Living Large In Carson City: This Ain’t No Disco/This Ain’t No Fooling Around David Byrne Edition

 “If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it. ” Mark Twain

Less than 24 hours after the Senate Republicans voted to exeronate Donald J. Trump of obvious high crimes and misdemeanors, the president showed all the signs of a mad man run amok. The following morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, he came bearing a copy of the USA Today newspaper that proclaimed in bold block letters ” Trump Acquitted” at the top of the page. From there, things went predictably downhill.  In his speech to the historically non-partisan meeting he stated,

“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.” NBC News

It is becoming increasingly apparent that to criticize Trump’s aberrant behavior beyond noting that he is a seriously disturbed individual is simply playing into his bully mindset which is self-affirming regardless of who criticizes or praises him. At the annual prayer breakfast, he wasted no time  attacking Nancy Pelosi (who sat a few seats away) and Mitt Romney for using, in his words, their faith to publically attack him. Besides being incredibly offensive and laughingly unchristian, his actions, then and later in the day at the White House, verged on outright slander. It raises the question just how far Trump will go in punishing anyone who stood for impeachment or is a perceived enemy in his warped mind.

Over the course of the day, he attacked everyone from the past and present including Robert Mueller, Andrew McCabe, Hillary, Romney, Pelosi, former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, former FBI Director James Comey, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, and others too numerous to mention here. Conversely, he lauded praise on his sycophantic Republican enablers calling out one after the other to praise and charm while he told jokes and laughed his way through both meetings. To a man and woman, they ate it up chuckling and laughing continuously as Trump ranted on and on. To say his actions both brought shame on the office of the presidency and highlighted in stark illumination his mental demise is an understatement. A common definition among psychologists seems eerily apt for what Americans saw on stage this morning after,

Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes identified interchangeably as sociopathy or psychopathy, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as: “A mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.” Psychology Today

Honestly, is there anyone who didn’t see something of this nature coming if not outright expected it. What is most disturbing is the way conservatives, and Republicans in particular, have abandoned all sense of decency and the moral high ground to allow Trump free reign in doing whatever he chooses. It is as if the rest of us are witnessing some alternative universe. One where conservatives are living in a totally bogus reality where up is down, wrong is right, and Trump is an angelic savior who is not to be questioned let alone be held responsible for his behavior.

The overarching question is what has gone wrong with the Republican Party, collectively and as individuals. It is hard to believe in the world of Trump that once upon a time there were actually people who called themselves patriots and Republican in the same breath.  They believed in the rule of law, the Constitution, and the all important separation of powers where the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary worked in tandem as checks on the power of the other individual branches to achieve balance. The system worked well until 2016 when Trump was elected, and the entire conservative cabal lost its mind.

Charles Mackay  was an early social scientist who was fascinated with the psychology of crowds and the masses. His seminal book published in 1841 titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is still studied, and for the most part, highly regarded. He is quoted as saying, 

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

For many scholars familiar with Mackay’s work, he has taken on an almost visionary personae. He was concerned with economic bubbles, not unlike the ones Americans have dealt with over recent years. His work, arguably, suffered from lack of experience and foresight developed over the years, but his foundational tenets were solid nonetheless. He also explored the motivation behind the witch mania that became popular in both Europe and America related to overzealous religiosity. Mackay also believed the crusades and popular prophecies were a type of mania that motivated, on one hand, vast numbers of people across the globe to engage in battles to support their particular belief systems, and on the other, to believe projections of the future without sufficient warrant. In every case, the people involved molded their beliefs to fit the prevailing zeitgeist without questioning or acknowledging the impact of their reasoning.

Watching the Republican crowd at Trump’s victory laps immediately after the vote for acquittal when Republicans Senators blindly ignored a mountain of evidence proving the president’s guilt was breathtaking in it audacity. There and since, the actions of conservative lawmakers has been nothing if not embarrassing. This sycophantic, servile kowtowing to Trump is chilling as is his monarchical acceptance of their praise and glorification.

While there seem to be obvious similarities between the Trump army and Mackay’s research into the madness of crowds, Trump’s minions seem far more sinister and evil (although it  is a stretch to think marauding crusaders, either Christian or Muslim, could be any less forbidding). No, this is a new kind disease infecting the Grand Old Party today. It is a cancer eating away at the heart of our democracy, decimating the Constitution, rendering low the rule of  law, and hoodwinking the masses into seeing Trump as the savior of the American Dream. He is not. Sane people see him for what he is and recoil in horror at what has been going on the past three years in the United States.

The sooner the rest of America comes to grip with the fact that all the lies, cruelty, ad hominem attacks, border wall boondoggles, assaults on the environment, and cuts to healthcare, education, Social Security, and on and on are simply diversions in a grander scheme, the better off  America will be. No one likes to think their fellow Americans are capable or deluded by the promise of power to the point of staging a coup against our great country, but collectively, Americans had better come to that conclusion . . . and quickly.

This is reality. Get used to it, and above all else, get mad. Hate is not an enemy that one fights with clean hands under the The Marquess of Queensberry Rules. The election will be a street fight up until November 3. Then things will get real. If Trump wins, all bets are off, and America will cease to be a democracy. If the Democrats win, the fight will shift to retain power until the country heals and our way of life is returned to a semblance of law and order.

These are the only two paths to choose from as America goes forward. Get used to it.

Living Large in Carson City: When Sugar Daddy Means Something Different Edition

Well, hell, my original post had to be slipped down lower in the queue. I just got what Urban Dictionary calls:

To open handedley slap someone. Denote disrespect for the person being bitch slapped as they are not worthy of a man-sized punch. Suggests the slap was met with little resistance and much whining
In Trump world bitch slapping is as common as collusion with the Russians. It happens every day. Today, it is the revelation that Michael Cohen’s third client is none other than Sean Hannity. Huh? Let’s think about this. Donald Trump’s attorney, the man who is his reported “fixer”, has as one of his clients Mr. Sleazeball of Fox News, Sean Hannity? Granted, no one has ever accused Fox News of being “fair and balanced” other than their PR department. So, Hannity goes on the air and defends Trump and Cohen to give Americans an impartial view of the news? How does that work exactly?
Now, back to the regularly scheduled rant:

“No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life.”
― Gloria SteinemThe Vagina Monologues

It’s called patriarchy and is sanctioned by all of the major religions, tacitly and/or aggressively supported by most courts of law the world over, and can be seen as the major force that has kept women in a subservient role all the way back to the beginning of recorded history. Those religions that recognize the Abraham prophet lineage, the Christian, Hebrew and Muslim religions, are steeped in the bondage of patriarchy that is alive and well across the globe.

The Bible is the source of the evangelical, patriarchal scourge women suffer under here in America. While Bible apologists claim that scripture views men and women as equal, don’t buy it. Since the supposed creation of Eve from parts of Adam’s body, women have been seen as below the cut and purposed as supporters of their husbands and male family members.

In a recent opinion piece by Rodney Hessinger, a history professor at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, Hessinger makes some rather provocative links between evangelicals, patriarchy and support for Donald Trump. Granted, this has been an area of speculation for the past couple of years. How can evangelicals accept and support a man who on tape has verbally abused women, carried on as if marriage is an inconvenient restriction to his male libido, and has no qualms about saying as a powerful man of the business world, he has the right to grab women by the pussies?

Then there is Stormy Daniels and the revelations she came forward with to support her claim that Trump had violated the duos’ nondisclosure agreement. For a mere $130,000, she promised that she would not comment on her relationship with Trump at a Lake Tahoe resort and subsequent meetings thereafter. Just the term “porn star” alone should have sent evangelicals into frothing at the mouth, rolling on the floor, hysterics.  Yet, it did not. Why? Where is the stiff, no nonsense stance against sin, adultery and lying?

Hessinger wrote,

The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn’t just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.

With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.

Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.

In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.

Hessinger goes on to quote Kristen Tobey, an assistant professor of religion and the social sciences at John Carroll, who stated that white evangelicals long ago latched on to the concept of “family values”, which in her estimation, means patriarchy. By the church embracing patriarchy, women were relegated to a subservient role, and men assumed the mantle of family patriarch whose word was law. The fact that some in the role of family steward may have overstepped their “marital mandate” in abusive ways was something swept under the rug and not spoken about in polite company.

As Hessinger points out, patriarchy set men and women apart from others in society who didn’t buy into the subjugation of women under the thumb of their husbands. Hessinger states that by protecting these social classifications, no matter how unjust or misguided they might be, evangelicals see themselves as fighting a righteous war that supports their beliefs pertaining to the will of their God. Thus, patriarchy became a self-fulfilling prophecy. We belief this way. The larger world doesn’t; therefore, we are being persecuted for our beliefs and must defend ourselves as a bloc.

Or as Hessinger wrote,

. . . evangelicals still often see themselves as embattled outsiders. As sociologists of religion have observed, religious outsiders have much to gain from boundary maintenance, often courting outcast status or even persecution to rally the faithful.

From this perspective, evangelicals are most successful when they resist total assimilation into the values and cultural norms of wider society, highlighting the ways they are misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misjudged. They thrive precisely because they are embattled.

Picking political fights on Twitter is Donald Trump’s stock in trade. Criticism by the “fake news” organizations plays directly into this sense of embattlement, yielding stronger support amongst the base.

Seeing oneself as an “embattled” individual or as a member of an outlier group can also lead to an alienation syndrome that begins to define, not just the reality of the real world, but underscores the suspected persecution from “dark forces” lying in wait in the shadows of one’s mind or group thinking. The rise and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer groups, state sanctioned gay marriage, the rise of social groups like Black Lives Matters, and even restrictions on their second amendment rights, all underscore the core beliefs of embattled and separate from others in society. Hessinger notes that this “unique”, set apart mentality feeds into the Trump world view.

This sense of being besieged is also echoed in the president’s rallying call, “Make America Great Again.” This slogan, harrowing up fears of the rise of racial and sexual minorities in America, also conforms to the classic evangelical sermon form, the “Jeremiad.” Since the time of the Puritans, evangelicals have used the Jeremiad to voice lamentations of social decline, thereby chastening and strengthening their ranks.

So far, Hessinger has not told readers anything that is not easily deduced simply by watching the absurd and often awkward antics of evangelicals across the nation. They are evangelicals because they choose to hold themselves above the masses as ordained by their God, and the rest of the world can simply go to hell . . . literally.

This aspect of evangelicalism I have always had a hard time with throughout my life. I am perfectly happy to allow anyone the right to believe whatever their fevered little brains can come up with to justify their existence. However, I am not comfortable when they want to dictate how the rest of us should act to give their beliefs legitimacy.

This is where Hessinger makes an observation that explains a lot about how the evangelicals square Trump’s adulterous ways with their own view of sin and immorality. If the patriarchal order represents the foundation of the evangelical’s worldview, shaking or radically demeaning or endangering that order is to be avoided at all costs. This means that sins like adultery, lying or other mundane “sins” can be forgiven and even act as a catalysis for the group as a whole to band together to affirm their God’s willingness to forgive and heal any damage done to the group belief system as a whole.

Hessinger states it this way,

Which brings us to the most paradoxical aspect of evangelicalism of all: Sexual scandal has always attended revival religion in America. So forbidden sex is not just a forgivable sin, but somehow essential to its expression.

Remember  Jimmy Swaggart? He was one of the first evangelicals along with Jim Bakker caught with their pants down, and in Bakker’s case, fleecing the church coffers  for millions of dollars. Swaggart’s tearful confession before a packed house at his megachurch in Baton Rouge with his wife in attendance, and Bakker’s forty-five-year sentence (he only served five years) for theft seemed like the end of both men’s careers as stewards of their respective congregations. Think again.

Both men were forgiven, not only by their God, but by the people they spiritually betrayed. Yet, the patriarchal chain was upheld and the family, forgiveness of sin, and resurrection from the ashes for both their ministries was the order of the day. Both men’s actions were serious, not just in the secular world, but in the world of religion where they had made their fortunes. By forgiving them, both congregations got the double reward of sustaining the status quo and brownie points from their God for opening their hearts to the two philanderers and forgiving them their transgressions.

So, what if Trump is little more than a horn dog gone off the rails. So, what if he bedded a porn star, Playboy model, or at last count, nineteen women who say they have had sexual relations with the him. The evangelical’s get out of jail adultery card wipes away a multitude of sins. From Trump’s perspective, it is just another day of Making America Great Again.