Around the same time our “Stable Genius” leader was tweeting about the size of his “nuclear button” like he was a high school freshman, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are going to hold a session on January 16th about teaching federal, state, and local first responders how to “prepare for a nuclear detonation”. Both Guam and Hawaii have been more focused on nuclear threats in recent weeks and months, as both places are likely within the range of ballistic missiles from North Korea.
Most of you know that we’ve been doing this for a few years now. Partly it’s because we’re cheap broke, and partly it’s because we send this link to nearly 200 people who we’d legitimately want to send a real card to. Also, I’m not big on the card produced by Shutterfly and never seen by the sender thing, and this method actually has a Snowflake’s chance in Cambridge of generating a conversation*. So we do it this way.
As a general rule, I am not a fan of the term “history buff”. Whenever I see someone referred to as a “history buff”, I tend to become a little irritated. In my mind, history buffs collect the Civil War Chess Set and Stonewall Jackson beer steins. Historians do research and then usually present their findings in one way or another. Just because you read history doesn’t mean you are a historian, just as the fact you can speak English does not mean you could be an English teacher, you know?
So when I read about Paul LePage, Governor of Maine (and living example of how the combination of poor anger management and eating too much poutine is really bad for you), making the (to me) astounding claim that 7,600 men from Maine fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, I nearly coughed Coke Zero through my nose. Continue reading “The Trumpization of Civil War history”
For several years now I’ve seen people wringing their hands about Donald Trump over one specific thing that I intrinsically understand about him but that most people seem unable to. It was evident in his campaign and has only become more evident since his sham of an election: Trump lives in his own extremely subjective reality. If you’re on Twitter and you read @docrocktex26 then you know what I’m talking about.
Donald Trump is a raging, decompensating, malignant narcissist. It was obvious during his campaign and it has become so obvious now that it would be painful to watch if he wasn’t also such a horror of a human being and in a position to destroy so many lives as his own falls apart around him.
I’ll go ahead a put the disclaimer here now: I’m not a doctor, psychologist, social worker, or other medical or mental health professional. I am someone who’s had 25 years of experience dealing in my own life with a malignant narcissist. I can spot them quickly now and I have seen what they’re like, especially when they have a secondary diagnosis which aggravates the first. In Trump’s case that appears to be Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.
Here’s why all of this is important. The media, the general public, and lots of folks in the government keep asking the same questions over and over again. “Why does he lie so obviously? Doesn’t he know we can fact check him? Why does he say outlandish and patently, provably wrong things? Who does that? When will it stop?” Pro Tip: It won’t.
The answer is not that Donald Trump has some special disregard for the truth or the rules. The answer is not that he’s extra stupid (he’s just garden variety stupid, folks). The answer is that someone who is that serious a narcissist constructs a world view in which the only thing that matters is what they think, say, and do. That means that his entire reality is subjective and fluid. If he says that he talked to the Boy Scouts, then he did so. If he says that Heather Heyer’s mother loved what he said, in his mind she did. Even if the call never really happened. When lies are pointed out to him he simply waves them away. We are in the wrong, you see.
It’s hard to explain this to neuro-normative folks and those who haven’t seen a narcissist up close in person and in action, but these people are so good at manipulation that they believe their own lies to the exclusion of all else. Because deep down their own psychological injury and ego steers everything they do, they fit the world around them to to their own narrative. Most importantly, narcissists are completely devoid of empathy. While some of you may have heard that said, the ramifications of what it means regarding subjective reality are incredibly important.
Someone like Trump understands himself to be the center to his own universe. His family, children, wife and ex-wives, and grandchildren are, at best, extensions of his own ego. They are trophies to be held up and stared at and to be shoved aside and ignored when inconvenient. He is not capable of actually loving them and they are a means to an end to be used when he needs them, ignored or worse when he doesn’t.
Putin, on the other hand, is a goal. Putin himself could be anyone in the world, who he is as a person doesn’t really matter. What he represents is everything. He is a crime kingpin, the leader of a massive country that he controls with iron grip, and he is the wealthiest man on the planet. For Trump, attaining the presidency of the United States was really a booby prize by comparison. What he wants, more than he’s ever wanted anything, is to be the richest, sexiest, baddest, blondest, strongest, most terrifying man in the entire world. His continued relationship with Putin proves that he is willing to do anything to get to where he perceives Putin to be.
Do I agree that Putin is “richest, sexiest, baddest, blondest, strongest, most terrifying man in the entire world?” While it’s more than probable that he’s the richest man in the world, I don’t agree with the rest. Most westerners won’t. But Putin projects the exact image that Trump has created in his own mind about himself. So he’ll stop at nothing to achieve and reinforce that goal (especially as he ages and his Alzheimer’s makes it more difficult to sustain his own self image). This includes treason, sedition, and more prosaic things like joining forces with white supremacists, Nazis, and neo-Confederates.
At his core is this malignant narcissist a racist and bigot? Yes. And no. Oh, I’m quite sure he was gleefully taught racism, sexism, homophobia, and hatred at his father’s knee. There are reports going back to his elementary school days of Trump being a bully. But we have to remember that with someone who is a narcissist we’re working with more than a learned behavior. There was more going on when he was finally forced by his staff to read his too late, too short condemnation of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend, and that’s this: he fundamentally doesn’t care about anyone other than himself. He can’t, he lacks the basic programming to do so and doesn’t care to try to learn how.
Bigotry is a super convenient vehicle for a narcissist to express a general disdain for anyone who isn’t them. A narcissist on the level of Trump is so emotionally stunted and isolated from the rest of us that hate is easy. Hate is a tool. Choosing to “other” the rest of us and make us the enemy, use us as tools to achieve a particular goal, or simply destroy us for fun isn’t a hard decision to make. For Trump, deciding to allow or encourage the deaths of peaceful protesters, students, bystanders, or anyone else not integral to his need to become Putin 2.0 is simpler than choosing which tie to wear.
If my experience is any indication, he’s only going to get worse. He’s only going to get less in touch with objective reality and he’ll isolate himself more by tossing more and more members of his inner circle under the proverbial bus. While I’d be happy to see Bannon, Miller, and the Gorkas without the protections afforded by their jobs, the only way we get Trump out of the White House is legally. His frothing Nazi base has been given the green light and they will continue to show up in parks across America to preach hate until we stop them, one rally at a time.
Our job is to keep our eyes on the ball, remembering that sometimes this game has more than one ball in the air at a time. We need to fight the Nazis while calling them what they are. We need to follow the Russia scandal and keep it in the news, this is what will get him. We need to support each other, none of us can be on all the time, this is exhausting. And, most importantly, we need to keep the pressure on. While Trump is the head of the snake, this is a long snake with deep roots in American history. We need to pull the whole thing out before we can begin to heal and fix this country.
Yesterday it was raining and the temperature actually dropped into the upper 40’s. In June. There is actually a slight chance of us having a Nor’Easter on Friday. Oh, crazy New England weather, don’t ever change. Honestly, I still prefer you to baking in the humid Southern sun.
And speaking of insanity and bad weather, we are supposed to have a bad hurricane season this year. That wouldn’t be quite as troubling except that the current occupant of the White House has not yet put anyone in charge of NOAA, FEMA, or the NHC.* He can, however, find the time to go play a lot of golf and to tweet all sorts of crazy stuff. Needless to say, people in hurricane-prone places like Florida are starting to notice.
Well, since Trump is also planning to slash FEMA’s budget as well as the NOAA budget and the NASA budget, maybe they think we don’t need to worry about being able to predict the weather. We should just sit back and not worry about silly things like storm forecasts and we can just go back to the blissful days of yore, when major storms could sneak up on people with little to no warning and do horrendous damage.
Nah, that could never happen again, right?
*It turns out Trump did nominate someone to lead FEMA in late April, but the Senate has not yet voted on the nominee, probably because they are so busy trying to take away everyone’s health insurance.
How To Treat A Lady On The Internet
Here’s a primer on how to behave with regard to the human people otherwise known as “women.”
Hi folks. The following is a good guide for how to treat women on the Internet, whether you are a dude, a lady, a genderqueer person, or a unicorn who somehow gained the ability to read English (JK we all know unicorns can read any language they damn well please.) I’ve seen men engage in some of the practices I describe unfavorably, but guess what? I’ve seen gals do it too.
This is not about one instance in my own life but a series of many instances in my own life and in the lives of other folks online. Some of you don’t like what you perceive as “p.c. bullshit.” This ain’t about your notion of political correctness (which is usually code for “being a decent human being,” but whatever, I’m not here to quibble with you on that and I’m a blasphemous broad myself so I get your frustration when you feel you’re being cramped.) But this is about acting like a good person and not a damn fool.
I’m laid up sick with an upper respiratory infection and yet I’m still doing this kind service because stupid behavior on the Internet exhausts me. And I want to be able to just link folks to this where necessary. Feel free to do so as well. Let’s go.
If you get blocked or unfriended, do not ask why. Do not approach. We did it for a reason (probably not drunkenness, although that is possible!) If we want to tell you why, we will. Go be a good person and imagine it’s just because we were having a bad day. Or ask yourself why and really look at why we might’ve decided not to engage with you further. If you want to say to yourself, “What a dumb bitch!” I guess do that? Whatever. Just don’t say it to us. Stay away.
If you DM us on Twitter and we don’t respond, don’t DM us again. This is simple.
If we tell you to take us out of a thread on Twitter or elsewhere, do it.Don’t ask why. Ever. There may be someone in that thread of whom we have grown weary or with whom we stopped engaging a long time ago. It’s quite likely they’ve harassed us and we’ve blocked them, but when you respond to all of us, we still get the tweets clogging our feed. Alternately, we may simply be busy and not have time to keep up.
Just do it.
Imagine we asked if you could move your car so we could back out of the driveway. You’d just do that, right? It’s easy. Okay, just do this.
You know when Eliza in “Hamilton” (c’mon bro, you’ve listened! your bro has!) says, “I remove myself” from the whole story? She’s in a situation that is too painful and sad so Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a certified genius for real, gives her the out. Later she jumps back in of her own volition. That’s us. Except we don’t have a wonderful dude doing it for us, because we’re writing our own narrative here. Be an ally or just a decent person and respect that choice.
Do not respond to every tweet, every Facebook status update, every post we create anywhere on the web. Being a fan is a fantastic thing. I’m a fangirl myself. Love the fangirls and the fanboys of this world. But this goes beyond fandom. When you give the impression that you seem to think you’re in a constant conversation with us, it feels creepy to us. Often, this is an issue of you having trouble recognizing boundaries, and that’s not always your fault! We are all wired differently and we have gifts and difficulties, sometimes around perception. So if you’re a person with a good heart who may perceive things differently than most, you’re still probably going to respect a boundary once it’s explained to you.
But there are others who are not that way.
There are others to whom I say: why do you have all the time in the world to do that? Go look at other cool stuff too. Art, music, politics, your kids’ homework. Buy a Solange album. Yes, the latest is fantastic but she’s always been great. Never afraid to experiment. Revels in evolution and progression. Did you know? Go listen. (And don’t bother Solange. She deals with enough.)
If we never respond to you, we probably muted you on Twitter or unfollowed you on Facebook but stayed friends with you so as not to enrage you or upset our mothers because you still live in the small town where we grew up and our moms have to deal with you at the grocery store. The muting or unfollowing may be because you’re annoying or you have terrible opinions or horrific taste in furniture and yet you won’t stop posting photographs of your awful furniture.
Don’t ask us if we muted you.
It may be because you seem unstable and we don’t want to further inflame you by blocking you. (Did you know that this is how we have to deal with folks online for our own safety? It’s true. Usually the folks with whom we have to contend in this manner are men. Not always.)
Do not make sexual or flirtatious comments on the social media of a woman you don’t know. If you do know her personally IN A SEXY WAY and you make such a comment and she checks you on it, back off. You’ll know if she wants to fuck you because she’ll fucking fuck you. Until then, exercise some restraint. It’s better for your soul and your dong in the long run. I’m giving you strategy here, dude: if you want to shtup us, shut up and be a good person. We find mystery exciting! (That’s not always true, it just sounded like something that would be in a Maxim article from 1997.)
If we block a person or unfriend someone, do not ask why. Do not say he’s a really great guy and look, he’s really sorry.
HE IS NOT A REALLY GREAT GUY. WE DO NOT BLOCK OR UNFRIEND GUYS WHO’VE BEEN REALLY GREAT TO US.
There are people to whom I will never speak unless absolutely necessary and with whom I will never work unless I have to, and it’s specifically because they thought it was time to play Cupid for creeps. You have no idea what we deal with and what we hear privately. It’s not your business.
Your nice guy friend who is nice to you and is so nice to your daughter and has never raped a woman in front of your face and who maybe says he’s super sorry? Yeah, he may be a serial harasser, a rapist, or a dude who punched us in the face one night in a drunk blackout. You don’t get to know that information unless we want to tell you. You don’t know the shit we know about him and we’re not telling and you and he should be so fucking thankful for that. Is he married? Oh, be a thousand times more thankful. You know a tiny bit of the story, and it’s all filtered through him.
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this but YOUR BOY IS AN UNRELIABLE FUCKING NARRATOR.
And if he’s pleaded with you to be the intermediary and you actually did it: congrats. You fell for it. He’s an abuser trying desperately to draw his prey back in. He’s using you for that purpose. Stop being stupid.
And get better friends.
If somebody says mean things about us elsewhere, do not tell us unless you genuinely fear for our safety. Then tell us. We can choose whether we wish to alert the authorities. You win zero points with folks you want to love you when you say, “Look at this stranger talking shit! Look at me defending you! I’m such a great person!” Oh really? We see right through that. “Mean Girls” came out a long time ago. This ain’t high school. Go away.
Do not give out our contact information without asking our permission.Some of us have websites and places where that information is readily available, because we’re happy to engage with requests we can honor. Direct them to these places if necessary. And if we don’t respond? Sometimes it’s a safety issue. Sometimes it’s simply an “I’m busy” issue.
Women get endless requests for help and assistance in various ways at various times. Everybody in the world thinks they have the right to our time, our money, our emotional labor, our business contacts, the works. This is true whether you are A Gal Of Note On The TeeVee or A Gal Who Is Awesome And Definitely Of Note With Zero Interest In Having Her Name In the Newspapah. We can field those requests with grace if we wish. Or we can ignore them. That does not make us rude. That does not make us ungenerous. That does not make us bad people.
I gave up nice a long time ago. Nice did me no good as a woman. Niceness is a lie they teach you to keep you sweet and compliant while you’re screaming inside. You know what I picked instead? Kindness. I chose to be kind. Kind means I respect your boundaries and you respect mine.
When we speak about abuse and we don’t use names and we don’t give clues, there is a reason for that. Do not DARE question our choices to tell our stories and to use anonymity and discretion to protect ourselves and the people we love. We do not owe it to you to name names. We do not owe it to you to be the heroine. We are not cartoon characters. We are not fairy tale princesses. We are not imagined fearless, flawless brave warrior women sent from on high to do battle with dragons while you sit from afar and say, “Yeah girl, get it!”
Look, you wanna know why we don’t name names, beyond “discretion” and “etiquette” and “not wanting to get sued for saying something that’s true but that we can’t prove because nobody was in the room when it happened?” Because we don’t want to get hit, slapped, raped, beaten, or killed.
If you do not know how present that is in our lives, even in my own privileged life, this is my invitation to you to listen the next time a lady says, “He…he wasn’t…I mean he tried to be a good person, I really think he’s a good person but…you know…there were issues.” and then looks away uncomfortably. What’s her body language saying? You might consider saying, “I’m here if you need to talk. I don’t expect you to and I’m not pressuring you to. But know that I won’t tell anybody and I won’t judge you.”
And then, for God’s sake, honor that commitment to your friend, your colleague, your sister, your mom, whoever. And if they don’t wanna chat, leave it. Leave. It. Alone.
And by the way? THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD TREAT EVERYBODY. I drew you in with that “ladies” headline but this is actually about treating human beings with dignity in physical space or online space.
You are part of a collective whole and I am addressing the whole. If you and I have had a personal interaction in which I have expressed displeasure, do not approach me about this. Just do better in future.
If you have had a personal interaction with a woman who is not me and she has told you to go away, stay away. Don’t go back and say, “I’ve changed!” unless you’re working a program that asks you do so, within reason. Your amends should not be her burden. She may not wish to forgive you now or ever, and that is her right.
Good people make mistakes. I know I do, all the time. But we apologize unless it would be stressful or dangerous or offensive to the injured party. We move forward and we do better. Just because you’ve violated certain boundaries of politeness and ideal human behavior does not automatically make you a monster person, okay? So don’t go into some shame spiral.Shame is useless unless it prompts better action. Take this information. Think on it. Do good things in the world.
I’m going back to being physically ill now. Share this with friends and neighbors and the aforementioned magical unicorns who can read everything. Not that unicorns need this information. They’re born compassionate and polite. The rest of us can often use a little help with that.
Today is the day that we traditionally celebrate the men who have held the office of the President of the United States. Over the years that celebration has gone from actually thinking about the Founding Fathers to indulging in a long weekend, sales on automobiles, and deep discounts at your local mall or favorite online store.