The “West Wing”-to-TrumpCo. Communications Continuum

c-j-westwingI have a confession to make:

I have watched every episode of all seven seasons of The West Wing three times.

It’s an obsession.

Anyway, over the course of the Trump campaign, the transition, the inauguration, and the first month of the presidency, I have found myself, not a religious man by any means, praying for some cosmic event to happen, some time-space disruption that results in the Trump administration being replaced, wholesale, by the fictional West Wing Bartlet administration.

I know, Stephen Hawking, wherever he is, is laughing at me right now.

Well, while reading about President Trump’s hissy fit press conference today, I thought about The West Wing once again, but for a very particular reason.

Anyone who watched much of the show is familiar with just how careful the administration felt they needed to be about any statements they made to the public and the press.

Whether it was C.J. Cregg, the Press Secretary, during her daily press briefings, or the president himself during a speaking engagement, whenever there was even the slightest remark that could be misconstrued, the rest of the administration would react as if they would all be out of a job, hearings initiated, or wars begun, as soon as the press took up the ball and ran with it.

By contrast, TrumpCo. (my favorite epithet for our current administration) does not appear to be governed by any such concern, with near daily statements coming from the White House and its surrogates that would have caused Toby Ziegler, The West Wing‘s Communications Director, to suffer a fatal heart attack.

There is a continuum, on one end of which is a commitment to the highest standards of governmental communications etiquette, exemplified by the fictional West Wing administration, and on the farthest possible opposite end of the continuum is TrumpCo.

Video Fridays – Inauguration Angst Edition: American Tune

statue-of-libertyIf you are like me (aka, a proud leftist), the urge to catastrophize today is considerable.


BTW, here’s a must-view Video Fridays bonus video: Samantha Bee and Masha Gessen getting right to the catastrophizing. LOL!


And yet, I find the strength to resist catastrophic thinking in the following:

With numbers like that, it’s not surprising that almost immediately after the election there were demonstrations with protesters wielding signs that read “Not My President“, signaling the beginning of a growing and organized resistance movement all over the country.

There’s no doubt in my mind that holding out hope for these resistance efforts and, better yet, joining in and actively resisting, are really better alternatives to resignation and waiting around for the apocalypse.

But it won’t be easy, and it’s only natural that there will be times of despair.

I didn’t go looking for a song for this post that captures the Trumpgeist. It just came to me this past week, a song I love a lot and have enjoyed singing in the past, but I hadn’t really thought of it in a while.

Because history tends to repeat itself, Paul Simon‘s American Tune, written in 1972 — with the Vietnam War still raging, racial conflicts commonplace, and Richard Nixon winning re-election even though five men paid by the Committee for Re-election of the President were arrested in June 1972 for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel  — the song sadly remains relevant 45 years later.

So, without further ado, here are the lyrics, following by the video for this installment of Video Fridays.

Hang in there, brothers and sisters!

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come at the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

Trump Tweets: Look In The Mirror, America!

twitter-logoSo, I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump WAY more than I ever desired, more than my heart and soul can bear, and for that reason alone his victory is a dreadful, dreadful thing, a kind of assault, a violation.

And yet, there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about the coverage of Trump’s behavior on Twitter.

As has been widely reported, he is an avid Twitter user. But, unlike President Obama, who has a professional on staff who tweets on his behalf, Trump tweets on his own, in all his buffoonish, goonish ugliness.

Saturday Night Live has thankfully been relentless in their lampooning of Trump, thanks largely to Alec Baldwin‘s genius impersonation, but their latest stab, a skit specifically about Trump’s use of Twitter, didn’t make me laugh.

Why?

Because I found it WAY more disturbing than funny.

As much as I feel justified in demonizing Trump as the demon that he is, it must also be pointed out that Donald Trump is the product of American culture, not its creator. Notice how the SNL skit is about Trump retweeting the nutjob tweets of others. Not that Trump doesn’t post enough of his own nutjob tweets, but he’s engaged in a wider culture.

It’s one thing, trying to get one’s head around the fact that this one dangerous man-child will be ascending to the most powerful position on the planet, and another thing entirely to consider the bigger picture, the Petri dish from which he emerged, a dish festering with materialism, celebrity worship, and reality TV.

How many more Trumps-in-the-making are out there, and who is talking about the paradigm shift needed in America in order to stop the production of them?

The former question is too scary to spend a lot of time thinking about.

The latter, well, as the 12-step programs say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

America, we clearly have a problem.

The War On (Dominant) White Culture: Revisited

Anti-White-Racism-530px1Back in December, I wrote a post titled The War On (Dominant) White Culture that was selected by WordPress for their curated Discover feed of supposedly best posts of the day, which was flattering for sure.

But what’s much more satisfying to me is something I discovered myself today.

One of my favorite political bloggers, for many years, has been the editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com (TPM), Josh Marshall.

And while I was rather annoyed by the fact that Josh had the gall (tongue firmly in cheek) to support Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the primaries, I’ve never stopped reading TPM, his posts in particular, because he is consistently on top of the latest stories and his writing is penetrating and insightful.

So, it was with a degree of pride that I read his post from yesterday, titled Trumpism is a Politics of Loss and Revenge, and noticed that it dovetails nicely with my post from December mentioned above. It draws some of the same conclusions, while providing Josh’s characteristic deeper, more thorough exploration of the topic.

I can’t recommend reading his post enough, but here are just two quotes, one from my post, one from his, that illustrate the overlap of our respective takes on the subject.

…white people have no constitutional or moral right to be the dominant culture, to force their culture on non-white people or demand that non-whites assimilate and adopt white culture.

The only way to remain the dominant culture is through asserting superiority, or some kind of privilege to remain dominant, without regard for the majority, by doing so aggressively and oppressively — think South Africa, where whites were only 20% of the population and yet owned 80% of the land and an even greater percentage of wealth, and resorted to Apartheid to keep it that way.

There is no War on White Culture, but…

…white people do need to let go of being the dominant culture.

–Fish & Bicycles

You don’t need to hate non-whites to be attached to the dominant position whites have historically had in American life. But if you identify with your whiteness, simple majorities mean security. Losing that dominance, if you don’t feel able or ready or willing to relinquish it almost inevitably generates hatred and a desire for revenge.

–Josh Marshall

Notes From Italy, Vol. 1: Italians & Leisure As Art

Leisure Italia
My lovely wife and I, attempting to emulate Italian leisure.

On our very first day in Florence, the first destination of our 2-week visit to Italy, the very first thing that dramatically stood out to me was:

Italians make hanging out, leisurely, look so utterly, authentically, natural, in a way that Americans only wish we could.

Put another way, it makes perfect sense that the same people who, for hundreds and hundreds of years, produced legendary artistic achievements — seen and heard around just about every corner, in the legendary art and architecture, in the very way, for instance, that Florence was sited on the banks of the Arno River, with it’s lovely string of bridges leading from the city center across the river to the Oltrarno District, where one can naturally start heading uphill to enjoy the perfect sunset view of the birthplace of the Renaissance from Piazzale Michelangelo — have made leisure an art form.

As you stroll through the narrow, cobblestone streets, it seems that every other doorway is a café, bar, or restaurant with outdoor seating, even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall establishments have a handful of stools in the doorway or out on the narrow sidewalk, and Italians sit there with their espresso or glasses of wine in their hands, seemingly not a care in the world, fully relaxed, entertained by just being there.

Back home in the U.S., most people seem to always be thinking about and concerned with where they aren’t or where they need to be next, constantly interacting with their mobile phones, even in the company of others, while in Florence there was hardly a phone in sight, and even then a brief glance and back into a pocket or purse it goes.

Of course, this does not in any way mean that Italians don’t work hard. They very much do, more times than not in less than desirable jobs, thanks to a weak economy.

It’s just that when they aren’t working, they REALLY know how to NOT work.

There was one glaring exception to this characterization of Italians as Zen-like artists of leisure, but you’ll have to wait for Vol. 2 of Notes From Italy for that!

Ciao!

A Dream Deferred: Thoughts On Dallas In Two Quotes

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

Bernie Sanders: Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn’t

Bernie SandersTwo headlines and their subheadlines over two days from the same online publication, submitted without any need for commentary:

How Bernie blew it: Even his staffers admit — holding back against Hillary might have cost them the nomination
Given how close this race is, it could have been a different story had Bernie been more aggressive from the start

Salon, 4/4/2016

Paul Krugman: Bernie Sanders’ increasingly “ugly” campaign is a sad finish to what was supposed to be a “positive and idealistic” race
Sanders successfully created the impression that he was “above the fray,” but was playing dirty all along

Salon, 4/5/2016