Trump, Women, and Assertive Men

Trump, Women, and Assertive Men

Trump’s Women

What do we know about Donald Trump’s attitudes and behavior toward women?

  1. We know he favors women’s bodies over their minds.
  2. We know he objectifies women’s body parts. He has even discussed openly the high quality of his daughter’s body parts.
  3. We know he’s in the habit of rating women from 1-10.
  4. We know he is apt to criticize a woman’s face. “Look at that face!” He commented on Carly Fiorina’s. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
  5. We know that he owned the Miss Universe Contest. We know he took a hands on interest in his pageants and contestants, by, for example, fat shaming Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe winner, for weight gain, and by sneaking into the changing room to view the beauties naked.
  6. We know he likes to insult women by calling them names. For example, he called Machado “Miss Piggy,” and “Miss Housekeeping.” Megan Kelly, of Fox News, noted in a debate that he had called women “fat pigs,” ”dogs,” ”slobs,” and “disgusting animals.” He confirmed that he had called Rosie O’Donnell one of those names. He also called O’Donnell “crude, rude, obnoxious, and dumb.”
  7. We know he bullies women. O’Donnell says she not only was bullied by Trump but mentally “tortured.” Elizabeth Warren, who he calls Pocahontas, called him a bully in return.
  8. We know he is likely to kiss a beautiful woman, and grab her privates. “I’m . . . attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it.” When Billy Bush responds “Whatever you want?” He replies “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
  9. We know that twelve women have come forward to accuse Donald Trump of unwanted sexual advances of the type he bragged of to Billy Bush.

Questions for Trump Voters::

  1. If sexism is ”prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex,” is President-Elect Trump a sexist? Yes_____ No_____.
  2. If misogyny is “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women,” is President-Elect Trump a misogynist? Yes_____ No_____
  3. If a bully is “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker,” is President-Elect Trump a bully? Yes_____ No_____
  4. Do you agree that President-Elect Trump by his actions has done considerable harm to the self-images, confidence, and self-concepts of girls and young women? Yes_____ No_____

Comment: Please explain. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Donald Trump’s Hillary Clinton

What do we know of Donald Trump’s attitudes and behavior toward Hillary Clinton?

  1. We know he questioned her ability to participate in a debate without using the bathroom, adding that it is “too disgusting” a topic to talk about.
  2. We know he spread the rumor that Hillary Clinton was ill and “lacks the mental and physical stamina” to be President.
  3. We know he called Secretary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” throughout the campaign and created the impression that she was a criminal.
  4. We know he attacked her as a woman. “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.”
  5. We know he told a Wilmington, North Carolina rally: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
  6. We know that he “hovered behind” and “loomed over” Secretary Clinton in the Second Presidential Debate, in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.
  7. We know that he threatened in the same debate to have “his” Attorney General investigate her “situation” after the election and “put her in jail.”
  8. We know that he used the Republican Party Convention to conduct a criminal trial of Secretary Clinton, under the judgeship of Chris Christie, and repeated the trick, in shortened form, in the debates.
  9. We know that he invoked the mantra “Lock Her Up!” against Secretary Clinton in the convention and throughout the campaign.
  10. We know that he called Secretary Clinton a “nasty woman” in the Third Presidential Debate.
  11. We know he also called Secretary Clinton a brace of other epithets during the campaign: “the devil,” “witch,” “founder of ISIS,” “incompetent,” “shrill,” “criminal,” and “pathetic.” He tolerated his fans calling her a “bitch.”
  12. We know he accused Hillary of enabling her husband’s infidelities.
  13. We know he accused her of attacking women who had claimed liaisons with her husband.
  14. We know he conjectured that Mrs. Clinton had been unable to satisfy her husband’s needs. We know too that he insinuated that she had been unfaithful to her husband.
  15. We know he accused her of rigging the election.

Questions for Trump Voter

Does President-Elect Trump’s conduct toward Secretary Clinton convince you that Mr. Trump is a:

  1. Sexist? Yes_____ No_____
  2. Misogynist? Yes_____ No_____
  3. Bully? Yes_____ No _____
  4. Do you agree that Hillary Clinton did not respond to Mr. Trump in kind by stereotyping and denigrating him as a man and human being? Yes _____ No _____
  5. Do you agree that it would have been an historical event, and a singular encouragement to girls and young women, if a female had been elected President of the United States?
    Yes _____ No _____
  6. If yes, would you agree that the election of Trump is a stunning set-back for women’s equality and standing as human beings?

Comment: Please explain. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Outcome

Hillary Clinton is not a popular politician with all Americans, and particularly with men. She is disliked by most and mistrusted by many. She had a thirty year record in public service available for opposition research, and millions of dollars were spent to “get the goods” on her over decades.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, had been President of the United States for eight years, leaving office with an approval rating of 65% despite having been impeached. Due to the double standards of gender politics, all the weight of his failings was available to be heaped on  Hillary’s shoulders in this campaign, while none of his popularity and success accrued to her merit.

Hillary Clinton had been a hard working and effective Senator for two terms, exiting with an approval rating of 56% from her New York State constituents. She had been a successful Secretary of State in Barack Obama’s first term, leaving with the President’s praise for a job well done, and an approval record of 65% among the public. She had been out of office for four years before running for President a second time in 2016, and didn’t do anything wrong in the interim. She mostly testified to Congress for the offense of seeking the presidency.

Voters should have been able to pull the lever for Clinton with scarcely a qualm. No deep research or rocket science was required. Yet the voters, dumbfounded and outfoxed by disturbing media stories, befuddled themselves. Years of clever skullduggery and horror stories were required to beat her—along with restrictions on the right to vote in fifteen states; many a gerrymandered house district; the electoral college system; sneaky efforts at voter suppression; and 3 billion dollars spent in the campaign. But stop her they did, even when the obvious ethical imperative for a patriotic citizen became to stop Donald Trump at all costs from becoming President. An awesome political achievement for sure, with or without Russian assistance. Sexism, misogyny, bullying, and ageism played their artful, cunning parts, and Donald Trump prevailed.

Assertive Men

I tend to like Presidents best after they have left office. I had unexceptional expectations for Hillary Clinton. Her hawkishness bothered me a lot. Her pro-Israel stance seemed to overlook the dire plight and disappearing rights of Palestinians. Yet, I thought she’d make a good solid President. She was the obvious choice. What other ethical choice was there?

One thing did surprise me, though, which relates to the intuition of a “hidden problem” noted in the entry entitled Trumpeter University Learning Lab. I had met during the campaign only one man who felt as positive about Secretary Clinton as I did. Every other male acquaintance, of whatever political persuasion, spoke of “real” or “deep” or “serious” or “concerning” problems with Clinton, even the ones who said they were going to vote for her. They spoke of “blandness,” and “trust,” and “lies,” and “crimes,” and “deceits,” and “theft,” and “fraud,” and “scandals,” and “treason,” and “ambition,” and “tiredness,” and“stamina,” and “avarice,”and “boring,” and “lack of vision,” and “over the hill,” and “lack of a plan,” and “unwatchable,“ and “uninspiring,” and “arrogance.” Most uttered their defamations with deep feeling, a bit of anger, and definite certainty, the more so as election day drew near. Chris Matthews opined one night that her focus on motherhood and parenting wasn’t an engaging message. Brooks and Shields spoke of her uninspired speeches and her failure to offer a vision of the future for the country. Only President Obama and Tim Kaine—what else would you expect of them—spoke of her extraordinary experience, credentials, competence, work ethic, and steadfastness. On record, Clinton was the best prepared candidate for the presidency in American history, but that was considered insufficient by  discerning men to offset her “deficits.”

In the meantime, the Republican party had unleashed full-scale sexism, misogyny, and bullying in their “lock her up!” “jail her!”cadenced convention, and their candidate, Donald Trump ruthlessly carried on the flaming denigration in his rowdy boy rallies, and in the three debates. Clinton was by then a criminal on the loose protected from arrest by amorphous elites in a rigged system.

No one, excepting a courageous Christian minister, defending her sanctuary, stood up to Trump. No one said: “Stop it.” “Show a little common decency.” “Show some respect.” “Children are watching.” “Address her by her rightful name.” Clinton didn’t even get the basic respect that teachers insist upon for students in their classrooms.

What we were watching, it turned out, was the age old need of men to control and dominate women. Fox-trapped whites had defamed Barack Obama for eight years because of their need to diminish and dominate blacks. Now muscular detritus spewed forth from a new source. Stigmata residual from the racial smear years was to be enhanced with some good old-fashioned woman bashing, a fine inheritance for Clinton to carry into the campaign. Then she was paraded nightly before rally juries to be tried as criminal, murderer, devil, or witch.

Clinton, judged by only the facts, should have won in a landslide, just as President Obama should have received more abundant appreciation for his achievements and service as President. But by then—this year, this fall—voters, particularly male voters, had worked themselves so deeply into cognitive circuitry mashings that any male candidate, even Donald Trump, seemed preferable to wicked, crooked Hillary. Trump was better! Being a woman had nothing at all to do with it. But it did.

That turned out to be the answer to the mathematical conundrum discussed at length and highlighted in the first Trumpster Learning Lab.

Question: How could it possibly be that the number of Trump’s disqualifications for the office of President could be increased from 69 to infinity without mass defections of patriotic citizens to Clinton?

Answer: the basic need of men to retain dominance over women is still that powerful in the male psyche.

Men weren’t ready for a woman president.

The rally stalwarts who Clinton found so deplorable led the way in the demonization of Clinton. But their misogyny was well known by the end of the primaries, and was of no great surprise after that, accompanied as it was by equally hateful attitudes of other sorts: racism, nativism, Islamophobia, Muslimophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

The larger mass of males, hiding behind their sober, sensible “reasoning,” “research,” “independence,” “indecision,” and “Bernie voter” status, some of whom voted for Clinton nonetheless, regularly asserted their “concerns” when asked. Many took their “never Hillary” (not yet a woman) attitude into the voting booth.

If I were to fashion “markers” to “distinguish” the men I’m talking about, I would call out:

  • men who had a woman boss problem somewhere in the past;.
  • super-competitors who like to listen to sports jock radio;
  • men who like to trash talk;
  • men who like to control the conversation;
  • men who think of themselves as ladies men;
  • guys who think of themselves as top guns and alpha men;
  • and, men who need to stand out at a party.

But I could be wrong. From a self-directed learning perspective, it doesn’t really matter. The Hillary bashers and the men who didn’t want a woman President know who they are. The question is what they will do with this self knowledge. Donald Trump will be in the White House to remind them of the importance of the question.

So why do men want to quickly get over this election, stiffen up, and move on? Because we men pulled it off, and relatively easily, all things considered, and the women haven’t bashed us yet. We think we got away with it. Let’s move on before the women notice and come after us.

This is the fourth in a series on the 2016 Presidential election.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

December 22, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Trumpster University Learning Lab 2

Trumpster University Learning Lab 2

In Trumpster University Learning Lab 1, ten days ago, we found that no amount of disqualifications could be amassed sufficient to dissuade followers from voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Today’s report on Trumpster University Lab 2 builds upon the first. It convened a select group of Trump voters dedicated to critical thinking and self-directed learning. As explained in the last blog, self-directed learning is a sound philosophy and method to employ in approaching matters of personal change and growth through learning. The adult citizen directs and conducts his own learning as a facilitator presents “situations” to reflect upon and address.

While people may not think of themselves in this way, every person has multiple selves, at least two, usually three, sometimes a virtual choir, all in the one person that bears his name. You’ll find these selves distinct enough in the silent talks you have with yourself (there are three selves engaged: the one that speaks, the one that hears, and the one that reacts and responds.) “I” act, “I” observe, “I” evaluate, “I” judge, “I” decide, “I” change. There are abundant selves interacting in the stages of any one thoughtful act. They provide enough self-reflection for the light to come in and change a mind. That’s all that’s needed: thinking, openness, honesty, light, insight, and the courage to change one’s mind.

It cannot be said that Trumpster University Lab 2 was a great success, such was the contention and contumely unleashed among the impassioned participants. Nevertheless, random results of some interest were produced, and they are reported here for the education and edification of the public. Questions for further study follow each summary for the self-directed learner.

Activity 1. – Trump Character Profile
It seemed likely that a ‘conversion’ or ‘compacting’ of Trump’s multifarious disqualifications for office into a personal characterization of the candidate could sharpen the issue and focus the voter’s decision making. Therefore, the following instructions were issued:

“Review the disqualifications for office of Donald J. Trump cited on Will’s list of 69 and on Keith Olbermann’s list of 176; then summarize Donald Trump’s character by applying fitting appellations and adjectives.”

The responses, in alphabetical order, were:

abuser of women, alpha male, angry, anti-immigrant, anti-democratic, anti-Mexican, bad loser, bad winner, bully, con man, climate change denier, conspiracy theorist, counter-puncher, corporate wheeler-dealer, dictatorial, dominator, erratic, fast talker, fabricator, fear pervader, humorless, ignorant, insecure, intemperate, liar, loner, likely white supremacist, mean, midnight tweeter, misogynist, narcissist, nasty, nativist, non-reader, possible fascist, power grabber, pugilist, Putinist, racist, rumormonger, self-absorbed, sexist, statist, strongman, thin-skinned, xenophobe, unknowledgeable, unpredictable, vengeful, victim, and whiner.

Questions for Further Consideration

  1. It is difficult to believe that any person whose character actually fit this profile could attract votes for the office of President of the United States? Is there a mistake? Is the list accurate? Is something missing? What should be added or subtracted?
  2. Indeed, if the portrait is accurate, wouldn’t it be our patriotic duty as citizens to insure by our votes that Mr. Trump never became president? Shouldn’t that have been the paramount issue of the campaign?

Activity 2. – Individual Voter Profile.
If each Trump voter inspected the Trump profile, fashioned a comparable profile of himself, and placed the two in mirrored opposition, a strong intuition of likeness or difference should arise, and he’d know why he had chosen to vote for or against the candidate. Therefore, the following instructions were issued:

“Construct a character profile of yourself and compare it with the one constructed for Mr. Trump. Then ask, If I voted for the Donald Trump portrayed above, do these labels apply also to me?”

Most participants were unable to construct a personal character profile of themselves. No one who completed the work was willing to share his product. The discussion soon turned heated. No precise correspondence exists between Mr. Trump and themselves, his voters assert; few of his qualities, if any, apply to them and their votes. “He’s one type of person; I’m another,” said one person. It was unfair, they protested, to hold up Trump’s profile as a mirror for their self-reflection.

Some voters said they disliked Mr. Trump intensely, but voted for him anyway, because “Hillary was worse.” Others said: “Supreme Court appointments were critical;” “Obamacare must be overturned;” “Christian values must be upheld,” “Liberals deserve defeat;” “Respect abroad has to be reestablished;” etc. “You don’t have to like him to vote for him,”one person explained.

In particular, Trump voters want it understood that they are not racist, bigoted, stupid, or anti-democratic. Neglected and overlooked? Yes. But not racist, not deplorable. Liam intoned: “You’re kidding me! Of course you’re racist. Every American is racist!” Bad moment there.

There was one shared ‘aha’ of some importance. It dawned on everybody that their life was nothing like Donald Trump’s, and vice-versa, his life was nothing like theirs, or, for that matter, like anybody else they knew! He was a world-class businessman and global billionaire who lived in a tower and owned his own planes. The love of golf was one thing some professed to share with him.

Questions for Further Consideration

  1. The voters make a valid and important point. A candidate need not live as you or I do to earn our vote. Is perhaps the link between the celebrity candidate and the disparate voter one of shared concern for the same issues?
  2. On the other hand, mustn’t there be some degree of overlap in character profiles and attitudes between the candidate and his voters? Is agreement on issues enough of a bond?
  3. Wouldn’t a reasonable person surmise that considerable anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, pro-Christian, misogynist, lock-em-up policing, white supremacist, and racist sentiments are common among Trump and his voters?
  4. Wouldn’t a reasonable person also surmise that a spirit of anger, fear, neglect, victimization, resentment, and retribution is shared by Trump and his enthusiasts?
  5. Is it credible that a celebrity who lives a life totally unlike and foreign to most Americans can realistically claim to be their representative, voice, and champion? Are his biographers wrong in reporting that Mr. Trump is self-absorbed and uninterested in the lives of others? Could it be that Mr. Trump has taken advantage of his voters sensitivities?

Activity 3. – Reasons for Voting for Trump.
Instruction to participants who voted for Mr. Trump:

“Explain in your own words why you voted for Donald Trump.”

The answers were: “Hillary’s worse” (4 times); “Time for change;” “Shake things up;” “Straight-shooter;” “No bull;” “Love to hear him tell off the politicians;” “Give hell to the Beltway guys;” “He’ll drain the swamp;“ “No political correctness;” “He’ll drive the bleeding heart liberals nuts;” “He understands what people like me are going through;” “Got to do something about ISIS and terrorism;” “He’ll rebuild our military;” “To do something for the rust belt;” “To get some respect back for the nation;” “Stop illegal immigrants;” “Do something about radical Islam;” “Help the rural areas;” “He’ll help the veterans;” “We need someone strong and tough;” “He will end Obamacare;” “He’ll stand up to China and get our jobs back;” “He will negotiate better trade deals;” “He’s not a politician;” “He’ll save us money;” ”you can’t buy him;” “He’s beholden to no one;” and “He says what he thinks.”

Questions for Further Consideration

  1. “Reasons,” as embedded in these answers, have several surprising characteristics. They are clipped, clever, vague, opaque, and exceedingly general. Most are catchphrases. They sound like slogans. They also sound familiar. Have we heard them before?
  2. Could it be that a cache of reasons for voting for a candidate— in this case for Mr. Trump—is a culturally acquired vocabulary initiated by a campaign, constructed in the course of the events of the campaign, and ritualized into catchphrases by repeated media use?
  3. Could it be that millions of people are drawn by electronic messaging to accept the same reasons to vote? Do we receive them by sight or ear, find them credible, and come eventually to feel them deeply and passionately as our own? Are reasons marketed like commodities for use by partisans in the voting booth?
  4. Isn’t it also clear that overarching reasons, like the ones attributed by the Trump voter for his vote, are endpoints of a storytelling process? Are they not conclusions at the end of a narration?. Don’t they sound like titles of missing stories? The auditor has no information at all about the circumstances, events, and reasoning that has brought the voter to his conclusion and decision. The story— its architecture, its staging, its sections, its paragraphs, and its sentences—are absent, missing, and unavailable.

Activities 4. and 5. –  Logical and moral reasoning. These activities, frankly, didn’t come off at all. The discussion broke down shortly, then completely, and the workshop ended. For the record, though, here are the original questions. I’ll try too to explain what happened.

Activity 4. –  Logical Argument:

In the interests of understanding the background story that led to your decision to vote for Mr. Trump, please translate the summary reason cited for your vote into a set of logical propositions: A, B, C, D, . . . to Z, where “A” begins: “I was very concerned about issues affecting me, my family, and community,” and “Z” equals “therefore, I voted for Trump,” with B,C,D,E,F,.…Y filling in the intermediate arguments in a causal chain telling the story logically from A to Z.

Activity 5. – Ethical Justification:

Does the reasoning you’ve provided about your vote include an ethical justification for voting for Trump despite his many disqualifications for the office? Yes _____ No _____ If “yes,” what is the justification? If “no,” how did you justify setting aside the myriad of disqualifications documented in the media? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What Happened?

Trump voters insisted they had already given their full reasons for voting for Mr. Trump, and that nothing more need be added. That is essentially what happened. There is no long string of logical reasoning behind their votes. There is no extensive moral reasoning either. One person spoke for many in saying: “You like him, you vote for him! No big deal.” Another person, who hadn’t previously spoken, said “I hate the guy, and Hillary too, but I voted for him because he’s Republican, as am I.” Others jumped in: “Right,” it’s “the court picks;” “Obamacare;” “religious freedom;” “the Iran treaty,” “respect for America around the world,” “runaway immigration;” “broken borders;” and “law and order.” Another person reported that he “just wanted to shake things up and see what happened.” There was nothing more to talk about than that!

Questions for Further Consideration

  1. If a voter’s decision doesn’t include a full and truthful account of how he arrived at his vote, is he not diminished as a storyteller? Is not his story lost? Isn’t the power of history to teach likewise diminished?
  2. If a voter’s decision is unsupported by a logical account of the facts, values, and circumstances that led up to it, does he not curtail and sacrifice his abilities and influence as a rational person and convincing speaker? If his reasoning isn’t available and understood, couldn’t his vote be seen as irrational?
  3. If a voter’s decision fails to include an ethical account of how a candidate’s deficits and disqualifications are offset by other circumstances, and by higher and more important principles, is he unethical? Does he not diminish his standing as an ethical person and good citizen?
  4. If it is true that the only explanation a person can give to himself for his vote is a  catchphrase—such as I voted “for change,” or “against Clinton,” or “I voted Republican,” or “to make America Great”—wouldn’t the person be exhibiting a Swiss-cheese kind of mind full of disconnected thoughts? Is this not mental vacuity?
  5. If such a fright or specter of vacuousness and banality is suspected, isn’t that conclusion confirmed the moment a person argues in serious that no factual basis, logical reasoning, or ethical principles lie behind the generalization he has given for his vote?
  6. If one’s reasons for voting are general, acquired, and vague, and also unsupported by facts, evidence, logic, and ethical principles, does the voter really know what he is talking about? Does he actually know what he means? Do not vocabularies of reasons for voting, once regurgitated by partisans for months, take on the character of nonsense and craziness?
  7. Does not craziness and irrationality become particularly evident in elections such as this one, when issues are bypassed in favor of character embellishment and assassination? Suddenly matters of hair style, weight, age, sex, fatigue, toilet use, walking, and bearing become super-important, and pro and con reasons emerge to enforce firm judgment. Body stigmata are read. Such stigmata might be part of the reason trust and comfort issues became so critical, and why disqualifications for the office could be overlooked and disregarded?
  8. Might not millions of voters have no real idea of why they voted as they did? If this were not so, why do millions of voters consistently vote against their own self-interests?
  9. If, as some voters have said, Donald Trump is nothing like them, but they voted for him for their own good reasons nonetheless, have they not made themselves victims of arrogance, negligence, and fantasy? Do they really believe that the nightmares Trump’s character flaws foretell can be prevented and avoided while their personal wishes are fulfilled and their dreams come true?
  10. Can a voter legitimately claim a “good” and “ethical” reason for voting for Mr. Trump and thereby avoid accountability for whatever wrongs and illegalities he may perpetuate once in office? Can a Trump voter be innocent of future wrongs committed on Trump’s watch and in his name? Is it true that the voter couldn’t have known better?
  11. Isn’t it obvious that “resentment” is the most powerful fragrance Trump voters share with Mr. Trump?  If so, why the resentment? What’s it about? Does the Trump voter have cause? Are there clear injuries to redress? Who are the people who victimized you, the voter?
  12. Shouldn’t Donald Trump ask himself, above all else: why am I so unhappy and resentful after all of my wealth, success, fame, and God given blessings? Why is there no laughter, humor, happiness, empathy, and joy in me? What has gone  wrong with my life?

Conclusion

I have been unable to find even one good reason to vote for Donald Trump. I can certainly understand why people whose profile of attitudes and sentiments overlaps his did vote for him. But those would be voters who voted for bad reasons. If Mr. Trump’s ascension is truly a populist movement, that movement is fundamentally fearful, resentful, misogynist, bigoted, racist, and white supremacist. Much has been made of the rural, rust-belt voter overlooked by politicians, elites, and government. I have great sympathy for them, and would welcome a rural renewal act and an infrastructure jobs bill in the next Congress. But rural areas have been in decline for decades, including the years when my family lived in Washington County, Maine. More to the point, the complaints of rural people in this election were mostly about “other people,” people they for whatever reason resent and fear. It wasn’t so much about their own pocketbook issues.

Nothing is as nonsensical as the “vocabulary of reasons” the campaign generated for voting for Trump and against Clinton. As indicated, these “reasons” tended to be isolated, sing-song, catchphrases that embodied more than a little craziness, weirdness, and banality. It was like a cockfight out there, with fans on both sides of the ring casting hurtful word slugs at one another. It is terrifying to conclude that millions of voters may not even have known what they meant by the reasons they cited for their votes. Their overarching “reasons” lacked a discernible storyline and trail in logic and and ethical reasoning.

Nothing is more fundamental to democracy than the right to vote. Of the various possibilities for the 15th Amendment in 1869, I would have preferred a fourth more liberal version that included women. It would have read:

Section 1. Citizens of the United States have the right to vote when they attain the age of eighteen.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

All adult citizen should have the right to vote. No competency test short of total mental incapacitation should be allowed. The citizen might be ignorant, illiterate, uneducated, simple-minded, incoherent, inconsistent, newly arrived in town and state, naturalized yesterday, and in jail, and still possess, in my opinion, an inalienable right to vote. Such a right, and the responsibility that goes with it, is entirely the voter’s, a matter of civic pride and self-respect. No external agent should try to force civic duty. The obligation is personal and private, some would say sacred. As to my efforts and questions about your vote, let’s be clear, it’s none of my business. Tell me to keep my adult education ideas to myself if I bother you too much. It’s your right, and lots of good and brave people sacrificed their life for it.

But that said, I think the 62 million or so people who voted for Donald Trump made a mistake and let the country and themselves down. I hope over the coming years each of them questions himself honestly and ruthlessly in the inner sanctum of his mind to clarify his thinking and, most important, do better next time.

The election is over and the circus animals are out of their cages, loose in the world. Any observer can see from his cabinet picks that rural America and American workers are the farthest concerns from Mr. Trump’s mind. Citizen participation and future elections are what counts now. All the open minds and good voices out there in the nation will be needed to protect the Constitution and preserve democracy from the storms that President Trump will soon unloose upon us to roil and rumble across the land.

This is the third in a series on the 2016 Presidential election.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

December 14, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Trumpster University Learning Lab

Trumpster University Learning Lab

When a List of Trump’s Disqualifications was published two weeks ago, six confidants, all male, three Trump voters and three Clinton voters of Bernie descent, cried foul—Stop! The election’s over! Get a life! Move on! —revealing by their unease not only the many demands on their time, but also, perhaps, an uncomfortable secret, something buried and best forgotten. What could it be?

Then, a former student called claiming that I was channeling Elie Wiesel by compiling a damning record, bearing witness, and protecting history’s power to teach. Yes, I guess so—thanks for the great compliment. I’m arranging for an autopsy too!

Another former student sent a comment that was a self-inquisition, a poem, and a learning exercise, all in one. He thinks I’m setting up a learning lab for self-directed learners. He’s right. I think of my list, with its numbers and lines, as an opportunity to question oneself about one’s vote. It’s a learning tool for Trump Voters. I also think of the list as an instrument for taking a picture of ourselves as Americans, a national “selfie,” a portrait of ourselves on election day.

Dogmatic certainty has always been man’s curse, as Socrates taught. I wanted to see if the wall Trump had built in his cult could be cracked. Could a person who voted for Donald Trump be guided to change his mind? Could the Trump voter by self-study be expected to attain the recent enlightenment of Glenn Beck?

Puzzling Stumper

I had gotten this idea—of a platform for self-directed learning in the form of a list—by stumbling upon a shocking fact: the Trump voter would vote for Trump even in the face of considerable contrary evidence. Trump himself had tipped me off:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Donald J. Trump, Sioux City, Iowa, January 24, 2016

If Trump is right, and so far he has been, I should be able to keep a record and make a list of the many disqualifying things Trump has done in life, and his biographers and analysts have confirmed. That would make for a portrait of the dismal disqualifications the Trump voter knew about him on election day when he voted for him anyway. I could number these reproofs, put a short line beside each, invite the willing learner to check the ones he knew of and star the ones he found most disqualifying. Two weeks later, in this blog, I could ask the Trump Voter if he’d changed his mind. My hypothesis would be: No, he hadn’t, and wouldn’t, not even if the cows came in and the chickens came home to roost.

To set up and test the hypothesis properly, I would have to deal with the possibility that my list was too short, that a change of heart could occur at some point “X” on a list of additional disqualifications. That forced me to state the hypothetical proposition this way:

The Trump Voter in the 2016th Presidential election would continue to refuse to change his vote  even if the number of disqualifications known on election day  increased from 63 to a number approaching infinity.

Learning Lab for December 4, 2016

Goal: To determine the number of items on a list of disqualifications the participant would have to have prior knowledge of before deciding not to vote for Donald Trump.

Instructions to Trump Voters

Although insufficient to influence your vote, identify by number the statements on Will’s List of 63 you find most shocking and potentially disqualifying. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
After reading Will’s list of 63, choose “A” or “B”
A. Still a Trump voter. _____
B. No longer a Trump Voter. _____

3. If your answer is A., “still a Trump Voter,” choose “A” or “B” after viewing Keith Olbermann’s video detailing 176 reasons not to vote for Trump:
A. Still a Trump voter. _____
B. No longer a Trump Voter. _____

4. If your answer is A., “still a Trump voter,” choose “A” or “B.” after reading Will’s back-up set of additional disqualifications:

* * * * *
Will’s Additional List of Trump Disqualifications 

64. Harassed Megan Kelly of FOX News to the point of fearing for her life, getting death threats, hiring personal security and, forcing a Fox executive to intervene on her behalf to tell the Trump Campaign to knock it off. _____

65. Prosecuted for multiple instances of discrimination against African Americans in rental units, in housing financed partially with public funds. Settled the lawsuits out of court. _____

66. Prosecuted for defrauding students of Trump University at sites across the country, and settling the lawsuit out of court following his election for $25 million dollars. Five thousand defrauded students are eligible for compensation in the case. _____

67. Repeatedly tweeted strong disfavor with Alec Baldwin for his comedic portrayal of Trump in SNL skits. _____

68. Appointed man with a public record of racism as Attorney General. ____

69. Refused to place Trump businesses into a blind trust, out of the reach of himself and his family, to avoid conflict of interest situations during the term of his Presidency.

* * * * *

Check one:
A. Still a Trump voter. _____
B. No longer a Trump Voter. _____

5. Extra credit: What’s your guess as to the “hidden secret” Will intuits in the first paragraph of this blog entry?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Instructions to Voters Who Didn’t Vote for Trump

After reading Will’s 69 Trump Disqualifications, what number did you reach before deciding that Trump was unqualified to be President? Number: _____ Why is that?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Identify by number the ones on Will’s list of disqualifications that you found most egregious: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Extra credit: What’s your guess as to the “hidden secret” Will intuits in the first paragraph of this blog entry?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

No Response Needed or Requested

It is not necessary to submit your worksheets and answers to me, for reasons I’ll write about in the next blog, and also because this exercise goes by the name of “self-directed learning.” Under that umbrella, the aims, objectives, learning methods, discoveries, judgments, and learning outcomes are yours, and of no business of mine, unless you want help and request feedback. Self-directed Learning is something the learner does. I’m a guide and helper, not an instructor.

It would be wonderful to receive responses in the “comment” section communicating your thoughts in whatever detail you would like to offer them. Scroll down to the “leave a comment” section at the bottom of the blog entry. I will respond. Others might too.

We’d all probably like to know if the puzzling stumper is real, and the hypothesis true. Has anyone changed their mind? Would anyone like to go back, if they could, and change their vote?

An ironic idea occurs to me. If there are Trumpeteers out there who are feeling buyer’s remorse, push the “Like” button! I receive only a couple of likes a year on my blogs. That’s because—I tell myself—my stuff is too serious and grave to like. Who in their right mind would want to admit liking dark thoughts? But who knows, maybe the work is unlikeable for better reasons!

Whatever. Let’s assume that “Like” on this occasion means: Yes, I have changed my mind!

As to the surmise of “a hidden secret,” I will reveal my answer two blogs from now, not next time. Guesses from readers as to what it could be are certainly welcome in the meantime.

Hope you learned something! See you at the next learning lab.

This is the second in a series of essays on the 2016 election.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

December 4, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

List of Trump’s Disqualifications

List of Trump’s Disqualifications

Introduction

A list is presented of 63 incidents, quotes, and revelations that singly and collectively disqualify Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States of America. All of this was widely known on election day. The reader, for review purposes, may wish to check the ones he knew about, and star the ones judged most disqualifying

Mr. Trump

  1. Said he would build a 2000 mile wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. _____
  2. Stereotyped Mexican immigrants as “drug-runners, criminals, and rapists.” _____
  3. Promised to deport “all illegal immigrants” (around eleven million.) Said he will deport “criminal aliens” first. Now says that three million deportations is the likely target. _____
  4. Accused an American judge, Gonzalo P. Curiel, a native of Indiana, and presiding judge in a fraud case against Trump University, of prejudice because he was Mexican. ____
  5. Mr. Trump called Pope Francis “disgraceful” for saying “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” _____
  6. Arranged for the Trump Foundation to make in 2013 a $25,000. donation to the re-election campaign of Pam Bondi, the Florida Attorney General, four days after an announcement that her office was considering joining a New York state probe of Trump University. This donation was in apparent violation of rules surrounding political activities by charities. Bondi had personally requested the donation of Trump. Bondi subsequently declined to join the New York investigation after the donation was made. _____
  7. Used $258,000 from the Trump Foundation, whose purpose is charity, to settle his legal problems. _____
  8.  Discovered to have paid less than $10,000 dollars over seven years to charities he had promised millions.
  9. Declined to make public his federal tax returns, although he had promised to do so at the start of the campaign: “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely.” _____
  10. Admitted that he had rarely, if ever, paid federal income taxes. Claimed not paying taxes showed he’s “smart.” _____
  11. Bankrupted casinos, leaving contractors unpaid, and losing investors’ money, while making millions himself. _____
  12. Took four deferments from military service during the Vietnam War. _____
  13. Disputed the heroism of Senator John McCain for surviving captivity in a North Vietnam prisoner of war camp where he was incarcerated for over six years after his plane had been shot down over North Vietnam. _____
  14. Stated repeatedly that he opposed the invasion of Iraq when the facts show otherwise. _____
  15. Impugned the integrity of Gold Star parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Army Captain Humayun Khan had been killed in Iraq in 2004. Suggested that Mrs. Kahn had not spoken at the Democratic National convention, as had her husband, because of constraints placed upon women by Islam, and assured her that her son wouldn’t have died if he, Trump, had been President at the time. _____
  16. Equated his sacrifices as a real estate developer and businessman to active duty military in war zones, and to military families like the Khans. _____
  17. Promised to bring back waterboarding “and much worse” in interrogating terrorists, even though this would be an international crime and make him a war criminal. Promised to keep the prison at Guantánamo open and to make use of it. _____
  18. Said in regard to fighting terrorists, ” . . . you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.” _____
  19. Claimed to know more than the “generals” on ISIS, and called the current generals “a disaster.” _____
  20. Reported that he saw “thousands of Muslims in New Jersey” celebrating the demolition of the Twin Towers. No such event occurred. _____
  21. Mocked a journalist suffering from a congenital joint condition (by flailing his arms and moving his head uncontrollably) in response to an inquiry about the fictional Muslim celebration in New Jersey. ______
  22. Proposed a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. _____
  23. Called for surveillance of mosques as part of a national law enforcement effort to prevent terrorism. _____
  24. Threatened to set aside libel laws so that publications that criticize him can be sued, a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. _____
  25. Destabilized seventy years of United States foreign policy toward Europe by questioning whether the U.S. would defend its NATO allies when he is President. _____
  26. Denied that climate change is real and a problem. Called climate change a “hoax.” Attributed the hoax to China. _____
  27. Made friends with, gave interviews, and has taken counsel from Alex Jones, “a volcanic Austin radio and web-streaming host who broadcasts from a semi-secret location dubbed “The Central Texas Command Center and the Heart of the Resistance.”” Jones has been described as the “conspiracy theorist extraordinaire.”
  28. Praised Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, as a strong leader, superior to the American President, and assured the world that Russia wouldn’t invade Crimea, when in fact it already had invaded. _____
  29. Appointed Paul Manafort as second campaign manager, a political consultant in the election of Viktor Yanukovych, Putin’s favored candidate for President of the Ukraine. Yanukovych, after election and a subsequent rebellion against his rule, absconded to Russia in disgrace. _____
  30. Requested that Russia, a foreign government, interfere in the election, by breaking into his opponent’s computers to find and produce missing emails. _____
  31. Refused to accept intelligence briefings he had received identifying the Russian government as the probable source of emails and records hacked from the Democratic National Convention. _____
  32. Dismissed suggestion that Russia would interfere in the American election as troves of hacked emails attributed to that source were furnished to the press by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. _____
  33. Destabilized nuclear policy by recommending that the United States no longer automatically defend Japan and South Korea, and that those countries be allowed to “get nuclear weapons.” In reference to a possible nuclear confrontation between North Korea and Japan, he said: “If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.” Doesn’t know what the “nuclear triad” means. _____
  34. Demeaned women by calling them names—pig, fat, slob, ugly, and more. Allowed his daughter to be referred to as “a piece of ass.” _____
  35. Posted a series of angry, early morning “tweets” following the first debate on Alica Machado, a Miss Universe contestant he had fat-shamed, including a tweet that asked: “Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” Ms. Clinton had brought up Machado’s name in the debate as an example of Trump’s attitudes toward and treatment of women. No such sex tape existed. Clinton had not gotten Machado citizenship.
  36. Said about women in a 2005 video: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” When Billy Bush responds “Whatever you want?” Trump responds ”Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Twelve women subsequently come forward to charge him with “groping” and unwanted advances such as the ones he confessed to in the tape. Two beauty show contestants charge him with invading their privacy by intentionally entering dress changing area to see them naked. _____
  37. Claimed for eight years that President Obama was not born in the United States, was ineligible to be President, and therefore was illegitimate. He led the so-called “Birther” movement, and then, when cornered in his lie, blamed the birther movement on his opponent. _____
  38. Claimed his opponent, Hillary Clinton, was a criminal and should be “locked up.” Promised in a debate to investigate her after his election and put her in jail. Unconstitutional means (ordering “his” Attorney General to investigate) would be employed. Also called her a “bigot,” “devil,” “sick,” “monster,” “crooked,” “liar,” “low stamina,”“most flawed candidate ever,” “founder of ISIS,” “nasty woman, “enabler of sexual assault,” and questioned her religion. Published an advertisement featuring dollar bills around Clinton’s face, with the Star of David imprinted with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” The Star of David image had been taken from a far right, anti-semitic website. _____
  39. Suggested to a crowd at a rally that a “second amendment remedy” might be necessary to stop his opponent from appointing Supreme Court judges if elected. _____
  40. Lied routinely throughout campaign. Doubled down on lie whenever confronted by critics, even in the presence of irrefutable proof to the contrary. Never apologized to actual people he had offended and whose families he had hurt. _____
  41. Showed himself incapable in debate preparation, staying on message, and avoiding diversions and gaffs. Lacked self-control and sustained discipline with the result that opponent was able to deliberatively and repeatedly bait him into bouts of anger, diversion, and insult. _____
  42. Associated himself and his campaign with known nativists, bigots, racists, misogynists, climate deniers, xenophobes, and conspiracy theorists, known collectively as the “alt-right.”
  43. Hired Steve Bannon, CEO of Breitbart News, as Campaign Chairman. The Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and other white supremacists subsequently endorsed his candidacy with enthusiasm. _____
  44. Refused to dissociate his campaign from white supremacist groups, when asked, until forced to do so by public pressure and the press. _____
  45. Invited United Kingdom Independence Party (UNIP) leader Nigel Farage, the mastermind of BREXIT, to speak at a campaign rally in Mississippi, thus suggesting an interest in an international white supremacist movement. _____
  46. Promulgated conspiracy theories repeatedly: of Obama’s birth; of Cruz’s father’s association with Lee Harvey Oswald; of Clinton and Obama roles in founding ISIS; of  Muslim celebrants in New Jersey, of the circumstances of Machado’s citizenship, and more. _____
  47. Assumed mantle of “Law and Order Candidate” in response to instances of unarmed black people being killed by police, and of the killing of police officers by a black sniper in Dallas. _____
  48. Stereotyped African-American communities, by regularly saying “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever. . . ., you get shot walking down the street.” Two Hundred and fifty years of slavery, disenfranchisement, terror, work gangs, Jim Crow, segregation, and massive male imprisonment are overlooked, as are the many thriving neighborhoods of color in the nation today. _____
  49. Promoted the often tried, legally-dubious, and failed “stop and frisk” procedure as his main plan for reducing crime in cities with a significant African-American presence. _____
  50. Described as incapable of mental concentration and listening for as long as fifteen minutes by Tony Schwartz, the co-author who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump. Schwartz described Trump as a “sociopath,” self-absorbed, and a non-reader. _____
  51.  Schwartz further opined: ”I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization. _____
  52. Insisted repeatedly, with no evidence, that the “system is rigged” and that “the election is rigged.” _____
  53. Refused to confirm that he would concede the election to his opponent if she won.
  54. Demonstrated over and over again a lack of knowledge of United States and world history and of the Constitution of the United States. _____
  55. Demonstrated a profound ignorance of foreign policy, and of existing treaties, international relations, global problems, current issues, and policy options. _____
  56. Demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the roles, responsibilities, relationships and limitations of the three branches of government. _____
  57. Has never participated in public service on any level of government. _____
  58. Promised to the nation a plethora of dramatic actions and desirable outcomes, accomplished fast and quick, many on “Day 1,” but provided few details and no plans. Congress’s role was not mentioned. _____
  59. Opined that “he alone” could solve nation’s problems, and that “I will be your voice.” Does not appear to understand the functions of Congress or the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy. _____
  60. Has been widely understood to be offering to the public an anti-democratic,“strong man,” “dictatorial” and “authoritarian” type of leadership. _____
  61. Has been widely reported to be self-absorbed and uninterested in the lives of others. Has been charged with sociopathic maladies, an absence of empathy, a quickness to take offense, to flash to anger, to go into rage, and experience an irresistible need to take revenge on perceived enemies, including random critics. Shows signs of unpredictability and instability. _____
  62. Has been judged by clinical psychologists, from a distance and through the examination of videos, to fit all of the diagnostic indicators of a classic narcissistic personality. _____
  63. Has been described as two-dimensional by a Novelist of Presidential Elections Thomas Mallon, because his interiority, his internal dialogue, is so opaque, nixing him as a possible narrator for the novel, requiring the use of Hillary instead! As witnessed at the Al Smith Dinner, Mr. Trump is bad at humor and rarely, if ever, laughs. Despite enormous success and wealth, he often speaks of himself as a victim. _____

Concluding Note

This has been a long, exceedingly painful list to construct, and it must be even more difficult to read and consider. It could be longer; other relevant facts are more than abundant. Take a look for example at Keith Olbermann’s rant on the same topic in The Closer, for GQ, “176 Reasons Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be President.”

On September 8, 2016 Donald J. Trump, according to The Associated Press, received 61,820,845 popular votes, translating to 290 electoral college votes, making him the 45th President of the United States of America. His opponent Hillary Clinton received 63,390,669 popular votes, 1,569,824 more than Trump, but translating into only 232 votes, with Michigan still undecided. The magic number of electoral votes for election is 270, which Mr. Trump has exceeded.

This is the first of a series of essays on the 2016 election.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

November 20, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Random Notes on a Weird Election

Random Notes on a Weird Election

What story in classic literature best describes Donald J. Trump? Narcissus kneeling at the  still pool captivated by the beauty of his own reflected image is a good answer. But Mr. Trump is never still, and he kneels to no one. He flies around the country to address huge rallies. The crowd is a moving mirror, and the pool is filled with toxicity. While this may seem fitting in an age of environmental disaster, the comparison with Narcissus is sullied.

Franz Kafka’s The Hunger Artist provides another insight on Mr. Trump. The viewer should turn off the sound at his rallies for the image to work. In the story a performer in a barred animal cage is a must see attraction for circus goers. Everyone knows him. Everyone goes to see him starve. He is famous for not eating. He must be very hungry. At the end, the hunger artist just dies, and the crowd is furious at him for abandoning them. I know the story might be read as mass blindness to poverty, or as insatiable emotional hunger by the enthralled, needful crowd. And, of course, Mr. Trump is wealthy, not poor. Nevertheless, the nourishment he gets from crowds never seems to satisfy. Happiness does not follow. He’s intoxicated with rallies, and needs them as much as the addict needs his drug. But Mr. Trump seems to be a lonely, emotionally-starved man.

* * * * *

I overheard a girl ask her mother what Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was about. The mother said she didn’t really know. “How did it start?”, the girl persisted. “She used a computer server at home for the work she did while Secretary of State years ago.” “You use your computer at home, Mom,” the daughter noted. “I do homework on mine.” “We use email too.” “I know,” the mother said, “but there might have been national secrets on hers.” “Was she a spy or something?” “No.” “Has she been charged with a crime?” “No.” Do you think she committed a crime?” ”No.” “Mom, I think there are people out to get her.”

Out of the mouths of a teenager comes truth. The stone throwers are as naked as the emperor was observed to be by the observant child.

Without the Benghazi investigation and witch hunt there would be no server issue, and without the server there would be no email issue, and now without Anthony Weiner’s sexting sessions there would be no cache of new emails to tempt the Attorney General.

It is notable that no House of Representative committee chose to examine Colin Powell’s emails regarding his United Nations speech on Saddam’s nuclear weapons, a speech that employed “flawed intelligence” to justify invading Iraq. Powell used a private server, as have other secretaries. No one called for inspection of Caspar Weinberger and George Shultz,’s correspondence regarding the Iran-Contra affair or the barracks bombings that killed 220 marines and 21 sailors and soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon during the Reagan presidency. These Secretaries of State and Defense were men and Republicans. Hillary Clinton is a woman and a Democrat. That appears to be the key difference.

* * * * *

Franz Kafka’s writings are pertinent as well in examining Hillary Clinton’s situation, and in understanding our experience of her situation as witnesses. The most resonant and instructive text— hands down—is his novel The Trial. In it “K,” the central character and narrator, senses from the ambiance of his surrounds that he is considered guilty of something, of have committed some offense, probably a crime, and that he is on the verge of being arrested and charged. He feels this wherever he goes— day and night—and whatever he is doing. He’s somehow on trial. Is this feeling warranted or is it paranoia? We don’t know, nor does he. One can’t tell. He is active though, and purposive; he tries to find out. He looks for signs. He asks questions. He goes to court. He seeks out legal help. No luck. He cannot find the accuser, fill in the specifics of his case, know the charge, discover whether and when he’ll be indicted, identify the court and court date, or figure out how to mount a defense. In the end he never does find out. The verdict against him is just revealed one day.

Incredibly, This is the situation Hillary Clinton’s finds herself in today and will find herself in on Jan. 20, 2017, the day when she could be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America.

* * * * *

I suspect that voters, at least some male voters, many of whom will be voting for Donald Trump, are bored with their country and with politics. They may care intensely about the horse race aspect of the election, and perhaps care about the opinions of commenters on their favorite T.V. network. But they don’t seem to know or care much about history, the Constitution, world affairs, complex issues, or the plight of less fortunate countrymen. The majority may not even care about actual issues. Yet, they are angry! They appear to care most about their personal resentments, preferences, tastes, desires, opinions, and team affiliations. The election is about them, their wants, their hated enemies, and their favorite team. They are rabid fans. They just want to win, and baby, they had better win! They think they deserve it.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

November 2, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

History as Therapeutic Diversion

History as Therapeutic Diversion

Check out an experience of mine and discover whether you too find it delightfully therapeutic. Sit in for an hour on a Civil War history class with Dr. David Blight of Yale University. It’s free. All twenty-seven lectures of a course Blight taught on The Civil War and Reconstruction in 2008 are available on the Internet through YouTube.

This is all you need do. Open your browser—Safari, Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, or another—and then open the YouTube application on your computer, tablet, or cellphone. If you don’t find YouTube on your browser, Google or Bing the word YouTube to locate and open the site. Then click on the little magnifying glass search symbol and type in “YaleCourses: The Civil War and Reconstruction with David Blight.” That will get you there. Click on the picture of Blight, watch lecture one, and if you like it as much as I do watch the other 26 lectures at your leisure. Or, just click right here now! See whether the course informs, educates, delights, and consoles you. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t. In fact, I’ll be surprised if the course isn’t one of the more educational experiences of your life.

Context

Specific concerns and interests brought me to Dr. Blight’s classroom and may account somewhat for the therapeutic feeling I get listening to his lectures. I’ve been a critic of the “Conservative Movement” and detest what’s become of that movement under the vitriolic leadership of Donald Trump. I similarly distrust the red-state/blue-state polarity that has brought the nation to gridlock and stalemate in Congress during the Obama presidency. Our period in U.S. history seems similar in some ways to the period leading up to The Civil War. Moreover, that war seems still to be lingering today at a lower temperature. So I started reading up on the Civil War again, returning particularly to Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. This led to a reading of Adam Goodheart’s excellent book, 1861. That resulted in two blog entries examining Lincoln’s Independence Day message to Congress on July 4, 1861, the first entitled Lincoln’s American People and the second Lincoln: Pretense to States Rights.

That’s my story. You will bring your own context to the invited experience. I’ll bet Bright’s class attracts you too and brings sustenance and consolation to you during these frustrating and curious times. The course has provided me with a fresh perspective on the country, and a bit of distance from the election. Keep in mind that the vortex of events that resulted in war between the states in 1861 contains the elements that have morphed into the poisonous political environment we experience today.

Be sure to bring a notepad to your computer screen along with the popcorn and beer. Enjoy!

Notes

David Blight is a professor of American History at Yale University and Director of the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. Previously, Blight was a professor of History at Amherst College, where he taught for 13 years. He has won major historical awards, including the Bancroft Prize and the Frederick Douglass Prize. Blight is one of the world’s finest civil war historians.

It is obvious right away that Dr. Blight is an extraordinary teacher working within the most difficult teaching format of them all, a lecture course to hundreds of students using four or five teaching assistants (I’ve done that too, and failed miserably). He knows his subject, loves it deeply, respects students, invariably leaves them with questions, possibilities, decisions to make, and tentative answers, employs a story-telling or narrative methodology, speaks slowly and clearly, gives sources and examples, reads poems, sings when needed, manages time well, and is comfortable, humble, humorous, understated, and delightfully self-deprecating. I’ve never met him, yet I feel I know him. You will too. One senses also that the course works for any student regardless of background or political persuasion.

Yale is one of many universities that make free college courses like this one available online. Google “Open Yale Courses” and see what else Yale offers. I have viewed free courses before, including Professor Levin’s amazing Introduction to Physics at MIT. I couldn’t understand the formulas after awhile, but what a great course. You might want to Google “free college courses on line” and see what attracts you. I find such courses more entertaining and informative than regular television, and they come with a pause button; they can therefore be self-paced.

It’s too bad the illustrations Dr. Blight uses can’t be shown to us for copyright reasons, but it is entertaining to watch him fuss with them, as he invariably does each class. He provides the viewer with excellent reference sources. That’s where the notepad comes in. Of course, you could just use the one on the computer; you can pause the video whenever you choose. By the way, the educational technology used in the class is primitive to nonexistent, and even the lectern looks uncomfortable. It’s only the lecturer, the storytelling, and the content that are special and invaluable.

The therapeutic feeling that comes over me while experiencing Dr. Blight’s lectures is ephemeral and hard to pin down. It may be the characters; we know these people; they remind us of ourselves and people we know. We’ve been to the places where the war was fought. The conflicts and arguments sound familiar; we hear them today. But who knows? Maybe I’m mesmerizing myself. I’ll be interested whether the same or any feeling comes over you. It’s like being back in college again with an extraordinarily good professor.

I decided  during the course to reacquaint myself with Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Cooper Union in 1860 that brought him fame in New York, following his debates with Stephen A. Douglas in Illinois, the “west,” and brought him later that year to the presidency. I was delighted to discover that a reenactment of the Cooper Union speech is available on Youtube, with Sam Waterston, of Law and Order fame, doing the reenactment. I recommend that experience for inclusion in your course of studies.

What’s the equivalent of “bon appétit” for a viewing experience? Well, never mind. Best wishes for a productive learning experience.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

October 13, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Lincoln: Pretense to States Rights

Lincoln: Pretense to States Rights

This is the second of two blog entries on Abraham Lincoln’s Message to Congress in Special Session on July 4,1861. The first, Lincoln’s American People, appeared in this blog two weeks ago. This entry examines Lincoln’s choice and use of the word “pretense” in an important paragraph framing the central concerns of his speech. Both essays were inspired by reading Adam Goodheart’s insightful book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening (2011), which includes ramifications for the 2016 election and beyond.

Here is the paragraph in which the word “pretense” appears front and center:

“And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracy–a government of the people by the same people–can or can not maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”

Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress, July 4, 1861.

Lincoln is concerned about more than winning the war and restoring the union. His larger concern is recurrent civil war, further rebellion, secession happening again. If these eleven states can so easily break up the union, why won’t other discontented minorities abscond using the same pretenses? Our democracy may be fatally flawed.

It was noted in the first essay on Lincoln’s speech that the Civil War that ended at Appomattox Court House in April, 1865 appears to be still going on today at a low-grade, symbolic, yet fervent level. Slavery is gone; racism is not. The people are not a “We” in many important matters. The nation is split into two spirited camps. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina,Tennessee, and Texas remain a red state voting block; a majority of their citizens will vote for the dictator-strongman style candidate, Donald J.Trump, poor testimony for democracy indeed.

Another way to state the issue: Lincoln’s concept of popular democracy and of a restored, optimally-functioning union lost the war. The Union won, but “We” lost. He should have been able through the work of his compatriots to win by now. Why? Because he is right. We praise his service, worship his image, and revere his words, but we won’t debate and learn from him. If we would do so, he would win and “We the People” could move ahead thoughtfully and wholeheartedly.

That’s my idea for this piece. Recap Lincoln’s argument on “pretense,” and invite citizens to complete the debate for themselves. If we all did that, and the Senate and House did too, perhaps on CSPAN, the nation could finally end and move beyond the Civil War. Here is the essence of the case stated in his words on July 4, 1861.

“It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference.”

“Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any State of the Union may consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State.”

“With rebellion thus sugar coated they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.”

“This sophism derives much—perhaps the whole—of its currency, from the assumption, that there is some omnipotent, and sacred supremacy, pertaining to a State—to each State of our Federal Union. Our States have neither more, nor less power, than that reserved to them, in the Union, by the Constitution—no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas. And even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States, on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones, in, and by, the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies’’ were declared to be “Free and Independent States’’; but, even then, the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another, or of the Union; but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge, and their mutual action, before, at the time, and afterwards, abundantly show. The express plighting of faith, by each and all of the original thirteen, in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual, is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance, or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,’’ asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty’’ of the States; but the word, even, is not in the national Constitution; nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty,’’ in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “A political community, without a political superior’’? Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty. And even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union; by which act, she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States, and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution, to be, for her, the supreme law of the land. The States have their status IN the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against law, and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence, and their liberty. By conquest, or purchase, the Union gave each of them, whatever of independence, and liberty, it has. The Union is older than any of the States; and, in fact, it created them as States. Originally, some dependent colonies made the Union; and, in turn, the Union threw off their old dependence, for them, and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution, independent of the Union. Of course, it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions, before they entered the Union; nevertheless, dependent upon, and preparatory to, coming into the Union.”

“Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them in and by the National Constitution; but among these surely are not included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive, but at most such only as were known in the world at the time as governmental powers; and certainly a power to destroy the Government itself had never been known as a governmental–as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality. Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the whole–to the General Government–while whatever concerns only the State should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle about it. Whether the National Constitution in defining boundaries between the two has applied the principle with exact accuracy is not to be questioned. We are all bound by that defining without question.”

The pretense that concerns Lincoln is unlawful claim to “states rights.” In Lincoln’s words: “what is … combated is the position that secession is consistent with the Constitution–is lawful and peaceful.” It’s not. Lincoln says much more on the subject in the speech, so a fair understanding requires the reader to read the whole speech, which is easily done by googling, downloading, and printing it. What I’ve quoted is sufficient to understand the contour and key arguments of his position. There is much of importance in the speech on a variety of subjects; it is we’ll worth the effort to read it.

A Concluding Thought

The right of a state to secede is still an animated issue in Texas, with a number of efforts aimed in that direction over recent decades, and it is alive  elsewhere as well. Racism is very much alive too.

The inability to finish The Civil War is the dominant political fact limiting democratic government in our country. We are not a whole “People,” because we won’t admit that all Americans are actually Americans. Some of us are always “other” in the minds of the rest of us. We are not yet a country where “artificial weights” have been lifted;” where individuals are “unfettered;” where “a fair chance” exists for all; and “paths of laudable pursuit” have opened wide. We do not share Lincoln’s view of “a government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men.” Economic, corporate, and security interests dominate over and diminish Lincoln’s understanding of American exceptionalism.

Consequentially we find ourselves in an election campaign ridden with fear, pretense, pseudo-events, sophistry, glitter, guile, conspiracy theories, and racism.

We need to prove to ourselves that “We” as citizens and a “People” actually exist. We need to invite our eyes to read, our minds to think, and our mouths to converse respectfully and intelligently. We need to value our government, and work to insure that it works for all of us and for the good of humankind. Debating with Lincoln’s arguments in his Independence Day message of 1861 is a useful and enjoyable educational exercise, and as such can be of value to all of us in these ongoing pursuits and troubled times.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

September 19, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good