Tag: Trump

When your worldview is a lie

I know I am not as sympathetic to those caught up in conspiratorial thinking as I logically could be. I know how the manipulation works, how media echo chambers function to reinforce the things you already believe or want to be true and insulate you against any difference of thought, and how radicalization works regardless of whether it sends you left or right, religious or secular.

Humans and groups are complex and there are no tidy narratives. I saw people attacking and beating police at the Capitol and I saw people ostensibly on the same side trying to protect those victims. I am sure there are people who never imagined that a protest would turn into a violent storming of the Capitol…but I am equally sure that there are people who knew exactly what they were doing and planned for it.

The evidence of this is mounting every day.

How they were meeting, coalescing, and coordinating on social media.

How specific some of their individual or group agendas were.

How they are not going to stop.

How more is already being planned.

Sympathy for the devil?

And so, no, I do not think of all of these people involved in the storming of the Capitols in exactly the same way…but I am struggling to parse the categories correctly. I think many of them are victims, but where does that victimhood end? In addition to willful bad actors, some were probably just caught up in a moment, the collective conscious of a mob. The vast majority of them have been lied to and isolated from alternative points of view for so long that many people do believe we are living through some kind of cataclysmic crisis.

If I believed some of those things, would I be willing to do something drastic about it? Yeah, if I’m honest with myself, I can see the appeal or at least the logic. Everyone likes to think that if put in the circumstances of history, that they would make the valiant and historically vindicated choice. Well, a lot of these people think that’s what’s happening and they are trying to make what they understand to be a valiant choice. There’s a strange sort of bravery in it.

The problem is…the underlying premise of their belief is deeply, tragically flawed. The people who converged might have nuances and differences, but underpinning all of them is a collective, fatal lie; that the election was invalid in some way.

What do we make of genuine attempts at heroism for a false cause? It’s the same logic of ISIS, the crusades, leftist eugenics of the late 19th, early 20th century, and more. Fervent commitment to a false cause is a human problem, it’s always been with us.

So, what do?

So while I want the people who did illegal and violent actions on January 6, 2020 to face the requisite legal repercussions for their actions, I still think the long term focus MUST be on the ecosystem that made this not just possible but probable. Garbage in, garbage out. We should hold people accountable for their individual actions, but we MUST hold responsible the people who should have been a check on the worst of this and didn’t. And yes, that includes the President, which is why I think impeaching him is the right thing to do. There needs to be deterrent for leaders and those in power from feeling able to leverage violence and extremism – whether through incitement, tacit approval, or passive acceptance – for their political benefit.

I don’t know what to do long-term, however, about the problem of living in alternate realities that are founded on these beliefs. QAnon believers still believe President Trump has a plan to take down a global pedophilia and hormone harvesting ring of Satan worshipers (yes…really…). NeoNazis are already spinning last week as a victory that validates their views and appeals to new recruits. Lots of various other groups believe that they are going to be marched into concentration camps, have their guns confiscated, that the government is about to enact martial law, and any other variance.

Each of these worldviews shares a trait: they have an almost religiously protective reaction to any attempts to persuade them otherwise. It reinforces their faith more than harms it. It’s why I wrote about giving up most of my attempts to argue with people who disagree with me with a view to convincing them – because I’ve lost confidence that it actually produces an effect.

But then, what will work? The only thing I can think of is rooting it out, which is also why I favor deplatforming and push back strongly when it’s called censorship. It isn’t.

We have to confront the ecosystems that create and sustain brittle and false worldviews. This is partly what activists mean when they want to dismantle white supremacy/racism/misogyny, or dispute terminology in a way that makes conservatives mad. It’s also what produces so much backlash against this activism – see paragraph above. If your worldview premises are challenged and they are somehow fundamental to your identity (religious, political, social, you name it), you might interpret a different opinion or movement as an attack. And you might respond accordingly–that’s exactly what’s happening.

We don’t have to be talking about “isms” for this logic to work. I could say the same same is true of the systems of education and media and politics in which we find ourselves, which have helped shape deep and entrenched identities. At a deep level, I’d say this gives insights into how left-leaning people like me position themselves and why. Because I don’t want to dismantle existing systems of power (white privilege, patriarchy, the worst iterations of wealth inequality, and so forth) because they are MEAN or UNFAIR–a criticism often lobbed which I think is juvenile and patronizing. I want them to end because they are founded on lies or false narratives.

We have to confront the lies at the core of these identities. Otherwise they will do what extremist and reactionary movements have always done – reconstitute themselves underground until they see another chance to break out again. History demonstrates this over and over.

The Big Lie

Ultimately I keep coming back to thinking about lynch mobs, that horribly American historical precedent. This is absolutely stemming from seeing a gallows erected on Capitol Hill. People are frantically debating whether it was meant to be symbolic or was intended to kill people…and I think that utterly misses the point.

It’s as useless an argument as whether we were supposed to take Trump “literally or seriously,” because ultimately…it doesn’t matter. The big lie enables and justifies either outcome. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

Looking at the history of lynchings in America, it is actually rare that every single person would have participated in the actual torture and murder of the victims, many would have been spectators or even treated it as some kind of ghoulish community event. But everyone in those crowds would have thought what was happening was “right,” “justified,” or even “righteous.” They would have believed that this action would have been taken because the victim, almost inevitably a person considered inferior or dangerous (whether Black, Jewish, German, Chinese, or any other group) “deserved it.”

You didn’t have to be the one slinging a rope over a tree limb to participate in the big lie of racism. They believed what they were doing was right, whether they watched from a picnic blanket or murdered with their bare hands. These might not be considered equivalently evil acts when viewed in isolation through a purely objective lens – but you can’t do that. Both are categorically underpinned and linked by the same false and evil premise and you cannot detach one from the other.

To do so is to capitulate to the lie. And ultimately, that’s what they want.

Do. Not. @. Me.

Fascism is at its most base and basic, the singling out of chosen, “superior” in-groups to enjoy the protection and backing of those in power–from vicious rhetoric through violent means–at the direct expense of villainized outgroups who are denigrated, disempowered, and at worst violently targeted.

And here’s the thing: you can’t fake it. You can’t cosplay fascism on the weekends. You can’t indulge in a little light fascism for fun and profit. You can’t enable it, it thinking it will benefit you but that you can leave it behind when it becomes just a little too distasteful. You can’t flirt with fascism. It’s not what you believe, it’s what you do.

Because due to the very nature of the ideology and by design there are ultimately only two categories–the fascists, and their victims. You are either with them or you are against them, and all the evidence of history shows us that there is no room for conscientious objection. The structure does not allow for it. Sooner or later, whether because you truly believe in it, or are just willing to look the other way while others enact it, you end up with the fascists or on the enemies list. Every. Single. Time.

A lot of people have cosplayed as seditionists and lite-fascists for so long that that’s what they have in effect become. It frankly does not fucking matter what is in their heart of hearts. Fascism is what you do, not what you believe.

You can be shocked but only the dangerously or willfully ignorant can claim to be surprised over the events of the last 24 hours. This is the wholly predictable (and indeed, predicted!) culmination of years of media manipulation, deconstruction of institutions (including the very notion of god damned objective truth), and the coddling of the absolute worst of our national character and history. It doesn’t matter the numbers of their minority, what matters is the vigor of their commitment and intent.

Every single politician who did the devil’s arithmetic and calculated that they could infinitely head a mob, continuously whip it to greater heights of rage, and expect to stay in charge of it, your ignorance alone should disqualify you for public office. The entire weight of history is against you. Every person who told themselves that by staying in the room and abetting the worst tendencies of a malignant narcissist with the nuclear codes they were somehow doing us all a favor, your hubris is insulting as it is laughable. Every official who is performatively resigning with less than three weeks left in their tenure, your cowardice and self-interest after spending four years enriching and empowering your ingroups is naked. You deserve to be hounded from public life. Every single person who shrugged at the antics and rhetoric (which you would NEVER have tolerated from anyone outside your precious ingroup), you are complicit not in just the coarsening of our public life, but in a rising tide of nationalism and authoritarianism which you were happy to go along with when it benefitted you…BECAUSE of the people it harmed, not in spite of it.

Fascism isn’t something you believe, it what you do. And you are either with them, or you are against them.

Never have I been so delighted to have my cynicism go unfulfilled

Spiking the postal service, sowing distrust, decades of gerrymandering, lawsuits to close and reducing polling locations, AND a global pandemic and this election broke participation records.

This doesn’t unmake damage, and it’s no substitute for the systemic work that needs to happen to live up to the promise of our national mythos. I’m still afraid of possible anger or disappointment turning to violence, I’m still not hopeful that the gridlock strategy won’t rear it’s horrible head again, I’m still convinced that the conservative pivot to “the debt ceiling” or whatever is going to give us all whiplash, and I’m certain that the incumbent administration can do a lot of damage on their way out. Hell, I’m not sure Don Jr. won’t announce his candidacy next week or something moronic.

I’m most afraid that a lot of (white, comfortable, middle class) people are going to think “Job done,” dust their hands, and go back to being complacent. Women’s marches, BLM marches, indigenous peoples marches, the active role in promoting not just petty fandoms but the democratic process…that needs to keep happening. We need people of all stripes to push for the world we want.

The thing about democracy is that you have to keep doing it.

But just for this weekend, in this incredibly exhausting and bonkers year, I’m just going to enjoy the many reminders that activism and civic engagement work.

Weekend Links: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
– Winston Churchill

Gillette released an ad about target masculinity and every single Mens Rights Activist on the internet lost their god damned mines over it. “Hamberders” happened. Theresa May squeaked by a vote of No Confidence in her government but Brexit is still no less shambolic. American elected leaders are in a game of oneupmanship in cancelling one another’s public duties. Approximately one million Democrats are running in 2020. New news about the investigation into the President caused him to frantically tweet that new caravans of asylum seekers are coming to impose shariah law or something…

It’s telling that we are three weeks into the new year and there is already THIS MUCH to recap. I actually forgot that the news about the FBI opening an investigation into a sitting president is less than seven days old…

But never fear, kittens! I have lovingly curated enough good and interesting things from around the internet today to help you in processing the fact that the world is on fire.

I want to live in Jeremy Irons’ house..

Were we living in normal times, this would be administration-ending in its own right. Not the outcomes, whatever they were or may yet be, but just that the FBI felt the need to even look into this.

Less than 24 hours later, this reporting also dropped. Even if the sheer amount of inappropriate contact with known-hostile actors and resources could be explained by dumb coincidence and bad luck (which is one hell of a reach at this point, but let’s allow it), at this point the amount of piss poor judgement shown should invoke some kind of major censure from Congress and others with co-equal authority under Constitutional law.

Why can’t we just say he’s not a good manager? Incidentally, this whole presidency is a great case study for those who claim they want people to run the government like a business. I have never understood this, they are in no way analogous. A business exists to make profit, a government exists to administer services, enforce laws, manage public spaces, fund agreed projects and programs that serve the good of the populace, and maintain infrastructure. These are not the same thing as maximizing profit!

K, so I’m switching careers to become a cheeseplate influencer. Thank you for coming to this important announcement.

Media bias is real, but it seldom cuts along the lines that the people complaining about it most loudly claim it is.

I really liked this short Vlogbrothers video on different types of burnout, which follows the viral Buzzfeed article on the same topic I shared last week.

I now long for a sight of Benny!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rebranded as AOC, has been making waves in the media–mostly thanks to how much attention is being flung at her by white, male, conservative media. It’s included a horrific attempt to pass off nude photos as hers, patronizing language, and attacking her comments while ignoring whole swaths of the rest of the cohort of freshman congressmen and women. Why the vitriol? This writer argues it’s more than run-of-the-mill misogyny (of which there is plenty), it’s deeper than that. (In related writing, this Op Ed about how women are changing the face of power, not least of all by refusing to play into the historical white, male narratives of what power looks like and how it should be practiced.)

This is important investigative reporting on who can access what data about you and how.

What a great piece on whether we may have had that whole slather-on-suncreen-100%-of-the-time thing wrong

In the interest of even-handedness, Lawfare lays out a compelling case that the FBI has overstepped in troubling ways far too many times in recent years and why that’s a bad thing.

DAMN, girl!

I am delighted to report that, much like unto Logan Paul, I had no idea who this internet person was until this story happened.

This piece from The New Yorker on the interpretations of heaven and hell is an excellent read.

Making space for discomfort.

I’ve learned the value of being read to (audiobooks) as an adult.

Late on Thursday, this piece of news dropped. A bit more granular detail which is also pretty damning. The word “bombshell” is genuinely overused these days, but this qualifies. There needs to be rigorous and impeccable investigation on this point because it does cross into potential impeachment proceedings territory if true.

ETA: The special counsel issued an extremely rare statement in response to this reporting and the news media is still dissecting it.

Of course he didn’t!

Ramblings: The Upside

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” 
― Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary

Trump and Brexit. Between them it has been one hell of a week…and I’m typing this on a TUESDAY.

But from the various breaking news alerts to the sense of being caught between not just one but two non-functioning governments, I put on my best political Carrie Bradshaw and couldn’t help but wonder…

What is the upside to all of…this? Because in spite of the sheer-head-shakery of it all, I think there is a potential long game win for us here.

The thing about the election of Trump, Brexit, the waves of other disruptive political movements across the West in the last few years is that they are leaving many people with the sense that the old rules have been not just set aside, but torn up and tossed to the winds. There is a lot about that which is (rightfully) scary. But there’s also this:

The old rules include patriarchy and systemic sexism. The old rules include systemic racism coupled with classism. The old rules included systemic privilege for some and systematic exclusion for others. The old rules required certain systems to function, operating in symbiosis.

The groups of the historically powerful (mostly political leaders, mostly white, usually rich, and typically male) who have glommed on to these leaders and movements, which are trying to shake up the status quo, strike me as fundamentally shortsighted. Every Brexiteer and Never Trumper who eventually became converted has made a bet that the fundamental changes they are driving (or allowing to happen) somehow won’t affect him–that the cost of the disruption in our institutions and status quo will be born by someone else. So what if he challenges the norms of the presidency, at least the libs are owned, right?

This is faulty logic to me on the macro scale. If you help to unmake the system and rules that protects and privileges you, what exactly is your plan for when your protections erode? When your foes play by new rules? When your old friends no longer stand by you? When your access to wealth and privileged is diminished? I think a lot of the traditionally powerful are in for a surprise, and I’m not exactly angry at the prospect.

If one good thing comes out of this political era, it may be the unmaking of bad systems. I don’t pretend that the work of building better ones won’t be hard or unpleasant, but I’m also not going to pretend I mourn the loss of many of those Old Rules. I wish we could arrive at better and more just New Rules through a less destructive, less morally bankrupt, and more noble process than what we often have before us… but I think we must take what we can get. To waste the sheer human cost of the damage that is being done by not at least trying to make something better seems criminal.

Weekend Links

“But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Happy Friday, ducklings! I’m dropping the Links a bit early because it is a particularly scrumptious load of internet-y goodness and I refuse to let a(nother) shocking week of political news get in the way of some things worth reading.

If 2018 was anything to go by, something genuinely newsworthy will drop the moment after I schedule this thing to go live… The shutdown is still on, the Trump Show is still trumping, Brexit is still a flaming mess of malice…truthfully I needed a break from most of it.

Here’s your batch of reading, let me know what you are getting up to this weekend in the comments. I’m going to try and get some writing down, the house cleaned, and a just-because-it’s-fun-and-I-can creative project idea going. It’s been a while since I’ve had the bandwidth to sketch up a project like this so I’m enjoying the process.

This thread of museums and cultural heritage institutions sharing their “best ducks” missed the last weekly links post by sheer bad timing but was simply way too good not to post. My weird little nerdy heart could barely take the gleeWhoever runs this account is my new true love. (Here’s an easier to digest rundown if you don’t have time to scroll…but you’d REALLY be doing yourself a disservice.)

Well…I just…drat

Something interesting happened where the creative world intersects with the business world recently.

This story is horrendous, full stop. But it is horribly telling that the term “rape” is conspicuously absent from this article.

Here’s a great round up of TED talks to start your year with some inspiration.

This longform piece from Buzzfeed hit me hard and has stuck with me. Why burnout and anxiety are the millennial condition, and how we got here.  You may start off rolling your eyes or yawning, but I hope plenty of people read this through to the end. It describes almost everyone in my general age range that I can name. “To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.” (The follow up piece is worth reading too.)

In related news

Of course I’m not going to bypass the opportunity to share yet another piece on eschewing fast fashion.

I can’t tell if this is cute or possibly a new for the species. By which I mean humans.

The internet has always been a strange place and we’ve always struggled with how to navigate it. We’re now dealing with the aspect of how much of it is fake.

This is dedication to a goal!

What an important study project this must have been, into those who joined ISIS from the US and why.

Why I decided not to pursue freelance writing full time and as my only source of income: the increasingly grim reality. I suspect this will always be my What Might Have Been personal topic–if I had had a different life or circumstances I might have made different choices–but I found that even as a young woman who was able to land pitches, I didn’t make nearly enough until I branched into other kinds of work as well. I want this to be different, and creative and thoughtful writing to be valued more by society (I sure as hell pay for it), but for so many people it’s not a feasible career. We are missing critical voices and perspectives on every conceivable topic as a society because of it.

Seems legit…/s

Like many, I found the closing quote of this piece extremely telling, “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” In other words, this person voted for a man not on the basis of the bridges he could build or the problems he could solve, but because of the people he said or implied he would harm. President as weapon, not as servant; attack dog rather than home defender. Vox breaks this down more eloquently than I.

Women making change happen.

GUYS. Our girl Hannah Capin’s debut novel made Goodreads Best Young Adult Books of January list!

The White House announced that the President would give an address from the Oval Office regarding the “crisis” of the border (reminder, almost everything that can be termed a crisis–including moral ones–at the border has been a crisis of the President’s own policy and making). All major networks were asked to carry the message, and after some perfunctory handwringing (which is not the same thing as a vigorous debate of how to best coverage a president with record breaking false claims, especially given the precedent of not granting other presidents the same kind of airtime), they agreed. Some thought this was a good idea. Others did not. The speech happened, it moved the national mood not a whit and here we are (presumably) still fighting about it.

Meanwhile – because we live in a reality TV show now – Mr. Manafort’s lawyers either on-purpose-sneakily or stupidly filed some paperwork. Oops. Is this incompetence or a leak, do we think? Because we learned that Mr. Manafort shared some information with people associated with Russian intelligence. And wh

Longtime readers know that my love of collective nouns runs deep, so I was delighted to learn that collective nouns themselves have a collective noun.

And incredibly important and valid point in this piece.

Female scribes!

Who wants this?! Who asked for it?! Bring me their names!

Great, now we’ve got aliens to deal with

Well, they are late because this is happening.

A Woman’s Worth?

every woman in this pic tho pic.twitter.com/6Y2SvY4YlU

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The Kavanaugh hearings are a shit show but they do show what a corner certain parts of society have painted themselves into:

  • They’ve tried to argue, “it was a long time ago,” and lost the moral high ground because there is no expiration on decency
  • They’ve tried to argue, “even if it DID happen, he’s a good man,” and lost the moral high ground again because good men (and there are PLENTY OF THEM) don’t harass women
  • They’ve tried to argue, “the mistakes of youth shouldn’t follow people,” and lost the moral high ground for simultaneously holding opinions that young men and women who commit petty crimes or fall pregnant should have those choices follow them for the rest of their lives
  • They’ve tried to claim respecting women, and then got the highest office in the land to cast doubts and aspersions on the women who have come forward (almost all of them admitting fear of doing so, having seen what happened to Anita Hill and knowing how many of the EXACT SAME MEN will be questioning them in the same way).
  • They’ve tried to use the “drunken/slut/drunken slut” aspect…but women aren’t tolerating that shit any more.

There have been libellous accusations made on Twitter that cross the line into outright conspiracy theory. There is some evidence of coordination of smear tactics and commentary amongst allies (looking at you, Senator Hatch’s office). And even as more and more accusations of bad, crass, and increasingly ugly behavior piled up, the Senate seemed hell bent on trying to fast track his confirmation.

In other words…

The hearings have also underscored for me that if there’s anything people who benefit from a powerful structure can do, it’s ignore the corners.

Kavanaugh’s defense of himself was all the things that a woman, a person of color, or frankly any member of the non-patriarchy could never be: tearful, a bit petulant at having to defend himself in the first place (a textbook definition of privilege), indignant, and emotional.

Every male Republican senator who questioned him expressed sympathy for having to deal with the accusations. There were far fewer expressions of sympathy for Dr. Ford for her ordeal. Lindsey Graham seemed to be auditioning for a role on the Cabinet with a shrill explosion that interrupted Ms. Mitchel, the lawyer hired to question Dr. Blasley Ford and the nominee. The reigns were never really handed back, meaning that Dr. Blasley Ford was questioned by a trained lawyer, Judge Kavanaugh was questioned by his allies. The Cable News Watcher In Chief tweeted his support.

This whole story has been an exercise in patriarchy closing ranks in self defense. I have no doubt that there will be a committee vote today, and I expect he will be seated to the Supreme Court. In spite of a desperately partisan biases on display (on both sides, yes, but one has to wonder how his statements may come back to haunt him in his future rulings). In spite of credible questions of bad behaviour and poor judgement. In spite of it all.

At some point, the ruling party (and a whole lot of society) is going to have to make a decision: are women–their bodies and their stories, their truths and their needs–disposable or not? Is the safety and autonomy of girls and women worthy of defense and respect, worthy of holding powerful men to account and denying them advancement and prestige when they violate it?

Or are women’s bodies acceptable collateral damage on your route to power? If yes, fine. Own it. It’s misogyny, and it really is that simple.

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On President Trump and Scrutiny

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”
― H.L. Mencken

I read this piece from The Washington Post today and it made me genuinely wonder how this political moment and the personality of this president is going to be viewed, both in a few years and further down the line. George W. Bush has gone from being almost universally derided to being seen as a gentle sort of man who probably wanted to the do the right thing but was perhaps not equal to the task. This is an enormously flattering take, in my opinion, but it exists. Barack Obama is increasingly seen as a idealistic and probably personally good man who fell short of his own ideals and disappointed many. What are we going to make of Donald Trump with his frankly brilliant showmanship and his seething grievance, his apparent privilege and his ever present resentment of scrutiny and criticism? I then realized something that I’ve been struggling to put into words about Mr. Trump that finally clicked into place. That’s what defines so much of his behavior and statements since coming into office: a reaction to scrutiny.

I joke about this a lot, but I don’t believe the sentiment is entirely true.

Mr. Trump is strange because he catapulted from celebrity into public life (which are NOT the same thing, just ask the Royal Family). Celebrity is a space where personality is everything, selling your own narrative arc to the public in the great public theatre of pop culture is part of the job. In this world, your foibles and failings can be winked at if not treated as actual assets. Mr. Trump cultivated shamelessness as armor against criticism and leveraged it into a successful brand. The only thing that matters is your fandom, they are your social leverage and quite often your marketing.

Public life is different. Shame is one of the great levelers in it and is supposed to act as a policing measure, something we are now watching fail in real time as an administration (far from one person or personality) copes with several scandals in any given week which would have ground most previous administrations to a halt or broken them. Fans are not the same thing as allies and in this world you need the latter. And yet, in this world, the glare of attention does not just come with adoration or outrage, it comes with scrutiny. That seems to be what Mr. Trump didn’t really expect and which he is coping with extraordinarily badly.

On just a personality level he simple doesn’t seem capable (or indeed interested) in behaving with the reserve we have historically expected of our presidents and insists on emoting publicly. I’m personally wrestling with the idea that this is something I’ve been clamoring for in men and masculinity for a long time. If we are going to insist on space for different emotional displays in women than what has been historically acceptable and encouraged, we must do the same in men. Does the president of the United States have a right to be petty in public? Maybe he does. But like so many of the gender changes we are going through as a culture, this is such a rapid shift that we are having to grapple with the fallout of it in real time. Some of this fallout is an omnipresent attention on the president’s emotional state. He finds this unflattering and unfair, but in many ways it’s a self created problem. More on that in a moment.

On a higher level, how dare his business life be looked into? How dare the movements and actions of his children be front page news? How dare his motives be questioned or his rants on Twitter be evaluated as statements of policy? In other words, how dare we the public (especially the unfriendly public whose votes he didn’t win) scrutinize him?

He didn’t seem to realize that this is literally part of the job. This is what being a president is. It’s often one half of the country hating you, and everything you doing carrying weight. He seems love and crave the attention while resenting it at the same time. He enjoys the spotlight, but that same spotlight is shining into areas of his life and business that he probably thought (with good reason) might not see the light of day and he’d rather it not.

I’m fascinated by reporting that focuses on his businesses because having worked in similar industries, I know how often those industries (while absolutely following the letter of the law in most cases and doing nothing illegal in the slightest) can be vehicles for transactions and behavior that the vast majority of the population finds distasteful at the very least. The business world of the very wealthy is one of the great engines of capitalism, but there are also a lot of shades of gray around the edges. In its most extreme cases, there is an awful lot of white collar crime that goes on that is simply never paid attention or prosecuted. I would not be surprised if the Trump Organization participated in this, what reporting is out there indicates that this is at least possible if not likely. But this sort of crime and behavior is so rarely punished. We kind of wink at it as a society–which is a whole topic in and of itself. Had he never won the presidency, it’s entirely likely to me that Mr. Trump could have continued existing in this probable space as well as his celebrity space very comfortably and profitably for the rest of his career.

But the office brings scrutiny and that’s fundamentally different from publicity. For better or worse, the office is different from the man and no matter how hard he tries to combine the two (which it really seems as though he is trying to do, which is also a topic for another day because I think this has interesting potential to affect our politics as a nation permanently), holding this office means that the stakes have changed and certain people or groups are going to hold him accountable for things he has never been asked to answer for. His emotional state is a matter of national interest. His business relationships may have security implications. His bad behavior is suddenly not a brand consistent foible, it’s a liability.

It may very well turn out that the Trump Organization did nothing illegal or even unethical during the campaign, especially with foreign interference. They sure aren’t acting like it, but it’s possible. It’s also possible that it never occurred to key people that the meetings they were taking may have been dangerous and unethical–I genuinely wonder this. Again, none of these people with few exceptions had engaged in public life before. Celebrity yes, but not public service. They may simply have not realized what a massive conflict of interest it was to take meetings with certain actors, how unethical and in appropriate it would seem for the office. Ignorance doesn’t make them less responsible or mean they shouldn’t be held accountable, but as an explanation it too is possible.

When I say I think Mr. Trump is unfit for the job, this is a big part of what I mean. He didn’t seem to understand some of these implications about winning the office and as he learns the implications in real time, he throws temper tantrums in public that are damaging to the country’s ability to govern itself domestically and abroad. I happen to think he’s brought a lot of drama on himself by making the Mueller investigation about himself when ostensibly it’s about Russian interference in the election–especially as he insists that it’s a topic that has nothing to do with him personally. This would not be the clown circus it is if he had kept a tighter reign on his Twitter temper. In fact, he probably would be under a lot less scrutiny overall if he himself hadn’t insisted on making various claims publicly over the years–the size of his fortune, various relationships, and so on.

Donald Trump, and frankly a lot of American electorate, have badly confused politics and entertainment for years now. He’s the public face of this phenomenon and depending on how this scrutiny on him plays out, he may be the most public victim of it…or its first great success. Either way, he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the ride. I have a strange level of sympathy for him on this point alone: I really don’t believe that he really knew what he was getting into when he won; he did not want and is not prepared (or possibly emotional resilient enough) for this level of scrutiny. I guess no one in his life or team prepared him for this reality, and if they tried he clearly didn’t listen. There are no stakes if you’re just playing role, after all, and he’s built his whole public persona on role playing until it all suddenly became very real. I believe reporting which suggests that he was terrified of his first year in office and is now just sort of winging it.

Because I don’t think Mr. Trump ever really wanted to be president. He just wanted to play one on TV.

ETA later this same day, the President tweeted this, once again changing the official version of this story. More intelligent people than me have commented about this but I am baffled by what he chooses to be defensive about under scrutiny and what he chooses to just blurt out to the world. For some reason, probably going back to the idea of shame as a public policing mechanism, our system seems totally unable to hold him accountable to what he admits publicly. If this had leaked or been revealed a la Nixon, it would be a scandal in any other administration. I suspect this confessional style statement will have precisely zero effects. 

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Immigrant Thoughts

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” 
― George Washington

People sometimes ask when Jeff and I will return to the States. It makes me howl with laughter. I may not be a citizen of the UK, but I work hard and pay taxes here. And in exchange…

I have free healthcare including birth control and OBGYN services.

Hell, I have an IUD already.

I have maternity and paternity leave protections and options should I need them.

I have access to abortion services should I require them.

I have robust public transportation.

I am an immigrant who feels protected by the laws of the nation I live in.

Yeah, we’ve got Brexit (a mess), sky rocketing rent (ugh), and nationalism on the rise here in Europe too (guys, what the hell?!). But living here does not frighten me. Are there acts of public violence? Horribly yes, but they are peanuts compared to those of my own country. I might think some individual politicians are through the looking glass, but I don’t feel as though one party or personality is holding this nation hostage. Yes we have hypocrisy here, but it doesn’t cause me whiplash or existential dread.

I am an American who, without hyperbole–I’m not invoking the tired meme of moving to Canada–has no desire to live in my own country during the present moment. I see too much going on that I can’t understand, reject, and of which I am genuinely fearful. Don’t misunderstand, I recognize that we are not experiencing collapse or ruin or war or famine like so many other nations are. I don’t pretend to believe that we’re in an apocalypse. But I still don’t want to live there.

I don’t expect perfection from my country, but I do expect better than what I have experienced in my 14 years as an active and involved voter. I am horrified to see bad faith rewarded in the way that I feel I have in my voting lifetime. I fear the long term repercussions, including radicalism on my own side. But I fear even more the darker underlying forces at work in my country which I knew existed, but of whose power and influence I significantly and ignorantly mis-estimated for way too long.

The good news is that while I may live in a different country that I love, my vote still counts in my own which I love just as much. I will sure as hell be using it. And I am putting money where my mouth is from now through November; I encourage like minded voters to do the same.

Midterms matter.

Get mad. Stay mad.

 

An Update

Color me surprised that he bowed to pressure. Pleasantly. Though the wording of this EO leaves an awful lot to the discretion of the DHS Secretary…

But.

Don’t forget that at it’s most fundamental, this was a manufactured crisis from a White House that specializes in manufacturing crises. They literally set the fire, they should not get any praise for putting it out. They should also get a lot of criticism for causing confusion in the first place.

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Don’t forget that the policies and underlying ethno-nationalistic sentiments this administration came to power on…are still in power.

Don’t forget that there are children right now who need to be immediately reunited with parents and guardians and the pressure needs to stay up until that happens and can be confirmed and documented publicly.

Don’t forget that the administration has other crackdowns planned between now and November, because a certain part of their base wants them (and because certain key members of the administration genuinely believe in them).

Don’t forget that the president has spent the last 72 hours lying about how this policy came to be and how he couldn’t do a thing to change it. This untruth of this needs to be hammered home.

Don’t forget who backed up those lies and tried to reinforce a demonstrably false narrative, up to and including the Secretary of Homeland Security on whose word are supposed to rely in the event of national emergency or threat.

Don’t forget this administration tried something as extreme as taking hostages. On some level, it all feels like a trial balloon to test what they can get away with and what their control over the media narrative really is.

And finally do not forget how quickly this timeline moved. Only three days ago, Secretary Neilsen said that this policy didn’t exist. 72 hours later, the president is issuing an executive order to dismantle aspects of it.

This is farcical.

Midterms are coming sooner than you think.