Saturday, July 30, 2016

Is the hole in our heart really a failure? NO

 “I don’t want to see anyone. I lie in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and nothingness washing over me like a sluggish wave. Whatever is happening to me is my own fault. I have done something wrong, something so huge I can’t even see it, something that’s drowning me. I am inadequate and stupid, without worth. I might as well be dead.” – Margaret AtwoodCat’s Eye

This graphic depiction of depression is one of literally millions to grip the lives of people, real people who, in too many cases, keep their desperation locked in their hearts, fearing that if they opened the door to that darkness, they would be ridiculed, possibly despised, or worse, alienated and ignored.
Whether one pictures pulling a pillow over one's mouth and nose in order to stop the breathing, or walking into the water at the beach, all the way to the deep, where breathing ceases, or jumping from a sky scraper, or throwing one's body in front of a speeding subway train....the pictures are part of the rehearsal for a 'way out' of this madness.
And make no mistake, much of the world's drama is nothing less than sheer madness. Collectively, we seem to be enmeshed in fishing nets whose strings we cannot remove from our arms, our legs, our necks and whose strings seem to continue, however slowly and inexorably, to tighten with each exposure to another act of inhumanity to another person or group of humans.
How can any sentient human fail to notice and be moved, often to tears, with another suicide bomber's decimation of lives of innocent people?
How can anyone fail to wince upon learning of another gun-shot into the flesh and bones and heart and spirit of another person?
How can one fail to harden from exposure to the contrived violence of computer games played repeatedly as both a 'rush' of adrenalin and a medication numbing the pain that underlies too much of contemporary life?
How can anyone hold out against the onslaught of invading images of the abuse of power from the insult of a colleague meant to demean, to the many offensive 'ism's' that seem to complement the sources of hard power to which too many gravitate in order to sustain a modicum of ordinariness?
How can the individual sustain what is simply unsustainable..the kind of pressure to fit into a competitive and combative and hypercritical and alienating culture in which winners have contempt for losers and losers have contempt for winners, and patronizing attitudes and postures pour ointment on the guilt of the underlying truth?
How can one avoid, or evade, the suction of the black hole of indifference that would seem to offer surcease of pain, the pain of the daily diet of the pounding drum-beat of selling another pill, another drink, another trip, another car, another insurance policy the benefits of which have to outweigh the costs, if the economy is to sustain its 75% dependence on consumer buying?
How can any human resist and avoid or evade the objectifying that reduces her to a symbol of whatever...another sale, another impulse of sexuality, another nurse, another trophy, an elevation of status/superiority?
How can one reject the determination of others to paint a target on his back, the focus of demeaning attacks of feigned superiority, another of the quivvers of power in the arsenal of the neurotic?
How can one concentrate on the task of getting an education when all the world seems intent on distracting into a myriad of escapes all made legitimate by a cultural thrust that supports both the acquisition of various "perks" like body/mind mascara, and also "belonging" to an 'in' crowd...and by joining avoid, evade the pain of isolation, alienation, ridicule and indifference?
Closing the drapes, grasping the bedcovers and pulling them over the head, refusing to leave the house, refusing to answer the phone, refusing to eat, refusing to engage through any of the many communication devices from snail mail to digital  notes...all of these, while giving respite for a moment, start one on a path of withdrawal and potentially raise a red flag for our companions, if they are paying attention.
However, any of these temporary "closings" can and too often do lead to longer periods of withdrawal. And often those withdrawal periods do not evoke "check-ins" that so many people today need, and need in silence.
Occasionally, in a "healthy society" a news story will focus on the rising numbers of suicides, and mention the efforts of those seeking to prevent such acts of desperation. And then, with all of the opportunities for "busyness" people move on, with or without an occasional mention of depression over the water cooler at the office.
Unlike cancer, unlike heart attacks, unlike a stroke, unlike diabetes....depression, alienation, isolation, aloneness and loneliness, often linked to abuse, right now or unaddressed from the past, together or separately dig a deep hole in the heart of vulnerable people who believe they have no place to go to find solace, options, friends. And once the hole has been dug, and emptied of its energy to beat, not only the blood through the veins and arteries, but also the spiritual energy to consider one's person worthy of acceptance, it often takes a lifetime for that 'hole' to heal.
And even with a modicum of healing of that hole in the heart, one never loses the memory of the experience of the heart being hollowed out. It is as if the body preserves the memory of that 'hole' while the society has never devised, designed or created a surgical operation to repair the hole in that heart.
In fact, most people with a hole in their heart keep their pain locked in the vault of that hole.
For many, to open the vault of that hole is so risky that it has to be avoided at all costs. Opening the vault and exposing the secret of the abuse, of the loss, of the bullying, of the brokenness of the spirit is to risk being targetted as weak, as a cry-baby, as a self-pitying, snivelling, untrustworthy other. It is also to risk being rejected for a job, for a relationship, for an opportunity to volunteer, for an invitation to a party or a dinner. 
Of course, there are 'support groups' for those with specific weaknesses like alcohol or any of the many other addictions. And there are support groups for those experiencing bereavements with its accompanying grief. And even to stick a toe in those waters, for many, takes considerable courage, but perhaps less today than fifty years ago. 
Yet we are a culture of visible evidence of pain or abuse, while continuing to remain detached from those pains that we cannot see. And all of the pains that comprise any definition of depression, alienation, isolation, indifference, self-loathing (too often enmeshed with all those other pains), are extremely difficult to discern, especially in a culture in which the observable trumps the invisible.
And the culture also barely pays lip service to the invisibles that haunt the lives of millions. In fact, can anyone really say that those invisible "pains" like those holes in the heart, are not an integral part of his or her life? Is there really anyone whose life has passed without an arrow piercing his or her heart? Is there anyone living whose memory is not encumbered with moments of unbearable loss, even if those losses were inflicted without malice, and without intent?
And yet, we continue to attempt to maintain a culture in which our emotional and our psychic pain continues to need a locked closet, keeping the evidence of that pain private, lest we become objects of ridicule, or worse, indifference.
And, to make matters worse, we are almost compelled to witness the parade of power-seeking, power wielding, power-obsessed 'leaders' whose campaigns depend on keeping the doors to our (and their) private locked closets sealed, as if in a collective, even compulsive act of complicity to silence.
Seemingly, if we were permitted to unlock our personal closet of pain, we would inflict such a wave of embarrassment, and drain on the public treasury, that we would wither on the vine of public approbation.
And yet, our denial and our avoidance is haunting so many conversations, so many organizations and so many families, that we are all complicit in a mountain that keeps this volcano locked....
Only, one has to wonder if the mountain has reached its containment limit....given the hourly explosions on the streets, and in the forests and in the floods...and on the television screens and in the political rallies....

And one also has to wonder if we have the collective courage and the collective political will to begin to do things differently...through the open, conscious and persistent address of those frightening clouds on our personal and on our shared global horizons.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hillary's flaws pale beside Trump's pathology

Today’s polling says that 68% of American people consider Hillary Clinton dishonest and untrustworthy. And in a world in which headlines ‘trump’ both the fine print and, for many people, any digging deeper into the implications of those tweets.
Trump’s unfavourable numbers are in the fifties, not quite as high as the 68%.
Yet there is a qualitative difference in the in public perceptions by the America electorate of these two candidates. Hillary is still wearing baggage for names like White Water, Vince Foster, Chris Stevens, and even, to some extent someone called Lewinsky. Most of those narratives have been litigated in the media, or even in the investigative process of the government without fulling being able to exonerate this woman from the clouds that continue to follow her wherever she goes.
The issue of whether or not she can turn the depth of suspicion around in the next 100 days in time to rescue the electoral victory from the jaws of defeat remains open, and the longer it hangs open the more damage it does to her chances of becoming the first woman president. Wikileaks, through the release of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee demonstrating what Bernie Sanders was saying throughout the campaign that the DNC was putting its hands on the scale in favour of Ms Clinton. When asked about the situation by Scott Pelley on CBS’ 60 Minutes, she dismissed the issue by saying that she knew nothing about what those people who do not work for her were saying or doing. To say her comments were disingenuous is an understatement. There is no American, nor Canadian, nor any person from anywhere else who would not be tilting toward such a judgement; Ms Clinton has been prominent in the Democratic Party for decades and she knows every person who works there. Also Tim Kaine’s assertion that all officials at the DNC have an opinion about the candidates, without actually working to ‘tip the scale’ in favour of one candidate is no less disingenuous. We all know, and can see rather clearly, that Bernie Sanders who has not been a member of the Democratic Party, but as an Independent has merely caucused with them over the years he has been in the Senate We also know that in his campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency, he took on not only the Wall political campaigns following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision; he also took on the ‘establishment’ of the Democratic Party, and as chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz both in that capacity, and also as a strong feminist, was obviously favouring Clinton. The Chair’s announcement of her resignation, immediately following the party convention on Thursday this week, is merely a sacrificial act to help preserve party unity.
If the public perception of Ms Clinton is to put it mildly, “too clever by half” as may well be the case, that is a political stumbling block she will have to work to overcome. Can she do it? There is every reason to doubt it, especially with the hourly drumbeat of Trump’s twitters calling her ‘crooked Hillary’…..without either being called on it or offering any details. He merely paints by number, using the same paint brush the public has been deploying for decades. Not so incidentally, too, is the rising tide of anti-intellectualism, anti-science ideology, as well as anti-prep and anti-Ivy League sentiment attached to all of the others. *
On the Trump side, however, there is a far different kind of ignominy. There is a man whose own biographer calls a sociopath, while others who also know the private details of his life up that to a ‘sick sociopath’….and from an outsider’s perspective, we all know that he has never been forced to release his tax returns, nor to come clean on his despicable denigration of the judge with Latino heritage who is sitting on the Trump university class action case, nor to specifically cost his proposals, nor even to lay out his proposals to actually govern, should he win the election. Paul Krugman, a noted liberal economist and columnist for the New York Times, has written that we should all be taking seriously the potential links between Trump and the Russian oligarchs who hold considerable influence in Putin’s Russia. Trump’s conditional support of Article Five of the NATO Charter, dependent on whether or not member states has ‘paid their dues’ and his cheerleading of Putin as a great leader, according to Krugman, are not to be taken lightly. In fact, there are significant reasons for the American investigative journalists to dig very deeply into this potential story. For example, is Wikileaks in some obscure way being aided and abetted by forces and support that can be traced back to the Kremlin? Who knows? Nevertheless, the question is certainly not mute. And Trump’s flagrant denial of any connection between the leaks and Russia does nothing if not raise the bar of suspicion. After all, without releasing his tax returns, how would anyone know what connections Trump has to Russian plutocrats?
Name calling, racism, isolationism, narcissism, and the reduction of all calculations to dollars, renders the whole world just another poker table for Trump to dominate, given his own reductionist version of reality: the whole world is dangerous and I alone can save the United States from every danger!
So, whether the American people trust the first woman to be their president (and a large dose of misogyny cannot be denied in any analysis of the political situation in the U.S., just as a large dose of blatant racism underpins the Republican obstruction of Obama for the last six years) or are willing to turn the keys over to a man whose grasp on reality is suspect seems to be one of the core questions facing the electorate.  Trump’s whole life demonstrates what some call a certifiable narcissism, whose public utterances are an embarrassment to his party, to his country and to the human race, and whose attention span, according to those who have worked with him, reaches to the extant of a gnat’s, perhaps a nanosecond.
From this desk, this choice is a no brainer, simply because whatever Hillary’s flaws (and like the rest of us, she has her own share), they pale in comparison to the fundamental danger posed by the simply candidacy of Trump, never mind the extreme threat posed by a Trump presidency. Bernie Sanders calls him a pathological liar; and that was while still running against Hillary Clinton. And while there are serious issues of favouritism disclosing deep cracks in the party establishment, to which Bernie has frequently referred, and now been vindicated, nothing compares here with the complete abandonment of the party establishment from the Trump campaign.
Even Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York city has agreed to endorse Hillary Clinton, and also to speak at the Democratic Convention this week. As a respected voice representing the city of New York, in which Trump has “operated” for decades, Bloomberg lends a serious, thoughtful and authentic voice to the Clinton-Kaine campaign.
And while his voice will not be the last to endorse, and there will likely be more glitches in her campaign, nevertheless, Trump’s sheer pathology disqualifies him for the office.

*Having worked in the ‘American  west,’ as an “alien” Canadian where I was pilloried for being too ‘eastern’ and to ‘ivy league’ and a snob for many of my personal and professional decisions, and been slandered for not using vulgarity in my normal discourse, and for expressing a view that required some thoughtful reflction, as opposed to mere slogans, and aphorisms, I fully understand much of this reverse snobbery and contempt, based as it is on a deep and profound insecurity, even neurosis, and jealousy. While Trump is hardly the sharped knife in the drawer, to put it mildly, Hillary is reputed to be one of, if not the, sharpest

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Toynbee's prediction: a prescient foreshadowing or a dystopic dream?

Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now. (Arnold Toynbee)

Although we have moved a distance past the work of Toynbee, can we really doubt the prescience of his observation? Having amassed the largest and most virulent military machine in history, by spending more than all other developed nations combined, and having found her streets, towns and cities erupting in violence, and having the largest and most insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, and having buried the nations’ head in the sand on global warming and climate change, and having wallowed through decades of both war abroad and gridlock in Congress, and having mounted a system of bully pulpits to which almost no one is listening, and having supervised the demise of both political parties through the insurrection of millions taking to the barricades on both the extreme left and extreme right, and having nominated and confirmed (by the end of next week) the most unpopular candidates for president in the nation’s history, and having opened the corporate and billionaires vaults to the political process without restrictions or constraints, and having outsourced the manufacturing processes with their attendant jobs and the research and development on which those highly technical products were based, and having watched the Chinese underwrite at least 40-50% of the national debt while also hacking the computers of not only the Pentagon on many occasions but also the secrets of several of the major U.S. corporations,  and having committed the most serious foreign policy mistake since the Declaration of Independence in invading Iraq, and having armed through the Pentagon and through both the open market sale and the black market trade all military initiatives, with the possible exception of Russia and China, and having developed both a massive missile shield and the most highly sophisticated bombs, drones and missiles the world has ever seen.

The United States of America is now poised to implode on its own literal and metaphoric sword.

Living by the iron and the steel, the gun powder and the nuclear fission and fusion, putting all of her “eggs” in the basket of hard power, and then undergirding that hard power with the multi-trillions in revenue from the sale/trade/barter/bribe of those weapons, the United States has accomplished what no other country has ever done: she has armed the world haphazardly, without regard to whether those deploying their left-over weapons of war were, are or will ever be allies, friends, or enemies. And she has also armed her own citizenry with over 80,000,000 private guns, completely rationalized as “only the good man with a gun is a match for a bad man with a gun” to the point where “open carry” laws permit hand guns and assault weapons to be carried openly and in public in states like Ohio. The state of Texas is about to pass a law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons on university campuses. The sale of guns spikes with every news report of another “lone wolf” shooting, or terrorist massacre, or revenge assassination of police, or assassination of black young men by white police officers, and there is no public will to put restraints on either the sale or the deployment of these weapons of mass destruction, a phrase coined to justify the Iraq invasion, under the threat that Saddam Hussein had biological, chemical and potentially nuclear weapons….posing a serious and immediate threat of a nuclear cloud.

To say that trust is missing in the relationship between the citizens and their government, and also between the two official political parties, and also between the voters and their two presidential candidates, and between the people and their law enforcement arm of government, and between some segments of the citizenry and those same law enforcement agents, and between select allies and the American government….would be an understatement.

Nevertheless, the media consistently narrows the focus of its reporting to say that the people have an unfavourable view of their two presidential candidates, each attempting to outdo the other with a higher unfavourable rating in opinion polls. To write a story that sets out all of the various nefarious parameters of dissolution of the culture, as has been hinted at above, would be treasonous in many quarters. Publishers and editors would resist letting it through their memory sticks into print, even among the most courageous publications such as

However, it seems only realistic to look at the trust factor’s atrophy through a bigger lens, one that sees the whole panoply of holes in the Swiss cheese of the U.S. political system.

And, while personalizing national issues, as presidential campaigns tend to permit, may satisfy the fast-food appetite of an electorate that demands instant gratification in the service of each and every one of its appetites, including its dumbing down of the complexities of each issue and each personality it is asked to assess, the process is inevitably and inexorably generating a growing gap between those who study and who comprehend the nuances of the issues, and those ‘shooting from the hip’ and asking questions later. In such a culture of deterioration, it is not surprising that a candidate like Trump would seize control of one of the major political parties, able as he is to provide a considerable portion of the funding for the campaign. Hence, he can say and do almost anything, and then proudly announce that “I could shoot and kill someone on Fifth Avenue without losing any voter support.” Of course, the world wants to believe that he is “dead wrong” but we’re really not sure any more so many pundits’ predictions of his early demise and disappearance from the race have come and gone and lie limp in the trash bins and the recycling machines of the world’s press or in the archives of the world’s television stations.

This man simply has no public doubt about his capacity to do whatever ridiculous scheme he dreams up, and the public is so starved for something visceral to gobble and to digest, given what it considers the pablum of talking points, nuanced policies and insults from dictators like Putin, as well as their own joblessness, and their own hopelessness.

And yet, as Eric Sevareid once commentedBetter to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt.
Read more at:

And in a political culture believing itself starved of potency, uttering personal doubt is forbidden by American Rule #1, if the electorate is making the rules. And they may be….
*Nevertheless, it is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton says she regrets her choice of a private server for her emails when she was Secretary of State. 
*It is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly acknowledged her failure to bring in universal health care, as First Lady. 
*It is also not because she is female that she publicly acknowledges her grief and her despondency over the loss of four American civilians, including her friend the Ambassador in the Benghazi debacle.
 *It is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton, in a sterling interview with Charlie Rose last night on Bloomberg Television, that she has ‘plans’ for many public issues, pokes fun at herself gently saying ‘we all bring different skills’ to public service.

Over against these doubts and potential errors of Ms Clinton, Mr. Trump refuses to admit, at any point over any issue, including the issue of the thousands who have filed a class action law suit against Trump over the debacle called Trump University, any doubts, never mind having made any mistakes. Apparently, if one listens to Mr Trump, one is left with the distinct impression that  the man has never made an error. As a prototype of the 'ideal' American or even a role model American for young people to emulate, Trump is an abject failure.

He might believe that he can convince himself and his acolytes that he can and does ‘walk on water’; however, he cannot and must not convince the American people of his invincibility.

And, as for the long-term future of the republic, whether Toynbee’s foreshadowing can help the American people turn the page and the chapter and even close the book on this angry, violent, abusive, diagnosis and prescription-and-legislation-free dark period in their political life, only the unfolding, or the unravelling of the months and years to come.

And the world will be watching and holding our breath!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Are the American people about to surrender the farm to the ultimate huckster?

We are enraptured by scoundrels. They showcase our passion for ingenuity and resourcefulness. Rules don’t matter in a culture that constantly reinvents itself. In the world of flimflam, con artists are American prototypes who exemplify the land of opportunity. Aren’t we all searching for the trickster Wizard at the end of the yellow brick road? (By Amy Henderson, The Smithsonian, January 30, 2014)

How do the American people “square the circle” by even considering the option of putting this scoundrel into the White House?

Certainly the world is running amok. Certainly the text books and the theses that inform and drive the Pentagon are straining to demonstrate their relevance and their effectiveness. Certainly the political theorists who documented the last two-plus hundred years of political campaigns are struggling to hang on to the keel of the apparently overturned ship of state. While the law books and libraries are filled with “precedents” for the obviously valid reason that they comprise the foundation of the rule of law, there is an obvious oxymoron in the term “huckster president”.

When Richard Nixon ran for president, more than once, books were written comparing his campaign to the selling of a “Coke” so similar were the processes and the patterns of the packaging and the marketing of both the candidate and the sugar soda. And Madison Avenue owns the reputation of making a “silk purse out of a sow’s ear” something realists find not only oxymoronic but impossible.

The missing ingredient in the transformation of sow’s ear into silk purse, is the ultimate gullibility of the consumer who simply wants the extreme thrill of trying anything once, without regard to whether or not the experience is worth even one try. The Brits recently went too far in their vote to leave the European Union, having been seduced by many lies laid on them by the hucksters of the “Leave” campaign. Political doctoral theses will be written for decades, perhaps even centuries, documenting the political calculations of David Cameron who, in his failed attempt to heal party divisions in the Conservative Party by counting on the public to vote “Remain”, is now something of a footnote in British history, “I was once the future too!” as he fondly reflected in his farewell address to parliament.

In 2003, another failed exploit, this time in American history under the presidency of George W. Bush, found the necessary votes in the U.S Congress, sold by people like Condoleesa Rice and Colin Powell, the latter having been publicly shamed into being  sent out to the United Nations to “sell” a pack of intelligence lies to secure a supportive vote to declare war on Iraq. (If Canada were a truly supportive culture of her leaders, the Canadian Prime Minister who rejected Dubya’s request to join the coalition of the willing would have been showered with honorary doctorates for his honourable and courageous decision.) Back in the campaign of 1988, George H.W. Bush told the Republican National Convention that elected him their presidential candidate, “Read My Lips” (there will be no tax increase) only to have to eat those words. Pierre Trudeau, when running against Progressive Conservative leader, Robert Stanfield, promised the voters there would be no wage and price controls, only to introduce them immediately following his election as Prime Minister.

These isolated examples of “buyer beware” pale in comparison to the historic return of Prime Minister Chamberlain from Berlin, declaring “Peace in our Time” following his visit with the Fuhrer. And the American people are now facing a historic moment, in which they could and might very likely tip the balance of geopolitical power in favour of the huckster.

Long-term Republican veterans of both Houses of Congress are loud in their denunciation of Trump’s lack of knowledge about, or concern to learn the rules of parliamentary, the traditions of democratic government, the history of the country’s long battle for civil rights, for fair labour laws, for the beginnings of equality between the genders, and for equality for members of the LGBT community. In fact, the Republican platform imposes taxes on the LGBT community and on those who choose abortion.

Just because the American people, as do all people in the world, feel a sense of angst over many colliding issues: carbon emissions, terrorist attacks, Putin’s impromptu incursions (invasions), Assad’s treachery and assassination of innocents in the hundreds of thousands, a moving giant river of homeless refugees, the gutting of the  middle class and the manufacturing sector in the United States, the virtual paralysis of the American government (largely the result of Republican obstruction), the spike in violence on the streets of American towns and cities especially the violence between races (white law enforcement and black men, primarily, given that violent crime is down (with the obvious exception of the city of Chicago)….

All of these pressures are still no reason to throw one’s lot in with the NRA, the Koch brothers, the climate deniers, the muscle-flexing “bomb the hell out of all our enemies”, those who want to create the latest version of the American fortress, moated, this time by the Panama Canal, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (with Canada sitting on their northern border). Hucksters are skilled at playing to the fears of their “innocents” especially when they operate from the premise that ordinary people are both stupid and disengaged, or if not, drugged into unconsciousness. How dare the Trump cabal claim they wrote the presumptive first lady’ speech last night, when the whole world knows large chunks were lifted from the Michelle Obama address to the Democratic Convention of 2008. How dare the Trump cabal highjack the Republican party from former presidents and presidential candidates….and do it with the impunity offered by emasculated Republican leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the latest “Charlie McCarthy puppet, Mike Pence? How dare the national and the international media gag itself in order to maximize profits and ratings, as if the political convention is the latest in a string of reality television shows, filled with testosterone, yet empty of both reflective thought and responsible debate.
Is there any limit to the number and the depth of the insults the trump cabal is willing, even eager, to dump on the American political system, in the first instance, and then all international relationships, including but not restricted to Islam, and radical Islam, including all immigrants, especially those seeking a better life, whose history and vetting will demonstrate unequivocally, their bona fides and their gratitude for admission into and the opportunity to serve their new homeland, The United States of America.

And also is there a limit to the level of patronizing, condescension and put-downs which the American people will tolerate?
The answer to both of those questions seems to be “NO!”

And the collision of those two unbridled forces could explode into a far more damaging political volcanic eruption than the world has witnessed for decades.
Words like “unfit”, “untrustworthy,” “ crooked”, “lying” “imprisoned”, “murderer”, thrown like verbal grenades in what has become the most violent and virulent presidential campaign for many years, do not belong on our television and ipad screens.

  • ·      Just because corporations like Volkswagen will subvert the emission testing process, by inserting software that makes such subversion feasible, and
           just because Tanaka  manufactures millions of defective airbags that kill drivers and passengers with shrapnel, and

·       just because pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing drugs that have more serious side effects than healing impacts, and

·      just because there are loop holes in the tax code permitting mega corporations to hide billions in off-shore tax havens with impunity, and far into the future if the Republicans maintain control of both Houses of Congress,  

·      just because the Koch brothers and the energy companies spend billions to counteract the science of climate change and global warming, and

·      just because white police officers shoot and kill innocent black men, and

·      just because retaliation from military trained shooters kill black policemen….

These are not excuses for a political campaign that snubs its nose at the world, at the voters, at the science, and all the options available for reconciliation, collaboration, mediation and healing. However, as we all know, such processes are slow, complicated, needing skilled and trained participants, dependent on a “good faith” foundation from which to begin and rely on both professional attitudes and vocabulary, deep and profound and experienced thinkers and patience.

Apparently, neither Trump nor the American people have banked a reserve of patience, tolerance, balance and long-term vision to generate a culture that would render this candidacy not only subversive and dangerous, but also impotent and out of bounds.

It is virtually impossible to put a fence around any huckster, and this latest version of the huckster proves that theory beyond doubt. And when an educated middle-aged woman working in the school system in the United States proudly informs me, “Jesus was the world’s best salesman!” as the core nugget of her theology, you know how far the huckster archetype has penetrated the American psyche. There is so much left out of that image as to be tragic and reprehensible….but never forgotten!

Monday, July 18, 2016

A measured endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president

There is a real danger that the American population will fall into one of two traps when facing the terror threat: writers are already talking about the threat of immunization, a kind of deadening effect, rendering report of more terror almost irrelevant; others, of course, are ramping up the apocalyptic view of terror, including the full morphing of the police and law enforcement into another military machine.
Immunization vs the apocalypse: hardly the only two options available. And yet both are the stuff of headlines, extremes that wrap their massive ‘arms’ around the most vulnerable: extreme racism and the proliferation of guns on the one hand, and thumbing the nose at ‘those bastards’ as if they are not worthy of any attention, in a seemingly defiant act of denial.
Several years ago, Carol Pearson studied and wrote about the narrative of several archetypes emerging from the parade of American movies and novel in books dealing with The Hero Within. One of her observations, at that time, was that two archetypes dominated American culture: the warrior and the victim, represented respectively by men and women.
There have been some changes in that analysis since those books appeared. Many women have shed the victim archetype, preferring their own version of the warrior, different from the male version, but nevertheless refusing to accede unquestioningly to male dominance. Many men too have found their magician and morphed out of the warrior archetype, provoking considerable push-back from those males mired in their own reductionistic version of the warrior.
Lest any think that Trump and Clinton represent merely the “warrior vs victim” conflict, although there is considerable evidence to support that picture, let’s poke around the immunized/apocalyptic dichotomy of the apprehension of the terror impact on world culture. Men, for starters, cannot be classed simply as warriors, given the many black victims at the hands of white police officer. White men do however poll in large numbers as Trump voters and accept the Trump declaration that he will destroy ISIS. Similarly, women cannot be reduced to victims, especially given the ‘hawk-like’ rhetoric and policy options preferred by the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.Hillary, in order to demonstrate her bona fides as a national leader has almost gone overboard in her demonstration of her willingness to engage the military whenever and wherever needed. There are figures in both parties who still hang on to the male/warrior and the female/victim models, yet their numbers have diminished dramatically.
While the rhetoric of both Trump and Clinton has veered toward the militaristic and enhanced security apparatus in their approach to terror, differences remain in their approach to immigration, especially from Muslim countries, Trump, almost apocalyptically advocating a ban, and “vigorous vetting”. Yet, when pressed by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes about how he would destroy ISIS, Trump evoked NATO, neighbouring countries and very few American troops on the ground, hardly a convincing proposal, nor is it one far removed from what Obama is already doing, except Trump adds a large measure of bravado, bluster and “heavy breathing” as if to punctuate his authenticity and his grasp of the situation and the need for American power much better than that offered either by the weak Obama or the weak liar, Clinton. On the other hand, Clinton, in her responses to this and all other issues is much more measured, nuanced, detailed, and expressive of a deep and comprehensive policy “wonk”, a legal and experienced intellect and sense of responsibility.
It is the scholar versus the salesman image that seems to be in competition vying for the keys to the White House, and it says here that, tragically and perhaps to their own detriment, Americans have always preferred salesmanship to deep thought in their political leaders. In Obama, they have had both in large measure for the past eight years; a similar blessing is not on the horizon for the next four.
 Trump takes a macho/muscular (apocalyptic?) approach to Latino immigration also, with his proposal of the “wall” along the Mexican border whereas Clinton prefers a comprehensive immigration reform including pathways to citizenship for all immigrants without criminal records. Again we witness the competing “images” of the prize fighter to the legal scholar, the former evading all attempts to pry into and to poke holes in any detailed proposal (refusing even to offer one), with the latter heavily laden, even perhaps burdened, by her own file cabinet/hard drive/ memory stick and Cloud storage of detailed policy proposals. Advantage, among the ordinary Americans: Trump, even though the world needs a more ‘seasoned’ and nuanced perspective and set of proposals.
And there is the over-riding question of “trust” for both candidates. This issue, too, can be illustrative of a deep divide, in the perceptions (and potential voting patterns) of American voters. Attempting to paint Clinton as a disaster as a Secretary of State, a liar and a ‘crooked’ politician, Trump lives in his own  echo chamber, demonstrating adherence to the political dictum, “repeat something often enough and some will believe it to be true”….even if the facts do not support it. Ad hominum attacks characterize all of Trump’s public utterances, and presumably his private ones as well. Opponents are painted with the same kind of personal attack used by early adolescent, pre-teens in order to embarrass, alienate and destroy all competition, all opponents. Theirs is a black-and-white world of “friends (BFF) and enemies” (those they cannot control). And the melodrama of their emotions is reminiscent of the kind of exaggeration both of danger and of self-importance and potentcy exhibited by the early adolescent demographic.
 Here is where the question of trust takes on a more serious implication: Trump’s pre-adolescent conception of the world as a nasty and unsafe and dangerous place (his own words) requiring the destruction of all opponents in order to be a winner, and to avoid being a loser begs serious scrutiny. American power, military, political and economic were so abused in their deployment under Dubya, that Obama has wisely and persistently demonstrated measured and collegial deployment, without abandoning America’s allies. Clinton offers a continuation of that approach, based on her tenure as Secretary of State under Obama. On the other hand, Trump never apologizes, and even told Leslie Stahl he would never apologize. When someone so brazenly and so arrogantly announces that he will never apologize, we all know that this is a person not to be trusted with power of any kind. Painting himself as invincible, should be become president, is a sure sign of an imbalance in his self-awareness and in his apprehension of the nation in relation to other world powers.
Whether Hillary’s “I regret having used a private server for emails, and would not do it again,” or “I did all I could do to protect our officers in Benghazi” are enough to earn the trust of American voters, is still and open question. However, here is where her tone and her approach give her an advantage over her opponent, given his total commitment to his “perfect persona’.
Does Trump fall into the “immunized camp? If not on ISIS, (he boasts he will destroy ISIS), then certainly on climate change about which not a single word has apparently crossed his lips, or we assume, his brain since he declared his candidacy. The fact that millions of American Republicans are still willing to support a candidate and a party platform that refuses to commit billions to the needed effort to combat global warming and climate change is both shocking and reprehensible. Here, Clinton clobbers her Republican candidate, especially after the hard work by Bernie Sanders and his camp to insist on major platform pledges on this file. The Democratic ticket, whomever it includes as the Vice-presidential nominee, should be able to attract those whose considered and reasonable view on this file demands national government action of considerable proportion. Neither apocalyptic, nor immunized, but straight down the responsible middle is where Clinton will lead the country should she win the keys to the White House.
On Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose, there is no wiggle room for the Republican ticket, so far right are both Trump and his VP pick, Mike Pence, that should they win, it is highly likely Roe v Wade will be overturned, especially after they have completed their weighting of the Supreme Court with radical right wing justices. For those watching this election, The Republican position on women’s health is, in a word, unacceptable. Based as it is on a historic belief that all abortion is evil, supported in large part by the Vatican, this position can be considered apocalyptic and absolute. For those who have not begun to weigh the issues bearing on their decision to vote, they might consider this issue as a litmus test for their choice for president.
With respect to a minimum hourly wage, the $15 minimum on which Sanders campaigned has finally moved Clinton to his side, leaving the Republicans clinging to the lowest possible number, on the basis of the phoney argument that anything higher will cost jobs, something that has not happened in states where the minimum wage is already at $15.
And then there is the question of Muslim and black integration into the American culture’s melting pot, although these days, it looks more like a frying pan. How Muslims, Latino’s and blacks could even consider voting for Trump and the Republican party is a question most people living outside the United States simply do not, and will not ever, understand. Trump’s apocalyptic contempt for anyone who is not “white” and pure, is just another of many of his exaggerated “power” positions, in an attempt to seduce all those “fed up with being pushed around” even though there is absolutely no evidence that the United States stature among world power is anything but highly respected, following eight year of Obama, and the previous eight years of Dubya.
Ignoring the long and heavily earned civil rights for blacks first, and for all ethnicities, Trump would take the country back to the nineteenth century, in his pursuit of his “law and order” agenda. Aligning himself and his party with police and law enforcement, to the exclusion of the evidence from the black community, even a black surgeon/police officer who treated the victims after the brutal shooting of police officers in Dallas, Trump, while consistent in his racist ideology, nevertheless seems immunized and insensitive to the plight of minorities, no matter their colour, language, heritage or culture.
Hillary Clinton has a history of supporting the minority communities, especially the black community, as First Lady of Arkansas, as First Lady of the United States, as Senator and as Secretary of State although her contribution to the black community may be overshadowed by her more vocal and enthusiastic advocacy for the feminist movement. Nevertheless, her reasoned, responsible and achievable approach to reinforcing civil rights of all minorities is so diametrically opposed to the racism of Trump, as to warrant the support of the American voters of all political parties and persuasions. Trump’s position is not supportable nor sustainable, and the nation cannot afford to retreat on this issue.
Reciting phrase from the Bible, as part of the press conference by law enforcement in Louisiana will not mediate the racial divide in the country. Neither will a presidential candidate who cares not a whit about the racial divisions. There is certainly no guarantee that Hillary can bring about the healing of the racial chasm that currently energies the body politic. However, her history, her experience and her determination to work with others, something Trump is pathologically unable and unwilling to do, even with his own political party, bode well for the potential to reach a level of reconciliation everyone desires.
It is not accidental or incidental that the president called Hillary the most “qualified” person ever to seek the office of president. Nor is it a sure thing that the nation will inaugurate its first woman president on January 20, 2017. Far from deserving an electoral victory, in November, because she is the first woman candidate of a major political party, Hillary Clinton is the better choice for president by far. She, like all of us, is also far from perfect; yet given the binary choice, the weight of the evidence in favour of casting a vote for the most powerful office in the world goes to Hillary Clinton, and if the Republican primary voters cannot or will not concede that, then the general election process must.

The world is watching, and waiting and hoping and praying, while holding its breath!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Putting the ethical alchemy of religion into our lives

“Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical, scientific or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice.” (Karen Armstrong: The Spiral Staircase, My climb out of Darkness)

It is so refreshing to read these words from Karen Armstrong, the former Roman Catholic nun who has for many years reflected, studied, written and taught a comparison of world religions. At one time she offered tutoring to the American government on the discernment between the radical jihadist Muslim terrorist movement and authentic Islam. And one of the insightful notions in this passage is the word "apply"....the notion that religion demands a way of living that, of necessity, breeds more application.
The objectivity at the top of the "value" totem in a scientific world so easily slides into the consciousness as a standard for all aspects of one's life. And that objectivity requires evidence that we have integrated specific formulae, propositions, theories and (in religion) dogmatic principles and rules. If one manipulates the physical, emotional, financial, familial and the professional 'chess pieces' of his/her life in a manner approved by the conventional wisdom of the surrounding culture, then one becomes a respectable, trustworthy, honourable and "proven" individual. The sheer effort that is required to accomplish this "perfect world order" (in the micro sense of one's private life) especially when buffetted by the judgments of others when and if one deviates from the "pattern" is exhausting. Others do have a penchant for determining whether or not the actions of one's life are ethical, moral, God-centred and thereby worthy of approval. How a marriage functions, for example, is never beyond the purview and the social critique of colleagues who believe they know how a marriage must function even though their own marriage, if put under a similar and parallel scrutiny by those they judge, would fail. 
In fact, so important is our openness to challenging the public opinions of those who consider it part of their duty as people of faith to judge others, and so important is our readiness to reflect on and evaluate our own attitudes, perceptions, actions and especially our judgments of others that these personal clarifications, through both formal and informal search initiatives that we argue both precede any overtly public acts of empathy, compassion and altruism. I know this story appears in this space already, but perhaps bears repeating here.
In a class that found itself veering into an exploration of race in the United States, I asked this question: "If you were attending a Saturday evening party where you were listening to racist jokes, what would you do?"
One person, in response, said, "Well I would move away from those telling such offensive jokes."
When asked why, she responded, "Well I certainly would not want those people to think that I thought I was better than they are."
"So then," I retorted, "your reputation with those people telling racist jokes is more important than the reputation of the people against whom the jokes were directed? Is that right?"
After she recovered her dropped jaw, she muttered, "I guess so, if you put it that way."
There is much public discourse during the American presidential election that focuses on race relations. In this context there is also an increasing acknowledgement that white people simply do not comprehend the full reality of what blacks endure especially from the white establishment. While that failure to understand black reality is true on a superficial, empirical and legal level, the roots of that failure of comprehension lie within the white population who refuse to put themselves in the "shoes" of their black counterparts. Just like the woman in the story above, most white people have never even considered the "other" as important, in a culture in which rugged individualism wildly trumps empathy, compassion and altruism. This attitude is expressed most clearly in an early interview with the Republican presidential candidate. "I consider the world a very dangerous place, and you have to fight in order to win in that world; otherwise you are a loser" is the tenor of that verbatim.
And when one's worldview is based on a "winners v losers" template, there is no place for empathy, compassion and altruism, except in solo, siloed and exceptional instances, designed more for inclusion in a resume, more to impress the world, to generate public approval, and clearly a debasement of the core intent and meaning of altruism. It is so facile, easy, and glib to write a cheque for a chosen cause, and then to reap the tax benefit from such generosity. It is far more demanding to serve in a "street health" clinic where the homeless and the hopeless cringe in dark corners of buildings and also of fear that they have to be approached as if they were terrorized and beaten puppies. We have done an outstanding job, collectively and then individually, of sanitizing our social and political issues, that we have effectively put them in a "problem file" often too large and too complicated for ordinary people to try to resolve. We have, thereby, effectively removed any responsibility from our lives for the remediation of those problems, even though we know that public issues demand public responses, in order for those in positions of power to respond.
If our individual attitudes and perceptions and actions comport with a view of the world that replicates the view expressed by our lady in the race joke story, then we will contribute to their continuation, to their complication and to their festering into a full-scale cancer.
Bill Maher, appearing in a special edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, made a significant statement about race relations in the United States. He said he had interviewed a white policeman who had worked in a black community who told him, "When I worked in a black community, I hated all blacks; when I worked in a Latino community I hated all Latinos; when I worked in a white community I hated all whites." Maher continued, "Of course, police officers have to deal with the worst elements in any community so it would be natural that they would come to hate what they have to work with. However, this is a job they signed up for, so this attitude needs to be addressed."
In portraying the worst acts of any community, the media makes an overwhelming contribution to the "public attitude" of their viewers and their readers, and listeners. The recent shootings of black men by white police officers, and recently the assassination of five white police by a black man in Dallas are evoking loud and piercing cries for change. This change, from both whites and blacks will only come when the attitudes and the perceptions of equality ( a legal concept) and empathy (a moral concept) and identification ( a psychological concept) and a political requirement ( a legislative concept) merge into a force founded on those same elements of the religion to which Karen Armstrong refers in the quote above.
And those attitudes, perceptions and actions in the public arena will not emerge unless and until their corresponding attitudes, perceptions and actions are firmly ensconced in the nurseries of the nation ( very easily applied) to the kindergarten classrooms, (still relatively easily and readily applied) to the middle school and high school classrooms ( a little more hesitantly applied) and the part-time employment venues (almost never applied) and the college classrooms (rarely applied) and the full-time employment venues (only applied when required for legal purposes to comply with contractual obligations or to avoid legal sanctions).
And these attitudes, while cogent and the sine qua non of religious experience, are so far removed from the daily discourse, and the daily reflections and the water cooler conversations, except when a person know in common suffers from a mortal diagnosis, is seriously injured in an accident, is the victim of a terrorist attack, or is the object of some clearly visible victimization. 
Other than the headline-grabbing incidents, we keep our empathy, our compassion and our altruism safely locked in the vault of our hearts, so that no one will 'rob' us of our good intentions, and make us vulnerable, in the same manner that our woman in the narrative described avoiding embarrassment by calling the racist jokes, and taking a "stepping to the plate" position to push back against the racism that she failed to confront.
Such failures are not exclusive to the woman; they belong to each of us. And unless and until to walk the first few tentative steps in the moccasins of our beleaguered colleagues, we will own the implications of all of our individual and collective failures of both commission and omission.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Some implications of self-absorption and immediacy

David Brooks, on PBS last night, said that as he travels around the country he finds pockets of deep and effective caring, compassion and sensibility everywhere with people helping others in the face of various emergencies. These stories provide a counter to the daily, hourly and now almost minute-by-minute tragedies: fires, drought, military conflict, terror attack, environmental spills, economic burps and blips, unemployment hiccups, and then there is the river of absurdities that gush from the mouths of people aspiring to or currently holding public office, especially The Donald.
Our media has abandoned its core purpose, in the pursuit of ratings and profits. Heavily twisted by the “man bites dog” kind of mantra, our media, so focuses on the human evil that surrounds all of us, that our public and private broadcasters are complicit in generating a culture of ‘the inevitability of fear and chaos’. And our own predictable and insatiable voyeurism plays right into their business model. The marriage of our search and appetite for “excitement through entertainment” to the corporate media’s insatiable appetite for profits is helping to generate a paralysis in so many segments of our public life that an individual cannot be faulted for falling into the quagmire of hopelessness and anxiety. And that, dear reader, is precisely what the terror element we face dreams of, as the highest result of their murderous terrifying massacres.
While the media concentrates its energies on the number of dead and the motives of the perpetrators of the many acts of terror, and on the numbers of votes and the implications of the Brexit vote, or the number of First Nations’ communities living with “boiled water” advisories, simply doing what they consider their “job”, people are nevertheless left with a gestalt that evokes the wringing of hands. And of course, there will always be those voices ready to accept the invitation to express their horror at a natural disaster like a hurricane or the detritus of a runaway truck on a sidewalk in Nice.
And, in the corporate board room of the media owners and decision makers, men and women dedicated to the pursuit of the highest level of profit and investment, consistently veer toward resources that concentrate on the plethora of immediate ‘breaking news facts’ knowing that both their immediacy and their gore will continue to magnetize readers, viewers and digital media ‘crowds’. Programs that take a step back, that analyse the structural and the thematic and the historic dimensions of any public issue (of the kind that Melissa Harris Perry so rigorously and so provocatively offered weekly for the last few years on MSNBC) are cancelled in a blatant bowing to the superficial, to the immediate and to the ratings that come from such decisions.
At the same time, universities are abandoning many of the integral components of their arts and humanities programs, as they morph into technical job-training institutes, and champion their collection of billions in donations from the corporations who want their names on buildings for “public reputation” purposes. In such an ethos, it is not surprising that Carleton University has removed a biology professor from one of the “faculty positions” on the university Senate, for refusing to agree to silence his opinions if and when they disagree with those of the majority of the Senate. The principle of ‘cabinet solidarity’ having infected the university housed in the nation’s capital, where the obeisance of all civil servants and politicians in the government is an expectation of the power holders, and a duty of all of the “peons”, the pursuit of truth and the clash of opposing views, originally one of the core principles of a university, is sacrificed. One has to assume that prospective corporate donors would not be as inclined to contribute to a university that did not have “one view” without opposition, in its administrative modus operandi. And so the “public relations” mandate of the corporate and government models, (intimately and obsessively integrated into the culture of both the military and the mainline churches, and the school boards and hospital boards) is tilting the public discourse and the public culture into a kind of conformity that resists public debate for the protection of the flow of cash.
And, of course, there is a profound paradox to this dynamic. It is profoundly and inexorably self-sabotaging, not only of the very organizations that accept and practice it as dogma, shutting out diversity of views and the fertilization of self-reflective analysis. It is also sabotaging in the long run, in the kind of organic messiness on which the life of an individual, family and organization depends. Homogenizing our milk to prevent illness and disease is one thing. Homogenizing the way by which our major public/private institutions operate, and thereby embedding into the culture a kind of repressive obedience and a kind of intellectual atrophy at the organizational level (not necessarily at the level of the individual researcher in his or her laboratory, on in the preparation of his/her doctoral thesis) also sends off social clues to those young people aspiring to complete their formal and more importantly their informal education, that militate against activism, public engagement and disruption of the public square.
And of course, the public square where these fortifications of public “trust” have dominated for centuries, is now filled with scepticism and even contempt for the kind of self-serving attitudes and policies that narrow the focus and the ethical principles on which they operate.
The media’s dependence on the acts of evil and the march of massive ego’s, and  the presentation of these dramas as news, linked to the demise of free thought in both the political life and the curricula of our major universities, and the public’s glazing over its potential to inject some different and levening views, together, could well be having an impact on the rise of right wing political parties, in the rise in the level of violence, and in the rise of such demonic figures as the Republican candidate in the United States.
‘Sunny ways’ in the “mantra” of the Canadian Prime Minister is merely a kind of ‘sell line’ in his advertising campaign for public adulation. The phrase is not a surrogate for compassion, although it may hint of a government, especially in comparison with its predecessor, is capable of thinking and feeling simultaneously.
David Brooks knows that the corporate moguls for whom he works at the New York Times will continue their coverage of man-bites-dog news. Nevertheless, his off-hand comment about the caring and the compassion of his fellow citizens, often relegated to a feel-good “on the road” segment at the close of a newscast (as at CBS) could provide some guidance for the long term life and potential of those same media and intellectual masters in whose hands rest the legacies and the futures of those newspapers, television networks, universities and even the corporations and the churches.

Immediacy, and dramatic and tragic events of the evil genre, will always be important in the development of a public consciousness. And so too, could a much longer perspective that seeks not only its own immediate “success” but also the survival and the hope and the dreams of those who come after. We are not only “our brother’s keeper” today; we are, and are capable of being and becoming “our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers” of those generations yet unborn. And our fetish with the moment does not have to give way to our abandoning our perception of its relative importance. It is our self-serving narcissism that threatens our legacy and the future of our grandkids.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Without limits, power becomes its own saboteur

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. (Abraham Lincoln)

Unfortunately, the people who voted in the Republican primaries over the last several months had neither read nor contemplated this insight. They have propelled into a position of considerable power, and even more power should he  be elected president, a man whose character, while pummelled daily by his opponents, has exposed a serious fault line in the American culture.

Manipulation of the public, through blatant and unabashed manipulation of the media, may demonstrate a degree of superficial, technical and opportunistic know-how, similar to the “know-how” of a young pre-teen who, knowing how to wrap her father around her little finger, and convince him that she promises to take her share of responsibility with a new puppy whose purchase she is strongly advocating. It is neither credible, nor is it lasting. And, in most cases, the compliant father, preferring to be supportive and to be encouraging of such articulate defense of her argument, that the dog in question will not interfere with her allergies, (she even recommends a call to her allergist to confirm her perspective!) and that both she and her sister will dutifully, daily and without reminders, rewards or sanctions, walk the dog, clean up after the dog, and help to train the dog, welcoming it into the family, accedes to her petition, knowing full well that he is not supported by their mother.

However, extending the power of a “yes” vote to a pre-teen, on a promise of adulthood, as a trial run toward the larger purpose of letting experience demonstrate how ‘things work’ (or don’t) to a young adolescent whose life has been and continues to be somewhat in your hands, and whose future shines like a mystical rainbow in the crevices of your imagination is a far different act that pulling a lever for a charlatan, a huckster, and one whose life, including even those exploits he considers “successful” betray a very deep black hole in a culture. And the black hole that is uncovered, and left pouring toxic puss all over the countryside, and through all the many digital platforms available to all, can be diagnosed as “the narcissistic bully” who probably believes that he has proven his mettle, that he has demonstrated who all others could model their lives as platinum and exemplary examples for their children.

Not only is his life a crashing empty bottle of salesmanship, befitting the hawker at the midway and the circus, and befitting the ponzi-perpetrators who have bilked billions from the unsuspecting, (including the illustrious and recently deceased Elie Wiesel, by Bernie Madoff), the very notion that all the major media outlets, owned of course, by the mega-corporations whose very survival depends, not on the degree of objectivity and responsibility they demonstrate when faced with piles of cash and mountains of positive Neilson ratings, have been seduced into his “infor-ponzi” scam demonstrates the black hole into which the media culture and potentially  the political system itself could easily tumble.

Wonder, just wonder, what a Walter Cronkite would think of what is going on? Wonder too, if Huntley and Brinkley would stand by and let their voices be show-horned into the pettiness of critical evaluation of the latest tweet from the huckster. And the latest tweet is not only flying across the twitter-verse, it comes like a pre-adolescent ad hominum against anyone who challenges the sender on any matter. One of the latest, and most lame, is “Sleepy Eyes Todd,” referring to Chuck Todd of MSNBC, host of Meet the Press, and of The Daily MTP, on MSNBC. For those of us who consider Todd one of the more interesting and informed talking heads, on the American political scene, given both his capacity to interview with dispassion and with energy, and his squirreling of polling data into his head, and then through the camera lens and into our television sets,  we might consider this latest “skewering” to be advantageous to his career. If he can be, and is, a target of the “paint-ball” gun of the presumptive presidential candidate (presumptuous still seems more fitting), then the gun is literally pointed everywhere all at once.

Such immaturity, such gall and such mindlessness....we used to say about such utterances, “ I guess it beats thinking”.....when thinking, deep thinking is so needed at all levels for all of the many complex and growing issues we all face.

Another way of diagnosing the black hole is to observe that, without answers from anyone that truly solves, fixes or even ameliorates a given issue, or public file, we are left resorting to making fun of it all, including ourselves, in a most trivial, party-like, animal-house manner. And yet, occupying the White House is not analogous to joining a frat party, or at least it has not been for the last 249 years. Of course, there have been a variety of personalities, intellects, mannerisms and even dialects in the men who have served in the Oval Office. And in America, the notion of individualism, and free speech runs rampant.

Nevertheless, it is not an accident that, in this piece, his behaviour is compared to that of an adolescent; his name calling, his body and bawdy talk about small hands and (while left unsaid) “endowment”....these are the kinds of verbal assaults that belong in the hallways or the schoolyards or the locker rooms of a middle school. If people were to waken to the insults he is throwing daily even hourly at the American ethos, by using the very language and the very attitude that accompanies middle school students, especially when they are under attack. And having served as a vice-principal in a middle school responsible for the discipline, the comportment and the school ethos, I am quite familiar with the kind of immaturity that cloaks their world view, their interactions and certainly their vocabulary.

Of a graduate of Mellon University, one expects a great deal more: more sensitivity, more subtlety, more sophistication, more curiosity, more serious questions and more penetrating analysis of all of the issues. And yet, if the model and the modus operandi, that he is using are analogous to the simplicity of a building’s location, size, design, and building and maintenance costs, and above all, potential profits,  then how can we expect more, especially the last, potential profits.

And, for Trump, profits are measured in two terms: dollars and status. Emblazoning your last name on every edifice, leaves one open to the scene behind Hillary Clinton yesterday, a faded shadow of a name following a collapse of the casino that used to “live” on the Atlantic shore. Flying your own jet, again emblazoned with your own name in uber-point font, generating an instant “stage-backdrop” for all the television cameras is just another of the many slick tricks that other serious candidates would find embarrassing. And the people, if they were honest with themselves, would easily and quickly concur that these are the tactics of one whose image is so identified with the ego that there is no separation, what Jung called enantiadromia, the fusion of mask and ego, rendering one incapable of individuation.

The pre-teen co-ed of the earlier puppy story, ironically, was already more advanced in her development, her individuation, than the current presidential candidate for the presidency. And that really frightens any observer, including this one. She knew that she had a slope to climb to make her case. She also knew that there was no guarantee that her wish would be realized. There were definite defined and honoured, as well as honourable, limits to her request and to her expectations. With the current Republican candidate, no such limits ever cross his lips: he simply “wills” everything he wants, as one who considers himself and his “designs” on the future of the country, and the world, he knows and accepts no limits.

This is not a man living and operating in reality: the reality of the Constitution, the reality of the many treaties to which the American Presidents’ signatures have already been affixed; the reality of the Congressional visions of the future of the country, and the country’s place in the world, not to mention the American peoples’ many levening views of how the “bread” of the political process can and will ‘rise’. Calling Putin a man worthy of respect, without also acknowledging the dangers of his potential and already realized incursions into adjacent nations, praising Saddam Hussein for his ‘killing of terrorists’, painting a picture of a high wall to keep Mexicans out of American, paid for the by the Mexicans, demanding that China stop manipulating its currency, barring Muslims from countries where war is being waged from entry into the U.S......these are all pictures of an exaggerated dystopia, of a world that only an egomaniac could both envision and then have the gall to promise, to make America great again!

A man who does not comprehend irony, especially the irony of his limited degree and number of options, even (or more significantly, especially) if he were to become president, a man who lives in the islands of his own ego/mask (without seeking to or wanting to separate them) and a man who has all the answers... is not a man to be vested with the power of not only the  nuclear codes, but also of the presidential executive order, of the presidential appointments to hundreds if not thousands of civil service appointments throughout the government.

In fact, I would be more willing to entrust that pre-teen adolescent with the White House than this man. And the American people have still time to waken to what it is they are being seduced into doing, falling into the trap of a huckster who has been playing in his own sandbox, without regard to the ordinary norms, rules and expectations of reasonable and responsible limits.