Obamacare is on the Chopping Block

Obamacare is now on the chopping block.  The GOP’s promise the “repeal and replace” Obamacare is now up for a vote possibly even next week.  I almost wish they’d go ahead and get their wishes so they could get onto something else.  But, oh yes, they would only find something else to oppose.  They are the “party of no” and without something to oppose they would have no identity at all.

They make me think of Cato the Elder in ancient Rome.  He hated Carthage so much that he would end Senate sessions with a perfunctory call, “Carthage must be destroyed” for so long that he ran it into the ground and he became a joke.  He became the butt of jokes for this obsessive issue, commonly thought of as a daffy old man.

Ideas are dangerous.  We get one of ‘em in our mind, and let it become too intoxicating, it is difficult to impossible for reason to dislodge it.  This is because some of these ideas satisfy emotional needs and have nothing to do with reason.  Cato the Elder was a daffy old man and the GOP is a “daffy old group of old men…and a few women” who are ideologues and have foresworn the risk of critical thinking in favor of “the well-worn words and ready phrases that build comfortable walls against the wilderness” that lies beyond the comfy zone they are ensconced in.

I know I wear this out but, Goethe summed it up, “They call it reason, using light celestial just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.”  But the people Goethe had in mind are so steeped in a bestial variety of reason that they cannot consider ambivalence and bow each day to the dark god of certainty, not daring to venture into the murky realm of faith.  Oh, sure they have their noble biblical bromides but then they march lock step behind a demagogue who has the hots for his daughter.  The hypocrisy is readily justified, though I’m not for sure how.  They don’t like to “touch” that subject.

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Words Do Matter, Mr. Depp!

Actor Johnny Depp has joined the joined the chorus of Progressive voices who have crossed the line in their anti-Trump rhetoric, posing the “facetious” question, “When was the last time an actor assassinated a President.”  His words have caught the attention of the Secret Service, and should, and everyone should firmly rebuff Mr. Depp.  Words do matter, even though Trump himself…as well as his party…have introduced and emphasized the notion that words do not matter.

The issue is limits.  The Republicans have been hinting at violence, implicitly and explicitly, since Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and now they have as their chieftain a man who has no limits and personally hinted at violence toward his opponent during the election.  But Progressives cannot go there.  Sure, there is irony, sarcasm, and ridicule that is being used which, admittedly pushes the limits at times, but actual hinting at assassination cannot be tolerated.

Where does this all end?  As my momma would be saying, “Lord help us!”  It do think it is time for the divine intervention of Greek drama, the deux ex machina, in which an insoluble dilemma of the story would be resolved by god coming down from above the stage, mechanically cranked down on a platform.  And I do think that Divine intervention is needed but I think that as a culture we are way too arrogant to permit anything like Grace to filter into our hearts.

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Incested Group Dynamics

I have argued here several times since inauguration in January that an incestuous dynamic had invaded the White House, the dynamic having been reflected in numerous video recordings of Trump’s lascivious intentions for his daughter Ivanka in the past decade.  I have predicted that just as with any incestuous family, the need for privacy (i.e. “secrecy”) is paramount in a household tainted with this poison as it has dark secrets that needs to be hidden from the light of the day.  And I’m not talking necessarily about sexuality for there are times in which the incest dynamic never reaches the point of acting out in terms of sexual violation but is nevertheless no less dangerous.  The sexual acting out dimension of the poison is only one symptom and the core of the problem is much more pervasive and ultimately catastrophic. There is in a household of this “style” a deep-seated fear and distrust of the outside world which often can be described even as “paranoid.” The lunacy of this dynamic has been on display almost daily in the White House.  From even before inauguration, Trump was lambasting “fake news” which was his label for any news report that was critical of him.  And he has sought to muzzle the press and even enquired about changing laws that would place limits on the freedom of the press.

A closed system is intrinsically averse to information from outside of its echo chamber.  It doesn’t want any information coming in from the outside and it does not want any going out.  It is a static universe and finds the dynamic quality of life that meaningful exchange with the “other” would put on the table to be terrifying and even threatening of a complete loss of control. The result is an echo chamber in which the only “noise” permitted is a carefully orchestrated exchange of thoughts and ideas that are slavishly devoted to the mandate of…in this case…the Great Leader.  This is the “epistemic closure” or “confirmation bias” that I have focused on for the past several years as I watched this conservative madness metastasize.

In the dysfunctional family that is inordinately closed off from engagement with the outside world, we find an illustration of what C.S. Lewis called “violation of the law of exchange.”  Lewis knew that life was inherently dynamic and requires a “flow” in which meaningful participation occurs between those “entities” (i.e. “persons”) opting to participate in the process of life.  Those that don’t, those who opt for the privacy of a self-referential system, will have declined to participate in life and have opted instead for death.  This death can be subtle, as with a family or group whose soul is captivate by the repressed poison and become a caricature of the human experience, and has produced generations of spiritually inbred children…and maybe even physically “inbred.”  The death can become literal, as when the incest victim is violated, but the violence of incest which is often sublimated can instead lead to behavior and someone will then die, even literally.  Yes, the violation of a child in an incested family is itself a death, a death which sometimes takes the lifetime of the victim to complete its murderous intent.  And then, there are times when it leads to overt acting out in which blood shed can occur.  The eruption of the violence is when the poison contained within the tightly-closed cauldron explodes and then a family will erupt into a violent episode causing bloodshed.  Sometimes in the incested cauldron of group dynamics the eruption will take the form of violence inflicted on others, venting upon someone or some group who fell conveniently into the category of “them” and therefore earned their disapproval and abuse.

An inbred dynamic is a black hole.  And if the body politic is not careful, it can dutifully continue on a course of civic and political decorum rather than intervene and make the creators and perpetuators of this tragedy face “reality.”  By not holding the perpetrator responsible and therefore setting a limit, he is being validated and again being told, “Go ahead.  No one will stop you,” and the end result will be a catastrophe.  Physics, and the biological sciences, will tell you that a closed system will always self-destruct at some point as it has betrayed a fundamental quality of life, reaching out to others and making oneself available for others to reach out to.  Mental health, and the whole of life, requires boundaries and reciprocity and almost daily we see indication that the Trump administration, and the Republican Party, is opting for a different direction.

But when one, or a group of “ones” is trapped in this black hole of self-referentiality…described by Paul Tillich as “an empty world of self-relatedness”…the resulting tragedy is inevitable.  Shakespeare saw this closed-ness as a dark disease and those who are stymied by its grip on the heart are, “like the owner of a foul disease, to keep it from divulging, (will) let it feed even on the pith of life.”  He was saying, “It will eat your heart out as it feeds on your heart.”

Here I have used a clinical perspective about dysfunctional families which, nevertheless, is sometimes applicable to the human family or some portion of it.  The term “incest” is a bit over the top for our White House even though Trump’s incestuous inclinations are clearly documented and his attitude and behavior has been consistent with this incestuous dynamic.  It is almost comical to think of a family like the President, the cabinet, the various political appointees deserving the label “incestuous.”  But the metaphor has value nevertheless.

Here I am using a clinical perspective about dysfunctional families which, nevertheless, is sometimes applicable to the human family or some portion of it.  The term “incest” is a bit over the top for our White House even though Trump’s incestuous inclinations are clearly documented and his attitude and behavior has been consistent with this incestuous dynamic.  It is almost comical to think of a family like the President, the cabinet, the various political appointees deserving the label “incestuous.”  But the metaphor has value nevertheless.

Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Posted in conservatism, dysfunctional family, extremism, group psychology, politics, psychology, Republican Party, Trumpism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deferred Gratification and Trumpism

One key factor in mental health is predictability.  To function meaningfully in a social context, others will have to have confidence in you and you will have to have confidence in them.  This is a mutually agreed upon contract, i.e. “the social contract,”, that allows for social discourse and functioning to proceed with minimal conflict.  It is imperative that those who enter this this “mutually agreed upon lie, or ruse” respect the fundamental tenets of the agreement as any wild-card or outlier will create so much discord that they will eventually be marginalized in some fashion.  In the most extreme cases, it will be ostracism, execution, or even murder.  But the social façade must receive at least a modicum of respect and those who have opted to participate in this social façade must have confidence that any newcomer will offer this respect.  This “newcomer” must demonstrate predictability.

To participate in this “ruse” one must have formulated adequate boundaries in his/her youth so that respect for others receives as much attention as does respect for oneself. This is a respect for rules, which can be described “coloring within the lines” or conforming to the rules so that the teacher will send a note to momma saying, “Plays well with others.”  Many young children have trouble with “coloring within the lines” and merit a note to momma, “Does not play well with others” but usually that is a developmental phase that the child outgrows.  Children are hard-wired to eventually subscribe to the social contract and restrain their impulses, more or less, so that the social ruse can carry-on.

I have here described this social contract, and therefore civil and gracious social behavior as a ruse.  That was deliberate but I must explain.  It is a necessary “ruse” and actually not a ruse at all but a consensually validated reality that allows people to more or less get their needs met, though certainly not all of them.  If all of our needs were met, it would inevitably be at the expense of others and so it is necessary to learn that the value of accepting attenuated need-fulfillment is more desirous than the havoc that would ensue from seeking complete need satisfaction.  This is merely the deferred gratification that we learn about in early years of college, deferring our need gratification in the interest of the greater pleasure we can have by participating in a communal whole.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Any Idea Can be Dangerous!

Yes, even “noble” ideas can become dangerous as I have often noted.  Even “Jesus is the Light of the World” can become ignoble if one becomes so intoxicated with himself that he feels he has to hammer others with a message that, if offered with a degree of humility, could be valuable. James T. Hodgkinson had ideas I certainly agree with about Donald Trump and the Republicans having nothing in mind but their own self interest but he then allowed emotion to overwhelm him, threw out all discretion that “the pauser reason” offers us, and now he is dead and several others are seriously wounded.  I’m sure that Isis started out with some ideas that were more or less benign, relatively speaking, but they became intoxicated with the ideas of their belief system and anytime this intoxication reaches a certain fevered intensity, violence will ensue. Ideas are only ideas.  Yes, even these that I’m sharing here at this present moment.  Now if you wake up some morning and find a printed copy of this blog tacked to your door, probably with an impassioned demand for money, you can be alarmed that I take them too seriously to the point that I have tracked down your street address!  Yes, that would be time to call the police.

Again I say, “Ideas are just ideas.”  But when our identity is impoverished, we take the ideas that form our belief system too seriously and always miss the point of the one who initiated the belief system.  This what the ego does.  And, in the Christian tradition that I was born into, there was no acknowledgement of the ego’s influence in our faith even though the Apostle Paul had warned us about “the flesh” which was his culture’s term for the ego. Ego-dominated faith will always take itself too seriously and will be subject to easy manipulation of any demagogue and spiritual shyster than happens by.

But the notion that “ideas are only ideas” will fall only on deaf ears of those who are steeped in the ideology of Western thought who teach us that ideas are to be taken literally, that “the word is the thing,” that the maxim of Descartes, “I think.  Therefore I am,” is valid. And most people in my country who think this way are intelligent, but will totally miss the point I am making, and that is fine.  I will not be trying to argue with them or imply that “they are wrong.”  This world is made up of people who think differently, who believe differently, whose perspective of the world is different, and my task is to make room for them when I can.  And when I can’t, I always have the privilege of politely excusing myself or “unfriending” them!

 

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White Privilege in Modern America

Today I’m going to share something from Facebook recently posted by my wife, Claire Detels.  Claire is a retired musicologist from the University of Arkansas and helped introduce me to the world of politics and feminism in the late 1980’s.

This week, it’s not so much the Comey testimony, as some insights about T’s character and its appeal to his supporters that have come to the fore.   On character, I think Rebecca Sollnit’s article I posted a few days ago, is very telling.   On his appeal to his supporters (and on their character), I am increasingly convinced, and have seen social science research data that supports, the idea that Trump’s tight bond with his supporters is due to his affirmation of their (previously wounded) sense of white privilege, esp, white male privilege.   Following on the of  outrage (to his supporters) of having a black president for 8 years,  and following on general gains for women and people of color resulting from the  civil rights and women’s movements, and the changes in demographics, Trump is ideally positioned, as a rich, powerful Easterner (rather than a fellow redneck) to restore that proud  (though totally false and psychologically disturbed) sense of white privilege.   This is a man who arranged to be sucked up to on TV for years by dozens of well known (if B-list) celebrities, and in our culture that helped establish him as a god or even an uber-god., i.e. someone capable of giving religious absolution.   Then add the birtherism, the anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and misogynist statements and behavior, and it’s clear to me that DJT gave “the people who think they are white”  (re. TaNehesi Coates and  James Baldwin)  a powerful sense of permission for their racism and sexism  (also a huge subject, given that he faced a far superior woman candidate in the election).   The sense of permission affected not just DJT’s white male supporters, but also  women and people of color who have invested in  their identities as supporters of white male privilege, of which there are unfortunately many (Hi, Clarence).   Restored white privilege also affects Trump’s strongest supporters, the Southern white male Christians, who are much more more comfortable with a white-male-privileged culture than they are with the actual teachings of Jesus.

And what we have now, is full-throated denial of the racism in our justice system and our society in general, and many who are eager to express their new confidence in white privilege in openly violent terms.  No matter that the man giving the permission is a liar, a buffoon, and an open danger to national security, world peace, health care, and any other kind of decent treatment and respect for anyone other than himself, his family. And his uber-rich cohorts    The positive permission he gives to enjoy the false identity of white privilege is more powerful than any of these extraordinary negatives.

And it should be a wake-up to all white people in this country:  that we have not come to terms with the way our history of white privilege has distorted our sense of human decency.   When Obama was elected the first time, I thought maybe we had at least begun to do so, or were on the right path.   I know better now   The processes of reconciliation and restitution that have been faced by other societies after horrendous inhumanity have never been faced in this country.   It’s not just time for Bill Maher to have a dark night of the soul.   It’s time for all whites to think hard about the ways that our white privilege have affected and continue to affect our behavior and thinking.  My 2 cents, Claire

Posted in Arkansas, Donald Trump, racism, religion and politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fair and Balanced” Media

The irony of Fox New’s claim to offer “Fair and Balanced” news is hard to miss…unless you are ironically challenged!  And it makes me think also of the “no spin zone” which is how Fox New’s former hero Bill O’Reilly described his show.  In each instance the phrases are unwittingly ironic just as the name for this blog (The Only Truth in Politics) is deliberately ironic.  Self-promotion has its place, especially in the media, but it can often be “shameless” self-promotion as is so frequently illustrated by my country’s Dear Leader.

I often hear conservatives complain about being unfairly treated by the media.  But then Dear Leader makes it obvious why this is so for he blatantly describes anything negative said about him as “fake new” or a “lie.”  Even this morning in the New York Times there is a story about him having considered firing special prosecutor Bob Mueller because he thinks Mueller has an agenda against him.  But this concern illustrates the gravest issue that I believe the current political climate has but on our table–just what is real, what is true, and what is fair? Human nature always drives us to believe our view of the world is the proper one and that those who criticize us are not being fair, or “balanced,” or truthful.  The conservatives, led by Trump, are demonstrating that they have unquestioned premises about what is “real” and anyone that dares to challenge them will be dismissed, their view described as “fake news” or “driven by an agenda.”  What they can’t acknowledge is that all of us have an agenda and those who don’t understand that, carried to an extreme, will always lead to the rock-hard certainty of movements like Isis.

Here in this blog, you are reading a slanted, skewed view of the world as it flows from the accumulated experiences, genetic endowment, neuro-physiological development, and cultural background of one little redneck Arkansas boy who happened to be born in a little corner of this world, in a tiny and ultimately unimportant country which, like all countries, will one day occupy its place in the dustbin of history.  That is not nihilism.  It is just recognition of my personal finitude and an affirmation of the finitude of life about which I firmly believe, nevertheless, there is some “method to its madness.”

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Posted in conservatism, media, neurophysiology, Republican Party | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment