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.
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.
For as long we’ve existed, man’s kindness has been matched by his cruelty.
We’re a volatile and combustible mix of the easily misguided. Too often (under the influence of others), we drift towards our darker nature, nestle up to fear, hand reason over to blind faith, or swear a misguided allegiance to political tribes. In the past, this has led humankind down dark paths where we deny our fellow man freedom and dignity on a mass scale.
That’s been our history.
We’ve seen how the fluidly we move from our better selves to our darker nature and how easily influenced we are by the world around us. We’re not immune to the momentum of tumultuous events. And, because we’re more connected (technologically speaking) than ever before, we’re more susceptible to being collectively influenced, manipulated, and pushed towards our darker nature.
This is nothing new. We’ve teetered on the edge of darkness before. Manipulated by political and religious movements that feed on fear, hate, and irrationality. Unfortunately, I believe we’re teetering one of those precipices now, as world events push mankind towards our darker nature.
I still believe America can be a force for positive change. I’m not talking about nationalistic flag-waving “USA, USA, USA!!” patriotism, but rather all of us living by and promoting the ideals and ideas of Western Democracy.
To make mankind kind again, we must consciously engage in acts of kindness, resist being influenced by fear and fear mongers, put reason above religion, and ditch political tribalism for critical and idea-based thinking.
The uptick in political, social media posts about what’s going on in Afghanistan reveals just how shallow and vulnerable we’ve become. Sadly, the willingness to parlay human tragedy for political hay (I’ve done it myself) represents troubling fault lines for our country.
Joe Biden did not blow up Americans and Afghanis at the Airport in Kabul – religious extremists did. Instead of focusing on the enemies of reason and rationality, many Americans devolve into sectarianism, focusing their contempt on the American President.
I’m not suggesting Biden not be held accountable for missteps and intelligence failures that occur on his watch – he should be. But, instead, I’m suggesting that we remember Biden is not the enemy. Biden is not a religious extremist. He believes in American ideals. Our fight is not with him; it’s with ISIS, the Taliban, and any of the other man-made entities that are hellbent on pushing us to a darker existence.
I’m also suggesting that we differentiate malevolence from incompetence when critiquing our leaders. But, unfortunately, that requires nuanced and critical thinking – lost skills in America today.
Every President has moments of incompetence. Kennedy had his Bay of Pigs; Obama had his healthcare rollout. Bush fucked up majorly with his weapons of mass destruction debacle. Reagan screwed the pooch with Iran Contra, and Jimmy Carter botched a hostage rescue.
Humans are at the helm of intelligence. They push the pen and ink onto intelligence reports, and leaders act on the assessments. And sometimes, they make mistakes. And when this happens, citizens should speak up and demand accountability.
But Malevolence is a different kettle of fish.
Malevolence is knowing a pandemic is deadly but telling others just the opposite for personal political gain.
Malevolence is proposing our military shoot protesters in the legs or that leakers of information be executed.
Malevolence is spreading lies about election security and promoting insurrectionist movements against America.
Malevolence is courting and praising dictators for the control they have over their citizens.
Let’s not confuse Incompetence with Malevolence.
And malevolent leaders and wanna-be dictators thrive in periods of uncertainty. And sometimes, in a storm of uncertainty, citizens become blind to malevolent leaders.
To the people who blame Joe Biden solely for what’s happening in Afghanistan after America’s 20-year campaign there – your partisan underwear is showing.
What’s happening in Afghanistan today is not the fault of one person alone. But to understand that, you’d have to remove your partisan glasses and take a deeper look at the history of our involvement there. I know that takes a little time and effort. I know it’s easier to bash-post the President, especially if your objective is to knock him down a peg or two.
A government does not fall as quickly as it did in Afghanistan without severe foundational problems – and such problems did not occur overnight (or since Joe Biden became President).
Our military success in Afghanistan only masked the many issues that plagued an ineffectual and weak Afghan government and an Afghan military that lacked what the Taliban have in spades (a core of fighters willing to die for a cause).
That so many Americans are eager to use the human tragedy of what’s going on in Afghanistan to score political points reveals dangerous fault lines in our own society.
Almost all standard responses you get from Trump supporters when you criticize their idol are cloaked in whataboutisms. So, for example, when you mention the lies that Trump told (and continues to spread), you get an immediate response of “You don’t think that Biden lies?” as if there’s an equivalence – as if both of these men are in the same area code for lying when nothing could be further from the truth.
Trump’s lies and lapses in morality are now coming to light since the orange abomination left office. Members of the military say that Trump was a clear danger to the republic. This crazy narcissist suggested executing people who leaked stories to the press or shooting protesters in the legs. Comparing Trump’s lies and behaviors to past presidents (republican or democrat) is like comparing the flames in my backyard fire pit to the wildfires raging across the midwestern U.S. — they’re both fires, but. . . .
The 2016 election was not that long ago; those of us without dementia remember the aftermath.
Were there claims of election fraud? Yes.
After her loss, did Hillary Clinton go on for month after month after month about a stolen election? No.
Do you remember a constant, never-ending push of lies about Hillary being the real president-elect? No.
Do you remember Hillary riling up her base, inspiring and praising a traitorous assault on the capitol to try and stop the election from being certified? No.
The false equivalence that Trump supporters employ is stunning, but what’s even crazier is the total disregard of their own senses and experiences. Like me, they lived through 2016 – was that post-election experience anything like what we see now? No, it was not. And how do we know the situations were different? Because we observed, experienced, and lived through both.
I saw Fox news show a montage of Dems claiming the 2016 election was rigged, suggesting that what Trump did (and continues to do) is no different than what Dems did in 2016. The strategy behind these types of videos is not to inform viewers but rather manipulate them into believing the claims made by democrats back in 2016 were frenzied and constant, that they had a velocity and critical mass and are no different than what Trump is engaged in.
But anyone who lived through 2016 knows that’s not the case at all.
There was no massive push to overturn the elections or fake ass “fraudit” of the vote conducted by partisan and conspiracy-addled companies.
From Orwell’s famous novel 1984, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
When Fox News tells you the claims of election fraud by democrats in 2016 mirror what’s happening today, or when republican congressmen and senators tell you January 6th was just a regular tourist event, they’re telling you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. Don’t do it.