So You’ve Elected a Criminal as President…

When a top athlete or sports team is caught cheating the punishment is mighty. Olympic medals are stripped and given to the next person in line. Tours de France are forfeited. Basketball teams are banned from post season play. In the sports world, unfair competition is punished. Fines are levied and accomplishments are invalidated. This is how we insure sport is kept honest.

One of the growing problems in politics today is the increase in team based fervor. Also, treason. But I’ll come back to that. The 2016 election was the culmination of the belief in the electorate, “my party/team can do no wrong.” Or more accurately, “my team may have problems but they’re nothing compared to the devastation the other side will bring upon the country. As such, my duty is to vote against them no matter what.”

In some part the problem is a bipartisan one, but I hope I am not shocking anyone to say it is a predominately Republican one. To be honest, the Democrats face the opposite problem where a failure to pass a purity test means an abandonment by the voters. The Republicans faced something similar with the Tea Party movement but that populist wave won out in the end.

The far Right-wing was successful in purging moderate control from the GOP as a whole.

What are the consequences of such extremism? The Trump administration is answering this question front and center. The result is America installed a criminal as its head of state. I could post a bunch of links about Trump’s blatant criminal behavior but I’m not here to do your homework for you. Take a quick Google surf and you’ll find enough evidence.

Yet, if my statement is so cut and dry as I want to make it seem, why is Trump still in office?

Here is where the team mentality comes back into play. The GOP made a mistake. They elected a crude and vile individual who never wanted anything from the Presidency other than self-enrichment. He was blatant about it. Everything Trump has done since he took office was telegraphed in plain language during the campaign. People still voted for him though.

The question is why?

For one thing, he cheated. The time to stop being coy is now. I understand that people with real power need to moderate their message. Game of Thrones isn’t only some make believe world where dragons take forever to become important. The rules of power are true in Westeros as well as Washington. The most important being, you don’t strike at the king unless you are certain you will win.

I forgive the Democrats in Congress for not pressing harder against Trump the would-be tyrant. Should they fail he would be invincible. But we all know he’s guilty. It’s now a matter of uncovering the proof. The evidence is out there. I don’t doubt it for a second.

I also have no qualms about calling Trump a criminal. Because he is.

The team mentality is what protects him. There isn’t a single Republican in the country who would be OK with this kind of behavior from a Democrat. And they shouldn’t. I would be ashamed of any Democrat who had no issue with Hillary Clinton talking about pardoning herself six months into her presidency. If it got to that point she would deserve to lose all support.

But it wouldn’t. Because she’s not a criminal. Unlike Trump.

Republicans are not going to admit their mistake. Doing so would forever tie their party and its ideology to criminal behavior. It already kind of was, but now the circumstances are too obvious. What can be done then? Realistically, not much more than we are doing now. Resist all policy, agitate against the regime, activate people to vote the criminals out as soon as we get the chance.

If the world was truly just, then Trump would be kicked out of office and stripped of all his power. By that I mean assets and the methods to buy influence. Put him in maximum security general population and wish him all the best. Then give the Presidency to Hillary Clinton. Count her as the 45th president and remove all appointees including but not limited to the Supreme Court seat Trump and the Republicans stole.

No one who supported Trump should stand for re-election. No one who voted for him should be allowed to vote in the next cycle. Call it a time out. You voted for a criminal.

Obviously, none of this will happen. The punishment is far too extreme for our government to survive. There are far different consequences in elections than a bicycle race. And yet if the penalty for cheating isn’t so severe as to shock the system, it will happen again. When fines for breaking regulations are less than the profits gained, companies work the payments into their cost of business.

The true danger is if the Republican party accepts treason as a small price to pay for getting an ultra-conservative Supreme Court or cutting welfare programs to the bone. My biggest fear is they already have.

This will happen again. Count on it.

On the Presidency

A lot has happened over the past weekend. Incredible, unbelievable things. Donald Trump’s own son has admitted to going to a meeting where he expected to get information from the Russian government. Information that would be damaging to his father’s political campaign. Allegedly, data gathered through espionage. He was fine with that.

Long story short, Donald Trump Jr. of his own free will quiet possibly admitted to being a Russian spy. If this were the 1950s he’d be in jail awaiting trial for treason as we speak.

But he’s not. Neither are the other high level Trump officials at the meeting.

Despite the Republican party’s desperate need to send the country back to the 50s politically, it is not 65 years ago. There’s no telling where this story will go. Every week something new crops up and pushes the envelope of expectations even further. What we do know, is the pattern of lies is real. The Trumps and everyone in their administration are engaged in a cover up of massive proportions.

They are lying to the American people.

Yet, here is the problem. It should seem obvious that this behavior is unacceptable. There was a time in this country where something of this nature would force a well-deserved, shame-filled resignation. However, countless Republicans and the Trump family themselves are steadfast in their refusal to admit to any wrong doing. There’s a chance that could change, given that the evidence is so blatant. Unfortunately, the damage has been done.

The President is not a person. The President is an office that a human being inhabits for a period of typically, four to eight years. I can only hope that this current resident of the office won’t be around the White House that long. Once again, that depends on the rest of the GOP standing up for themselves and admitting that they made a mistake.

The person who is selected to occupy the office of the Presidency accepts a grand responsibility. We as Americans can disagree who should be placed in the office but once that person is there, they become a representative of all of us. The President is responsible for everyone that lives in the United States, not just the people who voted for them.

Once someone decides to even attempt to assume the mantle of the Presidency they are expected to live up to a certain level of respect inherent in the office. This respect is the reason the country and its leader commands influence across the world. Many of our citizens seem to think that level of self-respect is no longer important.

Chances are pretty good that it’s going to come out that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government in order to win the Presidency. In my opinion, I believe he did everything possible. He has shown himself to be the kind of person willing to sell anything out if it benefits him. I have no doubt in my mind that Trump had no moral issues with destroying any and all respect for our nation and the Presidency if it meant he would “win.”

But that’s just my opinion. For now, until more evidence comes out. Which I expect it will.

We can throw around the word treason all we want but the indisputable fact is that Trump’s actions before and after winning the election are beneath the dignity of the Presidency.

The 4th of July was last week. A day where all Americans are supposed to feel pride and patriotism in their country. For me, it was difficult to stir up those feelings given how disrespectful the entire Trump administration has been to our hallowed traditions.

We’ve had bad Presidents before, plenty of them in fact. We’ve never had a terrible person as President. Until now.

Trump’s Cosmic Perspective

During my overly extended, undesired staycation, I’ve had lots of free time. I’m trying to use that time to read more. A decent number of books have fallen to my casual pace. Far more than recent years. During my life in Japan my reading time was dominated mostly with magazines for smart people. National Geographic and Wired, for example. I haven’t touched them in months.

Also, thanks to some nerdy friends I’ve read more fiction than I have since I finished Game of Thrones. The books, not the show. Obviously.

Reading is, of course, fundamental. The book I just finished was “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. A nice light read, perfect for storing in the restroom for guests I imagine. To be honest, if you watched his excellent recent version of Cosmos there is little in here that wasn’t covered in the TV show. Except for roundness. That was new.

Still, highly recommended.

The final chapter of the book has Tyson talking directly to the reader about the wonders of an infinite universe. Rather than letting the vastness of space make you feel insignificant, the author argues that the opposite should be the case. Revel in the fact that you are made of star stuff and can trace your existence back to the origins of the cosmos. Deep shit.

All well and good, but what about Trump?

Barely half a year in, the 45th President has locked in the title of “Worst President ever” for a large population of the country. Obviously, not everyone. That doesn’t mean that he won’t forever be the worst in many people’s minds. Just like Obama is hated by lots of gap toothed, cousin-loving rednecks.

Sorry, that was as mean as healthcare. I wouldn’t want to be accused of inflaming rhetoric.

Now, Trump has built a solid base of facts to earn that title. His personality is undeniably awful. Some people don’t mind that or even think it’s a good way to act towards people who disagree with you. I suppose that is a sad fact of the human condition. Once you choose the team to belong to it is hard to accept anything that tarnishes that distinction.

Ask a Cubs fan if you don’t believe me. I can make that joke because it worked out for them in the end. I wouldn’t put money on the same happening for Trump.

But what does this all mean in a cosmic sense?

What will Trump’s legacy be in a hundred years? A thousand? A million?

Certainly, for most of our lifetimes Trump will be a prominent figure in history textbooks. But how many people today are still mad at Calvin Coolidge? How many can even name him? The man who brought about the Great Depression? Hardly anyone, I would wage. Especially since the President in office immediately prior to the Great Depression was Herbert Hoover.

Human memory is short. The truly outstanding individuals last through the ages but they have little direct effect on actual daily life.

Sure, you might have someone like Julius Ceaser who created the calendar we sort of use today. Except over a thousand years later some pope named George might come along and change it up. Time is long and humans are not. Eventually there will come a time when even Donald Trump is forgotten to history.

This is of course not to say that we should just let him do whatever he wants.

It is vital to resist against the things that will cause pain and suffering to millions of innocents. That’s just common sense. Trump is a symptom of a great disease which weakens America to its core. Our systems are struggling to fight off this infection but they are, for now, holding firm.

The United States is a young country. One of the jokes I often heard from my continental friends in Japan was as follows. “For Europeans, one hundred miles is a long distance and for Americans, one hundred years is a long time.”

You had to be there, I guess.

We’ve got time. When the atoms of the Milky Way have expanded beyond the heat death of the Universe, there won’t be anyone around to worry about cuts to Medicaid. That sounds like a reason to despair. I know the feeling and it’s a struggle to resist every time I check Twitter.

The point of Tyson’s book however, is the opposite. Live this moment for what it is because of the mathematical wonder required to bring it about. The same oxygen molecules that fuel the President’s unhinged tweets are the same that power the protest songs of the Woman’s March.

And they were all created in an astronomical ball of nuclear fire.

Pretty cool if you ask me.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I wish I could worry less about life and the world around me. I’d even settle for one out of two.

The desire to just, check out, watch TV and let day after day swim by is strong. Caring takes a lot of energy. Plus, all the news is depressing. Even the good stuff carries weight.

I’m not the first person to have these thoughts. I’m sure that the Athenian philosophers of old felt the same way about the wars with Sparta.

They didn’t even have Netflix.

As of this writing I am still waiting to hear back about a good job. A perfect job in fact, one I know I could sink my teeth into and feel like I was accomplishing something with my life.

Something like that is hard to come by so I am understandably nervous about my chances. I think I did everything right but Lady Luck and I have never gotten along. I’m hopeful but cautious. The hope decreases exponentially as each day goes by.

As it often does.

Since January I’ve probably applied to at least one hundred jobs, give or take twenty. Of those jobs, I’ve gotten some form of rejection email from perhaps fifteen. At least they let me know for sure they weren’t interested. That was nice of them.

As far as interviews go, I’ve had four. Three by phone and one in person. One of the phone interviews was supposed to lead to second, but they never got back to me. Like I was someone they met on Tinder or something.

Another interview was for a job that misrepresented the basics. I thought it was full time work, they thought I was some fresh college student willing to take any employment even if it mean being discarded six months later like a paper cup.

In some ways though, I am.

None of it is up to me, of course. A lesson I always knew but optimistically believed wouldn’t matter. However, I have little to distinguish me from the many other qualified people out there searching for the same line of work. I can’t point to much that isn’t readily available to many others. I can only send out my resume and hope something comes back. A majority of the time only silence returns.

It’s discouraging to say the least.

To elaborate, it’s frustrating. I finished that book of Mastery I spoke about last week. In it they talk about “the apprenticeship” phase of mastery. This is where you take whatever opportunity that comes your way, as long as it will let you learn the ins and outs of what you want to do. Even if it’s only tangential at first.

Therein lies the problem. First you must figure out what it is that you are called to do. All the greats apparently had a feeling of purpose. A desire they couldn’t quench.

Have I discovered that about myself?

Perhaps.

That sort of knowledge is really only available in retrospect. But I am still waiting to find something that will let me pursue what I’ve come to hope is my purpose. There are no tips and tricks in the book to solve that particular problem.

Nothing about what to do if you got it wrong either.

To be fair, if everyone could do what they wanted there would be too many video game testers. The book makes it sound so simple though. Find a way to earn a living doing what you love. What you wake up every day wanting to do. Then learn all you can until you are skilled enough to strike out on your own. Don’t be lazy about the work involved. Focus, focus, focus.

There, I’ve spoiled most of it for you. When you boil it down it sounds like every by the bootstraps speech you’ve ever heard. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get started until I get a job. So far, getting over that last hurdle has been almost completely out of my control. So, I check Twitter obsessively to feel like I’m involved in the world around me.

Every day I forget how depressing my Twitter feed is. Even if it’s awful it helps me feel like I’m in the study phase at least. And lately it’s always been terrible.

Always.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been listening to another one of those self-improvement type audiobooks. Same author as the one about the laws of power. Must be a pretty nice gig collecting the combined wisdom of the ancients and organizing it for the rest of us fools. I would see about getting in on that racket but this guy seems to have it locked up pretty tight.

The book is called “Mastery” and deals with something I’ve contemplated myself. How do the legends of humanity get etched into history? Some people would say they were born with it. Maybe it’s a TV jingle. It certainly might seem to be true. After all, didn’t someone steal Einstein’s brain after he died to try and figure out what made him special?

Brain theft. What a caper. Probably isn’t true though.

Turns out not much is different about the father of relativity’s grey matter. At least, that’s what this book seems to be arguing, the effort is what matters. Nothing else. I wouldn’t know for sure because as of this writing I’m not even half finished. But like many internet denizens I feel imminently qualified to speak on something of which I only understand a small part.

In other words, this isn’t a book review.

I’ve wondered though, many times, what it is that separates those who accomplish and those that muddle through life. In some ways, it’s comforting to think that it’s all up to genetics, circumstances, or sheer luck. Takes the pressure off. I can’t help being mediocre if I was just born to it. Excuse me while I drink myself into a stupor to forget my problems.

It’s never that easy though. Nothing in life is because if it were we might never have moved off the savannah. If the cold didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have figured out fire. No fire, no electricity. No electricity, no world spanning mega culture.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Birds don’t need to figure out how to get a job and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They just got to fly and find food. If they’re lucky, they’ll find a spot where one of us puts out the food for them. Because we like their pretty colors. Birds have got it made in the shade brother.

What’s our excuse?

We dreamed of something bigger and better. Looked up at the night sky and wondered to ourselves, why? Then some of us figured out that question. Busted their ass on it. Which led to new questions and new answers. A never-ending cycle. What did we achieve? The power to shape the planet in our image, even if it means destroying the whole thing in the process.

Take that birds.

Catching up to life

The idea of leaving one life behind and living another is often something left to the movies or TV. A high-level snitch placed into witness protection. A middle-aged boring guy ditching that depressing office job for life as a surf instructor. A family of yokels finding out some distant relative had billions of dollars and left it all to them.

It’s nice to dream.

Most of those stories don’t talk about what happens if you return to your old life. If the story hinges on escape or change, it doesn’t make for a happy ending to end up back where you were before the main event. Losing billions of dollars or returning to a life of crime wouldn’t be that great in the grand scheme or even in the medium scheme.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t all that bad. At least I wasn’t giving up life as a beach bum.

Discovering that travel might not be the cure for what ails you is more common than those other fictional scenarios, I suspect. Beaches get boring and mega cities are hard places to find fulfillment. Easy to lose yourself, though. At least that was the case with me. I’ve already talked a lot about what it felt like to leave behind one life for another.

How does the return compare to the exodus itself? That’s a harder comparison to judge. A year into my time in Japan I had made new friends and was enjoying my life as a club hopper. What money I had went into beer, cigarettes and late night ramen. Work was just a means to an end. Coal for the insatiable furnace of debauchery.

But there’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called your twenties.

I’m more than a year back in the United States and things are progressing at a much slower pace. I arrived in Japan with a life set up for me. Pre-packaged and ready to go.

I left with little more than the jealousy that comes when a friend flashes cash and a desire to do the same. It’s fortunate that I don’t drink, smoke, or club anymore. Not that the city of Wilmington is known for its outrageous night life.

With more years come further refinement of tastes. My group of friends have gone from cheap beer swilling pool sharks to micro-brew chugging tool jockeys that are also local real estate experts. It’s hard not to get jealous of fancy things like hard wood floors, brushed steel appliances, and equity.

It’s also hard to shake how I treated myself ten years ago now that I’m back where I started.

I wasn’t super cool when I left. Hard to picture, isn’t it? Now, I am outrageously cool. Cooler than a crystalline Christmas cucumber. It took a long time for me to come to grips with this indisputable fact. Unfortunately, I can tell it isn’t second nature like it should be. I have to actively keep on top of my awesomeness when I’m around old friends. Or else I’ll fall into the same patterns as before.

That’s what I mean by catching up. While I was bathing in the concentrated amazing that is Tokyo, Japan, absorbing that power into my soul, everyone else was buying houses and shit.

Life is a series of trade-offs, I suppose.

I’m Almost 35 and I Still Don’t Know What I Want to be When I Grow Up

It’s not easy to admit to yourself that you’re hopeless. No, not hopeless, maybe. Adrift. Wracked with doubt. Rudderless. Unsure. Standard Millennial malaise. Bored. Lost.

Over-reacting?

Back when I was a carefree child I wanted to be a paleontologist. Because of all the simple ideas a kid can latch on to, I chose dinosaurs. Plus, getting paid to dig holes in the ground sounded like a sweet gig. Like many people those interests went away when something else came along.

For me it was Nintendo. You whippersnappers just getting out of college had a similar reaction to, I don’t know, iPhones probably.

I’ve gone through a lot of what you might call career options or at least, career attempts. I couldn’t stick to a single one. Was it because I’m lazy? Perhaps. I also don’t have much patience for gratification. Instant or nothing baby!

I’m worried it might be because I came in on the tail end of the lead gasoline craze. Count your blessings Gen Y. The economy might be dead by the time you enter it and the world might boil all the ice away, but at least there isn’t stupidity gas in the air anymore. Stupid poisoned environment. I’m glad we fixed all of that.

Where was I?

Right. Crippling depression brought on by a complete lack of fulfillment. People talk about how there are lots of famous people that didn’t hit their mark until later in their lives. I’m sure if you look hard enough there’s a snazzy infographic out there to back me up. It’s all a big case of confirmation bias though.

You’re going to find examples of great successes who were older if you look hard enough, that’s just basic logic. For every one of those geezers like me but successful you find, however, there’s bound to be a thousand or a million other chumps who amounted to nothing.

Like me.

Man, this is getting dark. Let me try and lighten the mood up a little bit.

A few days after I quit drinking I saw a guy fall down some stairs and split his head open. Blood everywhere. Sounded like a cantaloupe in a pillowcase.

Shit. I’m making this worse.

That moment helped clarify my decision to jump on the wagon. Because it easily could have been me stumbling down a staircase like a sack of wet noodles. Honestly, it’s a miracle I made it through my late twenties without falling in front of a train. I can’t even count the number of times I made it home completely blacked out.

There’s a time and a place for everything though and it’s called Roppongi.

How does this relate to finding a rewarding career? It doesn’t. It just serves to remind me that for a long time I couldn’t picture being in my thirties. I didn’t plan ahead much beyond the next time I would get drunk. Which was all the time. Not a great way to live a life but it keeps things simple. One decision tree.

Are you drunk? Yes? Get drunker. No? Do you have to work? No? Get drunk.

Fun times.

Nowadays I’ve stuck my foot into political work like one sticks their foot in a puddle the depth of which they vastly underestimated. This was a great idea right up to November 8th, 2016. Come November 9th I was wishing I’d stayed in Tokyo and maybe taken a header down some steps instead. Yeah, I said it. The 45th President is worse than violent head trauma.

That’s insensitive of me. No one chooses to crack their skull open. Some 60 million people woke up on a Tuesday and said to themselves, “Yeah. This will be a good idea.”

If you can explain that to me I’d love to hear it.

You might be wondering if the guy on the stairs was all right. I have no fucking clue. I had a train to catch and I wasn’t about to miss it. I wasn’t going to wait for the last train because that shit always ran late. It would have taken me at least an extra hour to get home. Plus, it’s always super crowded with drunks.

The world is a cold place.

Metaphorically speaking. Scientifically speaking it’s getting hot as shit.

Why does the Right Hate Liberals?

I lived in Japan for nine years. I bring this up because as a foreigner there, I often got the sense that the government saw me as a mild inconvenience. It might have been the frustration apparent on an official’s face when my Japanese wasn’t good enough to navigate complex tax procedures. Despite his English not being good enough to navigate Cat in the Hat.

Languages are hard ya’ll.

I lived there though, it was on me to learn how to speak good. Fair enough. It might also have been the difficulty in getting a visa for longer than I had proof of employment. One year contract? One year visa. Since you can only get a visa with a guaranteed income that made it difficult to change jobs. Unless you’re the type that works better under time pressure.

You could argue the government is just looking out for the gaijin. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in a place without a support system. It certainly lit a fire under my ass to keep steady employment whenever the visa date came around.

It might also have been knowing I had things pretty easy in terms of being a foreigner, given that I was white. And a dude. And American. That mix often adds up to banker after all.

All foreigners are required to carry ID and have to show it to police whenever asked. I was carded exactly once during my nine years in Japan. It was because I was drunk and belligerent on a public street at 8am on a Monday. I might have been yelling obscenities in front of children. I can’t remember for sure because I was drunk and belligerent.

My friend, who is also an American dude, was carded once for standing outside of my apartment late at night having a quiet phone conversation. Pretty much the exact opposite of my experience. He got carded at least once every other week, so he was used to it.

Did I mention he is of Filipino descent?

I’m not trying to make this about racism in Japan or even in America. I’m not qualified to talk about it because of my white privilege. As South Park tried to impart years ago, I don’t get it. Because I can’t. I get that I don’t get it. Get it?

But it’s hard not to see it going on.

I had it better there and I have it better here. None of this is news and I’m not expecting to open anyone’s eyes that have kept them shut until now. What worries this particular white male is the other hatred that has been stewing for a while now. Because it affects me! Me by golly! And isn’t that the point? Yes, as I will explain later.

In the wake of Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, many on the right said it was a great move because it “made liberals cry.” What the fuck is this? Kindergarten?

How is it that the force in charge of America makes decisions based on how much pain they cause to the other side? Is it due in part to the fact that a large number of people who identify as liberal are also minorities? It’s no longer acceptable to say racist things in public. Twitter jumps all over that shit now. Racism is going to racist so what’s the alternative?

Jeff Sessions is working diligently as Attorney General to set back civil rights by decades. And he’s like, Kunta Kinte next to the Cheater in Chief.

Elections and marriages, a double threat!

Hatred of an ideology is becoming as baseless and rooted in ignorance as the hatred of skin tone. Obviously, the history and results between the two are incomparable. I’m not trying to claim the same type of suffering by being a liberal. There are plenty of “Bernie or Bust” types out there who’ll do it for me. #shotsfired

Yet, for perhaps the first time, straight white people in America are learning what it’s like to be hated by their government. Black people have put up with it for as long as they’ve been here. Latinos certainly understand the threat of an adversarial government. Every person of color in this country is forced to come to grips at an early age that the people in charge don’t like you.

I got a small taste of that in Japan. Racism Light, fewer problems, less filling. But even then, my white hetero-maleness shielded me from the worst of it all. A super power that doesn’t make for a good comic book perhaps but I was comfortable taking advantage of it.

I came back and stumbled head first into the frontlines of this fight. Racism Classic, now with more power. Thousands and millions of us tried to stop it. Or rather, shove it under the rug for another cycle. It didn’t work for a hundred reasons that didn’t involve someone named Clinton.

Most of my volunteers on the campaign were black women, which should surprise no one. They knew what was going on. They also knew the election wouldn’t wave a magic wand and fix the problems in their community.

They still came out though. And that was before all the horrors Trump has unleashed in his short tenure as President. Obviously though, we all saw it coming. Us stupid libruls. We tried to warn you that hate was growing. It threatens all of us. That’s why things feel so scary.

It’s equality of hate. Because now it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you believe certain things, a way of thought that you chose, now you are a target for the worst ills of humanity.

But what do I know? I’m just a Liberal.

Fighting the Entropy of Apathy

I took a few days off from my blog this week. I know I’ve only been at this for about two months. Plus, the “job requirements” I’ve set myself are pretty lax.

Three articles a week? Cake walk.

All of my other personal tasks are equally simple to achieve. Still, it’s always nice to feel like I am accomplishing things. Even if I’ve rigged the expectations. It’s easy to succeed when the bar is reading book instead of watching Netflix.

I shout them out all the dang time so it should be obvious that Netflix played a big role in my mini-vacation. Caught up a bit on House of Cards. It’s nice to imagine what having a competent sociopath in the Oval Office is like rather than an incompetent one.

Call it escapism.

I also worked on my fourth or fifth complete viewing of Parks and Recreation. Love that show.

The point is that I didn’t really “do” a lot over these past few days. I think I’ve made it obvious that I don’t exactly do much on a normal day. I can stretch what should be a few hours of accomplishment in to a whole day effort. I can also waste the day away without so much as a twinge of regret. Is this some kind of laziness superpower?

Are most people like this at heart? In Japan, it’s elevated to an art form. I learned from the best.

Don’t get me wrong. I can work when needed. I put in 80 hour weeks during the 2016 elections. I got up at 5am so I could drive an hour away through a hurricane in order to be in front of a Dollar Store an hour before it opened. Why? Because I was told it would help win the election. So, I did it. I’ve got no doubts about my capability to do work.

The motivation aspect is what I’m worried about.

Would getting up at 5am each day help me become a successful writer? Maybe. Is that even what I want to be? More importantly, is it right to require such effort in the first place? I think if I was pulling a steady paycheck and my boss told me to get up at 5am to write blog articles until the sun went down I could do it. Would it be worth it?

Probably not. So, why should I bother?

Too many rhetorical questions I know. I hope this is a common line of thinking for most people. It would make me feel better if it was. Why do I get up every day and do what I do? Why can’t I just crash on the couch and watch Netflix? I suppose this is the Republican nightmare of welfare. Give people enough money and they won’t do anything.

Then civilization collapses and anarchy reigns.

Obviously, if everyone just watched Netflix there would be nothing to watch in the first place. Until computers can do everything for us at all times perfectly. Which might not be that far off. For now, it’s up to each person to decide what is important to them. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is it just to kill time until the next day comes so you can repeat the process? I’ll admit that has been the case for me more times than I’m comfortable with. That’s how I felt for a long time when I was living in Japan. For me, perhaps the best way to quit laziness is the same way I stopped drinking and smoking.

Cold turkey.

Something tells me it’ll be harder than either of those previous vices.

Trumpism: The Cult of Donald Trump

Editor’s note: This was originally posted in February 2017. Almost none of the revelations that consume the news today regarding Russia had come out yet.

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

Anyway, basically it’s a collection of stories from history and teachings from books like The Art of War and The Prince broken down into lessons about gaining the ephemeral quality known as “power”.

I wanted to read it because even if I couldn’t be as ruthless as required by some of these tactics it is good to be aware of them in case they are used against you. However, when I reached Law 27 things became a little scary.

“Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following”

There are 5 steps to this law. Rather than just list them and let readers come to their own conclusions I feel like I need to be more explicit as to how the man currently in the office of the President has seemingly followed this path to power in particular.

Step 1: Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple

“To create a cult you must first attract attention. This you should do not through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and descriptive.”

Trumpisim: “Make America Great Again”, “Repeal and Replace, Build the Wall”

These phrases sound great and project a real sense of power. When it comes to achieving them things become far murkier. Trump’s much vaunted deal with Carrier was fraught with unfortunate realities in terms of making America great again. Republicans have been calling for repeal of the ACA for years but are only now rolling out ideas for replacement. Ideas which do little to fix what problems there are with the program and threaten to take away the parts that are actually working.

The wall will be a boondoggle. Mark my words.

Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual

“Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves: boredom and skepticism.”

Trumpisim: Constant rallies

Trump never seems comfortable unless he’s in front of a large crowd of sympathetic supporters. That might be part of the reason he brings staffers to speeches to applaud and cheer for him. Less than a month into his Presidency while being assaulted from all directions over allegations of misconduct and incompetence, Trump holds a literal campaign rally. In 2017, not 2020. Clearly he’s falling back on the spectacle that served him so well in 2016. The sight of large cheering crowds emphasize his popularity which is why he is so adamant in his attacks on stories to the contrary.

Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group

“Your cult-like following is growing; it’s time to organize it. Find a way both elevating and comforting.”

Trumpism: Mike Pence

I don’t think anyone can argue that Trump has ever been an ardent representative of the Christian faith. This step is actually the one that applies the least to Trumpism as it is intended to be more about structural organization specifically. However, the 45th President is not afraid to claim divine intervention in the weather. The choice of Mike Pence as VP gives him all the cover he needs in terms of Christian conservatism without demanding any real sacrifice on his part.

Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income

“…you must never be seen as hungry for money and the power it brings. It is at this moment that you must disguise the source of your income.”

Trumpism: Tax returns

Do I really need to go over this part?

Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic

“To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: create an us-versus-them dynamic.”

Obviously this is not a unique aspect of Trump or many other political candidates. It is a central idea behind why spectator sports are so popular. People like being part of a “team”. What is dangerous and scary about Trumpism is the official target known as “them”.

The media. The term “fourth estate” refers to a medieval concept of society where the people were broken up into three broad groups. (The clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, in case you were wondering.)

The idea is the press is a separate entity who’s role is to check the power of the others. An independent press is so important that the founders of America made sure journalistic protections were enshrined in the Constitution itself.

Trump’s attacks on the press started almost immediately. His administration has constantly given false or misleading information to the public and when news reporters point that out he calls them “fake news”. Anyone the least bit critical is denied legitimacy. The message is clear “we [us] are right and anyone who disagrees [them] does so just because they want us to fail.”

We need to have the ability to question power. If they do something wrong they should be held responsible. The chilling effect Trumpism could have on legitimate criticism is frightening. I’m personally somewhat worried about posting a long description comparing the President of the United States to a cult leader as the family is notoriously litigious.

Despite the click bait nature of the title of this post I am not saying with any certainty that President Trump is a cult leader. I have no way of knowing if he’s read this book or even if he consciously follows the steps listed above.

But the similarities frighten me.