Ja Morant dunk highlights and Ukrainians struggling for their lives.
NFL Draft teasers and Russian Cruise Missiles blasting into apartment buildings.
Safe in my power recliner, sipping hot coffee, my snoring dog at my feet.
Just a few weeks ago, like me, Ukrainians lived their lives peacefully.
I imagine my Ukrainian counterpart sitting in his apartment, watching TV, petting his cat, enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Life can turn on a dime, especially after 4 years of an American president heaping praise on autocratic dictators – softening the ground for anti-democratic movements around the globe, lauding dictators for their “strength” while bashing long-standing alliances.
If you think what is happening in Ukraine today can’t happen in America tomorrow, you’re kidding yourself.
There are anti-democratic forces in congress, and the de facto leader of the Republican party continues to praise and refuses to denounce a murderous thug’s invasion of Ukraine.
Keep this in mind when heading to the ballot box in 2022 and 2024.
Ukrainians are fighting for their lives and their freedom.
Their country is under attack, and their sovereignty is threatened by a thuggish dictator, drunk on nostalgia and looking to impose authoritarianism on a country that poses no threat to him or his country.
And rather than condemn the actions and motives of the Russian President, Mike Pompeo and Former President Trump praise him for his tactics, lending aid and comfort to a true enemy of democracy.
This is utterly unsurprising, as Trump’s 4-year presidency is littered with examples of praise for authoritarian rulers and governments. And don’t hold your breath for Republican leadership to condemn Trump or Pompeo, as today’s Republican party is infested with anti-democratic seditionists who are beholden to Trump and foreign influencers.
The threat to western democracy in Europe is genuine. Another Trump presidency would act as a linchpin and accelerant for anti-democratic forces abroad and in America.
We should all keep that in mind when we head to the ballot box in 2022 and 2024.
For as long as he can remember, he loved to argue.
He wasn’t sure where this penchant for debate came from.
His mother had firmly held beliefs, but he had no recollection of her engaging others in a passionate discourse about politics or religion, or anything else for that matter.
His father’s passions revolved primarily around a reclining chair by the fireplace, an after-work scotch on the rocks, and cigars.
He remembers a heated debate with a friend at a sleepover when he was just a kid.
They argued fervently about which baseball league (the National or American) had better players and teams. He remembers being energized by the back-and-forth discussion. He remembers the thrill of responding on-the-fly to his friend’s assertions, countering them with well-thought-out retorts.
That debate dragged into the early-morning hours. The warm stuffy bedroom became thick with a swampy August heat and the two boys’ passion for sports.
Eventually, he and his friend drifted off to sleep, no hard feelings, no carryover.
The arguer never put his love of debate to practical use. He lacked direction and parental guidance. In the absence of a nurturing nudge, his life was shaped primarily by the stance brothers (circum and happen).
Later in life, when jonesing for a debate, he’d engage others over social media, arguing with vigor and passion about politics and religion.
It was from 2016 onward, that the arguer noticed a fundamental change in some of the individuals he debated. Many of them disregarded verifiable facts and truth in favor of falsehoods and outright lies.
So, for example, when the arguer made a declarative statement about Trump supporters attacking the capital on January 6th, some of his friends took this as an invitation to debate.
They argued the attackers were not Trump supporters.
They argued that the attackers were tourists that posed no threat.
They argued against what everyone saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.
It was stunning.
A basic premise of debate is that there are facts on both sides of the issue being argued.
The intellectual joy of debating comes from being challenged with factual information that counters your argument. The idea that you’ll be able to convince the person that you’re debating to change their mind (and vice versa) is what made debating so enjoyable to the arguer.
The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work, is not a debatable statement.
On January 6th,the United States Capital was attacked by Trump supporters at the behest of the defeated former president. This also is not a debatable statement.
Climate change is real and poses a genuine threat to our planet. Again, not up for debate.
The point here is that some issues have been settled definitively by evidence, truth, and facts. But because old habits die hard, the arguer was drawn into debating the undebatable.
The result was exhausting, frustrating, depressing, and ultimately revelatory.
The arguer concluded that America is inundated with millions of willfully disingenuous people who are guided by politics over truth. These people are continuously debating the undebatable with falsehoods, misinformation, and quackery.
This represents a default way of thinking and arguing for nearly half the country, to the chagrin of the arguer.
Republicans know that making it easier for black and brown people to vote, makes it harder for Republicans to hold on to their job.
So, rather than engaging black and brown voters and trying to understand issues from their perspective, Republicans are supporting legislative barricades that restrict access to the ballot box and make it harder for black and brown and poorer people to vote.
In America, the gap between “the haves” and “have nots” has a racial element to it and the gap grows wider every day. The truth of the matter is that Democrats are proposing programs to try and stop the gap from growing, while Republicans are fine with the current trend. To put it more bluntly, Democrats are more likely to support programs that help level the playing field, while Republicans long for the good ole days when black and brown people worked in a field.
America’s population is browning.
Republicans see this tinting as a threat to their vision and version of America.
To Republicans, this feels like an ominous fade to black scenario.
And the only way Republicans think they can prevent this from happening is to hinder black and brown people from voting — and that’s what they’re doing by blocking the John Lewis Voting Rights act, while supporting state laws that make it harder for black and brown people to vote.
Republican attacks on voting rights are another shameful assault on our republic and a further tugging on the thread that holds our democracy together.
The other day, I watched former President Trump praise his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Ill in a televised interview.
I listened to the former disgraced and seditious-prick-of-a-president say how well he got along with dictators and autocrats and how he admired their strong leadership.
None of this surprised me.
Trump is an easily manipulated, egotistical fool. Leaders like Kim Jong-Ill and Vlad Putin simply blew a little smoke up the orange one’s undies to court favor with Trump.
What disheartened me most about the interview was the applause from my fellow Americans in the audience.
When did getting along with murderous dictators become a praiseworthy trait in an American president?
Had President Obama or candidate Clinton said anything remotely like this, they would have been crucified by the very same people who were applauding. As Forest Gump would say, Trump supporters and hypocrisy go together like peas and carrots.
Republicans and Democrats have always differed on policy. But when it came to condemning brutal dictators and autocrats, we stood together.
That used to be common ground.
Why is this no longer the case?
Well, for one, we had four years of being led by a self-absorbed, morally corrupt, and intellectually vapid president. Trump rose to power by tapping into many Americans’ grievances and fears around race and then, with purposeful malevolence, sold them a solution based on a warped definition of Americanism.
Trump understood that a divided country was his only path to power. So, from the onset of his candidacy, all the way through his presidency, he divided this country.
Five years later, we see the result in a fact-resistant confederacy of MAGA-hat-wearing morons and the cowering politicians who fear them.
Trump and his supporters are the blood in the boner of an alt-right movement in America — and you can’t reason with a boner.
America has more than her fair share of fascists and white nationalists.
Some of them even serve in congress.
The vast majority, if not all, vote republican.
Donald Trump is a White Nationalist. That’s why White Nationalists supported his presidency.
When someone says they supported Trump’s policies but not his white nationalist and authoritarian views, its no less ludicrous than a German citizen in 1939 saying they support Hitler’s economic policies, not his views on the Jewish population.
In throwing your support behind a president, you have to look at the totality of the man – not just policy bits and pieces that you can align with and rationalize to yourself and your friends.
As we saw with President Trump, it’s the totality of the man (all of his views and values) that set the tone and attitude of his administration. Under Trump, the party’s platform was built on divisiveness, hate, mistrust, and anger, and that’s exactly what was reflected in most of Trump’s policies and actions.
It’s important to keep in mind that the anger, hate, and mistrust of government and institutions that Trump used to divide America and strengthen his position politically, are alive and well today. Those feelings and attitudes didn’t magically disappear when Trump was trounced in the 2020 election.
Many Americans who supported Trump are simply waiting for him, or the next Trump-wannabee to come along and validate those feelings, while cultivating and promoting policies that weaken our democracy and march us down the path to authoritarianism.
Colin Powel was a lifelong republican, military man, and honorable public servant who understood the danger of authoritarianism. When he saw fellow republicans refuse to stand against a dangerously authoritarian president, he called them out for their cowardice and left the party.
We need more republicans of stature to do what Colin Powell did – speak up and shine a light on the dangerous and dark influences taking hold of their party. And more importantly, we need strong and outspoken leaders in the GOP to provide a roadmap for getting the party back on track to decency, integrity, and basic American ideals. Without a roadmap, we’re going to see the GOP continue it’s downward spiral towards authoritarianism.
The four years of the Trump administration laid the groundwork for dismantling democracy in America. Colin Powel understood that and voiced his disdain for Trump and the political cowards who failed to stand up to him.
If democracy is to survive in America, we’ll need more voices like Colin Powel’s.
You might have some real friends on Facebook. But Facebook ain’t one of them.
Facebook and Instagram use artificial intelligence and algorithms to learn our views on race, identity, religion, and politics. They don’t come straight out and ask us about our views or interact with us in a meaningful way. Instead, they collect data from what we share, like, comment on, and engage with on their platform.
They analyze the data and come up with a profile of me and you (conservative, male, republican, pro-life or liberal, female, democrat, pro-choice), and based on that profile, they determine what content to send us. And the content they send us reinforces our views, solidifies our attitudes, and affirms our opinions.
Facebook knows which content pulls us in and which content we breeze over.
Facebook knows what we like, who we like, and with whom we like to share.
What’s the danger in that?
What’s the danger of analyzing and understanding our behavior and then delivering us content based on that understanding?
Isn’t that a good thing?
No, it is not.
And here’s why.
We share more about ourselves with data scientists at Facebook than with our priests in the confessional.
But the priest (in theory) wants to counsel and help us. Facebook wants to use us.
To Facebook, we are a commodity. And when you’re a commodity on a technology platform with a data-driven business model, you’re prone to exploitation and manipulation by powerful and self-serving individuals and institutions.
Facebook and Instagram are a conduit for misinformation and lies. We saw this real-time with the Big Lie about a stolen election.
We felt it with the constant stream of misinformation about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine.
The people who consumed and bought into those lies are lost. Perhaps forever. Tragically, they’re part of a growing community of people who believe misinformation. And as humans, we long for a sense of community – more so, it seems, than truth.
I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg or the other executives who launched Facebook did so with bad intentions. They had a business model and the technology to make that business model successful.
What they didn’t account for was the consequence of their success.
Categorized and codified by cold calculated algorithms, Facebook incentivizes our human desire to be with people who share our views, while fueling our dislike of those who don’t.
Because of Facebook, our society is more divided, less trustful, and has more built-up animus than ever before.
We are seeing the unintended consequences of technology and human nature smashing into one another.
That’s why I broke up with Facebook.
For me, the detriments far outweigh the benefits – it’s scary, because sometimes I think the best and only way to fight misinformation is to counter it with truth.
If lies and misinformation can spread fast on FB, why not use that platform to spread the truth?
I think many of us buy into that argument.
And so we get caught up in this endless battle with others. We live for hours at a time in an environment of constant combat and argument – we look for mistruth, engage the enemy, and fight the fight.
Blood pressures rise.
Friendships get wrecked.
Family members are disowned.
Nothing gets solved. We just become agitated at those who don’t share our views.
We willfully retreat to our camps – we lose empathy – we lose trust – we lose any sense of the things that hold us together as a country and a society.
We lose our ability to compromise and discuss coherently and intelligently with whom we disagree.
Facebook is toxic, destructive, and a danger to society.