FLASH: Elder Dog Named “Trump” Disrupts World Peace

Among the other god-awful things Trump has brought to us—rather, to the entire world—is the prospect of even greater war. He poked and continued to poke a dog that, while not entirely sleeping, could have been contained to its own yard.

That is, Trump, too, is a dog—mangy, snarling, yapping, attacking, aged, paranoid, howling at the moon, thinking it still rules the neighborhood, thinking its bark has value when all it does is set off other dogs. A dog who believes nothing exists beyond its own block, and doesn’t even like the people who live next door.

But, . . . but, . . . but if he were really a dog, there would be a muzzle on him by now. Instead he is the President of the United States and sullies the White House and claims the Constitution is paper to wipe it up with. Oh, sorry for ending that sentence with a preposition.

Donald is an immense test for those of us who want love, beauty, art, music, poems, science, exploration, meditation, and spiritual passages as central to our lives. Do we protest? Do we ignore? Do we shelter ourselves? Do we take up advanced wine tasting? Do we turn off the news? Do we go on retreats? Do we post photos of family members and friends bonding? Do we bury our heads in the necks of our pets?

Do we try to purify or go into the trenches? Are both possible at once?

Some answers are simple. We must protest. And we must shelter ourselves. We must watch carefully how much inane racket we can endure in one day, and adjust accordingly.

We must find ways to protest that harm no one else. We must raise awareness of the ugly truths of bigotry and inequality. We must not indulge in fake news ourselves.

We must criticize horrors and quotes that are verifiable but not do wholesale debunking. Melania may surprise us yet, and Ivanka hasn’t been heard from lately. They have been tasked with walking the dog, and that is not easy.

We must ask ourselves the variant of “what would Jesus do?” that suits our personal beliefs and predilections. I ask “What would love do?”

I also ask “Why is it so difficulty for so many people—Trump and beyond—to understand that all humans are made of the same stuff. Pain and loss feel the same in all nations and races.

Should we be surprised that hundreds of football players are “taking the knee”? Of course not. Their identification with those suffering from police bias and other forms of racial bias is close. They feel it in their bones and through their relatives and friends.

But Trump does not and cannot feel the pain and loss of others, and cares so little about it that he cannot even fake it. A bop on his nose mystifies him. Humans confuse him. All he wants is to be petted and called “good boy.”

And so, the old dog barks, snarls, and attacks, boasting in proxy of his younger days when he saw himself as a Casanova who got away with it.

We are in trouble when what we want is a creative dynamic serenity. We want to explore the immense universe, the music of life, the awesome facts of time and space. We want to study life as a beautiful thing, not destroy and abuse it.

Creating harmony within the din of fear, lies, and chaos is extremely difficult, but hopefully it is possible, because it is necessary.

Do not let yourself be swamped. Take time to gather your senses, find your truths, and act upon them in ways that share and expand your visions without harming others.

Somewhere in here we can agree Trump is not only scary and bloody annoying, but a clear and present danger. Somewhere in here is a muzzle. Or fences, or barriers.

We must protect what is good and work to change what is ugly. We are neighbors, and he is a menace, a mongrel doing war-mongering.

 

 

 

THE STEPS TO AUTOCRACY . . . and, btw, also genocide

#1. Promote yourself as the savior, often by glitter and large buildings, who will return your nation or culture to greatness and lift “your” people out of humiliation and make them safe by eliminating “dangerous elements.”

The steps to become a dictator, an all-authoritarian ruler, are the same as the ones required to achieve genocide. While I do not believe, by any stretch, that the United States is headed towards genocide, I recognize that the actions by our president are aligned with the actions necessary for genocide. It is a question only of degree and goals.

My study of strongmen gaining control of governments and, ultimately, achieving genocide began in 2003 when I co-directed and produced the documentary film Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines. The film showed the work of women rebuilding their nations after massive devastation, including in Burundi and Bosnia.

It was ten years after the genocide in Burundi, concurrent with the genocide in Rwanda, by Hutus of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, and seven years since the end of the four-year siege of Sarajevo by Bosnia Serbs.

The documentary, which debuted at the United Nations and was aired by PBS television, shows women in Burundi using reconciliation radio programs and face-to-face interactions to build peace and connections across the land. In those verdant hills a civil war continued to simmer. One day after filming our local handlers told us as we were driving away that guerrillas had come to that village the day before and they had killed people.

In Bosnia, we filmed women in Sarajevo and across the countryside rebuilding the economy through small businesses and micro-loans. A tepid peace was maintained by the presence of United Nations peace keepers.

To understand the causes and effects of genocide I observed and researched, among other things, the strategies of strongmen in Bosnia and Burundi and other nations, including Germany. What steps are required to achieve the power of an autocrat?

Below are my findings from that time, with a few updated side comments. They are more or less in sequence:

1. Promote yourself as the savior, often by glitter and large buildings, who will return your nation or culture to greatness and lift “your” people out of humiliation and make them safe by eliminating “dangerous elements.”

2. Instill fear in the hearts and minds of your citizens. Fear in the majority of the minorities so the majority align with you for protection. Fear in the minorities of you and the majority so they stay silent and weakened.

3. Gain control of the media by silencing, weakening, and defaming legitimate media and setting up false media to carry your messages of fear, hate, and alternative “truths,” i.e. propaganda. This is key.

4. Begin and maintain a steady drumbeat through media and every way possible of demeaning and debasing one or more minorities. Nothing you say is too extreme and there is no need for it to be truthful. They are killers, rapists, dirty, and, eventually, “cockroaches.”

5. Gain control of the military by degrading the leaders who would oppose you and replacing them with those who will do what you say – usually for their own gain.

6. Do the same with the judiciary system.

5. Attack and weaken educational institutions, scientists, and professional leaders. Condemn and weaken the “effete intellectuals.” They are your enemy. They must be silenced. They are infiltrators who do not like you and have their own agendas.

6. Set up paramilitary groups across the land with arms to patrol, intimidate, and harm “the other.” If you don’t have guns, machetes will do.

7. Restrict the selected scapegoat minorities, saying it is for the safety of the majority. Restrict their travel, opportunities, access to education and professions and places to live. Tighten restrictions over time with systematically applied “rules” about what they can and cannot do. If possible, build a wall to isolate them.

8. If you wish to enact a genocide, look for, or create, an event to use as a catalyst, as a spark to the tinder you have prepared, to launch slaughter, randomly or orderly depending on your preference and what is possible. Watch the fire burn.

Our president, his staff, and appointees know he is striving for personal power beyond “checks and balances,” but they probably don’t label it as turning our democracy into an autocracy. Trump certainly has no internal existence except “Trump First” and that does not allow for self-review of his actions and their consequences. It also means he does not have a clue of the nature of a democracy let alone know how to be president of one. He doesn’t have the equipment.

We, however, are becoming aware of the signs of an emerging autocracy and must continue to rise against it en masse – majority and minorities, women and men – to prevent immense damage to our democracy, our nation’s fiber, and our personal morals.

If looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, the chances are it will behave like a duck because it IS a duck. It is what ducks know to do.

Donald, Duck-esque, only knows what he knows to do. It might work well in his personal fantasy land, but it does not work in our real world. En masse is the accumulation of concerned people. Rise up!

 

He Would Have Been Tested For Rabies

The President of the United States violates every principle of honesty and exploits every crevice of divisiveness he can find. He trades in fear, bigotry, deception, and alternative worlds. He is a carrier of a malignant virus. If he were an animal in the Iowa of my childhood, he would have been tested for rabies.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, I was 13 and in civics class, second to last in the row of desks closest to the hallway door, a farmer’s daughter who had been taught your word was your bond and that we depended upon each other to bring in the harvest.

In that seat, I had an “aha” moment that Iowa was quintessentially the safest and most American state, or at least the Midwest was the most American area, and because Iowa had corn we had the edge even there. I also found it boring, which made me secretly a little ashamed of myself. How could I reject such luck to be born in Iowa?

We were at the heart of the light of freedom for the world. Each generation would have it better than the last. There was only one direction to go and that was up.

Central to this belief was the touchstone of honesty. Even our soil was honest, it showed you exactly what it was. Cows, pigs, chickens, they showed you if they were healthy or not, liked you or not. The sky was clear and endless. The wind and rains and snow were honest, taking their turns to show us exactly what they were and what their power could do and how we needed them.

And Christianity for the most part was honest in its values, though it wasn’t tested except inside one’s self. When farms were lost, some farmers shot themselves in their cellars by putting the shotgun in their mouths and pulling the trigger with their big toe. That was how I first learned women are usually better at managing crises than men. I’m not sure how much of that had to do with a woman’s Christianity or her tenacity.

I secretly found Bible stories to be fairytales but I knew the feel of good hearts and solid folks. They were my neighbors, whom I did not find boring. I found them quirky and strangely diverse, but pulled together by bonds of mutual respect and interdependence.

Christianity, however, did not discuss social issues and my civics class did not discuss minorities. There were no minorities in Iowa, so we set up our divides between Protestants and Catholics, and town folks and farm folks.

The desire to believe you are the people who are right, better, finer, closest to your sect’s chosen god is a pernicious virus.

So let’s come to the sorrowful point of now:

The President of the United States violates every principle of honesty and exploits every crevice of divisiveness that he can find. He trades in fear, bigotry, deception, and alternative worlds. He is a carrier of a malignant virus. If he were an animal in the Iowa of my youth, he would be tested for rabies.

He would have been isolated. No farmer would have worked with him because he was not to be trusted. He would not respect the farmers who rented instead of owned. He would not have paid his bills and that would be the end of that for him.

He would have been ostracized across counties. The word would have gone out among the people when the children were not listening. He would have been a fraud in a place where your word was your bond, where honesty was in the land.

They would have compared his hair with straw, but not in front of the children; they would have laughed behind the barn about his small hands.

Now, it turns out, these people voted mainly for him. Our farm was 18 miles from Mason City, the River City of “The Music Man.” The town folks were huckstered in the musical, but that at least was about trombones.

Times have changed, but that Iowa dirt is still in my heart. It demands truth, and it is not alone. It feels like one handful of loam in a field, a plain, of people rising across the United States reclaiming the heartland of who we are:

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood (and sisterhood) from sea to shining sea!

 

 

OUTING NETANYAHU

The only way to make sense of Netanyahu’s claim that UNSC Resolution #2334 is a declaration of war against Israel is if, in his mind, all of Palestine has belonged to Israel for 3000 years. By this reasoning the boundaries of nearly all nations on our planet would need to be redrawn.

.  .  .

Most often I write of love, acceptance, beauty, even soul. You may see that as the saccharine babble of an aged flower child, but I was not a flower child. I was a yuppie wife serving brunches of scrambled eggs decorated with truffles cut in the shapes of hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.

Since this post runs counter to my norm, I want to establish my creds. In Sarajevo I talked down a crazed man with a gun threatening to kill me. In Kabul I uncovered my blonde hair and stepped out of a van to face an approaching phalanx of frightened U.S. soldiers with M16 assault rifles; it was the day after an assassination attempt on Karzai and they thought we were going to attack the embassy. Outside of Bethlehem I ran, with the help of a young colleague, through Israeli tear gas canisters exploding like Fourth of July fireworks behind, in front, and beside us without an iota of justification. At the Qalandia checkout at the edge of Ramallah I photographed Palestinian men behind a dumpster being shot at from the Israeli military towers.

I know there is evil in the world.

Now, let’s talk about Netanyahu.

In 2007 I was photographing a female member of Israel’s Knesset in a sunlit alcove off the hallway along the members’ offices. It was in line with the interviews, photographs, and biographies for the book “Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women” that I produced and edited.

The alcove was warm and quiet, and my subject was generous of spirit. With the camera still to my eye, I turned from her to the hallway behind her when I heard people walking rapidly towards us.

The impact of the smug arrogant face I saw through the closeup lens crashed against the back of my skull. My camera unmasked pomposity, mindless hatred, and a craving for power. It took a couple seconds for me to realize I was looking at Netanyahu.

I put my camera down, shaken, praying he would never again be Israel’s Prime Minister. He was re-elected in 2009.

You cannot understand the actions of Israel without understanding the depth of the wounds of Jews; and we who are not Jews cannot fully understand that depth, its tentacles, and how it begets itself through generations. We should not try to tell ourselves we understand.

Still, we who are not Jews can see what perhaps the majority of Israelis and many non-Israeli Jews cannot see of themselves.

My daughter, perhaps the sanest person I know, is Jewish. She chose the religion of her father. In her cells she viscerally “knows” annihilating catastrophe could happen at any moment. She maps our family and friends escape routes for the vampire invasion or the nuclear bomb. She gives gifts of radios that can be hand cranked to hear broadcasts when the grid goes down.

Over a decade ago, I was driven back to East Jerusalem from Ramallah by a Canadian diplomat. It was the first time I heard someone say aloud what I had come silently to believe – Israelis were enacting on the Palestinians what had been enacted on them, and they did not know it. The inclosing wall, confiscation of property, inability to travel, restriction of goods, night raids, mass imprisonments, dehumanization, destruction of homes and fields, and repeated killings, including of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.

I came to believe, further, that the majority of Jewish Israelis would not – could not — feel safe until they were able to do to the Palestinians (their “enemies”) what had been done to them. Only that amount of power would guarantee their safety. Faced with presumed alienation or survival, most Israelis would deny, and sadly or angrily justify, their actions. Further, the wall and laws against interactions with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza made the suffering invisible if they wished it to be so.

Netanyahu, voted in by the most fearful of the Israelis, has never brought integrity to a peace negotiation. He has been videotaped telling Israeli families he has no intention of following through on any agreements he made.

For him, it has always been about stalling international powers while reclaiming Palestine as the Biblical Judea and Samaria by building “facts on the ground” through settlements. The belief that an Omnipotent Landlord promised this land to the Jews has more reality than the history of the land over time. The lure – perhaps the safety of a promised “homeland” – of this belief cannot be overestimated. Knesset docents explain the Chagall mural of an Israel that includes Judea and Samaria as the present day reality. Fundamental US evangelicals gape in awe, not realizing they are looking at a contiguous map of the nations of Israel and Palestine.

Like most tyrants, Netanyahu has become more delusional with time – more paranoid, frightened, and frightening. He claims UN Security Council Resolution # 2334 is a declaration of war against Israel. What it does, in fact, is reaffirm that Israel’s establishment of settlements has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and is a major obstacle to two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.

The only way to make sense of Netanyahu’s reasoning that the UN revolution is a declaration of war against Israel is if, in his mind as in the mural, all of Palestine has belonged to Israel for 3000 years. By this reasoning the boundaries of nearly all lands on our planet would need to be redrawn.

Truth is difficult to unthread through our mismatched versions of history, but we have learned – or have we? – that arrogant, delusional, narcissistic heads of states are dangerous. Is that something we learn only in retrospect? Are we learning it again?

A constant vigilant closeup lens is require, of Netanyahu and others.

 

Love, Beauty, and Soul are Dirty Words

We love children and polar bears being rescued, but something has gone wrong. We are not fully alive if we do not recognize those who died. We bind up and choke our souls when we do not mourn unnecessary death with outrage.

Pondering:

My dog ponders why he gets dried treats while humans get chocolate truffles, not to mention lobster chowder and mushroom pastries. Still he loves us, especially the grandchildren, and is mature enough not to make sneak attacks for nibbles off the counter.

My 7-year-old granddaughter ponders if she has remembered everyone she wants to give gifts, not allowing herself any excuses for her age. Her body twitches in anticipation of giving her gifts, each with a note saying she loves you.

My 9-year-old grandson ponders the structure of the US Congress and the electoral college and asks if there is an exact correlation between the number of representatives a state has and the number of its electoral representatives, or if it is only approximate. He loves his nation and feels we and it are in danger.

I ponder why I have more anxiety cooking for guests than I had facing angry men with guns in foreign nations.

I ponder free will, the nature of the conscience, the nature of consciousness, if forgiveness has any real meaning, if there is a separate entity we conveniently call “soul” or if that is a blend of our psychology, memory, ethics, longings – like custom paint mixtures with a drop of cerulean blue, some spring green, a tad of gingko leaf green, and a dollop of blood red until you get what feels like the essence of what you are looking for.

I ponder why I love more as I age, how to prevent wrinkles, how much exercise is really necessary, the nutrient value of mushroom powders, what happens to your cells when you have no sexual partner, the size of the universe, and will I have a self-awareness that can self-identify as “me” after I die?

My therapist ponders if she should be pragmatic with me or abstract, usually choosing pragmatic since I handle abstractions better than daily life – usually, not always.

Like my grandson, and every adult I know, I ponder if the T-word (I cannot say his name, which is pragmatic for the state of my psyche) is ushering in – with his band of humorless martinets – the end of the world, the end of the world as we know it, or not so many changes after all.

I do not need to ponder if he is sane.

Love, beauty, and soul:

What I ponder most is love. I read that writers are told not to use the words “soul” or “beauty.” But I know beauty when I see it and I know soul when I feel it. If not using those words has any value other than to get us to further differentiate into details and nuances, I don’t know what it is. We should speak of beauty and soul all the time, delve into their mysteries and their healing powers.

Beauty and soul, like love, cover a lot of territory and are true, and are not afraid to get dirty.

The White Helmets rescuing Syrians from under tens of tons of concrete rubble are beautiful and dirty and work out of love.

Polar bears on melting snow and ice are beautiful and heartbreaking and trying to save their cubs.

Parents carrying children a day’s journey to hospitals across barren earth are weary with grieving for their beloved and desperately ill babies.

Love and beauty and soul mingle with the blood, shit, and gurgling of those who die by guns, drones, bombs, and diseases. They loved and they were loved.

Hearts and minds off course:

We love children and polar bears being rescued, but something has gone wrong. We are not fully alive if we do not recognize those who died. We bind up and choke our souls when we do not mourn unnecessary death with outrage.

Lincoln Financial is one sponsor of The PBS News Hour. Their ad begins with “feel good” photos and a reassuring male voice telling us “You can care for many, but you can only love a precious few.” It then shows photos of loving moments limited to two or three family members.

When a widely broadcast ad tells us we can only love a precious few, when a script like that gets through the advertising department and the corporate higher ups, we have crossed into dangerous territory, a land where the T-word and his racism, bigotry, hatred, threats, and walls are elected – if not by the majority, still legally – to lead our country. Children like my grandson know and feel the poison for what it is, poison.

Feeling the love:

As I age, I witness my love expanding, seemingly on its own. Do I love the T-word’s cabinet appointees? No, but I don’t exactly hate them either. “Abhor” is a more accurate word.

I’ve become one of those women who has become gaga with love. This is not an abstraction, it is my reality. I touch it and feel it, even if I cannot explain it.

Do not tell me I can love only a precious few! That is bunk, a lie. It is wrong, it is the opposite of what I do and most people do. We love widely and deeply, and would love even more if we understood it as the natural and healthy way of living – if we had more courage, more encouragement, more faith in ourselves.

Love, beauty, and living aligned with your soul is as pragmatic as it can get. It is the only way we will survive.

 

The Narcissistic Personality: trouble in River City

This blog is not about what to do now. The answers to that are organize, unite, protect each other, and use every aspect of our judicial system to fight against incorporating hatred into the laws of our government and the mores of our social structures. This blog is about understanding the nature of Donald Trump’s mind and not being naïve. He is a dangerous man who does not know what is happening in the real world because he experiences only the world he has created for himself as a classic narcissist living in a world where hate is legitimate, lies are normal conversations, and he is entitled to delude people from the golden chairs in his tower and spew petty twitter rants from his bed. 

Operating principles of a narcissist:

1) Narcissists don’t care about you because you don’t exist to them as a real human.

2) The world they construct in their heads is the only world they perceive.

3) They experience themselves at the center of this artificial world.

4) They are often charismatic because their belief in themselves at the center of their world has a spillover effect on others, i.e. they believe they are great, and this can be seductive.

5) This spillover effect reinforces their sense of superiority and entitlement to whatever they wish. This is manifest often in a sense of ownership of people of the opposite sex.

6) Because their world is small and of their making, they are freed of any obligations towards integrity, honesty, consistency, compassion, or keeping of contracts and promises. Truth is irrelevant in this world where they are, essentially, the only inhabitant. Pathological lying is their language because they can change the contents of their private world from one moment to the next, eliminate this, add that. They don’t fully compute that real people in an “outside” world keep track of their inconsistencies and don’t like obfuscation, denials, and trickery.

7) Rage, duplicity, aggression, and divisiveness are their most common tools against people who confront them. They willingly send their minions after such people.

8) To mock, expose, or criticize them provokes an immediate response because, at all costs, they dare not give up their image of themselves as a superior being in a fantasy world. The spillage that could come from examining themselves in the mirror could be horrific to them—and most have lost the ability to enter the scouring world of truth, in any case. They cannot conceive that their thin-skinned responses are petty, absurd, and reek of being a third-grade spoilsport on the playground.

9) Narcissism is one of the most difficult of the delusional psychological diseases to treat because narcissism has for the most part served them well. Narcissists are successful in our contemporary world, which tells you something about our contemporary world.

Commentary on narcissists:

My experience with narcissistic humans could take up pages, but this is not about an ex-husband or former employee, or screaming in the shower for so long that my dog went outside to get sleep. It is about narcissists and what to expect of them.

That is, do not expect Donald Trump to become a rational human being. He will make his decisions based on his belief of that moment of what he thinks is best for him as ruler of his fiefdom. He does not have a rational, reality-based capacity for thought or decision.

Our President-Elect is a dangerous man who knew how to con and use nearly 50% of the people who voted in this election. He played on their fears, insecurities, prejudices, assumptions, lack of truthful and complete information, the financial inequities that affect their daily lives, and their feeling they are looked down upon by coastal “elites” and pushed aside in favor of minorities and people who are “other” than them.

He lied over and over and over and over—and a gullible (and, in some cases, biased) media gave him free press and allowed his lies to go out unchecked and unchallenged. He was perceived as a clownish bully rather than an unstable threat who could become our president. The media has a lot to answer for.

His spewings encouraged and justified violence in the minds of people who are now committing hate crimes across the U.S. This is not an illusion, it is happening, and it is happening not only to minorities but to white women I know.

And the people who voted for him for financial reasons will discover soon enough that he was never for them. They will be left further behind if his plans to lower taxes for the wealthy, limit social security and the Affordable Care Act, and deregulate the banks go into effect.

This is not even touching on the massive issues of climate change and global terrorism, or our relationship with Putin who is an even better con artist than Trump, or the setbacks and prejudices against women and their rights, or foreign relationships, or the global economy.

There it is, and it is not pretty, and it is not safe.

Still, I believe in America because I believe in Americans. I believe we will survive and we can rise. With intent and actions, we can unite across the divides to strengthen the middle of the bell curve, to reclaim the heart of who we are. We will protect each other and work together.

If our President and the Republican congress cannot serve us well, then we will have to create the Renaissance ourselves. We can do this by calling on our civil sector, our entrepreneurs, our artists, our visionaries, our lawyers for justice, our local governments and businesses, our diverse and wondrous citizens, and each other. We will not abandon the principles of this nation to a man who thinks we are his gullible throngs.

I believe this is possible with every cell in my body IF we remember at all moments that our President-Elect is incapable of self-control, rational decisions, or altruistic motives. This government must be under our watch, not his. We live in the real world and we are responsible for its care, our care, and the care of each other.

 

Stop with the Liberal Guilt

We liberals are not the shrinks for the world. We are not to blame for everything that happens bad in the world, and we are not guilty just because we still believe in mutual good and harmony between people.

Raised on a farm in Iowa in the 1940’s, 50’s, and early 60’s, I learned that pigs don’t sweat, there’s always an odd number of rows of kernels around a corn cob, spring winds come in from the west, and few things are so beautiful as black loam turning over behind a plow as crows swoop down to feast on exposed earthworms.

I also learned that a streak of insecurity runs through the people. I can speak to this because, at base, these are my people. Never mind my life experience, when I die the visions in my head will not be of Paris or New York or Washington. They will be of fireflies under skies that never stop, whether of the blueness of the day or the stars of the night.

Yet I had to leave, and planned to do so by the time I was eight years old. By the time I was a freshman in high school my choices were to be a missionary in an exotic place or to be in a city wearing black off-the-shoulder sheath dresses in fancy restaurants. There was no room for anything in-between. Ultimately the second alternative won, more or less, combined with working for women around the globe, connecting them for peace and mutual good.

I am, by any account, both in the 1% and a far-left liberal. This makes me suspect on both accounts for most of the people in the “fly over” states. I have become the presumed stereotype of what I was told were the “snotty Easterners who think they are better than we are.”

While I have never heard an Easterner say they felt superior to the people in the heartland, I sure did hear the people of the heartland say it was what Easterners believe. I heard it over and over. I was fed it at the kitchen table nearly as regularly as I ate boiled potatoes.

The Midwestern stereotype of an Eastern elite is not a pretty thing, nor is it accurate. It is the product of insecurity that leads to a sense of humiliation and then to resentment.

Ask me what the vote was about, and I will tell you it is the product of many things, including fear of, and isolation from, diverse people. I will also add that many voted for Trump in order to shove it in the faces of what they perceive as the Eastern “elite.” This impulse was for many so strong that it blocked out the realization that Trump is not their friend in any way, shape, or form. It blocked out the understanding that it was Clinton who was set to go with the programs and policies that would help them the most. It was their response to the belief they were being ignored compared with other socio-groups. It was their feeling they were forgotten and humiliated. Vote for Trump! Let the chips fall where they may.

Does this mean I have no sympathy? Not at all. My heart hurts. These are people who overwhelmingly believe in good, who rally together for each other, who work long hard hours, and who have seen their share of the (apple) pie decline.

Still, we liberals were taken by surprise at the level of their vehemence and anger – and at our sense that they didn’t know their friends from their enemies, and our sense that they didn’t realize it has been the Republicans who have blocked what can help them.

As liberals, we tend to blame ourselves. THAT is an actual characteristic of Eastern liberals. We believe we are somehow to blame, that we didn’t do enough, that we ignored people who were hurting. We believe we have the ability to make everything well and good. We do not. We are only humans, individuals who get some things right and some things wrong.

Peace building and care-taking and changes in society are messy complex processes with no easy answers, no single answers, and we liberals are not the shrinks for the world. We  are not to blame for everything that happens bad in the world, and we are not guilty because we still believe in mutual good and harmony between people.

An hour ago I held the sister of my son-in-law. She holds a high position in the agency that created and maintained the Affordable Care Act. After putting on her “big girl britches” this week for her staff, she can finally cry. “Twenty million people got insurance. We saved lives. We saved countless lives. We will always have that. They can’t take that away from us.”

I worked for the War on Poverty under President Johnson. When the Republicans came in under Nixon, they immediately set about to dismantle the agency as much as they could. They destroyed all the photographs (and negatives) of poverty and programs that I had had taken by professional photographers across the US. They wiped away the proof of need among our people.

It can feel like an upside-down world, where good intentions are lambasted, where the complexities of making change are not understood, where science and facts are not respected, where our planet and our lives are in danger because of people’s unwillingness to recognize the truth of climate change, where women are considered lesser mammals, where some people consider themselves better than others, where minorities are not safe, and where hate is considered bravery.

This is not a time for liberals to feel guilty that we didn’t do enough. It is the time to recognize that we cannot ever do enough, but that we must do what we can; and we cannot do that best if we are weakened by feelings of guilt. We must strategize and move forward, keeping the faith, and acting in the service of justice, equality, integrity, and inclusiveness. We must put on our “big girl britches” and do the work ahead.

Trump: our snake charmer

. . . he is pathological and has succumbed to the hate and rage born from his sense of inferiority and his deepest knowledge that he is a fraud and cheat. I believe his dark side is in control. He would be the last to know.

I have not written a blog in some time because I am focused, as a woman of a certain age, on writing a memoir. It takes up almost all of the space in the Puzzling Things Out part of my mind. Yet life continues around me, annoyingly so, and it has been disturbing.

None of us can pretend when we see evil and ignorance gathering that it doesn’t affect us, cause us to fear, to be amazed such things are happening. How many people are saying, “I never expected this in my lifetime”?

Pundits are having their say, and in the process reveal their wisdom or their calculations on how to be provocative and increase their media face time and their audiences. Some of these pundits, and many of my friends on Facebook, are far better writers than I am. Perhaps not in depth, but in words and information. It is intimidating.

Yet, my forte is how things work inside of humans on the personal level, so I venture out because it is time. My audience is small, and mostly liberal, and mostly with advanced degrees. If you are not in these categories, I welcome you and ask you to stay with me.

Let’s get to it. We are watching an uber-narcissistic con-man call up the snakes inside people. He sings them songs that mesmerize them, that tell them it is okay—natural, brave, and right—to hate and it is good to be violent against those you hate. He has vast circles of adoration that increase daily and allow him to feel he is a demi-god, answerable to no one and not to truth. He has his followers and that is enough truth for him.

I do not believe he is a carnival barker who takes cynical pleasure in toying with naïve people or scaring them with horror houses. I believe he is pathological and has succumbed to the hate and rage born from his sense of inferiority and his deepest knowledge that he is a fraud and cheat. I believe his dark side is in control. He would be the last to know.

Think about it. This is a man with the goofiest hair in the world and he doesn’t seem to realize it. This is delusion.

I’m not yet comparing him to Hitler, but I can’t help but think of that mustache that stayed on throughout the Holocaust.

Of course, the real issue is not a singular madman, but that he has watered and fed the possibilities in humankind to rise and hate en masse. How did so many of us as a people become susceptible to a snake charmer?

The mixed blessing of democracy is that it allows the worst to come out in people as well as the best. Pandering to fear-filled conservatives, Bible-belt prejudices, censoring of scientific truth, gun-toting urban cowboys and cowgirls, and xenophobia in order to get votes has come home to roost.

We have a large portion of the population who are educated by television reality shows and violence and Fox news.

We have a large portion of the population who gain their sense of power by open carry.

We have a large portion of the population who do not travel, learn other languages, study other religions, or read books.

We have a large portion of the population who are under-employed or trying to survive on a shameful minimum wage.

We have a large portion of the population who feel humiliated, correctly or incorrectly, by most of you who will read this.

We have a large portion of the population who are ready to believe someone selling them snake oil, someone even paying enough attention to them to sell them snake oil.

Is it too late to change this? Of course not, because it cannot be. Those of us with more influence need to spend more time caring and acting for mutual good and less time lamenting and accusing others of not being so brilliant as we are, tra la.

This is the time to acknowledge these people, to look into root causes, to expose Donald Trump for the malicious opportunist he is. This is the time to reach across our neighborhoods and our country, to invest dramatically in education and truth in media, to bring everyone into a democracy that is fair and equal, and to broaden lives and opportunities.

It is not only the right thing to do but we need to immune our democracy not only against people like Donald Trump but against people like Ted Cruz. He is even more scary because evil has solidified inside him. In Trump it still whirls like nauseous gases.

These people drink their own Kool-Aid. It is a concoction that makes them pompous, manipulative, power hungry, delusional, and dangerous, especially to those so looking for someone to help them that they cannot discern when they are being duped, when they are considered only to be a power base for personal power.

If we as a democratic people do not support and provide comprehensive education, financial opportunities, truth and depth in media, and exposure to other cultures, those of us who receive the least will continue to be susceptible to the people who would harm them the most.

Is it not a prerequisite of democracy that we care for all of our citizens out of common decency and mutual respect? Democracy is a responsibility. If we privileged do not come out of our comfort zone to help those with few comforts, we will have reneged on that responsibility.