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

Lincoln’s American People

Lincoln’s American People

“ . . .there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a court, abundantly competent to administer the Government itself.”

       Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress in Special Session, July 4, 1861.

Introduction

Adam Goodheart’s insightful book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening (2011), makes particularly good reading this Fall as we wallow through the swamp of an interminable, pitiless presidential campaign. As it happens, the 1860 election holds lessons for 2016 and beyond. One section that caught my eye on pages 357-364 discusses President Lincoln’s laborious writing and dogged rewriting of his Independence Day message to Congress. People the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson wondered why it was taking the President so long and what the fuss was about.

I’ll leave it to the reader to get the book and read Goodheart’s excellent analysis and answer. While not a Lincoln scholar or competent historian, I can at least speculate on Lincoln’s concerns and suggest some applications of his ”solution” for us today.

Lincoln’s Concern

Here is a key paragraph in the message Lincoln presented to Congress on July 4, 1861.

“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?”

This is an amazing paragraph in a message to a Special Session of Congress that the President called to report on events since his Inauguration and to request the mobilization of 400,000 more men and the appropriation of $400, 000, 000 for the war effort. The paragraph comes relatively early in the speech, after a report on developments over the past four months, including the fall of Fort Sumter, and frames the issue for the President’s decision to invoke the war power, which he cites in the very next paragraph.

Thereafter, the paragraph frames the long, detailed middle of the speech, dealing mostly with the situation in Virginia and the rights of citizens and states under the Constitution, to which is coupled like a bookend or capstone, this second astounding paragraph found near the end of his message.

“This is essentially a people’s contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.”

What is most remarkable about the frame paragraph is its ethereal, posterior viewpoint—as if glimpsed from the vantage point of an eagle looking back from a far-off future while flying retrospectively over the ruins of popular democracies. All democracies are threatened, he suggests, and democracy as a political form is in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth. Lincoln is worrying about and working through an answer to one of the heaviest of issues in all Political Science! But what’s going on? Isn’t the war about slavery?

Slavery is never mentioned in the speech, a fact abolitionist critics, in Goodheart’s reporting, immediately chastise him for following its deliverance. Yet, take a look at the second frame paragraph, the capstone paragraph, and notice the language “unfettered chance and a fair chance,” an obvious allusion to slavery overcome and ended. We contend, the President asserts, for our government in order to “elevate the condition of men!” The President’s eye is on the future of the nation after a successful completion of the war, slavery’s end, and restoration of the union. He wants to know how to prevent future rebellions on the same or other pretenses! He seems to fear civil wars of the future.

Lincoln’s Constitutional Problem

While neither the words “slave” or “slavery” appear in the Constitution, slavery’s existence is recognized in Article 2, Section 3, Paragraph 3, where, for the purposes of apportioning of representation and taxes to the several states, the number of “free persons” is to be increased by “three fifths of all other Persons.” The 3/5th “other person” is a slave.

By the time Lincoln took office, seven states had already seceded from the Union, and four more would soon follow. These states considered slavery a constitutional right; the 3/5ths reference established its legitimacy. Moreover, they considered themselves the aggrieved party whose rights and freedoms were threatened. In their own minds, they were the victims and guardians of freedom and the Union was the aggressor. Even today the war is called by some southerners “The War of Northern Aggression.” Outside of the abolitionist movement, more than a few northerners agreed. The confederates even claimed they were carrying on constitutional democracy!

The claims were illogical and the opposite of the truth. That was obvious to Lincoln. Slavery may be embedded in the Constitution, but it is the antithesis of freedom, and treason was the act around which the seceding states conspired and confederated. They gave up democracy when they abandoned the union. But Lincoln and the Union had a large legal and philosophical problem: where could they turn in the Constitution to find the high ground from which to flip the argument in the Union’s favor? No place is the answer. There would surely be an ongoing constitutional problem even after the war was won. It would take the 13th and 14th Amendments to finally resolve the constitutional crisis.

In response to his dilemma, Lincoln makes a brilliant intellectual and ethical decision. He builds his concept of a people’s government on the Declaration of Independence rather than on the Constitution, and thereby rewrites the story of American governance. He depends for his case on Section 2. of the Preamble to the Declaration. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In turning to the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln transverses the mental landscape from 1790 to 1776 and returns to the humanism of the Enlightenment. He thereby acquires a toolkit of inspiring and powerful concepts:

  • A free person beholden solely to a Creator God in nature acting beyond the authoritative reach of monarch and church, of King, Queen, and priest.
  • An inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • A union of such individuals acting by free choice to constitute a people, a polity, popular democracy, a republic—a government “for,” “by,” and “of” the people.
  • A faith in human betterment (which becomes for Lincoln “the substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men.”)

Lincoln saw clearly that the Declaration of Independence anticipated and foretold a world and nation where slavery had been abolished, where “artificial weights had been lifted;” where individuals were “unfettered;” where “a fair chance” existed for all; and “paths of laudable pursuit” had opened wide!

The rebels in seccession were no freedom fighters, lovers of liberty, patriots, or oppressed victims of their government. Slavery was evil, wrong; it was the monstrous antithesis of everything valued by the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln conveyed this in his message without ever raising the subject or asking a question about slavery.

Most important, Lincoln provided his fellow citizens with a clear, inspiring explanation of why they were fighting the war and what they were fighting for. As Goodheart points out, Lincoln never wavered after the speech on the question of whether the war was worth fighting. Goodheart also notes that the core ideas in the Independence Day message return to human ears as beautifully-crafted, eloquent poetry twenty-eight months later over the battlefield at Gettysburg. The earlier speech incubated the language for the latter. The language used at Gettysburg, it is important to note, included a reference to a nation that “shall have a new birth of freedom.” The sacrifice of the fallen soldiers hallowed their deeds, sanctified the battlefield, and immortalized Lincoln’s speech. The resolve of citizens to complete the unfinished work of winning the war was called upon and given.

While Lincoln’s language, phrases, and concepts of People’s government are familiar music to every American ear today, it is important to recognize that the President had reinvented the purpose of government in his Independence Day message to Congress in 1861, changed and improved upon the logic provided in the Preamble to the Constitution, committed the nation to an almost hopelessly idealistic vision of national destiny, told the rest of the world its future depended on the success of our crucial experiment, and that “We the People,” by alchemic formula, translated into government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” While the Constitution’s Preamble appealed to its signatories with the benefits of “a more perfect union,””justice,” “domestic tranquility,” “common defence,” “general welfare,” and the “blessings of liberty,” Lincoln gives his “People” a government whose “leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” He further asserted “this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.”

We the American People

Who are we, I wonder when we talk about ourselves as “The American People?” This is a question that has long intrigued me, as exemplified by the blog essay I published in these pages four years entitled “The American People.” I don’t think we know the answer, I don’t, although we’re addicted to talking about it and making angry claims and assertions under its banner. We would like to be “We the People.” In some sense, perhaps many, we surely are, but the identity remains murky and undefined.

The dominant fact today—we’re authoritatively told—is that we’re split in half, with a full 47% of us contending for dominance over the other 47% of us, both sides appealing for help from the remaining 6% of us, whoever they might be.

We remain engaged, as Lincoln apparently foresaw, in some kind of ongoing civil war. In regard to the current low grade “war,” it is terrifying that even in the case of a landslide victory for the Democratic Party candidate in the 2016 Presidential election, near 40% of the eligible voters will end up having voted for a dictator-strongman style candidate whose democratic bona fides whiff of Stalin and Mussolini, and Berlusconi and Putin.

By the time Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had checked out of the union. Is it accidental that Donald Trump, the dictator-strongman style candidate, is expected to win six of these seven states in the 2016 election for President? Is the civil war Lincoln confronted in 1861 still running through our veins within the current civil war?

Has that nation and people rejoined in 1865 at war’s end, ever bought in to Lincoln’s concept of a government whose “leading object is to elevate the condition of men?”  Is that the nation for which we contend today?

Do we Americans even desire to become worthy owners and citizen exemplars of the “of” and “by” and “for” the “people” inheritance that President Lincoln and the Civil War combatants bequeathed us?

I fervently believe that fair readers of President Lincoln’s Address to Congress in Special Session on July 4, 1861 will decide that our wholesale problems as a people today are due not so much to supposed losses of Constitutional freedoms we hear complained of so often and shrilly, but rather are due to growing defections from the vision of the nation enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

We could, if we want, become “We the People” as called for by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and President Lincoln. Intent, care, empathy, humility, and courage would surely be required. Reconciliation would probably also require apology, forgiveness, respect, and reparations.

A good start would be agreement that every American is American, is “my” and “our”countrymen and countrywomen, that government, particularly our constitutional government, is an inestimably great and good thing, and that such a government is not only worth fighting and dying for, but worth paying taxes to so that the great purposes preambled in its Constitution can be accomplished, including, along with “justice,” “common defense,” “domestic tranquility,” “general welfare,” and  “blessings of liberty,” President Lincoln’s resolves to “lift artificial weights from all shoulders,” “clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all,” and “afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” We would thereby and by other means be contending for a government to “elevate the condition of men.” indeed, we would be contending to elevate the condition of people on Planet Earth.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

September 6, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Selfie and Self

Selfie and Self

Introduction

This is the second of two essays on Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, first published over a half-century ago, in 1962. The first piece, published last month, explained the pseudo-event concept and pointed to its ongoing relevance in a world where Boorstin’s observations have proved prescient. This second article addresses issues of personal-identity associated with the advent of the smart phone. The smart phone, one of the most powerful tools in history, arrived and was adopted at warp speed. Nothing I will say here about pseudo-events recommends its disuse. At the same time, the implications for person and society are significant.

There is nothing inherent in pseudo-events that make them good or bad, destructive or constructive, realistic or unrealistic, apt or useless. Some are, some aren’t, and there are continuums. Americans want, like, and enjoy pseudo-events. I like my iPhone and depend on my computer; I couldn’t last the morning without them. I take selfies too. In general, we’re talking about the psychological and social consequences of technological progress.

What then is Boorstin concerned about in highlighting the emergence of pseudo-events? His eye is focused on how pseudo-events mislead, how they befog, how they control, how they delude, and the consequences for people and nations. We deceive ourselves by them. Culture consists mainly of pseudo-events that stick as habits and govern consciousness. Boorstin is giving us eyeglasses to mark and measure the distance we’ve moved away from the ordinary, from nature, and from the basic facts of life. In short, his book, and essays such as this one, can help people see more clearly and think better, thus enabling better personal decisions. They help in undeceiving ourselves.

The iPhone has been around only since the summer of 2007, less than nine years. It and other smart phones allow users to speedily jump into innumerable pseudo-events. These include a phone call, a voice mail, an exchange of text messages, an exchange of emails, a taking and sharing of images and videos, a shopping excursion, an information search, a fact check, a loan calculation, a bill payment, a ticket purchase, reupping a library book, an imaginary trip to Barbados, a war game, a virtual visit with friends on social media, and of course, the mother of all pseudo-events, the “selfie.” And that’s just the start of the event generation possibilities. Virtual events through smart phones are infinite. The whole world is in our hands.

The Selfie

The ‘selfie’ represents a cultural shift in the history of selfhood and personal identity. To be specific, the ownership of the photographer role changes. Where previously another person took your picture, now you take your own. The implications are dramatic:

  • The “I”-“me” dialogue by which we silently talk to our “selves” requires the “I” to externalize itself into the place of the photographer, and undertake his decision-making process from that point of view.
  • Who is this photographer? What are his allegiances? That won’t rouble everyone, but it could trouble some, the sensitive conflicted few..
  • The “I” has to scan extant and probable social situations, evaluating prospects for honor and shame. Likewise, images of oneself have to be assessed for risks and rewards. Are these acceptable representations of “me?” Consequences can be anticipated. Payoffs can be imagined.
  • Because a multitude of possible scenarios could be photographed, and a throng of media friends are ready to view the posted image, and because I may not be looking my best today, and I’m unlikely to get the bad flicks returned later, the situation can be intense, bothersome, and anxiety provoking.
  • Once out there in the world of social media, the selfie image, like any published product, may survive for eternity, and, as we all know, today’s leisure suit can transform its wearer overnight into tomorrow’s prototype of the fashion dork.
  • Selfies, given the passage of time over years and decades are likely to be consequential in unforeseeable ways, and are potentially regrettable.
  • In the immediate future, after “sharing” a selfie, who knows what comments about the image will return to the sender, and worse, who knows what mean comments will be made about you? Or, from what monsters they will come from the creepy depths of the swamp? Who even knows who will see it?
  • We can be hard on ourselves—unfriendly, angry, accusatory, judgmental. The “I” can get depressed about what it sees as the inadequate “me.” Suicide shows that in the bleakest cases the “I” can turn into the worst enemy the “me” ever had.
  • Much of the threat to selfhood and personal identity stems back to the computer, Internet, and point and shoot camera eras. The smart phone pushes the peril closer to the top, to the verge of danger. Time expended on line—in gaming, electronic chats, videos, and the like—can take up scads of solitude previously available for inward experience and social development.
  • Incessant picture taking can lead to an unhealthy concern for and fear of others, and a devaluing of one’s opinions in relation to the opinions of peers. A paranoia may develop of being watched, surveilled, and filmed. Depression may ensue.
  • Anxiety can go off the chart. A recent Supercuts commercial is instructive. A young woman, in her twenties or early thirties—who knows for sure; faking exact age is a demand and art form of consumer culture— is going to Supercuts, because, the voice over artist assures us, “she wants to be ready.” This is followed by a quick panorama of her in a plethora of feature haircuts, as seen in a variety of desired situations— dances, dates, work scenes,etc., including a selfie. Wow, is that the same person?. We are assured at the end that she’ll “jump back” into Supercuts, as may we, whenever she’s feeling or we’re feeling “not ready.” The image of the person “ready” for action with a new haircut masks the anxiety that the commercial presumes and brilliantly reveals.

Our world seems less capable of developing confident, integrated selves than it once was. Divided, split. fractured, dueling selves are more likely. Schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder are ascendent.

Conclusion

The selfie, and other pseudo-events considered normal in today’s electronic culture, threaten personal identity and selfhood in multiple ways.

  • It transforms private identity into a series of external public images.
  • It transforms a lively person into a static image.
  • It convinces the person that the number of images that can be taken are limitless—thousands after thousands. It’s routine to take selfies. Go ahead, take as many as you want. Everybody does.
  • It is addictive. One can get hooked on it.
  • It teaches narcissism.
  • The person may find later that her real self—the unique self she knows herself to be—is missing in all of the images taken of her.even the ones taken by herself. Great pictures. You may think I look great, but that’s not me. Appearance is not reality.
  • It downplays the value of internal experience and a private sense of self.
  • It introduces an obligation to share images with people you don’t really know and who don’t know you. This is done under the bizarre claim that acquaintances held at alms length on the streets make swell bosom friends on a computer. They don’t. They are pixels on a screen, pseudo-event friends.
  • It collapses geologic space into nonexistence. The viewer is anywhere, say in China, and the selfie taker is in New York. They are nowhere together in the same virtual space.
  • It collapses actual time into simultaneity. The picture shows up in China within seconds of it’s shooting in New York. It’s virtually timeless.
  • it creates a passive, pseudo world where  participants spin weavings and webs endlessly on line while each is home alone at the computer.

The smart phone and “selfie” are great, we tell ourselves, and they really are, but when we highlight their virtues the obvious is overlooked: they are unfriendly to personal identity. A person would be wise to look for an integrated and positive sense of self though other methods and means.

Afternote

For those looking for additional reading, I recommend Jacob Weinberg’s We Are Hopelessly Hooked, in the New York Review of Books, (February 25, 2016): 6-9. In it Weinberg reviews four books whose titles clearly convey their authors’s concerns. Two are by Sherry Turkle: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (Penquin); and, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other (Basic Books). The others are Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web, by Joseph M. Reagle, Jr. (MIT Press), and Hooked: How to Build Habit Building Products, by Nir Eval with Ryan Hoover (Portfolio).

Will Callender, Jr. ©

April 12, 2016

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good