Wednesday, January 03, 2018

But Seriously, About Donald Trump...

Nothing against Alec Baldwin and the SNL crew, or Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah or Jimmy Kimmel, or any of the other professional jesters who have found a goldmine in the 45th presidency of the United States, but...

I can't laugh at Donald Trump any more.

On October 25, 2017 - the day after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) announced his resignation because of "Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior...from the top of our government" - Ron Reagan, appearing on Chris Matthews' "Hardball," summed up the matter by saying, "Donald Trump is a deeply damaged human being." (8:15 in this clip)

Matthews laughed.

I suspect that it was the type of reflexive laugh that sometimes occurs in response to scary things. To seriously consider the humanity of a political figure can be scary, both because it can force us to lay aside the comfortable contempt with which we sometimes regard them, and because it may show us something of ourselves in them. I don't fault Matthews for laughing, but I think it's unfortunate that doing so prevented the serious conversation that might have occurred, about what to do with a President who is not well. 

Too many of us have laughed too much for too long at a man whose constant need for adulation leads him to make boasts that go beyond being merely false and are consistently absurd:

It's funny once or twice. Maybe even thrice. But after a point, this constant, craven craving to be the smartest, the biggest, the most successful, the best - not only now, but in all of history - becomes sad. It's not enough for us to dismiss the perpetual hyperbole as a con man's habitual selling, when there are no transactions involved, when there is no material benefit to be gained. In fact, that may be the most telling characteristic of these tall tales - beyond being false, or even absurd, they are totally unnecessary. They serve no discernible purpose, other than slaking - but never satisfying - his perpetual thirst, providing morsels for his insatiable hunger.

That thirst and hunger make Donald Trump, not a comic figure, but a tragic one.

Trump's perpetual self-praise does not merely shows a deep neediness. It also raises a question: "How much of what he says does he himself believe?" Because the less that he believes what he says, the more dishonest he is. But the more that he believes what he says, the more deeply delusional he is.

Trump's neediness, dishonesty and delusion make him, not only a tragic figure, but a dangerous one.

In "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President", Gail Sheehy (author of "Passages") contributes a chapter titled, "Trump's Trust Deficit Is The Core Problem," in which she points out that "Donald Trump has boasted of his total lack of trust...his father trained him to be a 'killer,' the only alternative to being a 'loser.'" In the closing paragraph, she writes:

"Beneath the grandiose behavior of every narcissist lies the pit of fragile self-esteem. What if, deep down, the person whom Trump trusts least is himself? The humiliation of being widely exposed as a 'loser,' unable to bully through the actions he promised during the campaign, could drive him to prove he is, after all, a 'killer.'" 

Yesterday, Jan. 2, 2018, Trump's need, and possibly his delusion, manifested with new boldness:

Like a cop who responds to a mentally ill person with a knife by shooting them dead, Trump escalated, rather than de-escalating, a situation that put him on edge. This is a bad way for America's chief diplomat to respond to a diplomatic challenge, and all by itself, it shows that Trump is unsuited for the job. 

The men and women of America's military deserve a more trustworthy commander in chief. 

Now I'm going to risk being accused of doubletalk, as I answer an obvious question: Am I saying that the satirists of the world need to stop highlighting Trump's absurdities?

No, I'm not. All of the people named at the beginning of this piece know their craft well enough to know that the most powerful satire is always, at bottom, deadly serious. In the face of continuing absurdity, satire may be the best journalism.

But I am recommending that we all be as serious as the best satirists are - that we all be careful to make a distinction between laughing at Trump's words and actions, and totally dismissing the man himself; that we guard our hearts against contempt.

I am suggesting that perhaps pity would be a more appropriate emotional response to the man himself; that when we laugh at his words and actions, we should honestly face the fears that they evoke. And even, for some, the rage.

Finally, I'm saying that we should let all of the emotions that Trump inspires in us move us to action. That's what emotions are for, to energize motion.

Conversing with fellow citizens about the 25th Amendment might be a good place to start. But if that's not for you, then find out what is. To quote the amazing Jenifer Lewis: DO SOMETHING.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Re-grasping The Plow: An Imagined Dialogue

And the Lord said, "Shut up and write."

"But I have this and that and the other..."

"Shut up and write."

"But what if nobody reads it?"

"Shut up and write."

"What if people read it, but they don't like it?"

"Shut up and write."

"But what if don't have the right words?"

BOOM! The object dropped is not big, but it is heavy, and raises a cloud of dust that has to clear before I can see it clearly.

" a dictionary. You were saying?"

"Lord, please help me to write. Help me to write well. Help me get my facts straight so that I can write well. Grant me the discernment to suss out the truths embodied in the facts, and the courage to declare them. And if doing that results in me being more lonely than ever...could You just keep me company sometime?"

"I am with you always. I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Re-stoke the flame; let there be blood on the keys.

Starting slow:

Black Journalists Honor Homewood Men
Business Expo In Second Year

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How The Media Are Getting The Equifax Story Wrong.

The data breach at Equifax, in which the personal information of more than 140 million Americans was compromised, is one of the biggest stories of 2017, one that has received multiday coverage by a wide variety of news outlets.

The breach has placed this information as risk of being used by others:

- Names
- Dates of birth
- Addresses
- Social Security numbers
- Drivers license numbers.

The coverage of the breach has included any number of pieces that offer people guidance on how to respond to it. Like this one from CNN Money, "5 things to do right now if you're worried about the Equifax hack."

The five things are:

  1. Check your free credit reports
  2. Put a fraud alert on your credit
  3. Keep an eye on bank accounts and credit card statements
  4. Sign up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service
  5. If you're really worried, put a freeze on your credit.

What word do you see in all of those suggestions?


The entire piece, like everything else that I've read so far giving guidance to consumers, is focused on credit. And that focus ignores one giant simple reality: more than 80% of identity theft is NOT credit-related. 

Most identity theft falls into other categories, such as:

- medical idenity theft
- drivers license idenity theft
- Social Security fraud
- tax return fraud

By focusing nearly entirely on credit, the media are getting the story wrong, and providing advice that will likely be useless more than 80% of the time.

You can do all of the five things listed above and still have someone use your information to access Social Security benefits. You can do all of them and still have someone get a job in your name, as a 1099 worker, and find yourself liable for taxes on that person's income. You can do all of the five things and still have someone use your information to access medical services, thus mingling their medical information with yours. Which could endanger you the next time you go a hospital.

The 143 million people whose personal information has been leaked need more than credit protection. They need true identity protection.

I have it, and I'm glad. On a daily basis, I have professionals watching over my social security number and my drivers license number. I have professionals searching the Dark Web for misuse of my information, or for my information being offered for sale. Most importantly, when my identity does get stolen (let's just go ahead and take that as a given, ok?), I have licensed private investigators ready to do what it takes for as long as it takes to restore it.

I have all of that through a program called IDShield. And because I have IDShield, I have peace of mind - even when Equifax screws up with 143 million Americans' information.

If you would also like to have identity protection (not just credit protection) that provides peace of mind, click on the "IDSHIELD" link here.