Tag Archives: trump presidency

The US’ Other Opiate Problem

The same incredulous question arises nearly every day:  How can Trump still have a thirty percent approval rating considering his bungling, lying, crudeness, and refusal to lead? Who would still support him after child separation, farm bailouts due to trade wars, and Putin’s obvious influence in his decision making? Who? I have my own hypothesis, drawn from my experience as a former evangelical Christian/Republican and it echoes another voice:  Religion is the opiate of the masses.

There is a backbone to the idea that religion numbs the senses of the masses. It is the belief that the bible is right, the inerrant word of God, and to doubt it is to doubt God himself. This notion is infused into church teaching.  It’s preached to little babies, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me!” Then as an adult, “God said, I believe, that settles it forever.” We’ll even put ourselves through some hefty mental gymnastics to prove the argument. Confining a person’s knowledge base to only the bible acts like a spinal block to the logical, analytical areas of the mind, leaving them unresponsive and worthless.

Church leaders utilize the spinal block effects to their advantage and employ some impressive acrobatics to re-enforce the group-think. For example, Stephen Strang, founder of Charisma magazine, demonstrates his support of a lying, crude, selfish, president by tweeting that “God can use even a corrupt man.”

Here are the recent words of Jerry Falwell, Jr.

“It’s a distortion of the teaching of Christ to say Jesus taught love and forgiveness and therefore the United States as a nation should be loving and forgiving, and just hand over everything we have to every other part of the world.”

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, but this guy says that as one of the richest, ‘Christian’ nations in the world, we shouldn’t be concerned about starving Yemeni babies. Then again, if the spigot of information is drawing from just one well, the people tuning into Falwell most likely don’t even know about the crisis in Yemen.

Check out the amusing amount of hair splitting going on about affairs that happened while in the Oval Office and affairs that happened eleven years ago before a guy became president. This is particularly galling to me as I recall distinctly the thrashing Clinton got from local and national church leaders (I was still in the church at the time). Those same people now liberally tease out some very obscure angles from which to view morality in order to justify supporting Trump. Guess what? If the mind of the flock is numb, constricted by a singular source of information, its malleability around strangely shaped ideas is inevitable.

Falwell and Graham’s grandiose proclamations are reinforced with publications such as Charisma magazine. Its stories massage the marriage of politics and religion, interpreting political developments through the pinpoint lens of evangelical Christianity. A scroll through the sites’ news feed is anemic on information and knowledge, but fat on reassurance to their reader that, despite our current mess as a nation, all is going according to God’s plan. It’s like a little booster shot of Novocaine to the soul (Televangelists are superb administrators of similar anesthesia).

The pinnacle of evangelical Christian thinking is some apocalyptic end times gig, based upon the book of Revelation. So when Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it was a sign that god did indeed pick the right man to fulfill the role of ushering in His plan for the end of the world. You might wonder how we could buy that line of thinking. If I’m already subscribed to the mystical stories of talking snakes and partings of seas, then a drug induced hallucination including political developments as indicators of the rapture is easily plausible.

I was doing my own research outside of the church offerings by the end of Clinton’s tenure. I compared what I read in publications such as Charisma to what was being reported by outside sources that had decent track records of accuracy (WaPo, Guardian, Al Jazeera, NYT, LA Times, to name a few +  books). I found a lot of lies on the side of the church, which to me appeared necessarily invented solely to stir up fear. I observed that the wild prophesies I’d heard about Clinton simply didn’t manifest. I came to realize that having a mainline of information from just one source leaves the mind paralyzed; cut yourself off from the mainline, and the mind wakes up.

There’s not much to be done for a numbed mind and paralyzed logic. A person has to answer their own curiosity in order to shrug off the dense effects of evangelical opium. It is important to recognize the dynamic involved with Trump’s persistent portion of support, though. Evangelical mind-think is a contingency that’s not going away since it soothes the uncertainty of many a soul, we must acknowledge that. Perhaps we should stop questioning the “How?” and focus on a social coping mechanism instead: Do we ignore that faction? Engage with it? Exemplify an alternative?

I am open to suggestions…

Frankie

 


Presidential Robbery

There’s a fleecing going on – our tax dollars pay the bill to Trump Org. for the room and board of our national security detail that goes with protecting the president, at his own  properties. There’s a grifting going on – the corporate elite pay higher membership prices at Mar-a-Lago, where they have exclusive access to the president and his high ranking aides.  While these material slights are by no means benign and even have profound impact upon the way our government is currently functioning, they are far from the biggest robbery our president is committing: that is the robbery of our emotional security.

Emotional security, and a sense of belonging, are the second most important needs to be met in order for us to become fully actualized, or operating at our full human potential according to the wisdom of Abraham Maslow. Most of us get this first as infants and children, by parents who are attentive to our needs and provide us at least a constant roof and food and familial support. As adults we seek out partners, social groups, or strong friendships to provide a sense of belonging and emotional support.

There’s a similar sense of security we obtain as citizens and it’s as intangible and immeasurable as belonging to a family. Under the guises of the idea of the social contract, we pay our taxes to the government and it provides national defense as well as a functioning infrastructure. This relationship has allowed a majority of people to feel safe about the future and its ability to provide opportunities. It has enabled us to take personal risks in art, science, education, politics, and economics. We know the infrastructure, or scaffolding, is sustained by our tax dollars through the government and historically, that scaffolding has been steady, mostly secure, and highly profitable overall.

We’ve been robbed of that by Donald Trump.

Instead of worrying about overspending on Christmas, several hundred thousand federal workers are right now worried about how they’ll make their mortgage or rent in three days. Instead of the comfort of a plump 401k account, many baby boomers are wringing their hands over lost money, because of capricious Trump tweets. Instead of knowing that federal agencies will pick up the pieces after a natural disaster, he threatens to shutdown the government. Rather than assuring his audience that our nation is safe, he stokes fear by creating an immigrant caravan crisis that is nonexistent.

As we progress in years we learn that money is one thing but peace of mind and health are priceless. It’s the most astonishing thing, then, to realize our president is robbing us of our national peace of mind and security. It’s even more maddening because it’s a deliberate choice he’s making. it’s deliberate pain he’s inflicting upon his citizens, it’s a deliberate robbery of our sense of security.

Maybe there’s a German word that describes this kind of poor, selfish leadership. I can’t seem to fish the right adjectives from the English language.

Here’s to turning this ship around…

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief (in name only, he


Perverted

These things I heard from you as a child:

You told me that He detests hypocrites,

so be careful not to be one.

You upheld His life of humble poverty as an example,

and pointed out that the proud rich man is to be pitied.

You showed me pictures of the time when He

upset the merchant tables, and then you talked

about what it meant to defile a sacred space.

I learned from you that He loves the little children,

all the children of the world.

And now you tell me that this man who says one thing and does another,

this man who could never pass through the eye of the needle,

this man who defiles our sacred space,

this man who separates children from their mothers

is chosen by the same God?

That  is … perverted.

 

 

 

 


Omelet or Tree?

I understand the frustration that led many people to vote for Trump because they wanted to ‘shake up the system’ and  have someone in the White House who would ‘tell it like it is’.  One analogy I’ve seen is “You gotta crack a few eggs in order to make an omelet.”  I get the sentiment, I’m not sure about the analogy.

I mean, an omelet is a single serving meal consumed immediately, forgotten immediately, and has the staying power of maybe about 12 hours while it provides the body with nutrients. That’s it, that’s all you get from ‘cracking eggs’, ‘telling like it is,’ or ‘shaking things up.’

You see, democracies embrace brotherhood and equality rather than selfish, single, one time moments.  They profoundly affect world events for centuries. They foster culture and progress with eternal benefits.

They are more like trees which provide a home and protection to many creatures – without prejudice. They provide oxygen for us to breathe and consume our carbon dioxide in return, profoundly affecting our environment. Some dominate entire redwood nat geoecosystems with eternal benefits.

Democracy is as impressive as a thousand-year-old Sequoia Redwood. It is as finicky as a ficus tree.  Democracy can be as hearty as a Valley Oak, or as delicate as a Japanese Maple. It goes through cycles of drought and flood, winter and summer, naked or in full bloom, yet it continues to grow, reach, progress, just as a tree does.

It’s true that trimming and pruning are beneficial, democracies as well as trees can lose their shape or become gangly if they aren’t regularly clipped.  But there’s a difference between careful, thoughtful pruning and lopping off the entire tree at the trunk hoping the plant can regenerate itself – it seems like that’s what’s happened with the ‘cracking a few eggs’ strategy and now we wait to see if it dies during this winter or sprouts again next spring.

If we adopt the comparison of our democracy to a tree, we can understand some of our current dynamics better, I think. It takes patience to nurture a democracy. Growth does not occur overnight and in the current age of Ista-  everything, it can seem frustrating to have to wait. It requires discipline to take care of our Democracy, just as it takes discipline to care for some trees. It must be watered, for us that means voting regularly. It must be pruned for even growth and bigger fruit, that means looking for waste that is robbing us of  growth and fruit bearing. It must be nurtured with thoughtfulness, one eye on the past to find the lessons, one eye on the future to project our goals. It must be fertilized with diversity, free speech, and equal opportunities. It must be protected against those who would cut it down for the sake of building their own personal mansion.

I understand the frustration, I don’t buy the analogy. Democracies are fragile, living institutions, they must be cared for, not shaken. Tended instead of cracked.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 

photos courtesy of eggs.ca and national geographic, respectively

 

 

 

 

 

 


My Cold War Teen-age Years Come Crashing Down

I vividly remember one dark Idaho winter’s night as my teenage self  was writing in my diary, I thought, “What’s the point of even thinking about what I want to do for a future when we’re just gonna blow ourselves up anyway?”

I took some comfort in Billy Graham when he came through my hometown area of Boise, Idaho and said ‘Nuclear war won’t be the end of mankind, there’s the rapture instead.’ or some platitude thereof, forcefully spoke, affirming the cyclical prophecy of “Our national leaders are provoking a war but the bible says there’ll be wars and rumors of wars and great destruction like Armageddon so it’s all good.”  I mean, I can see now the pseudo-peace religion brings , back then the words sort-of helped.

Back then there were cancellations of Olympic games and Gorbachev and Reagan enjoying some dance of power vis a vis ‘strong language’ and ‘diplomatic warnings’. No one really wants to blow up half the planet, so there was a lot of bark, but not so much bite; until this President.

I know he’s unhinged, one need only look at his twitter rages to figure that out.  I know he’s full of hyperbole and as Scott Adams vociferously posits, Trump always opens with the most insane highest bid, and negotiates down from there.  Problem is, international diplomacy is an entirely different board game than monopoly.  At the moment my only confidence in anything is maybe a cautious Congress and General Kelly as Chief of Staff who probably understands more than anyone else in the WH the actual logistics of war.

None of that mattered when the old fear of nuclear war came crashing down after Trump made his “fire and fury” announcement toward North Korea.  “Breathe” I told myself.  “Cooler heads and minds will prevail,” I thought, with some confidence.  Then I realized that my fifty-something self doesn’t have to be frozen with fear like my teenage self was.

I have the power and knowledge to deal with this fear.  I understand that humanity probably learned a lesson after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and most of us (including our leaders) are reticent to re-live something similar.  Where there was some international support for a nuclear attack on Japan, thankfully, today there’s international opposition to nuclear options, and some of our leaders still care about optics.  I have the ability to call my congresspersons and hold them accountable, they are my employees after all.  I have power in the freedom to write and encourage others to understand that fear need not be picked up and carried around.  It can stay swimming in the stream of consciousness without being caught, taken home, and devoured. I am now aware that action deters fear more than any other recourse, I will act with my keyboard, with bridge-building discussions, with the knowledge that others are doing the same.  Solace is acquired with action.

So while this nation once again visits the specter of nuclear war, and for a moment that fear of no future came crashing down upon me, my adult self is confident in action instead.  I wish the same for you.

Peace.

Frankie


Deathbed

There’s not much we can do.

You and I can only wait at this point.

All chances of a healthy outcome have passed,

This is the end, this is the time to begin mourning.

We try and prepare, make certain that our

own houses are in order.

It is difficult, we don’t know what awaits us

when She’s gone.

There are the quiet whisperings of

those gathered round the bed:

“Wasn’t she beautiful in her prime?”

“Remember that time when…..”

“She was the top of her class.”

Respectful admirations morph into

consoling observations as we struggle

to find a way to justify Her fall.

“She was bewitched by all that money,”

Someone said.

“It’s true,” agreed another and then,

“But there were those who were out to

get Her deliberately, She didn’t have a chance.”

This statement weighed heavy in the room,

we all knew it was precise.

With nothing left to say, we watched Her breathe

and knew that as Her death approached, so did the

death of life as we knew it.

We reflected, each to our own, about how we could have

changed things, what we would have done differently,

where we were lazy.

And each to our own, took a portion of responsibility

for the ending Her life.

Outside, the dogs of greed bark and yip

excitedly at the smell of Her imminent death.

They too, have been waiting but with

a different aspect.

Knowing Her power is nearly snuffed out,

They are anxious to overrun our towns

and de-civilize our streets.

Their increased energy is felt inside

the room of Her deathbed.

A quiet sob breaks from among one of the visitors,

As it’s noticed that Her breathing has become labored,

Not much longer.

If we say goodbye now, can She hear it?

If we tell Her we love Her, will She sense it?

If we say we’re sorry, so very sorry for Her demise,

will She forgive us?

We do it anyway, mostly to succor ourselves.

Because watching Democracy die is deeply painful,

and the grief that awaits when She does, even more so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dark Age II

Shut Out the World, Turn Inward on Ourselves

Usher in the Dark Age.

Forego Checks and Balances, Leave all Rules Behind

Usher in the Dark Age.

Fire without Warning, Reality TV Politics

Usher in the Dark Age.

Condemn Free Speech, Despise the Fourth Estate

Usher in the Dark Age.

Mute the Scientists, Deafen the Populace

Usher in the Dark Age.

Revoke Dissenting Opinion, Claim it’s for ‘Your Good’

Usher in the Dark Age.

Truth becomes Irrelevant, Alternative Facts Laid Bare

Usher in the Dark Age.

Privatize the Public, Deregulate what is Healthy

Usher in the Dark Age.

Ignore the Constitution, Fleece Your Own Nation…

Disheveled White Men

Usher in the American Dark Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New Year, New Ideas: Employ Compassion, Not Empathy

Wanna know the next big thing for the new year?  Understanding the difference between empathy (and its apparent detriment to our decision making) and compassion.

I first heard about the notion via a podcast of Sam Harris’ in which he interviews Paul Bloom concerning the newly released book, the idea as a whole, and the distinction between the two terms:  their essence and their impact on social behavior.  It is an enlightening listen (By the way, I highly recommend Sam Harris “Waking Up” weekly podcast as some of the most excellent mind food a person can consume on a regular basis.  Warning: not for the fainthearted).    I offer these two references as further reading/review of the book: Why Empathy is Bad and Against Empathy .   I especially appreciated the social worker’s perception on ‘real life-applicable-pragmatic’ lessons in dichotomizing the two characteristics within the profession.

It will be imperative for us all, moving forward in the next few months, to understand the difference between these two elements as we attempt to cross the social divides that are becoming more obvious post-election.  We will each need to reach out compassionately to the neighbor whom we feel betrayed us in the voting booth, whichever way that went. We will need to employ a great deal of understanding and rational decision making while we try to unify some semblance of a majority against corporate plans to amend our constitution.

We have some serious work for ourselves, individually, in order to maintain a civil society – especially considering the unstable, insecure reality in which we live. It behooves us to investigate the difference between empathy and compassion so that we might employ the right tools when appropriate.   I can think of no better way to begin a new year, than with this new perspective and its useful applications.

Here’s to new information.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 


Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This past week I went back to find a piece I had written as a farce, really.   I didn’t realize it’s been a year since I published it, somehow I was thinking I wrote it during the primaries.    Now that we are living this reality, the writ is even more poignant.

“Choosing a President:  A Thought Experiment”

I honestly don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry over the threat to our democracy.

Maybe, both.

Yours,

Frankie


Thanksgiving Manifesto

There is much for which I can be thankful.

I have three healthy boys that have grown to be great young men who seem likely to contribute positively to society.  I have a husband who loves and supports me.   I am healthy.  I have a handful of siblings who are my heroes, each in their own way.  I have a couple of dogs that keep me warm on cold winter nights.

And after the results of the recent election, I find I am especially thankful for the freedoms we have in our nation.  As a writer, I truly enjoy the freedom I have  to know that I can write about anything and have no fear over being arrested for my views.    I can press a button and publish a writ that hundreds can read, think, and decide upon, hopefully making us all better people in the process.

I do not take this freedom for granted, and today, more than ever, I am Thankful for it.

It sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-ish, but I worry about us writers.   We now have a president elect who has demonstrably attacked the press, time and time again.   We have a president elect who’s ties to Russia are disconcerting ( his son sat in on a call with the nation-state over the Syria issue).   We have a leader who can’t take any kind of humor or disagreement.   As a writer, these are deeply concerning issues.

My writing is a small bleep on anyone’s radar, I know, but a bleep nonetheless and in the current environment it’s not a simple matter of just pressing the ‘publish’ button. It’s a matter of weighing each posting, getting it right, ensuring that truth gets its time in the light and that  the unprecedented does not become normalized.   Now more than ever, I will write with all conviction and utilzation of the freedom of speech we have in our nation. No longer will I take this freedom for granted.  It absolutely is the thing I am most grateful for today.

And to my fellow writers , I encourage you to do the same: excercise the beautiful freedom of expression and speech that is part of the bedrock of our nation.  To do less at this moment in history is to fail to live up to the expectations of our forefathers for a healthy commonwealth.

May your thanksgiving be full of new memories, may we exemplify our gratitude for the freedom of speech as writers by making our voice heard and keeping the wheels of creativity churning. 

Yours,

Frankie