Trump’s narcissistic language

This is a comment made at reddit by /u/C250586. In it, (s)he explains how Trump’s use of language exhibits the traits of a sociopathic narcissist, and how his words have no objective meaning, but only subjectively mean what Trump decides they mean.

I wish everyone could read this. Sadly, the ones who really need to will not, and those who do will most likely dismiss it as “fake news” or the ravings of a “libtard.”

This is posted by permission, with only one small Bowdlerization.

Why do people get so hung up on what Trump says? The words he uses? Why do people constantly try to frame his pure subjectivity in an objective way? He views the world as an extension of himself… so every word he says needs to be in that context. I’m not sure people recognize how profound this revelation actually is…

When Trump is talking about anything (for example, “The Swamp”), he is not speaking about things in the same objective way that (most) of the rest of the world would – he views things from an entirely non-objective frame of reference so every sentence out of his mouth is a subjective label that is a reflection of this personal closed off frame of reference he lives in. Using the above example, he uses the term “The Swamp” to describe a non-specific group of people/entities that have blocked him from getting what he wants throughout his life (aka, FBI, DOJ, EPA).

He would never talk about a tree as a thing – an objective entity – it would be a “really great tree that he likes” or a “terrible tree”. Does “Crooked Hillary” ring any bells? Have you ever heard Trump speak about Hillary in a way that doesn’t involve him projecting his own frame of reference, his own view of her onto her? He isn’t capable of it because his brain is flat out not wired to do so. Nothing exists outside of his frame of reference where he is the center of his own personal universe.

Think about it. Listen to the man talk. EVERY SINGLE WORD out of his mouth is a label… an adjective… he only speaks in pure subjective rhetoric and hyperbole. Every word is an extension of his one dimensional perspective – intended to label everyone and everything in line with his own personal world view. Everything is an extension of himself, and how he views the world. Textbook narcissism at its absolute worst and most infuriating.

If that’s the DOJ, FBI, or any Mueller, he/they are going to label them all as “spies”, “swamp”, whatever it takes to turn public opinion against these entities. Just like he calls investigations “witch hunts”, and The Washington Post “Fake news”… it’s just an endless sociopathic stream of manipulation, on a massive and very public scale.

Of course Trump hates the DOJ, FBI, and EPA – these entities have all been trying to shut him down and stop him from getting what he wants for his entire life. It’s pretty clear he figured he would become president and finally get rid of them. All his supporters are the same kinds of people who would see the EPA/FBI/DOJ as just red tape that is stopping them from getting rich. These people (and Trump specifically) cannot view these agencies in an objective light. Aka… Yes it costs money to NOT dump your uranium waste in the river, but it also prevents the people downstream from dying of radiation poisoning.

It’s pretty well understood in psychological circles that Trump is textbook sociopathic narcissist. Kinda like a corporation with no soul in human form, who somehow convinced a bunch of people to elect him. Trump is “capitalism”, for lack of a better term, at its absolute pinnacle…. get rich by whatever means necessary, no matter who or what he has to destroy in the process. Zero empathy.

Trump’s mouth is a 24/7 gish gallop of falsehoods, slander and libel, leaving an absolute [imbroglio] of rational people scrambling to attempt to counter him in his wake.

Here’s hoping that the US has a strong enough backbone to prove that indeed no one is above the law, and there are enough checks and balances in place that corruption can’t exist at this level.

#MeToo: The Court of Public Opinion

#MeToo is a powerful movement. Like #BlackLivesMatter, it’s not wrong about shining the harsh light of reason on social ills, be they sexual harassment or ongoing racial discrimination or anything similar. If there is misconduct, current or past and un-accounted for, it should be exposed and dealt with.

But there’s another side.

It’s important to remember that there are unrighteous people in the world, those who will do what they can to game the system for personal gain or attention.

I’m reminded of something I learned in my association with Klemmer and Associates: “If one person calls you a jackass, it’s just feedback. If six people call you a jackass, it may be time to buy a saddle.”

The recent events surrounding a popular long-time comedian and rôle model are a perfect example: There was a a huge body of evidence and a long line of accusers. From everything I could see, the conviction was justified.

In Tom Brokaw’s case, you have an accuser on one side and a whole line of defenders (note: female) who are bearing witness to high ethics and character: “MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski’s has added her name to the more than 60 women who signed a letter supporting NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw after sexual harassment allegations against him were published by Washington Post and Variety.” (Deadline Hollywood)

The media, in its frenzy to be first-to-publish for the sake of clicks and eyeballs on ads, is happy to embody the fictional persona of Rita Skeeter, who reminded us that “The Prophet exists to sell itself, you silly girl.” Accusations become front-page news without the most ephemeral shred of investigative journalism, and instantly – in less than 0.68 seconds – a segment of the public has convicted someone, and a career can be ruined or eternally tainted, whether there was any truth to the allegations or not.

It’s possible for people to live dual lives, as we have seen. And if there’s a devil hiding in angel’s clothing, there’s nothing more appropriate than exposing that duplicity. But in today’s world, an accusation can leave lasting effects that are impervious to reason or fact (just look at the vaccine/autism nonsense that persists in the minds of so many).

I have long admired Mr. Brokaw’s journalism, integrity, and philanthropic efforts. I’m sorry this has blindsided him. And if, as I suspect, these allegations prove to be turn out to be the machinations of an unbalanced and vindictive individual, I hope he is able to get it sorted quickly and get on with his life.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the “nasty women” out there. All of them.

Now, put away your pitchforks and torches and listen to this amazing video by Aya Korem (it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, but you’ll have to read fast because she does the equality run in less than 12 parsecs¹:

I asked this question over on Facebook:

Answer me this: why should more than 50% of the earth’s population be given a single day of celebration? Just sayin’.

Listening to Ms. Korem, I was reminded of the following exchange Morgan Freeman had with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes:

WALLACE: Black History Month, you find …
FREEMAN: Ridiculous.
WALLACE: Why?
FREEMAN: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I’m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn’t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?

So yes, I get it. Happy International Women’s Day. It’s never inappropriate to celebrate the accomplishments of anyone. But in today’s world of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it seems jejune to celebrate half (more than half, statistically) of humanity by giving them a single day.

When we achieve the kind of gender equality that people of humanity strive for, the kind of equality that Morgan Freeman was alluding to, then we can truly celebrate.


¹ Any respectable Star Wars fan knows that a parsec is a measure of distance, not speed. It’s a joke.

Guns are in America’s DNA

Australia

After the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard said, “We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.” And they took that opportunity: Australia banned semi-automatic rifles and shotguns – weapons that can kill many people quickly – and implemented a 28-day waiting period, thorough background checks, and a requirement to present a “justifiable reason” to own a gun.

Guns were not banned outright, and while gun violence did not end in Australia, it was cut by roughly half since 1996 – and there has never been another Port Arthur since.

United Kingdom

In 1987, a single gunman killed 16 people in what came to be known as the Hungerford Massacre. As a result, made registration mandatory for owning shotguns and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.

Despite this action, in 1996 an unspeakable, cowardly bastard burst into the gymnasium of a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland, and killed 15 children aged five and six along with their teacher before turning one of his handguns on himself. By 18 months later, UK lawmakers had passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns in mainland Britain, resulting in some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world.

The United States

In the first month and a half of 2018, there had been 17 shooting incidents at schools in our country. Some were accidental, some were intentional, one was suicide, and some resulted in no injury or death – but 22 people died, and many more were injured. As of this writing, there have been 290 school shootings since 2013.

Even one is too many.

But the odds that the United States will ever ban firearms outright approach my odds of winning the lottery – that is to say, virtually nonexistent.

From where I sit, there are two dominant reasons for this, reasons which have the weight of history behind them.

1. The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to our Constitution:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The interpretation of the scope of that statement, in the absence of the people who framed it, is being examined in courts on a continual basis. More about this in a bit.

2. Firearms are an integral part of our nation’s history

For better or for worse, our nation’s history depended on firearms. The expanding frontier and the uncertainties of life in a lawless country made owning a firearm (or an armory) often meant the difference between survival and becoming a nameless skeleton on the prairie.

write

“Why don’t she write?”

But after surviving the hostile elements, there was still the matter of putting food on the table. Hunting in American has morphed from a matter of daily bread to a wildly popular sport; in Utah, for example, teachers expect classrooms to be oddly empty during the deer hunt.

When I was growing up, guns were everywhere. It may be why “A Christmas Story” is such a popular movie with a certain generation:

Image result for Red Ryder BB Gun

Ads for air rifles and BB guns were seen in just about every comic book:

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At summer camp, we had a BB range and a rifle range. I loved riflery, and in 1964 I attained the Junior NRA rank of “Sharpshooter 2nd Bar.” I would have certainly gone farther had I been able to attend camp more frequently – target shooting was a lot of fun, and I was proud to have earned these.

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I owned many toy guns and weapons of mass destruction when I was a kid – and playing “cops and robbers” and “cowboys and Indians” was just what was done.

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In our games, when you got shot dead you always just got up again… even if they got you right behind the davenport. While our riflery instructor was impeccably serious about safety on the range, there was never any training given on how to handle a gun safely in the real world, or education around the fact that guns were designed to kill things instead of hit targets at 50 feet, or that when you’re dead, that’s it – there’s no coming back for a second chance.

The fact that guns are written into America’s DNA has allowed the NRA to morph from an organization for sports enthusiasts into a powerful political entity – one which seems determined to preserve and expand its influence at all costs. And their “cold dead hands,” any weapon, any time, any caliber, any size, any magazine, any bump-stock philosophy has been adopted by a significant portion of our citizenry, including a significant number of our legislators who take obscene amounts of money from the NRA, all the while sending their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims without being willing to do anything about the carnage.

The recent shooting at Parkland left 17 people dead. I haven’t even mentioned other gun-related deaths, such as the one in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured 851.

It’s time for a change.

Yes, the 2nd Amendment still guarantees our citizenry the right to bear arms, but I do not believe – I will not believe – that the writers of that amendment  ever meant for a single individual to own something like this, unless the zombie apocalypse were a real possibility:

awesome-arms-cache-gun-room-with-blue-walls

Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative voice on the Supreme Court, wrote:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

I personally believe that the writers of the 2nd Amendment would be shocked if they saw how that little bit of the Constitution was being interpreted and argued and implemented today, especially if they viewed the daily carnage in a nation with between 270 million to 310 million firearms, depending on whose estimate you believe.

As long as the 2nd Amendment remains in force, we as citizens of this country must balance a right to bear arms with an end to the daily death toll which has reached untenable proportions – indeed, has been unbearable for decades.

If you want to own a gun, this is how it should go:

  1. You take “Firearm Education,” a government-approved class on firearm operation and safety. (Note that many states mandate a driver’s ed class of at least 30 hours.)
  2. You take a written and practical test on the type of firearm for which you wish an endorsement.
  3. You submit to a background check. The current Brady Law mandates use of the NICS, but as we have seen with the Florida and Las Vegas shootings, past actions are not always an indicator of future ones. Too many red flags were missed in the case of the perpetrators; more needs to be done to keep weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals.
  4. Your guns are registered, licensed, and taxed, just like your cars are. Nobody tells you how many cars you can own, or of what kind, as long as you’re licensed to drive them and pay all relevant taxes and fees.
  5. You have liability insurance on each weapon.
  6. Your weapons are inspected and re-registered at yearly intervals, just like your car. Aside from the die-hard sovereign-nation groups, nobody complains about having to re-register cars, or pay excise taxes, or have them inspected for safety, or maintain current insurance. It’s for everyone’s safety, owner and public alike.

In addition to this, I call for a total ban on semiautomatic weapons in the hands of private individuals. They are weapons of war; nobody needs one of these killing machines for hunting, or for any other purpose short of the above-mentioned zombie apocalypse. Bump stocks are a no-brainer – they make no sense.

I have many gun-toting, sharpshooting, hunting, and reloading friends who will disagree with my opinions, but that’s how America works. This is such a highly-charged issue that I debated about disabling comments on this post, but I have always supported civil discourse on difficult issues. Ignorant and trollish comments will be ignored and deleted without ceremony.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Alan Alda: Prognosticator

The following words were offered by Alan Alda in 2001, at the graduation of a friend’s daughter. Alda was referring to a piece written by a Chicago newspaper columnist named Mary Schmich, which was virally circulated on the Internet but erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut.

And that’s what makes this Internet event a great image for the age in which we live. There are probably just as many lies going around now as ever before, but these days they’re traveling at the speed of light. There are just as many people who want to fool you into thinking they’ve got it all figured out for you, but now you don’t have nearly as much time to think it over.

And with the help of an engine for repetition that works on a scale unheard of in the past, the lies stick. People are still sending around the talk, thinking it was written by Vonnegut. I was sent a copy just last week.

It’s a delightful piece of writing. But if it’s presented as if it were by someone other than the person who wrote it, it steals that person’s good name and gives itself a certain credibility before it has a chance to earn it honestly. So, as good as it is, it’s a cheat. At least in the way it’s offered to us.

So, you may be thinking, big deal. It’s just a few good jokes. But think about it… It could be selling you anything. It could be a cult religion that could separate you from friends and family, or a quack medicine that could lead you paralyzed, or bogus political information that cause you to elect a numbskull to the presidency.

God forbid.¹

These are great words with regards to the internet and its impact on the dissemination of information – both genuine and bogus – but eerily prescient in view of the political developments of recent years. For what it’s worth, the entire book is a wonderful, human, and relevant read.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Alan Alda, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (New York: Random House, 2007), 121.

About those Confederate monuments…

There are basically two schools of thought floating around the public’s consciousness about confederate monuments right now, especially in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  1. These are monuments to slavery, hatred, bigotry and the losing side of a war. They should be destroyed, or at the very least put in museums.
  2. You’re rewriting/destroying history. They should be left in place.

Now let me tell you a story:

In 1968 and 1969, I spent a year at Gettysburg College.

Old Dorm

Pennsylvania Hall, also known as Old Dorm, was built in 1837 and was used as a signal station and field hospital by both Union and Confederate forces. It was gutted and restored the year I was there, and underwent additional restoration in subsequent years. The entire campus is steeped in the history of the Civil War.

Decades later I returned to visit the campus, and had more time and more mobility to visit the historical sites, museums, and the battlefields.

20090518 - Michael Contemplates Gettysburg

In May of 2009, my son contemplates a battlefield.

The silence that hangs over those fields, where about 8,000 people lost their lives and over 57,000 were listed as casualties, is haunting. In Lincoln’s words, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” Standing on that quiet land, listening, one can almost hear the tumult and terrors of war – and it’s important to note that Lincoln did not single out either Union or Confederate soldiers in his appellation “brave men.” Those who fought and died, regardless of how just their cause or how willingly or not they served, deserve to be remembered. They belong to the annals of our nation.

The word nigger appears 219 times in Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, but it was a product of its times and remains a classic piece of literature – an ode to the evils of slavery – just as it stands. I’ve seen “sanitized” versions of the work, which has long been one of my favorites, and they just feel wrong.

When I visited Albania numerous times in the early 90s, shortly after the fall of Communism, I found a land in which almost every reference to Enver Hoxha had been purged, except for the national museum in Tiranë. And I understood that national sentiment as well. After 41 years of brutal repression, very few Albanians had any desire to “remember” that part of their history, that they had so recently been relieved of.

In our case, the civil war is now 150 years behind us, but the history of slavery in the USA was almost 100 years longer than that, beginning on 31 August 1620, when John Rolfe recorded that “there came in a Dutch man-of-war that sold us twenty negars.” And the ripples and ramifications of slavery extended well into my lifetime; although I personally never saw scenes like this one, I was 14 the year of the Selma to Montgomery marches, 15 when Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Black Panthers, and am watching the social media storm swirling around the Black Lives Matter today. If black lives really mattered, there would be no need for such a movement.

The record shows that most Confederate monuments were put up during the eras of Jim Crow segregation and the civil rights movement. They were put up, many with financial support from  The United Daughters of the Confederacy, to influence the narrative of the Civil War; the message was that the Civil War was not an issue of slavery but rather an issue of states rights.

On one hand, historical revisionism is a slippery slope. Humans are imperfect, and there will always be unpleasant truths in our past that must be acknowledged and remembered if we are not to repeat them. On the other hand, while my experience has been one of white privilege I can at least begin to imagine the gut feelings of those who have been impacted by the legacy of slavery at viewing – or even thinking of the existence of – monuments to people who fought, killed, and died to keep their people in bondage.

There are no monuments in Germany venerating Hitler or Göbbels or Eichmann. According to Joshua Zeitz, writing for Politico,

“The generation of Germans that came of age in the 1970s and 1980s confronted the country’s Nazi past and forcefully repudiated it. It took several decades of hard self-reflection, but a reunified Germany emerged from the Cold War as one of the great mainstays of democracy and human rights.”

Even though America stood for freedom and self-determination during the many wars of the last century, at home our own legacy of keeping a large part of our own population in miserable servitude for centuries remains not only unrepudiated but continues to be celebrated under the guise of another kind of historical revisionism.

It’s not enough to remove bronze and stone monuments to human wretchedness and cruelty; the underlying attitudes of the antebellum South and the Civil War remain enshrined in the hearts of too many people and too many textbooks. But it’s a step that we owe to the descendants of those who sweated under the loads and suffered under the lash and who have endured second-class status since their forefathers were emancipated, a step that must be taken if we are to eradicate those attitudes.

And what of private Buford Liles who marched off to war believing that the cause of the South was just and who never came home to wife and children, and all the privates and sergeants and fighting men like him who laid down their lives? A nation that has turned its back on the inhuman excesses of the past and that strives to build a society that works for everyone, with no one left out, can honor the bravery of these men and women, and all the victims of that wretched conflict, in memory without celebrating the flawed cause that moved them.

A contemplative visit to a peaceful battlefield would suffice.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Soldiers fight wars. Politicians declare them.

I’ve written about war before. I make no bones about the fact that I don’t see it as a productive human enterprise. This quote from Herbert Hoover below echoes the spirit of words from Chaucer that I have mentioned in the two essays linked above:

War

Recently on Facebook I posted this image, that I came across somewhere else:

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As a result, I got some pushback from people who, like me, are opposed to wars but who see the men and women who fight them as less than deserving of honor. Things like:

  • “Depends on what he’s doing – and to whom.”
  • “Don’t extol the instrument.”
  • “The uniformed kid carrying a rifle is a paid gun. I honor people willing to die protecting their country, but our troops haven’t done that in a long time.”

Well, the comments are not wrong – in a certain sense. But as I wrote elsewhere, these are two concepts that I can successfully juggle simultaneously.

I hate the idea of war, and the military-industrial complex. I hate the concept of politico-economic terrorism, backed up by the might of armies and navies. I hate wasting endless resources of our nation on futile, internecine foreign conflicts.

Yes, there are the relatively few Abu Ghreib perverts and My Lai killers and Afghanistan rogues, and these deserve opprobrium and punishment, but they also deserve pity – because they are the product of a system that is designed to obliterate humanity and foster robotic obedience. I weep for them and their families as much as I do the victims, once justice has been served.

But… for the overwhelmingly greater part, the boys and girls, men and women who wear the colors – some because they had to during the draft, some because they marched off believing that their cause was just and noble, some who signed up because it was that or jail, some who simply wandered in to the recruiting office because they had no idea what else to do… the ones who marched off and came back in pieces, or missing pieces, or damaged emotionally beyond all salvation, or who came back functional but hiding the deep scars of conflict forever, or who served as filing clerks far from the front because that’s what they were told to do – these people I honor above almost all politicians and bureaucrats and war-makers.

And as for those “noble causes,” note that I said “*believing* that their cause was just and noble,” not necessarily that it is. Hired gun or no, cannon fodder or no, noble cause or miserable one, I honor all who serve, and always shall.

In the meantime, I will do what I can with voice, votes, and any other means to build a world where their service is no longer needed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.