When Reality Show Become Politics

Some call it karma that a New York jury found former president Donald Trump guilty of sexual abusing E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in the spring of 1996. This in light of his 2016 Access Hollywood interview in which he boasted that he could with impunity sexually assault women. “I don’t even wait to start kissing them,” he bragged. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

While I believe it is always satisfying to watch karma kick ass, I think, more importantly, the verdict provides a reality check on the phenomenon of how Trump has leveraged his larger than life public/celebrity image into, until now, an unassailable politician who attempts to subordinate democracy and its institutions to his will.

Trump is a political alchemist who melded politics, media, social climate, and victimization into a brazen autocrat who, if given power again, would make every attempt to elevate himself above the U.S. constitution as he tried to do in overturning the 2020 presidential election.

But there is another dynamic at play in our current political zeitgeist that should be cause for alarm. The groundswell of unchecked online information manifested in opinion, ersatz news, and rampant conspiracy theories, has created a national contempt for American institutions. Today, Trump has shrewdly played his cards to position himself as the leader of that movement. His lack of substantive policies as well as his criticism of judicial and law enforcement institutions creates the illusion that he stands for something in what is essentially a nihilist movement. He is a shark stalking truth in a sea of doubt, clouding the waters with his twisting and thrashing. But like sharks, lies and braggadocio begin to eat themselves as evidenced by the fact his Access Hollywood comments played a key role in his conviction

Trump and his followers are close to creating the reality of what Gorge Orwell said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Who would have thought that would be the irony that has come to define America.


Jacksonville Hoping to Keep the Faith in Trevor Lawrence 

Following Trevor Lawrence’s selection as the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, posters soon appeared throughout that city featuring the former Clemson quarterback in a not-so-subtle “messianic” profile with the caption, “First Pick Since Day One.”    

NFL scouts and analysts anointed the Clemson star quarterback a ‘can’t miss, generational player,” and if the bottom-of-the-NFL barrel Jaguars regarded him as the second coming of Tom Brady, who could begrudge their need to believe. 

In the previous four years, the franchise posted a league-low cumulative record of 15-56. 

 Lawrence’s arrival came with another harbinger of hope for the beleaguered city — the signing of Urban Meyer as head coach, who had two Division I national championships to his credit. 

Any hope for a successful season soured with five straight opening losses that ultimately led to a 3-14 season. Lawrence floundered under a coach that seem to be in over his head while compounding his problems with callow choices both on-and-off the field. At the end of season, Jaguar management jettisoned Meyer leaving the franchise and Lawrence twisting in his turbulence. The first-year quarterback finished his season with a subpar passing rating of 77.3. Most NFL experts believed given the dumpster fire of Urban Meyer’s coaching tenure, the young quarterback, who knew nothing but success at Carterville High School in Georgia and at Clemson, would have to start at square one in his second year. 

Step in Doug Peterson, hired as Jaguars head coach and quarterback whisperer for 2022. Under his guidance, the Jaguars have gone from Clark Kent pushover to Superman winning the AFC South division, and their Wild Card game. The latter in miraculous fashion, as they came from 27 points down to edge the Los Angeles Chargers, 31-30.  And while Lawrence has been spotty throughout the year, (that never more evident in his team’s Wild Card win where he matched four first-half interceptions with 4 second half touchdown passes) Pederson has never lost faith in his quarterback, burnishing his reputation as a coach who knows how to the draw the best from his players. 

Still, the 2022 season tested the young quarterback’s true believers. During a five-game losing skein that included losses to lowly Denver, Houston, and Indianapolis local fans and sport pundits, wondered out loud if Lawrence was proving a bust. His penchant for fumbles and interceptions made Jacksonville — on the rim of the bible belt — look as though it had worshipped a false idol. 

But as the season played out with a winner-take-all game against rival, Tennessee Titans, the Jaguars prevailed, largely due to game-saving defensive heroics of cornerback Rayshawn Jenkins. Admitting that he could have played better, Lawrence said his performance left much to be desired. That same maddening propensity for mistakes manifested itself in spades in his bust-boon Wild Card win performance.

When the Jaguars meet high-flying Kansas City Chiefs in their upcoming AFC Divisional Playoff, there will be no room for dithering. Pederson will have to call on all his intuitive and coaching skills to coax from his quarterback a heroic, if not, transcendent performance his followers have expected from day one.

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Ever since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, many swooned to his empty rhetorical appeal to Make America Great Again. Political pundits, analysts, sociologists, psychologists, and voters struggled to define the phenomena that allowed him to hijack the Republican Party, summarily dispatching its traditional standard-bearers and converting its leftovers into fawning lap dogs.

However, the 2022 midterms show the Trumpian fever that gripped the nation has broken. Trump-backed candidates armed with their election-denier playbooks nosedived like a flock of geese to .12 gauge buckshot. Election results showed a nation returning to its senses and rejecting his delusions. A recent poll showed Trump being less popular than President Joe Biden. However, the more Trump and his nihilist brand of politics are rejected, the more inflated and bombastic his lies become. If Trump has not shown that lies have short legs, then they are at least walking on prosthetics.

In addition, the Republican Party and its media mouthpieces that he once held in a straight jacket have suddenly taken to imitating Houdini and slipping from his grip. Having witnessed every Trump-backed election denier candidate (with the exception of a rare few) go down in flames, the party is suddenly realizing that the public would rather cozy up to poison ivy than to his hand-picked candidates. Slowly, the Republican Party will find its footing with policies that prove more anodyne than Trump’s combative narratives, the most vocal being that elections have been stolen from Republicans. And as more party members come to view him as a pariah, Trump will continue to shrink from view until he is led away in an orange jump suit, a color that has always suited him well.

Putin and Uncertainty

Poets, witters, and philosophers confront the frailty of the human condition with words and thoughts, understanding that they cannot significantly change it, but can only seek to come to terms with its uncertainty.

Madmen, alternatively, seek to bend the uncertainty to their will. Bombs and bullets violently take the place of words and thoughts, leaving chaos, death and destruction, in place of an acceptance of fate and destiny. Too often, madmen attempt to own destiny not having learned it cannot be owned by anyone.

Putin, like HItler, and other tyrants, believe history is to be made by them, not knowing that history unfailingly reserves its judgement posthumously.

The Ukraine war slogs on as Putin employs more extreme ways to achieve his perverted desire to annex that country to Russia. As he flails among his failures, he has hinted he may resort to nuclear force. Madmen, like to double down, until they are broke leaving a trail of destruction.

“Ultimately” said Elie Weisel, “the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”

Madman of Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump is a collapsing star at the center of American politics. Much like a black hole that sucks into oblivion everything near it, Trump’s inevitable implosion, governed by an equally dispassionate force, will attempt to do the same. His destructive actions care nothing about what’s around him. This country’s venerable institutions and governmental agencies mandated by law and the constitution, will be sucked in the vortex of his anger and vindictiveness as he seeks to bend the will of the country to his.

But I’m beating my chest in righteous futility, as if there is some moral code that clearly places Trump on the wrong side of the Karmic balance sheet. Our destiny as a country is beyond any guidance of rectitude. Rather, what is now right is found in the eyes of the beholder whose views are shaped by external messaging that instills intractable grievances within its believers.

Trump and his mouthpieces have done just that and are willing to take down the United States and its institutions to get their way. Trump and his followers have struck a devil’s bargain: Give him absolute power without ever questioning him, and he will convey to his followers all the boogeymen they need to slay in order to feel safe and empowered.

Currently, those boogeymen are the FBI and Justice Department, whom he recently called “vicious monsters, controlled by radical-left scoundrels, lawyers and the media, who tell them what to do.”

Fifty years ago, blacks fighting to free themselves from oppression were seen as enemies of the FBI and Justice Department as those institutions represented the white status-quo. Now Trump is claiming he is equally vilified and victimized as he seeks to overturn the status quo. But theirs was a fight for equality and dignity while his is a vendetta for power and authoritarian rule.

The fact that Trump hoarded nuclear secrets at Mar-A-Lago, reveals a perverse play to wield presidential power after losing in 2020. Is it unrealistic to believe his subversive strategy was to leverage those secrets in a sinister way to wedge his way back into power?

Trump refuses to go gently into the night. Instead he abuses his post- presidential powers to remain on the political scene while wrapped in his delusions believing the Democrats robbed him of the election.

The Justice Department’s raid on Mar-A-Lago has proven not to be a fishing expedition, but the first steps to determine if Trump has broken the law. The United States, by virtue of the power invested into it by its people — the majority who voted for the lawfully elected president — is taking action against what it perceives as a clear and present danger.

There are many in this country who have no intention of being sucked into Trump’s abyss.

American Nero

Former President Donald Trump fiddled with his remote while the Capitol burned. The January 6 congressional hearings revealed that despite urgings from his inner-circle to intervene into the melee, the American Nero, whose only aesthetic is to hear the repeated droll of his name like a one-note song, did nothing but tune in to the TV. At least Nero had could play the fiddle.

While Trump captains his ship of fools driven by an ill wind, several of his mates have already begun jumping ship realizing the next port of call could be jail. They have testified that the president, rebuffed any call to take action against the insurrection, and only later that afternoon, made a TV appearance for the rioters to go home. In the meantime, he watched the events on TV with all the excitement of a pyromaniac watching the flames of his arson.

Whether or not the Congressional hearings lead to the Justice Department bringing any charges against Trump remains to be seen. Still, despite the gravity of the congressional investigation and its profound implications on American democracy, there remains the chance that the drama will play out like reality TV, in that what is at stake will have no greater impact than the outcome of Survivor or The Apprentice: we prefer to believe that it is all make-believe and there are no real consequences, at least in the fantasy world of Donald Trump.

Trump has been a great high for many Americans seeking empowerment, and has distorted the political landscape like no other poltiician. But I only hope what Dean Martin said to Frank Sinatra, when the latter chided him for not being more giddy about their success in Las Vegas, holds true.

“Today, the whole world is drunk, and we are the drink of the day. But tomorrow, they will all be sober.”

Too Easy

Recently, I had a discussion with a conservative friend. When I offered a rationale for Trump’s behavior, he countered with, “That’s too easy.”

He was right. My thinking lacked thought and proved to be simply a heuristic function.

Unfortunately, too many politicians are responding to difficult questions with answers that are “too easy.”

Then, there’s Marjorie Taylor Green, the mannequin with a blond wig that Bealls’ misplaced during early days of the pandemic, and recently found postering as a public servant from north Georgia. After the Chicago 4th of July shooting that left seven people dead, she said on Facebook that the massacre was orchestrated by Democrats as part of an effort to convince Republicans to support gun control measures.

That’s beyond easy. That’s skateboarding behind a pick-up truck. That’s lighting your charcoal with a flame thrower.

Ms. Green has never exerted herself in intellectual pursuit.

“She’s been known to give up after your first move in tic-tac-toe,” said a childhood friend, who wished to remain anonymous. “She claimed her pen ran out of ink.”

Another high-school acquaintance recalled the time she looked over to see what her friend had written on a pop quiz. When her friend answered, “I don’t know,” Green wrote, “Me neither.”

Green’s synaptic path during cognition is greased with neurons coated with silicon that slide right pass any neurological receptors, defaulting to the most readily available conclusion.

“It’s similar to the brain function of a parrot,” said renown neuroscientist, Sergy Sergov. “The brain only has the capacity to mimic, not to deduce.”

Unfortunately Ms. Green seems to fail in that category as well, as evidenced when she confused Gazpacho for Gestapo while attempting to criticize Nancy Pelosi’s rules for limiting Covid exposure in the House of Representatives.

Actually, that does not surprise me, said a student who had a history class with her in junior college.

When asked what gods the Samaritans worshipped she answered, “Well that depends if we are talking about good samaritans or bad samaritans.”

Why’s that? Her friend asked.

“Well, ain’t it clear that only Good Samaritans can be Christian!”

Rumor has that Green once filed suit against Staple’s for false advertising. She went shopping for the “Easy button,” but found it didn’t exist.

“She was pissed,” said the reporter who wrote about the lawsuit that was summarily dismissed. “She wanted a button she could press that would do her filing and mail her letters. When the judge said it was only an “advertising artifice,” she seemed puzzled.

“But I really needed that button,” she muttered.

Cruz Vs. Cruise

In Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise reprises his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the naval aviator who is selected to train pilots for a dangerous top secret mission. As an actor, Cruise plays his part flawlessly in demonstrating uncommon courage.

At the same time, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has reprised his role as feckless hypocrite (I’d be even more caustic if the English language allowed) as he cautioned U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, that “radical” abortion advocates will be “threatening mob violence” after the Supreme Court of the United States officially overturned Roe Vs. Wade, which guaranteed the right to a legal abortion, on Friday.

“I think there’s a real risk of violence,” he said during his appearance on his favorite soap box, Fox News. “Chuck Schumer stood on the steps of the Capitol and mentioned Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch by name [and] said, ‘You have unleashed the whirlwind. You won’t know what hit you.” Cruz added, “It’s really cynical to see Democrats effectively condoning violence.”

To make this statement in the shadow of the January 6 hearings, which has exposed the complicity of Trump and Republicans allies for inciting that day’s violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, is mind numbing. (It does demonstrate how big his cahunas have grown since being emasculated by Trump during the 2016 campaign).

Acting is the art of make-believe and no one does it better than Cruz. His latest is worthy of Shakespearian drama as he plays to an audience that has been conditioned to his red-meat pedantics more than Pavlov’s dog. No one is more aware of the sucker quotient of their audience than Fox and Cruz as they witnessed it proven over and over by the Duper-In-Chief, Donald Trump.

Peggy Noonan, conservative columnist for the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged the gullibility of Cruz’s audience in a recent column. She wrote that despite the president’s people telling him that he hadn’t won, Trump looked to a drunk Rudy Giuliani to tell him what he wanted to hear but that wasn’t enough. “So Mr. Trump looked around for kooks, crooks and freaks. He didn’t have to look far because America has lots of them, and Trumpworld more than most.” She continued: “Mr. Trump’s efforts were knocked down in the courts by his own-appointed judges and rebuffed in the states by Republican officials. Mr. Trump tried to get his vice president to go along, but he refused. So he threw his most passionate supporters on the ground into it, and told them to march on the Capitol. ‘Be there, will be wild!”

Noonan says, “those poor stupid people did…more than 800 people were arrested. Some have served painful time; there was at least one suicide.” She adds: “There is no record of Mr. Trump visiting them in prison. There is no record of his paying their bills. No record of his taking responsibility for their actions and requesting mercy. No record they were shown a cent of the $250 million Mr. Trump’s small-donor fundraising operation took in after the election.”

So Cruz will continue playing his role to his dolted followers, knowing full well the Oscar goes to most convincing of dramatic thespians. However, if an award is created for satire, Cruz is a lock.

Anti-Prayer of Anti-Saviour Donald Trump

St. Francis of Assisi wrote this memorable prayer in the 15th century and it has served as a cornerstone to Christian charity ever since:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Mr. Trump practices his own version whose principles must make any of his conscientious Christian followers suddenly understand cognitive dissonance.

MAGA, I know no instruments of peace

where there is calm let me further disrupt

where their is injury, let me add to it

where there is doubt let me widen the chasm

where there is despair, let me add to the hopelessness

where their is darkness, let me deepen the abyss

where there is sadness, I will offer no succor

Oh, power granted to me by MAGA, grant me unconditional adoration

so that I may be never questioned,

and never buy into the power of love

And may I always be the receiver of boundless grift

and that I be the sole arbiter of pardons.

And it is because I do not believe in eternal life

that I grab everything now.

Democrats Need To Understand 70001

The suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, is a deeper red than Marylin Monroe’s lipstick. Bordering the 17th Street canal which divides the parishes of Orleans (New Orleans) and Jefferson, it is predominately white-upper middle class populated by scions of New Orleanians that were part of the “White Flight” from that urban center in 1960s. Mostly Catholic with mix of Jewish, Metairie is the home to Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Republican Congressman, Steve Scalise.

It is also where I grew up and went to school, first at St. Catherine of Siena, (same as Ms. Barrett) and then to a private school, Ridgewood Prep.

It is an idyllic setting, with “old” Metairie Road winding its way through its upscale residences and commercial districts until it connects with U.S Hwy 61.

More importantly, its denizens have no identity crisis and relish a bacchanalian culture that enjoys eating, drinking, enjoying friends, and any reason to party or parade. The Catholic faith is woven tightly with the fabric of New Orleans culture and dances in near-perfect step with the carnal. 

It’s a good life — parochial and provincial — and it’s practitioners want to preserve it.

And who wouldn’t?

Discussions on abortion, immigration, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and LGBT, are non-starters as they have no room in the cultural space of Metairie. If someone is gay, its a personal issue and not a legislative one; Blacks and Hispanics are in a mix of friends, but they must assimilate to the native culture.

Here, Democrats are perceived as the party of change. Unfortunately for them, not everyone embraces change especially that which is mandated from the “outside” and the federal government.

If Democrats see themselves as the future, Metairie is quite satisfied with the present.

Metairie’s argument is similar to those of France’s Marine Le Pen. French traditions and culture must be preserved; immigrants must assimilate and not the reverse: France needs not accommodate to any cultural intrusion.

Democrats believe social evolution has proven no one class can benefit at the expense of another, and if it does it cannot last long before it is toppled by another. People must rise together.

But that cant be mandated through legislative fiat, nor patronizing ideology. Roger Cohen of the NYT, wrote: “In no other nation is tomorrow so vivid, yesterday so pale. Where you came from yields to American rebirth. There is no real America to take back because America’s many-hued reality is a ceaseless becoming.” As inspirational and, perhaps, inevitable his words may be at capturing the struggles of American democracy, it is also too abstract and impractical for most to adhere.

Every noble and well-meant democratic idea is turned into political poison by Republicans who have convinced their constituency that change and progress benefit no one. They use malignant racism in all its vestiges, including “replacement theory,” as a scare tactic to convince America it is fine right where it is. No amount of science and facts on the perils of environmental or racial degradation can move the Republican constituency off its mark of believing any progressive democratic ideas is nothing more than a threat to American values.

Democrats have been successfully portrayed as “Big Brother” who want to tell Americans what is best for them. Metairie and many conservative Americans will have none of it.

David Brooks’ recent NYT opinion piece articulated the foundations of conservatism as founded by David Hume. One of its basic principles is the belief that institutions and traditions are the best teachers, and that will lift society. So it is in the best interest of Democrats not to entirely discount the right’s resistance to its liberal ideas. Democrats have to create political space between the right’s defense of its status quo and vilification of any any progressive ideas that serve the greater good of society. If Democrats can find policies that serve as a surgical retractor to separate the right’s malignant reactionary thinking from its cherished values of maintaining cultural identity enough to let seep in the healing light of ideas that are universally beneficial, they might have a chance to be heard in Metairie.

Democrats may first try to do this by speaking to the shared common values among Americans which are inherently not exclusionary. The party’s leaders need to be deft enough to separate the bogus, white herring arguments of the right that seek to make minority inclusion and equality mutually exclusive. Democrats need to make the distinction that they are not seeking to dilute culture to adopt to the sum of its disparate parts, but rather seek to strengthen American values by making it a common denominator for everyone.