwined, it always leads to violence, fear and hate, terrible suffering, and war.   You are free to be as religious as you want to be, and you are free to share your beliefs with others, but you are not free to impose your religious beliefs on others who disagree with you.

I resist because I hate fascism, authoritarianism, and extremism of any kind.  Donald Trump checks every box for fascist/authoritarian traits.

I resist because I believe empathy and kindness are important in our leaders, and Donald Trump and his regime have shown absolutely no empathy or kindness.

I resist because I believe a good leader attempts to bring people together, not divide them and tear them apart.

I resist because a good leader cares about ALL Americans, not just their own base (actually, Trump doesn’t even care about them, they are just useful to him.  Being the malignant narcissist he is, all he cares about is himself).

I resist because bullying and good leadership do not go together.  Ever.

I resist because I believe humility and the ability to admit when you’ve made a mistake is important in our leaders, and Donald Trump and his regime have shown no ability to ever own or take responsibility for their mistakes, or for their cruel and deliberate actions.

I resist because I believe the vulnerable (poor, elderly, children, women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, disabled, sick, etc.) should be cared for and listened to, not silenced, demonized, and treated like lesser beings.

I resist because I believe every child has the right to a free quality public education.  If you don’t like public schools, you are free to send your child to a private or religious one (or homeschool your child, though personally I think there should be certain standards for that), but you are not free to restrict other people’s children from being able to access an education.

I resist because I believe the wealthy and corporations should pay higher taxes for the greater good.  In every moral and civilized society, that is the way things work, and that is the way things used to work here too.   Greed and the lust for power has destroyed all that.

I resist because I believe the Second Amendment must be tempered with good old fashioned common sense, and that means background checks and age restrictions on gun ownership.   We are not living in the Wild West.

I resist because the President is not immune to the rule of law, and our system of checks and balances should be functional, not complicit and enabling of his unethical and extremist behavior.

I resist because a free press is vital to democracy, and Trump is trying his damndest to demonize any press that is critical of him, while glorifying “news” outlets that do nothing but lie and spread pro-Trump propaganda

I resist because I don’t like the values Trumpism promotes: wealth and power reign supreme,  “might makes right,” toxic masculinity, nationalism and white supremacy, disdain for empathy and other “feminine virtues” as weakness, etc.

I resist because I used to feel safe in my country, but no longer do.

I resist because we are stronger and safer when we work with our allies, not against them.

I resist because I believe in democracy, not fascism.

I resist because I believe in truth, not lies.

I resist because Donald Trump is a terrible example for our children.

I resist because I believe in America, not One Party Rule or a “Cult of Personality.”

I resist because I believe that’s what the real Jesus would do.

March for Our Lives!

There is a new Moral Majority in America. And it isn’t white evangelicals, the NRA, or the supporters of Trump. It is the majority of the country who believe in integrity in government, compassion, the rule of law, and justice. They are raising their voices daily. Especially today. — Matthew Dowd

Millions of people gathering to peacefully march against gun violence in every city in the country, and across the globe.  The enthusiasm and passion of the kids leading the movement gives me hope that maybe America will be okay after all.

Listen to 11 year old Naomi Wadler.   Hear this young woman roar.   THIS is what democracy looks like.

Here is Emma Gonzalez’ powerful speech and 6 minute moment of silence.  If you aren’t moved by this, you don’t have a soul.

Watch out, GOP, you old dinosaur.   The new generation is going to change things, and they are NOT going to vote for you.

 

Can we ever stop the hemorrhaging?

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America is sliding backwards in almost every way imaginable.   Like it or not, as a country we have become far more superstitious, fearful, intolerant, and tribal than we were twenty, forty, or even sixty years ago.   Such a worldview is incredibly dangerous to any real progress and the sustainability of democracy.

The following article will provide a background of why this happened, its historical roots, how our situation compares with the rest of the world, and what, if anything, we can do to reverse our destiny and restore democracy as we used to know it.

The Middle Ages.

feudalism

Hundreds of years ago, tribalism and irrational fear of the “Other” was the norm in the West. During the Middle Ages, the only form of government was basically a theocracy with “one party rule” by the medieval Catholic Church.  Feudal lords ruled over the serfs with an iron hand, with meager benefits, such as a small patch of land for a family to subsist on, handed out in return for loyalty and backbreaking labor.   There was very little to no chance of a common peasant or serf escaping their grim reality, or ever rising to the merchant class and certainly not the nobility (the oligarchs of those times).   For almost all who weren’t part of the nobility or merchant class,  life was “brutal and short.”  Harsh punishments were meted out liberally against those who dared question the regime or their overlords.  It was a life not much better than slavery.   Science was considered heresy and education was discouraged.  Higher education was limited to the clergy and the nobility, and even that was primarily religious education.

During these “dark ages,” which lasted approximately a thousand years following the fall of the Roman Empire, there was little to no progress, scientifically or otherwise.  Each generation lived pretty much the same way as the one that came before, and people did not live very long.   Daily life revolved around religion and the church and people were very superstitious.  Women were considered the property of men, their only role (besides backbreaking labor alongside the men) was producing as many children as possible as quickly as possible.  Most of those children died of illness before the age of 5 or so.   In fact, infant mortality was so common that medieval women didn’t bother to name a child until he or she was several years old, and more likely to survive.   Not naming a new child made it possible to not get too attached to the child and enabled the mother to take its death in stride without undue grief.

Modern feudalism and third world countries.

shantytown

Today, there are such societies. But they are not in the West. You can find feudal-like living conditions under harsh dictatorships and theocracies in third world countries in South America, Africa, and other parts of the undeveloped world.   Unlike advanced western democracies, these developing countries have not advanced in any discernible way, and do not contribute knowledge to the rest of the world. The vast majority of their people live much as Europeans did in medieval times.  The rulers and kings of these impoverished nations may themselves be very wealthy, but they keep their wealth for themselves at the expense of the populace, who have no chance to ever live a good life within their own countries.  These regimes are rife with corruption, oppression, sexism, and violence.  They are societies where hatred, fear, tribalism, and often religious superstition take the place of rational and enlightened thought and higher values such as inclusiveness and empathy for others.

Random violence and harsh and unforgiving laws are common in these societies, and people live in fear of their own government, who care nothing for them and treat them as vermin or at best, as inconvenient burdens.  Some people have been fortunate and able to escape from these regimes.  Many of those refugees emigratred to America for what they believed would be a better life, and for the most part, they have not been disappointed.

Tyranny outside the third world. 

sharialaw2

Islamic theocracies in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran are slightly better as far as quality of life than impoverished third world countries (most people have access to modern technology and generally have at least the basic necessities for survival), but are still rigidly authoritarian states that tolerate no dissent from the national religion and Sharia law. These regimes especially fear feminine power — a power which draws from the higher human values of empathy, altruism, and inclusiveness — and so women have been oppressed and denied a voice.    The rulers of such nations are always men, and they rule with an iron fist.   Toxic masculinity, where power, wealth, violence, and complete control are lauded as virtues, ensures that the “feminine” is kept silenced and where qualities associated with the feminine are dismissed or even considered evil (in medieval times, these qualities were usually associated with witchcraft).   Keeping women in line and obedient safeguards against the risk that the power of the feminine could ever threaten the hypermasculine regime’s control.

The Enlightenment.

foundingfather

While these harsh conditions used to exist in the West during medieval times, since the Renaissance and Enlightenment they have gradually been discarded.   Since then, the West has come to embrace rational thought and democratic, humane values over superstition and religious intolerance — and has changed their beliefs and laws in keeping with that.   The recognition that science (over religious dogma) is about truth and secular and higher education is valid and desirable, coupled with the idea that different kinds of people can and should learn from each other — and that difference is not something to be feared but something to be celebrated — paved the way for western countries to establish new policies that greatly enhanced the quality of life for all their citizens.  Policies that recognize that each human being is intrinsically valuable and worthy (instead of valued only for what they own or the power they wield) and should therefore be nurtured and encouraged to develop their full potential instead of punished and controlled for attempting to assert that potential has led to greater happiness, prosperity, and longevity for almost all people who live in those societies.  This recognition by the west that the “feminine” is as important (or more important) to the advancement of humanity as the “masculine” is the foundation for democracy, the most spiritually advanced and humane form of government that currently exists.

“Manifest destiny” and the roots of American tyranny.

americansoldier

America was, unfortunately, founded at least partly through the invasion and oppression of the native people who lived peacefully and sustainably on this continent for thousands of years.  This unpleasant reality has always hindered us as far as advancing in democratic values as easily as other western countries have been able to do. There has always been that undercurrent of violence and intolerance of the “other” that has darkened our path to true progress — even though our Founding Fathers did everything they could when writing up the Constitution to protect against tyranny, whether religious tyranny or some other form of it.

Since the Enlightenment, this reality has been concealed, even to ourselves.  We have convinced ourselves America is the most advanced, prosperous, and humanitarian democracy that ever existed, a concept known as “manifest destiny.”   We have long believed we are the one shining example of morality, liberty, and prosperity to the rest of the world — and that they should follow our example (even if by force at times).  But the reality is, while we lurched toward democracy with the rest of the west,  we were never a true democracy.   We have always been more hubristic and narcissistic than other countries, believing ourselves to be morally and in every other way better than anyone else, but it’s proven to be a slippery slope that has led to the serious problems we are facing right now.    In fact, our narcissism and belief in “manifest destiny” is causing us to slide back into a more medieval, almost feudal, type of society.   We are being sucked into a moral vacuum that was formed by our fear of the “other” and the feminine strengths that, for at least a while, forced us to face those fears and attempt to toss them on the ash heap of history.   The Roman Empire fell for the same reasons we are now.   In fact, America’s system of government was based on ancient Rome, and just as the ancient Romans did, we are eating ourselves alive with our wrongheaded belief that we are the rightful Masters of the Universe and should be treated as such by the rest of the world.

True democracy cannot exist when there is a moral vacuum where feminine qualities and higher human values that recognize all humans are intrinsically valuable are dismissed, ignored, or oppressed.   Toxic masculinity and “strongman” policies are, ironically, born in a crucible of fear.  Fear leads to nationalism and tribalism, which leads to hatred, which inevitably results in violence, oppression, and even tyranny.  The undercurrent of terror and superstition that has always existed in America is poisoning our fragile democracy, which never had a chance to fully flourish and become what it could have been.  Other western countries are far ahead of us in this sense, and now we are falling even farther behind.   We can no longer even pretend to be the “shining light on the hill” to the rest of the world, and to do so would only make us even more laughable to the developed world than we already are.

For over 240 years, in spite of our issues with narcissism, we were still able to make much progress — but we never let go of our need to regard ourselves as superior and make others treat us that way.  And because of our prosperity, our enviable technology, and our comfort with great power and wealth, other countries  did in fact look up to us as the rightful leaders of the free world.   Yet most of this was their perception — that being nothing more than an acknowledgement of the glorified image we wanted to project — not the actual reality of things.    No other western country ever had any concept of themselves comparable to “manifest destiny.”   The erroneous belief that we are “best” and should be admired and emulated by the entire world has kept us from developing sufficient humility to be able to empathize and take care of each other, never mind those “foreigners.”  Humility — the opposite of hubris — is necessary for the development of the feminine and the humane in any society, and that is why other western countries have had a much easier time adapting to true “social” democracy and the concept that good governance means “we’re all in this together” and not “I’ve got mine, screw you.”   Power and wealth has become more important in America than compassion and inclusiveness, and probably always was, if truth be told.  Democracy and unbridled, unregulated power cannot coexist. Since the days of Reagan, the idea that deregulated power and unlimited wealth trumps compassion, inclusion, and humanity (demonized by the right as “socialism”) has increased exponentially.

Our experiment with democracy.

Spirit_of_America

“Spirit of America” by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978).

For a relatively short time — from sometime in the 1940s through the late 1970s — we experimented with social democracy.   Following FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, American life and prosperity improved immensely for most (though racism and sexism were still issues, no one anywhere had really recognized those things as problems yet — reform was to come later).   The middle class grew and poverty diminished greatly, though it was never completely eradicated (and probably can’t be anyway).  Still, the uniquely American concept that some people were “better” or more “deserving” than others by virtue of their wealth, social status, or what they owned were still the true measures of human worth, even though this remained hidden or denied during those decades where we experimented with real democracy.  The truth is, we were never entirely comfortable with democracy.  Reaganism came as a relief to many people who feared the kinds of changes democracy could bring about.   Reaganism also began the slow unraveling of our developing, but still fragile and easily derailed, progress toward a more fair and humane society.  Forty years later, we are confronted with the terrifying spectre a near- fascist regime whose moral bankruptcy, brutality, ruthlessness, and lack of any semblance of conscience and empathy seems to have no limits.

We all know (or should know) how Reaganism eventually morphed into Trumpism, so I won’t detail the whole story of how that happened here.  Trump is not really the problem, nor would his immediate removal stop the hemorrhaging.   Trump is merely a symptom of a very deep and pervasive problem we have always had and that has become cancerous in the past four decades.   Other western democracies don’t have this problem, at least not to the extent America does. Because humility and “feminine” values (seen by tyrants as “weakness”) are not anathema to them, and narcissism and hubris hasn’t taken over their concept of themselves, they have always been more immune than we are to backsliding into tyranny.  That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other countries, but it is less likely and their far right factions wield less power.  Our own fear and narcissism is destroying us from within.  We are regressing.

America is no longer a first world country.

tatteredflag

We have arrived at a point where we are not far ahead of places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Russia. While these are not third world countries in the strict sense, they are second world theocracies or dictatorships where the common people have no freedom (though they may be told they do and believe they do), lies are passed as the truth, history is rewritten, the free press is replaced by state propaganda,  and fair elections are either outlawed or a sham, dissent is punished, journalists are jailed, and the “different” are ostracized or even eliminated.   Such regimes have a number of things in common: oppression of women, criminalizing perceived “immorality” (homosexuality is an almost universal example in all these regimes), general intolerance for outsiders, an emphasis placed on buildup of the military,  police states, suppression of the arts and humanities, disdain or hatred for scientific thought, silencing the free press, revisionist history, the merging of religion and state, and state propaganda (whether religious or not) that passes itself off as “education” (in Communist regimes, atheism is treated as the state “religion”).

Lies are their currency; truth is always the enemy. Compassion is seen as weak and toxic masculinity (violence, controlling others, harsh punishment) is seen as “strong.” Higher human values — gentleness, inclusiveness, empathy — are not just regarded as weak, but sometimes as outright evil.   Such regimes are prone to constant wars and violence. Poverty is a given.  The wealthy few rule.  There is no middle class and it is not possible for a person to move upward from one class to another.  The “values” that are rewarded — wealth, power, total control — are often aided and abetted by authoritarian religion whose beliefs dovetail with the regime’s hypermasculine values.  American evangelical right-wing Christianity has much in common with radical Islam and organizations like ISIS.  In theocracies, whether the state-sanctioned religion is Islam, Christianity (so far, we have managed to avoid a religious theocracy here, but it existed during the Middle Ages and in Puritan times), or something else, there is no separation between religion and state and the leaders rule over the masses with an iron fist.  Any deviation is not tolerated.   As I mentioned earlier, this was par for the course during medieval times, but this form of governance was discarded by Europe hundreds of years ago when rational thought supplanted superstition, tribalism, and fear.  America, though denying it, was never able to completely let go of it.

Looking in the mirror.     

mirror      

Trump did not cause our decline, but through his hyper-masculine “strongman” words, actions, and tweets, has emboldened those who have always secretly wished for a return to authoritarian, medieval-like conditions and have never been comfortable with democratic values because such values demand we accept those who are different or more vulnerable than we are.  It also demands we embrace so-called feminine values, and that we recognize that every human being is intrinsically valuable. To be able to recognize the value in all people requires empathy, a quality that may be lacking in many Trump supporters, or seen as a “weakness” by people — usually men — who cannot accept any feminine softness within themselves.

But the proverbial phoenix rises from the ashes.  Fortunately, those of us who believe in true democracy and embrace higher human values over base ones like wealth and power greatly outnumber those who do not.   Trump, as bad as he may be, has done one very good thing:  he has provided a mirror for us to see ourselves as we really are, and how sick a nation we have become.   Sometimes the cure for cancer is painful, sometimes more painful than the disease.  Trump has  woken us up from our complacency and our apathy — which, had they continued, would have allowed the incipient authoritarian regime to take full control.   Though unwittingly, he gave us a window of opportunity to recognize the truth and finally take action against the horror that faced us.   Had Clinton or someone else been elected, we might have missed the opportunity.   There would have been no Resistance movement, we would have continued to sit home during elections,  and the thoroughly corrupted new Republican party would have continued to consolidate power and increase their stranglehold on our democracy without us ever realizing it until it was too late.    The cancer America is battling would have metastasized to the point that our destruction was inevitable.   Yes, Trump is extremely dangerous and yes, we could still self destruct just like the Roman Empire did, but I think with things having happened as they did, such an outcome is actually less likely, even as close as we are to destruction now.

The future. 

 leavingthefog

We have a long and difficult journey ahead, if we are ever to liberate our country from the jaws of fascism and return to the democratic, humanitarian values that leaders during the WWII and postwar years recognized were necessary for us to thrive and become a real inspiration to the rest of the world, instead of a flashy sham of one.

There may be war. It’s inevitable people will die.  No revolution ever occurred without bloodshed and great sacrifice. We can’t be cowards and just wait for things to change, because they won’t on their own.   Inaction is death.   America’s soul is in the balance: do we want democracy or tyranny? The choice is ours.