I’m not letting Trump ruin my…er…Christmas.

Originally posted on December 17, 2017

pccard

Just like he did with the NFL by making it all about politics (you’re a traitor and a “very bad person” if you “take a knee” instead  of standing for the anthem), Trump has made Christmas a political issue.  Football and Christmas:  two traditions that bring people joy and bring them together regardless of ideology, have now been tainted by Trump turning them into divisive political issues, and that’s a damn shame.

What sane person cares if people say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?  I sure don’t.  It’s trivial and dumb.  Trump’s belief that there’s a “war on Christmas” is just so stupid and wrong, because there was never a war on Christmas.   For as long as I can remember — and that’s a very long time — people have said “Happy Holidays,” a phrase that’s meant to be inclusive and respectful of people who may celebrate Hanukkah or other December holidays.   It’s not a diss on Christmas or Christians, and it’s not anything new either.   Heck, back in the ’60s, my parents used to send out cards that said “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” because they had a lot of Jewish friends and didn’t want to offend them.   No one was offended.  It just wasn’t an issue for anyone.

Trump loves to rail on about political correctness, but he’s a hypocrite because he’s the one getting all bent out of shape about whether people say “Merry Christmas” or not.

Even worse,  now he’s ruined Christmas for a lot of folks by making it political, when it should be anything but.   I’ve heard so many people say they’re afraid to say “Happy Holidays” now because they’re afraid they’ll be perceived by Trump supporters as being rebellious or subversive.  Other people have said they’re afraid to say “Merry Christmas” because they might be mistaken for Trump supporters.

I’m not letting that apricot menace ruin my Christmas.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, everyone!

*****

Further reading:

10 Reasons Why the “War on Christmas” is Bogus 

Football and Christmas: How Trump is Destroying Two American Traditions

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Hypermasculinity and Trumpism.

hypermasculinity

Credit: N/A

I’ve been noticing a huge and (to me) obvious difference between Trump supporters and those who oppose him.  Much has been said about the tendency of Trump supporters to have more authoritarian personalities than the norm, and that is true, but why is authoritarianism so attractive to them?  Why do they hate democracy?  Don’t they want to think for themselves?  Don’t they want to live in a free and inclusive society that values empathy for others and the Golden Rule (which we were all taught in kindergarten)?

The other day I was following a Twitter convo between some Trump supporters talking about Matt Whitaker, Trump’s new Acting Attorney General.  They were all talking about how Whitaker looked like a guy who wouldn’t take crap from anyone, and would rule with an iron fist. They admired Whitaker’s pumped up, hypermasculine physique, his cold, expressionless features, and were almost reverently comparing him to Mr. Clean (who would, of course, clean up “the swamp”).

The kind of people I observed conversing on Twitter, like all Trump admirers, don’t seem to care about the lack of checks and balances and the deep corruption in Trump’s administration.  In fact, they love the idea of Trump having as much power as he desires (which is unlimited as his need for power and adulation is insatiable), so he can push through his cruel and destructive agenda.  In Whitaker they see a tough, merciless enforcer. And yes, they actually used the word “enforcer.”

This same group was making fun of Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions’ deputy Attorney General (who seems to have been demoted since Sessions was fired and Whitaker came on the scene) for his “girlish, wimpy” appearance.  One of the group even posted a meme of Rosenstein as a 90 lb weakling getting sand kicked in his face by (you guessed it) an exaggeratedly muscled Whitaker who looked like he was pumped up on massive doses of steroids.  This group was not all males.  In fact the person who posted the meme was a woman.

proudboys

Far right paramilitary groups like the Proud Boys embody Trumpist hypermasculinity.

Trump supporters see the exaggerated stereotype of the “macho man” as what a “real” man should be.  Someone like Rosenstein (or any man who believes in doing the right thing, has empathy or humility, or who opposes Trump for lacking those qualities), they see as weak and  feminine, an affront to patriarchy.   Trump supporters believe a real man shows no “soft” emotions, never apologizes, is never at fault (or at least never admits fault), can break the law or do cruel things to other people as long as they get away with it or it’s a means to an end they believe is “good,” and dominates everyone who they perceive as beneath them, which is just about everyone.

In a leader, Trump supporters regard “soft” traits such as empathy or mercy, as undesirable because they are stereotypically “womanly” traits, and women are believed to be inferior to men.  I suspect most Trumpers had authoritarian fathers who demanded girls act like girls and boys act like boys.  That would explain Trump/Whitaker’s appeal among right wing evangelicals, who celebrate authoritarianism and patriarchy.   This same mindset also explains the hard right’s obsession with guns, and the primacy of the Second Amendment over all other rights bestowed to Americans in the Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Trump supporters seem to find nothing wrong with Trump’s bullying, cruel insults and namecalling and in fact seem to think it’s a plus.   Yesterday, in one of his increasingly unhinged tweets, Trump deliberately mangled Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) last name into a profanity (no need to repeat the word since I think it’s pretty obvious).   Another Trump fan tweeted this in response:

Some might say this isn’t becoming of a President. That’s ok…I didn’t vote for him because of his impeccable decorum skills. Give me a Commander in Chief that cuts thru the bull, gets things done, has a backbone, is a Patriot thru and thru, & actually keeps his word anyday [sic].

You’re not imagining things.  Trump’s followers are actually praising Trump for his puerile butchering of Schiff’s last name. They find ways to spin his worst traits and most immature, childish, and cruel actions and statements into actual virtues and good deeds.  It’s really rather remarkable the way they can so glibly make excuses for his worst behaviors.

My conclusion is this:  the values of Trump supporters involve a deep admiration, even worship, of “strongmen” figures:  hypermasculine, even abusive, men; physically pumped up, emotionless, violent, without mercy, dictatorial, punishing, and bullying.  They don’t want a president of the people, a president who brings us together as Americans;  they want a president who “sticks it to the libs” and others they don’t like. Trump shares their hates and fears, and they love him for it, even if he destroys the country we all share in the process.

“Republican Jesus.”

republicanjesus

Related to the above, I’ve often seen Trump supporting evangelicals talk about “Christ as a warrior,” rather than a compassionate friend. The “Republican Jesus” memes are, unfortunately, not exaggerations.  Dominionist and far right evangelicals depict Jesus Christ not as a loving figure of grace and forgiveness, but as an angry warrior out to avenge sin using the most terrifying and violent methods imaginable.  He is especially enraged by sexual sins like abortion and homosexuality (strangely, rape and adultery don’t seem to be issues, given “chosen one” Trump’s immoral sexual behavior and failure to repent or humble himself before God).  Of course, the sins of greed, wrath, exploitation, cruelty and indifference to the “least of these,” destruction of the earth, and bearing false witness are all considered fine since they are just a means to an end (establishing God’s kingdom on earth, a heretical teaching which doesn’t even appear in the Bible they’re always thumping).

Their hyper-Calvinist God favors his “elect” who apparently can do no wrong, and as a reward, he showers them with wealth and power.   For the rest of us, God exists only to mete out punishment and condemn us to eternal hellfire.   Even Jesus is seen as a violent, warlike, avenging figure, and this explains extremist evangelicals’ infatuation with Old Testament legalism and punishment over the Gospels.   The caring, compassionate Jesus of the New Testament isn’t an appealing figure for them.  A few weeks ago, at a “Religious Liberty” meeting full of extremist evangelical Republicans, a Christian preacher was taken out in handcuffs for quoting New Testament scripture (specifically, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most important and famous sermon).

Trump supporting evangelicals believe both Trump and Whitaker were sent by God to do his holy bidding (at least according to the group I observed on Twitter, who said they believed Whitaker, like Trump, was anointed by God).  The goal is to destroy all of “the liberal establishment” and by logical progression, all liberals (who I think are hated not so much because of what they believe, but because they are associated with softness and all traits they regard as “feminine” and also include a great many more women leaders and nonwhite people).

5 Essentials for Defeating Trump.

Here’s an extremely sobering article about the Trump regime’s true diabolical agenda: an unholy merging of white male privilege and authoritarian religion disguised as evangelical Christianity (also known as Dominionism).   What this regime isn’t telling anyone is they are working in the shadows toward an intolerant, legally enforced, violent, misogynistic theocracy very similar to radical Islam in everything but the specific religion it’s using to disguise itself.  In fact, this movement isn’t a true religion at all; it’s a religious cover for a fascist political agenda, and is the opposite of anything Christ ever stood for.

Dominionist Christianity is an unholy mix of the prosperity gospel and forced sexual conformity (especially for women).  It tends to attract the selfish and the uncompassionate; the smug, self righteous, and sanctimonious; the greedy, the abusive, the sociopathic, and those who need, due to their own narcissism, to feel superior to others based on their white heritage, their false piety, or their personal wealth.

Qualities like compassion and empathy are seen as weaknesses that need to be eliminated.   Financial wealth and the power that comes with that is seen as the only true measure of God’s approval.   Misfortune, illness, and poverty is inflicted only on those who God does not approve of.    Human beings are regarded as useful objects to achieve one’s aims or exploit for financial gain, rather than as individuals with needs (slavery is acceptable).   The desire for human rights and to be treated with dignity are considered to be the work of Satan.  The end always justifies the means, so evil acts and cruelty are all acceptable as long as they help to bring about the endgame, which is a theocracy based on Old Testament Law and unfettered (unregulated) capitalism where the wealthy and privileged can rule like feudal kings over the hordes of serfs and slaves under their rule.  Adherents believe God has given certain people (modern day prophets and apostles) license to force their will on others to achieve the movement’s agenda.   Dominionist Christianity is a sociopathic, violent, religiopolitical movement and is eating America like metastatic cancer.

I have already written a number of posts about dominionism, so I won’t list sources here, but a quick Google search will direct you to them. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s absolutely real.

Trump is the key this Christofascist movement is using to open the Pandora’s box of horror and suffering they have kept under wraps for years and are just now beginning to unleash in all its ugliness and hypocrisy, the intention being to inflict it on anyone who can’t or won’t conform.   Many Trump supporters aren’t aware of the regime’s real agenda,  and can’t be convinced they have become part of a cult of personality that in many cases, will do them or their loved ones harm or even kill them.   But as in Hitler’s Germany, by the time they finally realize the danger they are in, it will be too late.

Trump, though apparently not religious himself (and definitely unrepentant of his past sins) is helping this diabolical movement realize their fascist agenda (which is why its adherents insist he is anointed by God) in return for their support of him. That’s why there are so many dominionists in his cabinet and why they seem to think of Trump as a kind of savior.

To save America and the world (because it’s their intention to eventually take over the planet), their dark agenda must be exposed and brought into the light.  Author Chris Kratzer outlines how this can be done in this terrifying (but also hopeful) article.

5 Essentials for Defeating Trump 

 

On John McCain’s legacy.

johnmccainyoung

In spite of my earlier post, I did start watching some of the highlights from John McCain’s funeral proceedings today.   It’s important that I did, and I’m glad I did, and do you know why?

Here in the Upside Down — in post-trump bizarro world (the lower case t is intentional) — I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face over a man I did not vote for, whose party and politics I never supported, and it feels very cleansing.  Weird.

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.

Redefining freedom.

 

orwell_words

Despots and dictators throughout history know how powerful language can be, and they know that by changing the definitions of words, without people realizing it, they can change the way people think and what they believe.   Without language and the words that comprise it, propaganda and revisionist history (changing commonly held historical beliefs in order to fit a desired political or religious narrative) would become impossible, or at least a lot more difficult.

George Orwell described the insidious process of changing the meanings of words in order to change public attitudes in his classic dystopian novel, “1984.”    He called this process “Newspeak.”   It is a form of mind control commonly used by cult leaders and dictators to get people to abandon their previous ways of thinking and accept a lie as the truth (repetition of the lie is another way they get people to accept it).    Sometimes the lie they push may be an actual reversal of a previously held truth.   We can see this phenomenon today in many of extremist evangelical and fundamentalist churches, who now say that ripping migrant children away from their parents or taking away people’s healthcare is “Christian” even though Jesus would be appalled by these things.

“Freedom” (and its synonym “liberty”) is probably the word that comes to my mind first when I think about the ways language is used as propaganda.    It appears in both religious and political rhetoric.  In right wing extremism, the definition of “freedom” or “liberty” has become almost the reverse of what its commonly-held definition is.  Here is the complete dictionary definition:

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
“we do have some freedom of choice”
  • absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.
    “he was a champion of Irish freedom”
    synonyms: independenceself-governmentself-determinationself-rulehome rulesovereignty, nonalignment, autonomy;

    democracy
    “revolution was the only path to freedom”
    antonyms: dependence
  • the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
    “the shark thrashed its way to freedom”
    synonyms: libertyliberationreleasedeliverancedeliverydischargeMore

    antonyms: captivity
  • the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily.
    “the shorts have a side split for freedom of movement”
  • the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing).
    noun: freedom from; plural noun: freedom froms
    “government policies to achieve freedom from want”
    synonyms: exemptionimmunitydispensation;

    impunity
    “freedom from local political accountability”
    antonyms: liability
  • the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.
    synonyms: rightentitlementprivilegeprerogativeMore

    antonyms: restriction
  • unrestricted use of something.
    “the dog is happy having the freedom of the house when we are out”
  • archaic
    familiarity or openness in speech or behavior.

 

Most of us agree with this definition.  We think of freedom as a concept that allows all Americans individual liberty and the ability to make their own life choices.   It is the absence of oppression.   When we think of freedom, we aren’t worrying things that benefit everyone, such as healthcare or public education, might be potentially oppressive (because of higher taxes necessary to have those things).  I think most of us would say that a person who doesn’t need to worry about going bankrupt or dying should he become sick or injured is more free than someone who can’t afford necessary surgery and loses his home trying to pay for it, or even his life.  A person who can take time off from their job to recover from their illness is more free than someone who is forced to work even when they are ill because their wages are too low to allow them to take time off.

Back during the time of Lyndon Johnson and his “War on Poverty,” this was generally understood.  Empathy still existed within high levels of government and in both parties.  Measures were taken to alleviate poverty, one of the most oppressive and limiting things a human being can experience.   An impoverished person is not a free person. Poor people spend so much time just trying to survive they cannot reach their full potential.   Rich people and corporations paying more in taxes was seen as the right thing to do for society at large and for the greater good, not as a form of robbery or wealth redistribution (this phrase is a common dog whistle used by the right to manipulate attitudes to get people believing the wealthy are the real victims).   Eventually, the commonly perceived causes of poverty shifted from the society to the individual.  Personal responsibility became another dog whistle used by conservatives to influence public attitudes and make people begin to perceive poverty as a personal weakness rather than an affliction.

“I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.” — Paul Ryan

 

Over the past few decades, especially since Reagan’s election in 1980, the definition of freedom has been co-opted by the right.  They whine that environmental regulations and higher taxes are a form of tyranny by the majority that limits the freedom of the wealthy and corporate elite to do exactly what they want and suffer no consequences.   To suggest they should contribute to the common good through a higher tax rate or not gut laws that protect human health and wellbeing is to restrict their freedom — which is really the freedom to exploit their workers, not pay them a fair wage, deny them a safety net, and destroy the planet.    In Trump’s America, freedom is no longer freedom of the people, it is freedom of the minority (the wealthy elite) to oppress the majority.

In redefining freedom, the word democracy itself underwent a transformation from government by the people for the people, to tyranny of the majority (where the wealthy and powerful are perceived as superior and therefore naturally entitled to take whatever they want with no accountability).  The term democracy, at least in the circles of greatest power and influence right now, has become a pejorative — something bad worthy of destruction.

Religious freedom.

Similarly, religious freedom or religious liberty has also been redefined.    Most people would agree that religious freedom in America means the right to worship the way you choose — or to not worship at all.  The separation of church and state was one of the key elements the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution, knowing that mixing religion and government not only doesn’t work, it’s extremely dangerous and has always led to wars, oppression, and violence.    We can see this today in Middle Eastern countries where Islam is the state religion and is written into their laws.  These countries are constantly at war, including civil war.   Violence and terrorism is rampant and women, children and minority groups are victimized every day by the harshness of Sharia law.

In the early days of America, before the Constitution was written,  there were pockets of religious intolerance, most infamously seen in the Salem Witch Trials.   Other groups of colonists came here as a way to escape religious persecution in their home countries.  They came here to be free to worship the way they chose.

The Founding Fathers, while they might have been religious personally, were influenced by the Enlightenment and the primacy of reason and openmindedness over medieval superstition and intolerance.  America was founded as a secular, not as a “Christian nation” or saddled by any other “state religion.”  While Christianity is the most common religion found in America, to declare it as a state religion would automatically make anyone who wasn’t Christian — or even not the right kind of Christian — a second class citizen.  The Founding Fathers knew this, and that’s why they rejected the idea of a state religion.

Far right extremist evangelicals have been busy writing revisionist history,  insisting that America was founded as a Christian nation, and that the Constitution was divinely  inspired and never meant to be secular.   Some go even further than that.  Dominionists and reconstructionists actually want the Constitution rewritten and replaced with Old Testament Law.   If that were to actually happen, living in America — especially for vulnerable groups such as women and gays — would be no different than living in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

Yet Christian extremists say that imposing biblical law on everyone through the government is actually religious freedom!   By their logic,  if Christianity were enforced, you would become free of the temptation to sin.   Knowing that sinning might result in draconian punishment or even execution, you would not sin — and therefore be more pleasing to God.   Extremist Christians whine that they are persecuted not because they actually are, but because they are not allowed to discriminate (or oppress!) based on sexual orientation, gender, or religion.  In Trump’s America, the definition of religious freedom has transformed  from the right to worship as you choose to the right to inflict my religious beliefs on you.

I can’t think of anything more un-Christian or unloving.   If you believe in God, why wouldn’t he want you to have free will and choose to worship him?   Forced religion isn’t a sincere declaration of faith, it’s spiritual terrorism.   It’s a way to control and oppress people.  It uses fear of punishment rather than the promise of love as a motivator.   I doubt God wants his people to worship him or behave a certain way only because they’re afraid of the consequences if they don’t.    I believe we were given free will and that it ought to be respected.  That means leaving religion out of government and its laws.    Nothing good has ever or will ever come of it.   It is religious fascism.

There are other words and phrases that have been redefined by the far right, but freedom is one of the most pervasive and common.   We need to become aware of this and other words that are being redefined by extremists as a means of mind control and propaganda to change our thinking patterns.  Critical thinking is necessary to make the distinction, and this is why education (and science) is so maligned by political extremists and fascist groups (including extremist religious groups).

The deconversion of a Trump troll.

burning-trump-hat

You may remember a few weeks ago I asked readers to let me know if they knew of anyone who had finally turned on Trump.   I wanted to write a blog post describing the journey of such a person.

I got no responses to my question, and personally, I don’t know anyone who supported Trump who has changed their mind.   I gave up finding such a person.

But they do exist!   Granted, they’re rare as snow in Mississippi, but they are out there.  Yesterday I came upon an article written for Forward (an online magazine focusing on issues related to Judaism and Jews) by a New Yorker named David Weissman.

He colorfully describes his days as a hardcore Trump supporter and Internet troll.  Everything you might expect, he did it or said it.  He was all-in on bullying liberals and  Democrats (and RINOs — “Republicans in Name Only”).   He mainlined on Fox News.   He went to Trump rallies and owned a MAGA hat.   He willingly soaked in Trump’s hateful rhetoric and dismissed anyone who was offended by it as “snowflakes.”

It took one woman to change his views.    One day the comic actress Sarah Silverman responded to one of his inflammatory comments on Twitter.  He describes the way she engaged him in conversation and debate without putting down his beliefs or attacking him.  She remained patient and doggedly kept replying to his tweets in a civil and engaging way, explaining why she felt the way she did about things like healthcare, immigration, racism, and many other topics — and why she believed Trump was wrong for America and the world.

I have also tried to engage Trump supporters with the truth, but eventually I give up, because most Trumpists I meet online waste my time with straw man arguments, what-aboutism, straight-up gaslighting, and even personal attacks.   If they realize they’re losing the argument, they always fall back on their old standby, “it’s fake news.”  Or, “well, Hillary would have been worse.”  I began to block them  because it was just easier than the frustrating and seemingly futile experience of trying to get them to think outside their comfort zone or handle the resulting cognitive dissonance.  Patience is not one of my greatest virtues.   Maybe if it were, I might be able to eventually get through to a few of them.  Maybe.

cognitive_dissonance

Mr. Weissman seems like a man who might have been receptive to a different viewpoint anyway.   One of the things that worries and saddens me is that many Trump supporters seem to show signs of sociopathy themselves — or are attracted to a “strongman” type of leader who tells them exactly what to think because they don’t want to or don’t know how to think for themselves.   Trumpism has been compared to a cult, and it really is one.   Its followers respond to Trump as they do to a cult leader, and like Jim Jones’ followers, they willingly, even eagerly, drink his poison Koolaid even though it might eventually harm or even kill them (Trump is doing nothing for the average working class white person and is fact is doing a lot of damage to his own supporters).

As with all cults, it’s almost impossible for someone on the outside to deprogram a believer; it really is a form of mind control.    Trump supporters are literally in thrall to their golden calf.  Reality and facts get trampled under the hooves.

Maybe Mr. Weissman was less brainwashed than most other Trump supporters, or had just enough insight or self-awareness for reason and facts to begin to sink in.   Maybe it’s because Ms. Silverman, a fellow Jew, was perceived as sympathetic.   But it doesn’t matter why Weissman could be redeemed from Trumpism, while so many others seem impermeable to the truth and facts.  What matters is that it’s possible.

It didn’t happen overnight.  His deconversion happened over a period of several weeks or months (he doesn’t give an exact timeframe of how long it took), mostly by continuing his online conversation with Ms. Silverman.   He decided to read the links to articles she gave him instead of attacking them as “fake news.”  By reading and educating himself about the facts, he began to question what he’d believed (or wanted to believe) about Trump.   He became willing to deal with the cognitive dissonance all the new information was causing him.  (Cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable for most people, who will do almost anything to avoid experiencing it).  Weissman describes how welcoming the “liberals” were, and the way they did not judge him.   Some of his Trumpist buddies began to bully him and call him a traitor. They were incensed that he and Ms. Silverman — a liberal — appeared to be friends.  Weissman began to see his fellow Trump supporters in a new light –  as ignorant people embracing a narcissistic bully (or even being bullies themselves) and willfully shutting out the truth.

Here is his story (which also gives tips on how to engage with Trump supporters):

I Used to Be a Trump Troll 

Two myths about Trump Republicans.

Myth #1. Trump Republicans are Conservatives.

conservative

No. Trump Republicans are not conservatives, and here is why:

Conservatives believe in conserving things, not tearing everything to shreds.  Trump Republicans are radical fascists and anarchists who seek to tear down “the establishment” and all the things that made America great (and held it together) before. They seek to  replace those things with new things that will hurt the vast majority of people and destroy the Constitution itself (conservatives believe in upholding and defending the Constitution).

Conservatives believe in traditional values. But Trump Republicans literally worship a president who is a serial adulterer, slept with a porn star (while his third wife was pregnant), had five children by three different wives, and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy because he’s a big star who can do anything he wants (and then he denied ever saying it).   And he’s never, ever repented or apologized for any of it — or anything else he’s ever done.   It seems to me that if God chose Trump to be president (as some evangelicals believe),  he would have chosen someone who is NOT a narcissistic psychopath and also  someone capable of empathy, remorse, and repentance.

The concept of traditional values goes far beyond just family values, though.   Having traditional values also means you believe in civility, kindness, generosity, being nice to strangers, and holding your tongue if you have something unkind to say out of respect for that person’s feelings (or broaching the subject in a sensitive, mature way).   It means being neighborly.  It means being concerned about people who are not as fortunate as you are.   It means not mocking or demeaning people you dislike or who are different from you,  not calling immigrants “animals,” and not treating people of color and women like slaves or second class citizens.

Conservatives believe in small government.    Trump does not believe in small government.  Sure, he and his minions like to talk about small government, but the huge windfall they just gave to the rich and corporations through their tax scam created the hugest deficit in history, which is now in the trillions (which will be paid for by us — through huge cuts to earned benefits like social security and Medicare).

Sure, they’re slashing those annoying regulations (most of which help keep us all safe and healthy) because they don’t believe corporations should be accountable or responsible for anything at all,  but they sure would like to put a lot of new laws and regulations on private citizens, including our sex lives and reproductive freedom.  They’re busy expanding the military and turning ICE into the American Gestapo.   The Trump GOP is pushing through all kinds of new laws and bills that will greatly restrict our civil rights and freedoms, especially if you’re in one of the groups they don’t like or respect (women, LGBTQ, POC, and non-white immigrants).  They are also pushing through legislation that blurs the line that has always separated church and state in the name of “religious freedom” (which it’s anything but).

The endgame is an oligarch-controlled, evangelical “Christian” theocracy that wouldn’t differ much from living in Saudi Arabia under Sharia law — or Europe during feudal times.

So tell me again how Trump supporters don’t want big government?

Hell, they want fucking Big Brother.

Please stop calling Trump Republicans conservatives.  They are conserving nothing.

Myth #2: Trump Republicans Want to Bring Back the 1950s.

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Perhaps Trump Republicans like the idea of the 1950s — doting housewives whose lives revolve around husband and kids,  husbands as the breadwinners, girls who look like girls and boys who look like boys, clearly defined sex roles, conformity, safe suburban neighborhoods, low crime; children’s books, movies, and TV shows that feature lily white protagonists; and little tolerance for cultural or racial diversity or “difference.”

The sexism and racism of the 1950s is well known, but was not really the result of oppressive policy, just the kind of culture we lived in at the time.  Most people just took for granted this was the way things worked so it wasn’t an issue for most people — at least not for a few more years.  Blacks were definitely discriminated against under Jim Crow, but women at the time for the most part welcomed the opportunity to marry and have “victory children” once their men returned from overseas in the Second World War.   There were no laws that women could not pursue traditionally male careers or a more independent life; it just wasn’t something most women considered.

But the 1950s are also known for strong labor unions, higher taxes on the wealthy (in fact they were quite high!), well paying jobs that enabled even working class people to buy homes and new cars, New Deal policies that made it possible for the elderly to live (and die) with dignity and independence rather than be a burden on their children who were trying to raise their own families; affordable healthcare, doctors who actually spent time with their patients and seemed to care about them personally, companies that cared about their employees and offered good benefits and even pensions, good public schools and a strong emphasis on public education, a recognition that science and scientific research trumped superstition and religious dogma, a healthy respect for education and intellectualism, an importance placed on treating others well, having a moral compass and a sense of responsibility to the community,  and a general acceptance by all that for the greater good, the rich should pay more taxes.

Hell, by today’s standards, the 1950s were downright socialist!

During the 1950s (and through the early 1970s), government worked for the people instead of the other way around.  Our checks and balances were intact and working well. Sure, there were always problems — rampant sexism and racism, communist “witch hunts,” etc — but the gap between the rich and poor was low (much of this due to the rich being taxed at a much higher rate) and most people lived pretty well and felt secure in their lives.  Even the less educated, working class could afford nice homes, cars, vacations, and were able to raise children who would later be able to attend college and live better than their parents.   The American Dream was a real thing almost anyone could achieve, not the huge lie it is today.

Life was pretty good in the 1950s because of the things Trump and his staff want to take away from us:  all the New Deal changes FDR made after the Great Depression, including Social Security and Medicare;  high taxes on the rich and corporations; corporate requirements to offer certain benefits to employees, such as health insurance, overtime pay (time and a half) and holiday pay;  a minimum wage that was actually a living wage that kept up with inflation; strong public schools, strong labor unions, federal grants for college, a GI bill that allowed veterans and military personnel to purchase inexpensive homes,  large public works projects, public libraries, and a public interstate highway system; and all sorts of other things that made life more enjoyable and less stressful and made advancement possible for most Americans.   In the 1950s, most people trusted the government, and the government believed that taking care of its people created a healthier and more productive society — as it does in all healthy democracies.  We were the envy of the free world.

While Trump Republicans appear to bemoan the “traditional values” of the 1950s, they never stop to think about the fact that much of what Americans enjoyed then was possible because of a government that actually served its people, instead of one that expects to be served by the people.

Trump Republicans do not want to bring back the 1950s, because that would require them to do all the things they hate: raise taxes on the rich,  offer more social programs, increase funding for public works projects, public schools, libraries, and infrastructure, raise pay for teachers; take care of the elderly, sick and veterans;  improve our national parks and monuments (instead of destroying them and selling them off), encourage and support labor unions, and stop gerrymandering and suppressing votes.   It would require the realization that enhancing the common good matters more in building a strong nation and a strong economy than rewarding and placing value on only wealth and power.

Trump Republicans may want to bring us back to the ’50s, but it isn’t the 1950s — it’s the 1850s right before the Civil War and the Gilded Age — or maybe even the 1350s, if the Christofascists ever get their way.

Educated Evangelicals, Academic Achievement, and Trumpism: On the Tensions in Valuing Education in an Anti-Intellectual Subculture

This is an excellent essay told from a personal perspective about why so many evangelicals reject science and the truth itself — and why they can embrace someone like Donald Trump.

Please leave comments under original post.

Not Your Mission Field

Authority First: The Enclave Strikes Back

“I sat in the waiting room wasting my time, and waiting for Judgment Day. I praise liberty, the freedom to obey.” – Green Day, “21st Century Breakdown,” 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

Fundamentalists force an inhumane choice on reflective, empathetic individuals who grow up in their enclave communities: assent that 2 + 2 = 5, or, if you can’t, shut up about it or leave. Conservative Evangelicalism is a variety of Christian fundamentalism, and, make no mistake, the data tells us with overwhelming clarity that (apart from the “special demographic” of Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, and James Comey), white Evangelicals are the one demographic most responsible for electing the most patently unqualified and dangerously demagogic president in modern American history. I am often asked how they could vote for someone so impious, which is a question I’ve addressed multiple times, generally referring to white Evangelical subculture’s

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

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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.

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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.