“ship of fools” – world party (1987)

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In December, a GoFundMe campaign was initiated to fund Trump’s border wall.  Spearheaded by Brian Kolfage, a Purple Heart recipient and triple-amputee veteran, the goal was to raise $1 billion to build portions of the border for a “fraction of what it costs the government” and do so on private lands owned by a nonprofit launched by Kolfage.  Within just a few weeks, Kolfage raised over $20 million from thousands of donors.  These donors were people so desperate for their wall, a symbol of bigotry and white supremacy, that they would give their money away to a man like Kolfage who promised results during April 2019. Though the GoFundMe did not achieve the goal Kolfage set, the timeline to begin construction has started and his financial backers are no wondering what is happening with the wall.

Reports have been coming through alleging that Kolfage recently bought a $1 million yacht using the money intended for the border wall, and is described as living a “high-flying lifestyle” with the rest of the funds. During their reporting of Kolfage’s campaign to raise fund for the border wall, The Washington Post that alleged Kolfage has a long history of scamming people using sensationalist anti-liberal propaganda to generate revenue.  Investigations led by NBC and BuzzFeed have also provided examples of Kolfage using conspiracy theories and fake news articles to harvest, mine, and sell email address and other data from his supporters.  Kolfage has also been linked to other crowdsourcing efforts that scammed financial backers including projects mentoring wounded veterans.  While Kolfage has not been charged or convicted for any of these scams, he has certainly been linked to scams for quite some time.

I cannot imagine being so desperate for a symbol of isolationist bigotry, such as the border wall, that I would be willing to unquestioningly give my money to some clean-cut, conservative white guy in a pressed polo in the hopes he could make by nationalist, white supremacist ideals into a reality.  Frankly, it is a mentality that I do not understand, relate to, or empathize with because of the amount of putrid hate that goes into that kind of thinking.  I can generally find myself supportive of anyone taken advantage of, but I feel nothing for these dumbasses who sold their souls for a stupid wall.

While these reports have been coming through about Kolfage, I have been reading Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.  As of the date this blog is published, I am just over the halfway point of reading through this report.

While much of what I have read in the report I already knew, I did learn some details that add some context to larger issues.  However, it all boils down to one consistent thought throughout and that is “why do people believe this man?”

Ultimately, the report suggests that Trump and his team were not knowledgeable that what they were doing was wrong and the inherent difficulty of assessing the value of the damage from that wrongdoing.  It is crystal clear Trump has lied, cheated, and stole throughout his life and that did not stop when he entered the White House, using the 2016 campaign as a big informercial to raise his brand awareness and profitability.  This is a conman who is scamming America, but he still manages to have a third of America enamored and defending his every move.

The reason why is that they are nationalists, racists, and white supremacists who have a very specific vision of America.  I’m not suggesting that every person who voted for Trump in 2016 adheres to any of those disgusting principles.  However, the fringe elements of Trump’s base have become so mobilized that they are helping drive national policy with Trump acting in their interests because they adore him.  These people want a wall built and Trump will do it because they love him.  As a result, the rest of America, people who don’t want a wall or are even ambivalent to it, are lumped in with those who are giving this country a bad name.  A name that suggests we are racist, hateful, bigoted, and uncaring to the rest of the world.  Those of us who oppose the wall are stuck on a burning ship set aflame by those who will distort America’s inherent vision and framework to align with their own to the point of altering America beyond recognition.  And It doesn’t matter if they get conned along the way, whether by Kolfage or trump, because they are always willing to throw in big bucks or put in long hours to get what they want.

“I don’t want to sail with this ship of fools” sung by Karl Wallinger, the producer and multi-instrumentalist behind World Party.  As World Party, Wallinger released “Ship of Fools” in 1987 from his studio album Private Revolution.  In the song, Wallinger is decrying the greed and avarice that defined the 1980s in favor of a more fair and inclusive direction.  This ship is travelling the world in search of no good, exploiting the work of galley slaves as the ship sails further away from the light towards darkness.  In a time when America faces an existential crisis on a level unheard of in our history, World Party’s “Ship of Fools” maintains a relevancy three decades after its initial release as a statement about the absurdity the majority endures at the hands of an extremist minority.

It is frustrating to know that a third of the country is being lied to but is still willing to give everything they have to secure a masturbatory fantasy regarding their bogus national identity.  It is important to fight against this at every step because we will not like what comes after America.

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“communication” – the power station (1985)

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I have been feeling rather introspective lately about a lot of aspects in my life.  I’m sure I’ll cover each of those in the coming weeks but, for this blog entry, I wanted to share some recent insights I have gained about the widening divisions within our society.  Namely, the perpetuation of an Us versus Them culture.

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, and subsequently was elected president the following year, it seems that the divisions between people, no matter how small, are exaggerated and exacerbated to the point that we cannot communicate with eachother, recede within our own biases and likeminded groups, and react in ways that can foster extremism.  Basically, a sense of tribalism.

While now it seems like this communication breakdown is so prevalent in 2019, I had been feeling some inkling of dissatisfaction with public discourse for a while now.  Coincidentally, right around the time social media became an increasingly pervasive factor in all our lives.

Facebook was still rather exclusive when I started college in 2006, only allowing college students at the time, but it soon evolved to include everyone thus making it easy to collect and monetize data.  My use of social media is so much different now than how I used it then.  Throughout my collegiate years, it was commonplace to argue and debate with people writing whole dissertations that would get ignored.  All of it felt supremely unnatural and ineffective to me.  I couldn’t eloquently at the time explain why, but those kind of exchanges just felt empty.

Now, it is very rare that I’ll respond to a heated thread with an opinion.  It isn’t that I’m afraid of the reaction, but I do consider what could be misinterpreted or lost in translation, whether intentionally or not, and I just decide that it isn’t worth my time.  I no longer view social media as a soapbox as I had used It in college.  Now, it is a means for me to share with family and friends vacation photos, see how they are doing, and post book reviews.  All of this was a conscious decision to shape how I used various social media platforms as a member of the first generation to come of age with social media as a communal space.

The criticism to that viewpoint is that, as a white cisgender heterosexual male, I do not recognize the equalizing power that social media platforms offer.  To the more marginalized members of our society, it is said that social media has given a voice to the voiceless.  And with that, a sense of justice and a fair shot of contributing to and redirecting social dialogue.  It is one of the reasons why proponents of social media, oftentimes people who generate income through their interaction with it, say that social media offers more good than it does bad.  That everything can be utilized in both positive and negative ways.

All of that is true, in theory.  Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon and we have yet to understand the long-term impacts social media has on our society.  Though, that isn’t to say we have not seen immediate effects.  Ones that we are just now becoming aware of and taking time to truly understand.

During President Obama’s second term, I began to understand exactly the issue I had with social media.  I was reading articles about people who made off color or racist remarks and then would be publicly shamed online.  I don’t disagree with someone facing consequences for hate speech, but social media allowed even innocuous, or misunderstood comments, to be blown up resulting in these people’s lives being ruined.  I had read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and he explained that social media was creating “virtual stockades,” environments where people could be shamed in ways unseen by civilization since actual stockades.  This seemed wrong to me to punish people for comments, while maybe inappropriate, that didn’t actually qualify as hate speech or directly communicated a call to action for violence.  I was trying to understand this changing landscape of activism and free speech and my questioning, or even criticism, of overreactions were deemed by my fellow liberals as me being an apologist for racists.

As Donald Trump was gaining momentum during the campaign, I would even get lambasted by my fellow liberals for engaging the situation that was more nuanced than just spewing vitriolic bile online or in crowds.  I remember telling a friend in December 2015 that the only way to defeat Trump was to ignore him.  I was told I was being complicit.  Complicit about what?  I don’t know.  However, the attitude at the time reflected this liberal bubble mindset that “if we cover everything he says and put it all over the news and social media, people will see how awful Trump is.”  That did not happen and since Trump’s election, media executives like Jeff Zucker and Les Moonves have said publicly that covering Trump meant more ratings and money.  And that’s when I realized the issue I had with social media.  I realized social media was a business that commoditized our outrage and profited off the proliferation of identity politics.

As part of my journey to understand why Donald Trump won the presidency, I had to understand how every side contributed.  I did not feel analyses blaming white people or racists or Russians were satisfactory at explaining his victory.  I began to think about how democrats and the left, my groups, contributed.  This led me to the realization that the left suffers from the narcissism of small differences, the idea that likeminded individuals are more likely to engage in feuds of minutiae. I found all of this so frustrating.  I kept thinking that since we are all on the same side, we should be more unified.  Instead, there were moments I received vitriolic feedback for have an opinion that was generally in the same ballpark, but still didn’t exactly align with the militancy that has been driving social activism.

I’ve been reading two books lately that have really opened my eyes on this subject.  Irshad Manji, a Muslim lesbian, wrote a book called Don’t Label Me, an analysis on how labels are weaponized in ways that dehumanize us and further the divide between Us and Them. She tackles modern social justice philosophies concerning privilege, power dynamics, multiculturism, and cultural appropriation and exposes the flaws inherent in each of those to showcase how people become isolated and gravitate towards extremes; places they can go and be reaffirmed for their beliefs by people who won’t berate and belittle them.

In the book, Manji is quite tough on leftist social activists for commoditizing marginalized people and using them as props to fulfill specific goals. She also stresses that people are more than their perceived labels, that we are plurals with unique backstories that defy the expectations or stereotypes of our labels.  I’m sure my fellow liberals have heard, or even conveyed, that people who voted for Trump are racists.  I have never believed that, though sometimes I found myself wavering when pressured or when Trump said something that really boiled my blood.  Yes, there are some truly vile people in his camp.  However, I have challenged this by telling people that all Trump voters are not bad.  The usual response is that they are complicit with Trump’s actions, or that I am.

Manji’s point is that in order to change hearts and minds, you must listen with the intent to understand as opposed with the intent to win.  As a result, you build a personal connection and are taken more seriously.  This potentially allows them to think on their own values and work on compromise that enforces a more unified outcome.  Telling someone they are wrong and stupid is only going to make them retreat which can develop into extremism.

The other book I have been reading is Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown.  The concept of emergent strategy comes from Octavia Butler, an African-American science fiction writer, and essentially means that large systemic changes can be made through simple interactions.  By developing personal relationships and, as Manji stated, listening with the intent to understand, we can bridge the gap between Us and Them.  It all boils down to building relationships with people with different views in order to achieve a mutually beneficial result.  We gain nothing from isolating people when we assume so much of them based on labels that restrict them and their individuality.

I am vocal about this because I do not Trump to win again in 2020.  And, the way I understand things as they are now, the left is doubling down on failed practices from 2016.  In essence, many of the left are acting exactly like Trump.  Trump claims he is a victim and mobilizes his base to attack the other.  The left, a lot of the times, victimizes themselves and acts in a way that is not proactive in achieving actual results.  In essence, we have look inward to facilitate change if we expect change within our problematic systems.  We cannot ask to be heard if we are not willing to hear.  Achieving honest diversity is about communication and dialogue.

The third single from the Power Station’s debut album, “Communication” is a fun pop rock song from 1985 about, obviously, the need to communicate.  In the song, Robert Palmer is asking someone to stay in touch though things are crazy hectic, and we are all on the move.  He’s urging this person to keep their lines open and exchanges facts through contact, but he just cannot get through.

I know it is a bit of a stretch to connect this song with the main thesis of this blog, but it adds to my point.  Remember when I was talking social media? Our interactions with people online are commoditized, and it shapes how we behave in the offline world. We’re being programmed to not have honest dialogue, but instead focus on whatever is quick and easy to consume because we’re always on the move looking for the next thing, the next click. We have to slow down and put emphasis on listening to each other and not become subjects to corporate mechanisms that generate revenue from our conflicts and anxiety.  Reach out.  I am here.  I will listen.

“tentative description of a dinner to promote the impeachment of president eisenhower” – lawrence ferlinghetti (1958)

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Yesterday, acclaimed social activist, cultural critic, and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti officially became a centenarian.  Long before turning 100, Ferlinghetti became world-renowned for his poetry collections and political activism. Urging poets and artists to become more socially and politically engaged, Ferlinghetti was a pioneer in utilizing art to challenge the political establishment and the threats of nationalism on our democracy.  On the occasion of his 100th birthday, his chosen home of San Francisco declared the date as “Lawrence Ferlinghetti Day,” honoring the artist’s commitment to social justice within his own community.

The same day as Ferlinghetti’s birthday, acting Attorney General for the Trump administration, William Barr, issued a summary of the findings from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into the president’s alleged involvement with Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  While Mueller’s full report has not been released at this time, Barr issued a statement that said that while the report did not find enough evidence to prove Trump colluded with the Russians, the president could not be fully exonerated.

While politicians, pundits, and the public continue to debate the details over the report, and the aftermath of it, one thing remains quite clear to me. This summary, if accurate and entirely reflective of Mueller’s findings, emboldens Trump and his supporters.  This summary serves to validate their cries that the special counsel investigation was a witch hunt and that Donald Trump is the only person who can save America from the brink of tyranny from the political establishment.

Among Trump’s supporters, there is a subgroup of nationalists and white supremacists that have become the most emboldened and energized of the group.  These are individuals who are committing violence against liberals, people of color, and anyone else who is different from them in terms of ethnicity and ideology.  And this is nothing new in 2019.  Even before the mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, Trump has validated white supremacists going as far back as the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that erupted in violence during August 2017, with Trump blaming “both sides” for the violence.

Recent reports and polling have indicated that nationalism and white supremacy are not only on the rise within Trump’s America, they are on the rise around the world.  Even non-Americans, people who could never vote for Trump in any election, espouse his rhetoric and champion their toxic beliefs that undermine the rights of people they view as an other. And while opponents of Trump’s vitriol were putting their faith in the Mueller report, Trump’s supporters were becoming active, engaging social media on a grassroots level to sow discord and misinformation for mass public consumption.

It is important to stay grounded.  The report has not been officially released, and efforts will continue within the Southern District of New York.  So, work isn’t over.  Regardless of the report’s outcome, it is widely known that Trump is a vile criminal with campaign staff currently indicted or serving prison terms.  While his supporters are celebrating “so much winning,” it is important to realize that there is a long game here and not to give up hope.  If anything, we must step up more to counter this bump in nationalistic fervor.

The fact that Ferlinghetti turned 100 on the same day Barr issued his summary was an interesting coincidence to me, especially considering Ferlinghetti’s advocacy against nationalism and the Trump administration’s sponsorship of it.  I spent some time last night reviewing some of Ferlinghetti’s most political charged writings, to find something that reflected our current political climate with a kind of wisdom only the past can provide.

In 1958, Ferlinghetti released a spoken-word poetry album called Tentative Description Of A Dinner To Promote The Impeachment Of President Eisenhower And Other Poems By Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  The album’s opening track is the poem “Tentative Description Of A Dinner To Promote The Impeachment Of President Eisenhower.”  Backed with a drum beating ominously in the background with varying rhythm and tempo, Ferlinghetti recites his poem.  “Tentative Description…” is a condemnation of American presidents, present and future, for not recognizing the devastating potential of nuclear oblivion, a subject Ferlinghetti came to understand after seeing the aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki while serving in the Navy.

While Ferlinghetti’s poem specifically addresses Washington’s complicit view of nuclear apocalypse, a few lines jumped out to me as poignant and relevant on a different level.

And after it became obvious that the President was doing everything

in his power to make the world safe for nationalism

his brilliant military mind never having realized

that nationalism itself was the idiotic superstition

which would blow up the world

Even though Ferlinghetti is addressing the carelessness of nuclear war, he identifies the true heart of why someone can commit such carelessness: nationalism.  Nationalism, now just as much as it was back then, is a philosophy based on hatred for others that don’t share the same characteristics as you or ones that you value.  Whether it is skin color, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or even political party, it is nationalism that gives violent and hateful people an excuse to exercise violence as an act of self-preservation, resulting from fear that their maligned and false sense of reality will be infringed upon by others practicing their own way of life.

There is no debate that nationalism is the cause of violence coming from a sect within Trump’s base.  Patriotism, not nationalism, is an expression of love for country.  However, through misinformation, nationalism has become a sacred right to these people, and they feel compelled to cause violence to uphold it. Nevermind that someone of a different belief system doesn’t infringe on your rights, nationalism has become a motivator to exert power and authority to uphold racist and classist hierarchies.  Nuclear annihilation, while still possible, can be argued as not being as much of a threat now as it was in 1958.  However, the vile acts of destructive nationalists spells doom for this country.  Though the body count is lower, the country and its democratic system will die a death by a thousand cuts.

“power to the people” – john lennon/plastic ono band (1971)

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Though Donald Trump has only been in office for two years, it has seemed excruciatingly longer than that.  The election cycle for 2016 was brutal as Trump eliminated a whole group of Republicans, one by one, though he was considered a candidate to write off as a joke, his victory in the primaries ensuring a win for the democrats.  That did not happen, and now it is the liberal side of the spectrum struggling to achieve unity within an overcrowded field of democratic presidential hopefuls, debating and arguing over not only who will defeat Trump, but who also represents the diversity of the party’s constituents.  The presidential election is 20 months away, and this dynamic of a seemingly endless parade of candidates is already proving contentious.

Like almost everyone on the planet, I was shocked when Trump won the 2016 election.  After that, I took a step back and began researching what happened.  I read nearly a dozen books, countless editorials, and monitored social media trends to try to find an answer in hopes of getting closure.  All this information about Russian meddling, third party candidates, poor campaigning, and so much more, it was a lot to take and made me feel really uneasy how everything fit together to create this perfect storm that engulfed all Americans.

What I had noticed was the complete lack of accountability from the left. Hillary not winning was because it was someone else’s fault.  It was the Russians for weaponizing social media to undermine our democratic institution.  It was the Bernie Bros for being so militant in their support that they would refuse to vote for Hillary.  It was the Trump supporters who are so comfortable with their racism.  Never mind the fact the democratic party had no platform other than the virtue of not being Trump, it was not their fault.

I was left with the impression that the democratic party has a unity problem.  And the reason behind that is that they suffer from the narcissism of small differences; where the left spends more time tearing each other down over minutiae than they do targeting our ideologically opposed enemies on the fascist right.  It is interesting that lately I have been social media campaigns suggesting “Vote blue, no matter who.” It leaves me feeling rather cynical, which is a feeling I despise, because my thought oscillate between “where were you last time” and “people will throw a tantrum if their candidate doesn’t win.”

This is why the primaries are so important.  This whole “vote blue, no matter who” mentality really only works in the general election, and only if you’re willing to lick your wounds and support the candidate that may have defeated your original choice in the primaries.  And it is the importance we place on the primaries that has made the whole affair so ugly, with people arguing endlessly online over the minutiae between democratic hopefuls.  I applaud their passion and support of their candidate, but you must realize that there is a strong chance you may have to vote for someone else when it comes to the final showdown against Trump.

This primary season has been fascinating to me.  We are still seeing people announcing their candidacy for the presidency, and people being vocal for why they support their preferred candidate.  It can be quite inspiring to see people advocate for their candidate, but it can be downright ugly as well.

I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primaries but voted for Hillary in the general election.  Sanders supporters were upset at perceived corruption within the Democratic National Convention and vocalized that support.  It fueled this public conception of the archetype Berne Bro, a Sanders supporter who is so militant in their advocacy that they negatively affected the election after Sanders’ candidacy ended in concession. Regardless that the Bernie Bro phenomenon is an exaggerated misconception, an idea supported by experts including Malcolm Nance, it seems that the admiration that surrounded Sanders in 2016 is being met with a lot more resistance in 2020 election cycle. And there’s an explanation for that.

In 2016, Sanders was the outlier. Someone on the fringes who had managed to achieve a lot of momentum through grass roots efforts, and really rattled the cages of the democratic establishment.  Sanders was fresh and exciting, and top brass in the party took note.  Now, as we enter the 2020 election cycle, presidential hopefuls are looking to capitalize on that Bernie momentum from 2016 which has shifted the establishment party to the left.  Now, you have a whole bunch of candidates who are campaigning on the platforms and ideas that have become popular since Sanders’ run in 2016.

This ideologically shift in the democratic party has ignited a peculiar debate, one exacerbated by the coverage on both traditional and social media; that people just don’t want Bernie Sanders anymore that that we have so many other candidates to choose from who share the same ideals.  I’m now seeing editorials and posts from friends to support candidates who are younger, ethnically diverse, and not a man. Now that there are candidates who are not old white men who say the same things as Sanders, an actual old white man, we can now find a candidate who reflects America’s growing diversity.

I think that kind of thinking is valid, and some of the candidates are admirable, but I’m not going to risk Trump getting a second term by playing identity politics with my vote in 2020. In the primaries, Sanders will have my vote.  And he’ll have my vote purely on the facts that he has been consistent in his views for several decades.  I like many of the candidates who are campaigning right now, and I find it inspiring that we have more women and people of color running for the highest office in the land.  However, many of these candidates have taken millions in corporate dollars and have sketchy voting histories.  If push comes to shove and one of these candidates become the democratic party’s nominee, I’ll vote for them.  However, in the primaries, I’m not letting identity politics stop me from supporting the old white guy candidate who has been consistent throughout his entire career.

Last night, I attended a presidential rally for Bernie Sanders at Navy Pier.  Thousands of people were there, and the energy was absolutely fantastic. The guest speakers were passionate, inspiring, and reflected the diversity of Sanders’ supporters.  Speakers included a renowned West Chicago poet, a young organizer from a Logan Square youth organization, one of Bernie’s former classmates, and one of the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

When Sanders spoke, he reflected on his life’s work fighting for racial, income, and environmental equality.  Specifically advocating for things like an end to police violence, a $15/hour federal minimum wage, and real initiatives to slow down and reverse the devastating effects of climate change. I was certainly inspired by his words, and I cannot believe that people can be so cynical about a candidate just because he is older and white, especially when they support the ideals he campaigns on.  I know we want someone who looks and sounds different.  However, we are in the midst of an existential crisis in this country, and our biggest goal is to defeat Donald Trump.  And Sanders has garnered more money ad support than any other candidate, and that’s why his opponents are so loud and vocal. They’re afraid he will succeed.

The music at campaign rallies can be kind of monotonous.  They are powerful in their messaging and what they represent, but tend to lose meaning when you hear them all the time and they become nothing more than an election trope.  “Power to the People” by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” is one of those songs.  Released as a single in 1971 during the sessions that would produce Lennon’s Imagine album (though this song would not be included), Sanders walked onto the stage to this liberal anthem. And I really felt excited by that.  Sure, it has been overplayed a lot of places.  Much of Lennon’s music is overplayed.  However, I really felt moved by the song last night, and that is a reflection of the context in which I heard the song.  It felt powerful because when it comes to Bernie, it isn’t just a trope.  The song means what it says, because Bernie means what he says.

“one more yard” – evamore (2018)

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Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which signified the end of the Great War.  In order to celebrate the centennial of the international order that ended World War I, dozens of world leaders attended a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe.  However, in what was supposed to be a solemn occasion to reflect on the progress humanity has made over the last century to ensure peace and stability, it turn into a dark reminder of our worsening global instability.

Trump made a big statement about not attending most of the ceremony due to his claims about excessive rain, though the weather actually had minor precipitation. It showed that Trump does not consider relationships with other nations, many with leaders critical of his administration, to be of personal value to him. So much so that his behavior proves that he is only concerned for his own well-being and make a somber occasion about the devastation of global conflict and the need to maintain peace all about him.  Trump even chose to arrive after the other leaders citing safety concerns.

Putin also attended the ceremony, though arriving several minutes after Trump.  What both men have in common is their unwavering nationalism that they do not care about the rest of the world.  Trump has even declared himself a nationalist and is unafraid to demean other nations while praising Putin, the other central figure in global politics who is encourages furthering global instability.

Other world leaders at the ceremony chose to speak up against nationalism both as a commentary about the goals of the original pact and a rebuke of Trump and Putin.  “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’”  These comments were made to address the resurfacing of old ideas “giving into the fascination for withdrawal, isolationism, violence and domination would be a grave error that future generations would very rightly make us responsible for.”

Trump’s behavior at the Armistice Day ceremony was not only embarrassing, but an indicator of how he will continue his own agenda regardless of its effects.  Even today, Trump went on Twitter to rage against Macron for his comments and insulted him, furthering the divide between the United States and the rest of the world.  Trump’s reaction adds validity to Macron’s comments and, without doubt, signifies that the United States is actively destroying the foundation of the principles of Armistice.

To commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Armistice, several Irish and English musicians collaborated on an EP under the name of Evamore, Chris Evan’s project collecting songs inspired by the letters of World War I soldiers.  The first single released from this project is “One More Yard” and includes contributions from Cillian Murphy, Sinéad O’Connor, Imelda May, Brian Eno, Ronnie Wood, and Nick Mason.  The lyrics, recited in spoken word by Murphy, was inspired by the letters of Lieutenant Thomas Wall from the Royal Irish Regiment to his mother.  Evan’s project will expand into a full album and raise funds for cancer awareness.  “It was incredibly moving to see how the words of soldiers 100 years ago were so similar to those of young people suffering from cancer today,” Evans said. “We can only now honor the sacrifice of those a century ago but there is so much to be done to help those who are locked into the greatest struggle of their lives as they confront cancer. We are very privileged that some of the greatest names in rock music and wonderful actors have chosen to get involved in our project.”

Evamore is an exciting project with an incredible mission.  It is representative of what humanity can accomplish when we unite.  Only in our division will we secure our own demise.

“your racist friend” – they might be giants (1990)

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Unless you’re off the grid and have completely disconnected from any Internet or telecommunications signals, then you have seen the images and video coming from Texas where immigrant children are ripped away from their parents and kept in centers that resemble prisons.  The news media have diligently covered this and the topic has been all over social media.  It is a deeply troubling human rights issue that has unified and motivated people to take action by protesting in the streets and contacting their representation in Congress.

The country has been through so much over the last few years, but I believe we are officially at the turning point in the existential crisis we are currently experiencing as a nation and a democracy.  The systemic practice of tearing families apart, detaining children, and even losing hundreds of immigrant children whose fates will range from being trafficked or murdered seemed so unreal in the past.  I know those things have happened before the Trump presidency, but the recent efforts of this administration to put his racist agenda in full gear is disturbing and could signal the end of our country’s moral standing as we have traditionally known.

My heart has been breaking over this.  I get a visceral feeling deep in my gut every time I see photographs or videos from these detainment centers.  Very young children are separated from their parents and are essentially imprisoned.  And the fate of these children is uncertain.  Some have been sent to foster families around the country.  Many continue to stay in these centers with no knowledge of their parents’ well-being. And, worst of all, many have just disappeared.  I know the pain I feel cannot match the pain experienced by these immigrant families.

I am happy to see that this issue has sparked such unrest in the nation and that people are demanding action in justice.  This past weekend, a nationwide protest called March for Families was conducted in communities across the country.  I was unable to participate, but I loved seeing the photos of people in my own community stand up against this human rights abuse.  Politicians are vocalizing sentiments from their constituents denouncing ICE and Trump’s racist immigrant agenda.  It is powerful and I am proud of what people can accomplish.

However, these positive efforts haven’t been met without resistance.  Trump and his administration have made hypocritical policy statements regarding their actions.  They continue to cite the reasoning behind their agenda being a law passed by the Democrats in the 1990s.  In reality, no such law exists.  And when met with that, Trump’s administrations continues to deflect by saying it is the Democrats fault why immigration reform hasn’t passed despite the fact that it is the GOP that currently serves as the majority in both the House and Senate.  Recently, Trump has made his true intentions known by saying he’ll quit separating families if he can get funding for the border wall along Mexico.  None of these actions separating immigrant families were random.  It is a carefully crafted and strategic policy designed to manipulate the country into furthering Trump’s authoritarian visions.

This is an ongoing issue and it continues to get worse.  In a move that shocked many, First Lady Melania Trump was seen wearing a jacket with the phrase “I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?” painted on her back as she boarded a plane to visit one of the detainment centers.  The spin team in the White House has rationalized this by saying the First Lady didn’t wear the jacket when visiting the children and that we shouldn’t be focusing on her wardrobe because it is sexist to do so.  They have also said the writing on the jacket didn’t hide any veiled messaging about the Trump administration’s policy.  They are right in that it wasn’t veiled because it spelled out exactly what their policy is.

As I mentioned, we are experiencing a very troubling existential crisis.  One that could change America into an authoritarian nation.  The current immigrant issue is the turning point.  How this turns out will determine the nation’s trajectory.  And the people have a choice in the role they play.  Do they want to live in a democracy or do they want to live under an authoritarian regime?

This is the time to speak up and speak out against those while justify the separation and detainment of immigrant children.  This is not the time to compromise.  I don’t really believe most people in this country want to see children ripped away from their families and essentially imprisoned.  Most of the people in this country have good hearts.  Sure, there is a minority that does enjoy those images, but I’m not speaking to them.  I’m speaking to the people who stuck on the wrong side of this issue because they are committed to party platforms.  I’m speaking to the people who, in response to any questioning about the detainment of these children, will say things like “Obama did the same thing” or “I don’t want completely open borders.”  Those are misguided and misinformed pieces of rhetoric amplified by the Trump administration to get his support base to back his immigration policy.  I don’t believe these people want to see children treated this way, but this goes back to the heart of the issue; separating immigrant families and detaining children is immoral.  That is what we must speak to and we cannot compromise on that message.

Since this is a blog where I connect songs with whatever social, political, or personal topic is on my mind, I sometimes have to really think and do some research on what song to spotlight that supplements my messages.  In some pieces, I start with a song and write a piece around it.  In other pieces, I write a piece and find a song to fit the narrative.  This is an example of the latter and I am quite pleased with what I found.

I don’t know many songs by They Might Be Giants.  I can honestly only count on one hand how many songs of theirs that I do know.  So, as a result, I was unaware of their song “Your Racist Friend” until very recently.

Appearing on They Might Be Giants’ 1990 studio album Flood, “Your Racist Friend” perfectly represents that kind of attitude we should have when encountering someone spewing racism and bigotry.  In the song, the singer is at a party with his friend.  His friend’s friend is there and saying some racist things.  The singer is fed up with being there and let’s his friend know that he feels like a hypocrite just standing there and being polite.  The singer’s friend is bored by politics, but he’s still complicit in the issue.  The singer let’s his friend know that he can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.  His friend cannot stand on the sidelines and has to choose what path he is going to take.  Does he support the singer and denounce his racist friend or does continue to be complicit or even echo his friend’s racism.  There is no room for compromise in the song just as there is no compromise in real life on this issue.

I strongly believe things will get better.  In fact, I know thing will get better.  I also know that things will get a lot worse before they get better, but they will get better.  Standing up and speaking out against an issue doesn’t have to be some grand thing.  Not everyone can do everything all the time.  Some can do more than others, but they are started from somewhere.  It all started with just by saying something and then everything else comes after that.  If we all just say something about this immigrant children, we can make things better.

“two tribes” – frankie goes to hollywood (1984)

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Donald Trump is positioning himself to become a wartime president.  In his ongoing mission to delegitimize American democracy and establish an authoritarian regime, the ultimate endgame Trump is achieving to secure his position is create global instability so severe that it results in multi-national armed conflict.  His recent actions have made this abundantly clear and an eventuality we all should consider should things continue.

Consider his recent summit in Singapore where Trump met with Kim Jong Un.  His administration is positioning this as a historic summit that signifies peace between two adversarial nations.  Part of that messaging includes blaming the previous presidential administrations, both Republican and Democrat, for failing to create a peaceful relationship.  Trump has had his photos taken with Kim and they are both smiling so, as the official position of the administration, this means Trump was able to “make a deal” and “win big” at something he claims that the previous presidents were to weak or inexperienced to accomplish.

Seeing images of the summit made me so angry.  When I saw the North Korean flag displayed in a way to suggest it was equal to the American flag, it was such a slap to the face to everyone who desires freedom for all and condemns regimes that starves and murder millions of their own people.  Trump didn’t make it a secret how much he loved Kim.  Trump viewed him as an effective leader and praised him repeatedly.

This summit served as a mean to legitimize Kim on a global scale.  Trump can claim all he wants about how he made a great deal with the North Korean leader, but he was played.  Kim doesn’t have to get ride of his nuclear programs, Trump has ceased military exercises in South Korea, and Kim is seeking to strike a deal to build a Trump Tower in his country.  If this wasn’t enough to convince even Trump’s most ardent supporters that he values his own fortune over national interests, I don’t know what would.

If only this summit was the only thing Trump was actively doing to disgrace this nation.  Trump, whether by his own will or the will of others, is playing this game on multiple levels.  At the same time he is manipulated by and kissing Kim’s ring, Trump does this at the same time he is destabilizing our relationships with this country’s most loyal allies.

Trump recently issues high tariffs against Canada.  Under the guise of “national security,” Trump declares that his next move to keep America first is to renegotiate or eliminate deals he believes are unfair to the United States.  There is no reason for such a move to take place against Canada.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not taking this lightly.  He is retaliating with his own tariff that go into effect in July.

These tariffs mean more than just higher prices for dairy or beer.  A major economic shift is coming and these tariffs only exacerbate the situation.  According to the latest quarterly outlook from the National Association for Business Economists, two-thirds of economists believe that a recession is coming 2020 with an economic decline that could begin as early as 2019.  The increased tariffs and trade wars Trump is initiating, in addition to his corporate tax cuts, make it likely that this recession will come even sooner than that.  This recession is believed to be as bad or worse than the last one in 2008.

A few weeks ago, the G7 summit was held in Canada.  These summits are designed so the seven leading (formerly eight before Russia was removed) economic nations to discuss various issues covering topics such as the economy, global security, and other related matters.  Prior to the summit, Trump made public statements in the media that Russia should be allowed to participate in the summit.  Our allies and neighbors already had a fractured image of the United States, but these statements by Trump only continued to deteriorate our relationships with the other six nations.  One image released by Angela Merkel’s staff signified the mood of the summit.  In the photo, Merkel is leaning on her hands over a desk surrounded by allies as she stares down at Trump who is sitting like a petulant child with his arms crossed and a smug smile on his face.  You could feel Merkel’s ire radiating from the image and served as the perfect symbol of this nation’s place in the world right now.

Thins are scary on an international level, but they are even worse at home.  For several decades, the GOP has been quite successful at branding themselves as the party of the common man.  As part of their anti-rational and anti-intellectual mission, anyone who doesn’t fit in their box is deemed as an elitist who is out of touch with the American people.

Since the 1980s, the Republicans and the extremists wing within it have been consistently on point with their message.  I have always seen politicians or the media denounced as being tools of the liberal agenda, but things are getting scary.  This messaging has now influenced public perception of federal institutions and basic tenets of democracy.  Whole political institutions such as the FBI and Department of Justice have now been labeled as tools of a rigged system that only Trump and his supporters have the power to save the American people from.

Trump ran during the 2016 presidential election because wouldn’t have been able to win before.  However, a rift in America has been growing since the 1980s and 2016 was the prime time to exploit it.  Trump and his administration’s message isn’t random or chaotic.  It is well-thought out and intricately planned.  Their mission is to create a civil discourse so irreversible that we could be on the verge of another Civil War.

So, how does this all relate to my belief that Trump is seeking to become a wartime president?  By creating mass instability at home and abroad, it becomes a platform by which he can rally his base and execute executive powers that are available, or even made up, during times of crisis.  Recent polls show that over half of Republicans support Trump postponing the 2020 election.  Now, these Republicans hold that position as a means to combat the non-existent problem of voter fraud, but we have seen examples where elections favor leaders currently sitting in office during times of war.  Franklin Roosevelt was a third term in 1940 and a fourth term 1944.  To be fair, presidential term limits weren’t in place yet and those elections weren’t postponed due to World War II.  However, FDR won with over 400 electoral votes each time.  Even if the 2020 election wasn’t postponed, who is to say that Trump wouldn’t experience similar results if a conflict were to arise that kept people from the polls or even seeking a change at a time when it becomes so important to maintain the status quo?

Yesterday, I read that Russia may have modernized a nuclear weapons storage bunker in Kaliningrad.  Allegedly, these major renovations have been ongoing since 2016 and likely to resume operational status soon.  Positioned between Poland and the Baltic, the site in Kaliningrad “could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces.  But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region, according to Hans Kristensen, the director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists.

Such a renovation project could signify Russia preparing for an escalation in tension with Eastern Europe; a tension that has been steadily increasing since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Given Russia’s role in undermining the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its removal from the G8 (thus becoming the G7), and the decline of America’s relationship with its allies, it is likely that Russia is looking to secure itself as the world’s dominant superpower.  Thus possibly leading to further land expansion, armed conflicts, and infiltration in foreign governments to disrupt national security and stability.  Welcome to the Cold War repackaged and rebranded for the Millennial generation and Donald Trump is at the helm and ready to get rich off of everyone at the expense of this country’s most valued traditions and institutions.

One of my favorite anti-war songs from the Cold War era is “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  Released in 1984 on their album Welcome to the Pleasuredome, it is a nihilistic but enthusiastic statement about nuclear war.  Comparing the conflict of a nuclear war to something as trivial, but emotionally significant to some, as a soccer match, Frankie Goes to Hollywood believes that there is nothing more to gain from war than just a score.

Trump wants to be a wartime president because he is scared.  As each day passes in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, Trump can feel the noose tightening.  Staff members are leaving and some people close to the campaign are facing serious jail time.  I don’t know if this goes all the way to Donald Trump or what his fate will be (he has openly discussed his ability to pardon himself), but he is a man who is being cornered.  And like a scared animal, he will lash out any way he can.  And if he could look like a powerful leader in the process, then all the better.  That is why I believe Trump wants a war and he doesn’t care how he gets it.

“harper valley p.t.a.” – jeannie c. riley (1968)

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I was a senior in high school when Stephen Colbert performed at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  His show, The Colbert Report, had premiered the year prior and was a much-needed satirical partner to balance The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s liberal stranglehold on the fake news circuit.  Colbert, a former Daily Show alum, played the character of a conservative blowhard television pundit (based on Bill O’Reilly) who would defend George W. Bush’s presidency by misappropriating facts to fit his own narrative and bias.  The character of Stephen Colbert was created as a satirical reflection of the rise of political punditry that presented opinion as facts and furthered uninformed partisanship that has continued to divide us over a decade later.

In 2006, Stephen Colbert wasn’t a household name yet.  So, not everyone was in on the joke yet.  Colbert was invited to perform that year by Mark Smith, the current president of the White House Press Corps Association, though Smith was admittedly unfamiliar with the comedian’s work.  While comedians have spoken or performed at the dinner since 1983, Colbert’s turn was the first time that a comedian spoke truth to power in their performance.

As with his television show, Colbert performed in character.  Colbert’s character is designed to sound like he is complimenting or praising you, but each comment is actually a criticism that exposes some negative quality about that person.  Nothing personal or superficial, but rather critiques on their lack of honesty, poor character, or penchant for hypocrisy.

At that dinner, Colbert feigned mock defense of Bush’s mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, passing tax cuts that only benefitted the rich, and the lies that led us into the war in Iraq.  President Bush wasn’t the only target that night.  Colbert lampooned John McCain, Antonin Scalia, Jesse Jackson, and others in attendance as well.  While some of these jokes were taken with good humor, Colbert’s performance was met with a chilly reception with several of Bush’s aides walking out during the speech.  Colbert looked back on the event noting that “not a lot of people laughed in the front row” and that “no one was even making eye contact with me.”  The only person who approached Colbert to praise his performance was Justice Scalia.

The press heavily analyzed Colbert’s performance.  Many outlets called Colbert rude, unfunny, and that he was a bully bombed badly.  Others praised him for not pandering to insiders by doing insider jokes.  For the first time since 1983, the media coverage of the dinner was more focused on the comedian’s speech than the president.

While there was an alleged media blackout during the live airing of Colbert’s speech, it gained widespread popularity on the Internet.  Now, the whole world could see Colbert speak “truthiness to power” as many times as they wanted.  At a time when the American people were becoming increasingly disillusioned by their leaders in Washington for engaging in needless wars based on misinformation and lies, Colbert holding a mirror to those responsible for those lies was necessary, relevant, and a reinforcement of the American people to hold our leaders accountable.  This was the First Amendment in action and it was beautiful.

Twelve years later, in 2018, Michelle Wolf finds herself in the same situation Colbert did when she decided to use the White House Correspondent’s Dinner to speak truth to power and blast the lies and hypocrisy plaguing our country coming from the Trump White House and fueled by our media outlets.  In just under twenty minutes, Wolf tore into everyone in the room.  She called out members of the Trump administration for outright lying to the American people and criticized news outlets for putting Trump in power in pursuit of profits.

Wolf did what she was supposed as a comedian.  She told jokes.  However, she used the platform to criticize the institutions responsible for dividing the American public and furthering the delegitimization of our Republic.  Wolf called out Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the current White House Press Secretary, for lying to the media and the public.  She called out Ivanka Trump for furthering her own business interests at expense of women.  She called out President Trump for his sexist comments and assault allegations.  She called out members of the press for using their outlets to profit from the chaos generated from the Trump administration.  In other words, she did everything right.

Since her speech at the dinner, Wolf has faced heavy criticism for her performance.  While there are journalists, entertainers, and fans who praise Wolf’s performance, the negative reactions are overwhelming the positive ones.  Margaret Talev, the president of the White House Press Association, said the “program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people.  Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”

Like Colbert did in 2006, Wolf was relying on her skills as a comedian to use the platform to make statements that needed to be heard.  While many may say her speech was rude, bullying, and inappropriate, I say that Wolf’s comments were relevant, necessary, and truthful.  This wasn’t just another comedian who was going make some jokes and take home a paycheck.  Wolf had something to say and her message was on point.

Naturally, the Trump administration and his supporters were outraged by Wolf’s comments.  Trump slammed the organization and tweeted that the dinner is “DEAD as we know it. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that it stands for.”  Conservative pundits hit social media and news talk shows to decry Wolf’s statements and shame liberals and Democrats for their alleged elitism.  Trump and his supporters like to pivot themselves as iconoclasts who don’t play the Washington game but rather fight for the working class and Wolf, an elitist liberal, was only there to be mean-spirited.

I am not surprised by the hypocrisy displayed by these conservative pundits and members of the Trump administration.  The Trump campaign was built on lies and hypocrisy.  Trump, during the campaign, suggested that Russia hack his opponent, advocated for the imprisonment of his opponent, threatened violence against protestors, verbally expressed he sexually assaulted women, and countless other things that illustrate that he, and his supporters, are unstable and dangerous.  For a political base that likes to deride their opponents as being “snowflakes” who can’t take a joke or the slightest bit of criticism, the conservatives are sure acting like a bunch of snowflakes over Wolf’s speech and they voted for the biggest snowflake of them all (Trump has skipped the dinner twice and is the first president to do so since Reagan was shot in 1981, but at least the Gipper called in).

I have no issues with any of the comments Wolf made during her speech.  Every comment was based on facts and were made against people in the public eye for legitimate reasons.  This was Wolf speaking truth to power and holding our political and media institutions accountable for creating the mess we currently find ourselves in.

Written by Tom T. Hall and originally record by Margie Singleton, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” became a huge hit for Jeannie C. Riley in 1968.  In the song, Riley tells the story of Mrs. Johnson who is a widowed woman with a teenage daughter.  One day, Mrs. Johnson’s daughter comes home with a note from the Harper Valley P.T.A. suggesting that Mrs. Johnson’s behavior and lifestyle is scandalous.  She’s accused of wearing miniskirts, drinking too much, and running around with men. So, what does Mrs. Johnson do?  She goes to the next P.T.A. meeting which is happening that very night.

Dressed in a miniskirt a the P.T.A. meeting, Mrs. Johnson puts everyone there on blast.  She calls out Bobby Taylor for begging her for dates, Mr. Baker for his secretary leaving town, Shirley Thompson for her gin-soaked breath, and others for engaging in the very same behaviors they accuse Mrs. Johnson of.  She declares the whole lot as hypocrites which they certainly are.

“Harper Valley P.T.A.” is a feminist anthem about calling truth to power against authority figures who don’t live by the same standards they demand from others.  Like Mrs. Johnson, Michelle Wolf put everyone on blast. Wolf even continues doing so.  When members of the press call her uncivil but don’t put the president on blast for sexist comments, they’re just living in a little Peyton Place and they’re all Washington hypocrites.

Of all the criticism I have read about Wolf’s performance, I am most disappointed by the negative reactions from members of our press.  Especially, from members of the liberal press.  While Trump’s reactions were expected, seeing Wolf by journalists has dangerous effects on our First Amendment right to free speech.  Talev’s statement that the statement is meant to unify suggests that the American people cannot hold our press to the same standards that press holds for our political leaders.  Our press demands a commitment to integrity from our leaders.  However, when a comedian is invited to give a speech to a bunch of insiders and doesn’t play ball the way they want her to, suddenly that demand for integrity goes out the window.

Wolf is right that the press helped elevate Trump to the presidency and has since been complicit in the problems our countries face due to partisan vitriol.  Wolf used her platform to hold them accountable and they just couldn’t take it.  When I read statements from journalists from NBC, MSNBC, The New York Times, and CNN reduce Wolf’s statements to uncivil insults, it is hypocrisy at its purest.  These journalists demand integrity and transparency, but refuse to give the same when there are legitimate reasons to do so.  When the journalists fail to respect the First Amendment, that is when we start to lose it. So, I congratulate Michelle Wolf for socking it to the WHCA.

“2 minutes to midnight” – iron maiden (1984)

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Last week, the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight.  Since 1947, developed by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, the Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the probability of a man-made global catastrophe.  Over the years, the distance between the minute hand and midnight has fluctuated greatly.  In 1991, the clock was set at 17 minutes to midnight, the furthest from midnight since 1947, because the United States and Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Since then, things have only gotten worse.

Over the 27 years since our allegedly most peaceful time of the 20th century, the minute hand has crept steadily closer to midnight.  While the threat of nuclear war has been the most prominent criteria for the Doomsday Clock since its inception, the effects of global climate change has contributed to the minute hand’s position since 2007.

The Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight has week.  This is the closest we’ve come to midnight since 1953 when the United states tested its first thermonuclear device in 1952 in an effort known as Operation Ivy to accomplish such a task before the Soviet Union had a chance.  That designation in 1953 represented an active endeavor to advance nuclear capability.  In 2018, the significance of these two minutes stems from the failure of the United States and other world leaders to address looming threats of nuclear war with some leaders even making comments or taking actions that seem to suggest the desire such an outcome.

Speaking strictly about the United States, the use of nuclear weapons has been a desire expressed by Donald Trump.  During election, he asked several times why we even have nuclear arms if we don’t intend to use them.  Since taking officer, he has made threatening remarks against North Korea and even made disrespectful comments against their leader Kim Jong-un, a murderous despot who is starving his own people to advance his country’s nuclear capabilities.

Over the last few years and prior to the Trump administration, the North Korean government has actively worked towards developing their nuclear arms.  With every failed test, they have shown considerable improvement.  In September, North Korea claimed a successful hydrogen bomb test.  On November 29th, the Hwasong-15, the country’s furthest-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile, flew for 53 minutes before crashing into the ocean.  That ICBM has a theoretical range that puts the whole world at risk apart from Latin America and Antarctica.  While a lot of the Kim Jong-un says could be just empty threats and saber-rattling, there is truth to the improvement of his nuclear capabilities.  It was reported today that Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency chief, believes that North Korea could be able to nuke the United States within a “handful of months.”

What makes the shadow of nuclear war longer is Donald Trump’s mishandling of the issue.  Beyond the name calling and threats of “fire and fury,” there exists something deeper in Trump that adds credibility to our worries of nuclear war.

I recently read The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.  Compiled by Dr. Brandy X. Lee, the organizer of Yale University’s “Duty to Warn” Conference, this is a collection of essays and reports from over two dozen psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals who are executing their professional duty to warn people that their assessments of Donald Trump’s poor mental stability and how he puts the world at risk.

While each professional goes into their own narrative or theory on Trump’s mental health, there is a common thread that suggests they all believe that Trump is unfit to be president and can react in a volatile and unpredictable way.  Trump’s narcissism and need for pure adulation and control could lead to the president making an ill-informed, or even dangerous, decision.  Whether its pure impulse to destroy an enemy or distract the public from the Russian collusion investigation, Trump’s access to the United States’ nuclear arsenal is cause for concern.

The United States is feeling this nuclear threat on a level that hasn’t been seen since the Cold War.  The United States Centers for Disease Control originally planned a session on discussing nuclear disaster preparedness for January 16th.  That session has been postponed for a currently unknown date.  Though the CDC cancelled the session with the promise of a future session scheduled, the fact a federal agency is recognizing an imposing threat validates the general public’s concerns which should motivate our leaders to take action to curb such threats.

On January 13th, an emergency alert was mistakenly sent out to people in Hawaii warning that a missile was incoming, that they should seek shelter, and that the alert wasn’t a drill.  This error was made and the Hawaii government is taking steps to prevent the error being made again.  However, the alert represented a sign of the times; misinformation about a possible threat.  And that is problematic because it reduces the public’s ability to take the government seriously.  Considering the man currently in the Oval Office cannot be trusted and has a questionable mental health status that makes him dangerous, trust is dwindling.

Since the middle of the 20th century, nuclear annihilation has been a reoccurring theme in our popular culture.  Whether such an apocalypse is depicted in films, television, or video games, people ae fascinated by a world impacted by nuclear fallout and the question of man’s ability to survive it.  It is a narrative setting that never fails to create such dynamic stories from a reality that none of us want at all.

The theme of nuclear war is also present in our popular music.  While there are hundreds of songs that cover the subject, none feel more relevant now than “2 Minutes to Midnight” by Iron Maiden.  The heavy metal legends release this protest song about nuclear war on their 1984 album Powerslave.  “2 Minutes to Midnight” is a hard-hitting critical track that condemns the hands of doom that wreak nuclear havoc on people for glamour and greed.  It is the madman’s love of death that threatens our lives.

The song title is a reference to the Doomsday Clock.  The track was released 31 years after the first time the clock was two minutes to midnight and we were closer to nuclear annihilation than ever before.  Now, 65 years after the clock hit two minutes for the first time and 34 years since Iron Maiden released this single, we are now closing in on the brink of nuclear annihilation again.  While that threat was curbed by some of our country’s greatest leaders, we have no one currently in the White House who can fill those shoes.  It is a frightening time being this close to midnight and the only thing we can do is wait it out.

“why? (am i treated so bad)” – the staples singers (1965)

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Last week, members of the Trump administration and various lawmakers met to strike a deal concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy.  DACA allows those who had entered the United States as minors to apply for a two-year deferred action period exempt from deportation and be permitted to get a work permit.  DACA had been put into effect in 2012 during his administration, but was rescinded by the Trump administration in September 2017.  However, a grace period of six months was granted in order to figure out how to deal with the 800,000 individuals affected by the policy change.  The meetings last week align with that grace period

Social media and major media news outlets went into a firestorm when it was reported that Trump referred to immigrants from Haiti and Africa as being from “shithole countries.”  A spokesman for the Trump administration did not deny Trump’s comments, but were later confirmed by the U.S. Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin.  Trump has since denied this comment was made has claimed he is both not a racist person or the least racist person anyone can know.

Paying attention to the news reports and social media feedback on Trump’s latest blunder in a long line of national embarrassments leaves me astounded and wondering if things could any worse.  In short, they can, and I don’t know why I even asked the question.  This new low in presidential decorum has steered this country into a strange and peculiar direction.  I never thought I would ever see national news reports using the word “shithole” so forwardly.

Causal swearing made common on television is not the worst aspect of this latest Trump scandal.  It is the fact that it has now become so apparent that American policy is being driven by a racist agenda.  Prior to this, it was no secret that Trump was a racist.  Even before stepping into the public and political arenas, the specter of racism has followed him throughout his career.  When renting or selling properties through Trump, people of color received a special code on their application that indicated their non-white status which impacted their ability to acquire property or reside in a Trump owned property.  That detail has stood the test of time in illustrating that Trump’s racial prejudices has been long-term.  I could keep going and elaborate on dozens of racist quips or anecdotes Trump has made over topics like the Central Park Five, David Duke, or Colin Kaepernick, but I just don’t have the time.   Plus, the fallout from the “shithole countries” controversy potentially has the biggest impact.

The news media, when reporting on Trump over the years, has always skirted the issue on his racism.  Historically, they suggest that Trump “made racist remarks” or “bigoted statements.”  The issue isn’t that those claims are not true, but they miss the bigger picture.  They are passive statements that don’t say directly that Trump is a racist person.  On the campaign trail when he called Mexicans rapists, those comments were racist as opposed to the candidate being racist.  Whether it was some professional courtesy or ethics issues I am not fully aware of or understand, the journalists driving the national dialogue in our media wouldn’t just call the situation out for what it was.

Since the “shithole comments” were made, journalists and reporters are now making the distinction.  Instead of suggesting that Trump made “racist comments,” they are now truthfully asserting that Trump is racist.  That’s great we’re now crossing that line in honest report, but it also seems a bit too little and a lot too late.  Trump is almost done with his first year as president and he has, on several occasions, shown his true colors as a racist.  He has had one full year to use racism to influence his global and international policies.  If we got to “shithole countries” before the first anniversary, imagine what is going to happen in years two, three, and four (hopefully not more beyond that).

All this happened the weekend before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day where we celebrate the life and legacy of one of the greatest civil rights leaders.  Dr. King was shot 50 years ago this April.  He preached a form of non-violent protest.  He was the voice of a generation and a movement that sought equality for a marginalized people.  So much can be said about this man that I know I couldn’t do him justice.  However, he is a hero and a symbol for hope.

Over the weekend prior to the national holiday celebrating Dr. King, Trump made statements that he wasn’t a racist and attacked Durbin how confirming his racist remarks in the DACA meeting.  Trump suggests he isn’t racist and that he is the least racist person you’ll ever interview or meet.  Funny thing, Don.  Racist people don’t have to go out of their way to prove they are not racist.

It was troubling to see all this just days away from Dr. King’s holiday and then see his message and image coopted by those who actively oppress people of color, women, and LGBT with their policies.  Vice President held a ceremony at the Dr. King monument in Washington, D.C.  Speaker Ryan posted a photo of him staring in awe of a bust of Dr. King.  I don’t know what Trump did, if anything, and I don’t care.  They are all racist men who take active measures to apply their racism in official policy.  The audacity of Pence to praise Dr. King’s message at the foot of his monument when he left a football game just months before when players took a knew during the national anthem is unfathomable.  Hypocrisy at its most blatant.

In the media yesterday, I kept seeing articles and editorials where white supremacists and nationalists were coopting Dr. King’s image and message to prove their racist points against activists like Colin Kaepernick.  Admittedly, I didn’t read any of them.  I just couldn’t bring myself to delve into that bullshit.  The country is still scrambling to resolve the “shithole countries” issue.  I didn’t have the energy to read some bullshit point from bullshit people for bullshit reasons.

Over the summer, I visited Washington, D.C.  While I was there, I made sure to visit Dr. King’s memorial.  I was in awe of the size and power of the display.  King’s sturdy and resilient image coming out of the rock sent shivers down my spine.  I know that I am a white man who has benefitted from our racist society, but I am still moved and emboldened by Dr. King’s message.  Especially during a time with such a racist administration.  I know that I am not the one affected by their racist policies, but I can stand up against them.  Motivated by Dr. King, I can choose to not remain silent.

Roebuck “Pops” Staples wrote “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)” in response to the Little Rock Nine protests.  In 1957, nine black students attempted attend the segregated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.  Three years prior, the United States Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional.  Angry protestors and armed members of the Arkansas National Guard stood in the way of their students trying to enter the school.  President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the students into the high school three weeks later.

The Staples Singers recorded “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)” in 1965.  According to Greg Kot’s book “I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era,” the song became a personal favorite of Dr. King’s.  Dr. King would always request Pops to have the song performed when the Staples Singers were singing at any of the civil rights rallies organized by Dr. King.  The song asks why the singer is treated so bad despite having done nothing wrong.  The message is clear, concise, and simple and it served as an effective anthem for the civil rights movements.

I read Kot’s book on the Staples Singers a few months ago.  In December, I got to see Kot interview Mavis Staples, one of Pops’ daughters, about her life and career.  She talked about Dr. King and providing a soundtrack for the civil rights moment which was a big part of Kot’s book.  However, Mavis drew the experience and lessons from the 60s to the contemporary issues we are facing today with the recent rise in white supremacy.  She said she may not be the one to provide a musical outlet to express rage, frustration, and determination in these times, but she championed the artists of today like Chance the Rapper who continue the legacy of fighting for civil rights.

As the blowback from Trump’s “shithole countries” comment continues, it is hard to see where his racism will go from here.  His supporters have been emboldened by his statements and determined to push a white supremacist agenda.  Not only that, but the behavior continues to be normalized.  This wasn’t just one mistake.  It’s another racist comment in a long line of racist comments, but it won’t be the last.  Trump is changing the game on what the nation can claim is presidential.  And his supporters love it.  It makes them energized and they thrive on the chaos and madness.  Saying that people from Africa come from “shithole countries” may be shocking now, but it might become the norm when Trump has the potential to say and do even worse things using the platform the presidency provides.

I am glad that people are angry.  However, I am trying not believe that the anger expressed will only exist in the short-term and be forgotten when something even worse comes along thus normalizing the previous offense.  This weekend will mark one year of Trump.  We’ve got three more.  And until that man is removed from the office, we must fight for this country and for those treated so bad.