Dictatorial tendencies

By now most of the nation has heard Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush about the trappings of stardom. He doesn’t wait to start kissing women, he just moves on them and they let him because he is a star. All he needs to do is “grab them by the pussy,” he said. 

Clearly, Trump was describing sexual assault, and bragging about how it is allowable for him because of the power that comes with his fame. While he later claimed that these were only “words and not actions,” those words almost exactly match the behavior of which he has been accused in the past, specifically that described in detail by a former business partner. They are not just words.

The disgusting nature of his particular brand of misogyny was brushed aside by him as “locker room talk,” and by others as how men speak of women in private. Perhaps some do, but most do not, and most will not tolerate it. That sort of excuse normalizes sexual assault and empowers rapists, who tend to believe they are not outliers but acting on normal male desires. Anyone who does not speak out against what Trump has described is enabling and encouraging sexual assault.

The lewd nature of Trump’s language has overshadowed another aspect of rape—that it is generally not about sexual desire, but is more an expression of power, humiliation and control. The tape tells us a lot about how Trump’s relationship to power and how he would use great power, should he achieve it.

Trump is under serious consideration for the highest office in the nation, possibly the most powerful position in the world, but his apologists note that he may step back or moderate his language and views once in office. Yet there is no historical precedent of power un-corrupting someone. Even in terms of our presidential elections, the winners have consistently pushed harder for their positions after taking office than they had described in their campaigns. They have to, in order to maintain that power and to negotiate from positions of strength. Expecting otherwise from Trump is to say that he has no interest in control.

That is ludicrous. Trump thrives upon control and power, and the humiliation that they allow him to thrust upon others.

Whether in his dealings with small contractors, and the many instances where he has simply decided not to pay them for their work; in his introduction of his running mate, where he patted the shorter man and tried to kiss him on the head; or in his bulldozing of the other GOP candidates, humiliation and power have worked hand-in-hand to propel him forward. His braggadocio regarding his ability to commit sexual assault and to bed married women fit exactly within that power/humiliation dynamic. Most of his business and personal relationships appear to end (or continue in some cases) with humiliation and/or bankruptcy for the other parties involved.

One might ask how this would this play out for Trump as an elected official, and many of his supporters have claimed it is irrelevant. However, he has told us exactly how it would play out, by describing his revenge scenario on Hillary Clinton, should he win the election, in their most recent debate. He promised to appoint to special prosecutor to pursue her until she is in jail.

This pledge was unprecedented for an American political campaign, and is impeachable on its face. Still, its brazenness and illegality has not seemed to matter to his base. If a president intends to commit crimes, he must be held responsible by Congress. As President Jackson demonstrated with his illegal and deadly forced relocation of Native Americans, as President Reagan demonstrated with his illegal funding of death squads, and many other examples show, only political will can stop a president determined to break the law. A powerless opposition is likely to allow a President to run roughshod over the Constitutional checks and balances, and Congress as an institution is arguably much less powerful now than during either of those administrations.

Not only is Congress weaker, but it has been displaying some of these same tendencies for some time. The continuous arguments by Congressmen for impeachment of President Obama, if only a crime can be found, were not new, being reminiscent of the late 1990s. The witch hunt surrounding Secretary Clinton’s email habits and Congressional politicization of the tragic attack on a US Embassy were, and were even justified as the political gamesmanship that they were in Republican fundraising emails. 

We currently have one candidate running for President. 

We have another running for Dictator. Everything about Donald Trump’s past business history, his statements about how government works (or doesn’t work), his proposed deportation forces, his promises to use the Justice Department as his personal revenge machine, his history of abusive treatment of women, his continuing attacks on the innocent “Central Park Five,” and the praise he has lavished on dictators around the world have shown this without doubt. His bus conversation with Billy Bush show us, more than anything, his callous nature toward other people and his belief in his right to literally and figuratively fuck anyone he wants.

Donald Trump has described on tape how his right to sexually abuse and manipulate is derived from the power of his celebrity. Imagine what rights he will claim for himself when he has the weight of the United States government behind him.


planning out the speed force

So this year my daughter wanted a costume for DragonCon as well as my son, and after much thought we've all decided to go together as different members of the Flash family. Nora will be Impulse Irey West, Joe will be Kid Flash Wally West, and I'll go as the original old man Flash Jay Garrick (mainly because he doesn't wear tights, and I think I can actually make his costume look good without feeling ridiculous, which is likely, or becoming a bodybuilder in the next few months, which is unlikely).

Planning this out for the three of us is more fun that I ever imagined it would be. It takes a lot of thought to make these from scratch, so it's a summer-long project that we can all work on together here and there. I am having a blast with it. I never thought I'd dress up with them, but doing three similar costumes at once is making it even better, and this way we can join the parade if they want to.

That's Joe's Kid Flash at position #3, Nora's Impulse at #6,
and my original Flash on the far right at #7.
Yeah, we're not interested in those two guys in the middle right now.

One of the great things about comics characters is that there are so many variations of them that you can sort of pick and choose which parts of the costumes that you like. Nora wants hers to look pretty much just like the photo above, but Joe and I have been thinking more about the practical. I'm also trying to stay under about $150 total, which means we have to shop around a good bit.


What are we really expected to learn from this?

I've been re-learning some history lately, and picking up some new things as well, from my son’s 4th grade homework and studies. Most of it is general information about the Indian tribes that once lived in Georgia, but I’m also taking another look at what he is (and I was) taught.

On around Columbus Day, when he was learning about the explorer, I taught him about the ruthless and murderous villain that Columbus was as well. The villain story is much more interesting and violent, so he shared it with his class. The only surprise for me about this was that no one seemed to believe him, and even his teacher said she wasn't familiar with that story.

In retrospect, it shouldn't have surprised me at all, because history lessons aren't designed for two important things that I've come to expect. They aren't intended to be interesting, or to be accurate.

I don’t mean that many teachers don’t work very hard at making history interesting and accurate. They do, but they do it on their own. As taught, that is not the point of the classes.

History classes are intended to give you the same basic information that a moderately educated person is expected to have. The point is to give a reference, or starting point, for a broader discussion. By its nature, that approach is shallow and boring, because it never takes you into the motivations of historical figures.

This may already be obvious to everyone else, but it’s a small revelation to me. We weren’t expected to learn anything to apply to life, but to simply be conversant in what others are also expected to know.

So we all learned that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” but must seek out at a later time that he and his men viciously murdered thousands of people. We learn about friendly Squanto meeting Pilgrims, but not the kidnapping, fascinating world travels and difficult journey home he had before that. Essentially, we are meant to learn about who existed and when, but not their motivations or the context of their actions, because that isn't a part of today’s common knowledge.


This isn’t much different from mainstream news, and I think our primary education sets us up to be uncritical consumers, and to expect (and even seek) the same sort of information as adults.

 I’ve always wondered why evening newscasts show almost exactly the same stories, only even varying the order on occasion if they have special insight or reporting. This ends up meaning that people choose channels based on which news anchor they like to watch, because substance has no bearing if it is mostly the same. Even CNN and other “news channels” bring us the same stories over and over that we will find elsewhere.

In a way, it’s a bandwagon that the outlets all must jump aboard. It has become a little dangerous for media companies to get out in front of everyone else with new stories and independent research, or producers and editors will risk resources having to defend their reporters against public outrage. Excellence is risky, so competence is the goal. This is similar to a school curriculum in a way, where new research or fascinating stories would likely be met with anger and skepticism by parents. In this light, great reporters are much like great teachers, going out of their way to tell important and critical stories within the system they occupy, but unable to get very much past their management.

When FOX News came along they brought something slightly different. They focus on different stories and narratives, ones that are important to Roger Ailes. But instead of staying off to the side, their new model changed the stories that viewers are “expected” to know. If network outlets ignore the FOX reports, then their viewers may not be aware on a basic level of the same stories as FOX watchers. As a result, FOX’s entry shifted the entire mainstream media to the right.

To be fair, FOX didn't do this alone. An entire nationwide network of radio hosts and columnists focus on these same items at the same time. Some appear to be fabricated out of whole cloth, and so they are reported in mainstream outlets as “some-say” stories without research or debunking. This keeps us all informed that a story is being reported, but tells us nothing about the truth of it. It also isn't particularly interesting when presented without the outrage. So viewers go back to the interesting channel, FOX.
As with primary school history lessons, part of the reason for this is time, but it also serves the same purpose as the history lessons. It is boring and inaccurate, but it provides what a moderately informed person is expected to know.

CNN, whether learning from FOX or not, now has personalities like Nancy Grace focusing on the legal problems of specific individuals for months at a time. As a result, we see her personal obsessions, as irrelevant as they are to most of the nation, seeping into other network news on the same nights, just as the FOX obsessions do.


What doesn't seem to be happening is any sort of deeper story making its way into the nightly news or national discussion, but not only because it simply isn't possible.

Because knowledge is not the purpose. The purpose is to provide us with just barely enough information to keep from looking clueless during conversations.

If the country's primary news sources (and my kids' history classes) share something different or deviate from outdated narratives, that model falls apart.