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Johnny Cash's Middle Finger  

That photo of Johnny Cash giving the middle finger is interesting 

It’s a good photo because it is interesting 

But I don’t get the sense that the photo enjoys wide circulation for the right reasons 

Johnny Cash‘s middle finger is misconstrued as a heroic gesture 

The photo is practically celebrated 


You want to be on that team 

With Johnny Cash doing the dirty work 

The desperate action of an exploited man 

Flexing as such, badass 

The middle finger, yours perhaps, we get it 

Like an identity politic 

Project onto it what have you 

The middle finger 

An identity politic that is neither principled or productive 

The middle finger 

The sharpest tool in the road rage tool kit 

The devolution of good sportsmanship 

A coded endearment towards an acceptance of continued dysfunction 

Adults behaving badly through the ages 

Just about everyone today likes the image of Johnny Cash giving the middle finger 

But almost no one knows what it means 

I didn’t know what it meant until I found out 

The photo was taken by Jim Marshall during a performance at Folsom Prison 

Johnny Cash was asked to take a picture for the Warden 

You can buy a variety of merchandise with this image on it 

You can find it on sweatshirts and mugs along Music Row in Nashville 

It’s possible that Johnny Cash’s middle finger is more recognizable in some circles than the man himself 

We romanticize and sensationalize prison, but it’s a business and a shit business at that 

Lucrative for stakeholders, don’t get me wrong 

But it’s wrong to be a stakeholder in a prison 

And everyone likes to be right 

A man giving the middle finger would seem to be free  

But the United States holds a higher percentage of its population in prison than anywhere else in the civilized world 

This free country holding 20% of the world’s prisoners today 

The trend has only gotten worse since Johnny Cash‘s middle finger 

Johnny Cash wasn’t a phony person 

He recognized the situation 

I hope his estate makes money off the crass exploitation of his middle finger 

But it was an ineffectual protest 

A small gesture at that 

An interesting image none-the-less

Return of Covid: The Delta Variant  

I’m currently having a moral dilemma over how to respond to the recent uptick of Covid variant in NV County. The numbers are on the rise and I have a few shows on the calendar for this month. Should I play these shows? Should I go see show and/or participate in community events? Where does one draw the line? 

The numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell a clear truth either. The California Dept. of Public Health currently requires masking indoors for non-vaccinated people, but it isn’t being enforced. There is a large enough anti-vax contingent where I live, and we all know they don’t give a shit. Anti-vax people aren’t going to change their minds for anything. 

I’m double vaxxed and more/less healthy. Put another way, I’m not concerned for my health. I am concerned for people who are vulnerable health-wise. But this is also where it gets tricky. My concern for the health of others is meaningless if not broadly shared by the wider community. From my experience with C19 – from knowing many people who contracted it, including my family – the impacts vary. It’s a wildcard, but the elderly and the ill-of-health are the most impacted (from my experience and read of the data) – particularly the unvaccinated. 

By the numbers, Nevada County was NEVER fully onboard with Covid protocols - not even close. Throughout the first year of Covid, less than half the county even got tested and testing numbers were inflated by people like me who got tested multiple times. What does this tell us…? 

Data collection and interpretation/ analysis has been haphazard since the beginning of Covid. To the degree we have an immunization problem, I think we can pin some blame on poor public leadership, political grandstanding, identity politics, sensationalistic media, selfishness, and ignorance amongst people who really just don’t want to know what’s going on. And despite the prevalence of strong opinions since all this started, in truth, it’s actually a very complicated situation. There are a handful of valid concerns about the vaccination too, though most of the skepticism falls flat. 

We are still learning about C19 and will continue to do so for years to come IMO. It seems clear that getting vaccinated greatly reduces the risk of getting it, although not entirely. And apparently even vaxxed people can still transmit it, which is at heart of my dilemma. We’re not going to be completely rid of Covid no matter what we do. But, getting the vaccination shot(s) seems to be very effective. If people refuse to get vaccinated, what more can be done? 

The venues and orgs that I work with and patronize have all taken serious steps to be a good public citizen. These are hardworking people who have serious skin in the game when it comes to maintaining a business and livelihood. I have much respect for the small businesses trying to do the right thing, but also needing to survive. Small business is not something that I take for granted. 

That said, here I am in a grey area. What to do? It seems like those doing the right thing and making sacrifices are the people who are the most punished (outside of anyone actually getting really sick). Meanwhile, the Covid deniers and conspiracy minded people continue on with their miserable lives. 

What good does trying to outrun or hide from Covid do at this point, especially if the most vulnerable people are adults who have chosen not to get the vaccine? If we're doing our part to be a good public citizen, including getting the vaccine, what further are we trying to accomplish? Nevada County has been basically open since June (and probably several months ahead of that – fully “open”). Yes, there is a spike in the numbers of late, but they are still relatively small numbers. We know what’s driving it – the unvaccinated – and not much can be done about that. There are no indications of medical resources being overwhelmed anywhere that I know of, which is a trend that has improved in 2021 – a trend that has held nationwide as well. 

It’s mortifying to think that playing or going to a show is a net negative to public health... In my case, these aren’t just solo shows in a vacuum either, but commitments to ensembles, rehearsals, venues, etc. It’s easy for a conversation like to this to spin out sideways in many different directions. Where do you draw the line?

Non-Essential Activities that Feel Productive While Social Distancing… or just #StirCrazy 

1. Grow a long mustache. 

2. Write your own lyrics to Louie, Louie. 

3. Memorize the witty one-liners of the Blue Man Group. 

4. Ukulele this / Ukulele that. 

5. Dig out that old #2 pencil and check the legibility of your handwriting. 

6. Write a manifesto with a #2 pencil. 

7. Dance like no one is watching because that it likely the case. 

8. Make music with a wine glass. 

9. Clean your phone – and don’t stop there – clean the whole house! 

10. Compose the perfect Tweet. 

11. Keep disagreements with quarantined housemates at a slow burn, stopping just short of resolution. 

12. Match Tupperware containers with lids. 

13. Hunt for missing sock. 

14. Spin all your vinyl backwards and look for messages from Satan. 

15. Savor the smell of fresh made coffee… for an extra thirty minutes. 

What are you doing to cope with isolation?

Conspiracy Theories: Too Much Bullshit (Part 2)  

Consider the source. An armchair warrior on Facebook isn’t the same as someone who put in their 10,000 hours. Speaking of politics specifically, I don’t think anyone knows how it really works in a nutshell. Politics is a mix of ideology, activism, human nature, precedent, teamwork, systems, etc. The nuance of how this all fits together will give plenty to chew on for strategy and prediction. You can dive in without having to consider the influence of aliens or the Wizard of OZ. But this doesn’t stop many people getting their information from the likes of Infowars and the National Enquirer. 

The impetus for most conspiratorial thinkers is not truth, but the desire to participate in groupthink. Logic doesn’t necessarily open the can of truth worms. Conspiratorial thinkers might start off with an intellectual pursuit, but emotivism is at the core of their ideas. The want for understanding gives way to a desire to be right, and such desire requires affirmation. It’s tribal in a way. Often, an agreeable group of conspiratorial thinkers will share the same manner of dress: anarchists with army surplus dark clothes and masks, alien hunters with a cross between Star Trek costuming and renaissance fair garb, or the Hillary-is-Crooked camp with their red “make American great again” hats. 

Conspiracy theories do not need to be accurate to gain traction. They just need to be repeated, indiscriminately. We live in an era of doubling down on factually flimsy assertions. It might be that people end up so far out on a limb with bunk info that they don’t see any other way out. All they can do at a point of no intellectual return is double down in hopes to convince the unwitting. 

And sometimes the mere bravado of doubling down is psychologically persuasive. This is a tact aligned with certain lowest common denominator approaches to marketing such as cartoonish appeals to sell unhealthy foods or using sex to sell beer and cars. We see it in the use of the power of suggestion such in advertisements for fitness supplements and jewelry. We see it in those subscribing to the dastardly Joseph Goebbels tact of repeating a lie until it becomes the truth. 

Of course, believing in a conspiracy doesn't make one a truth Nazi. And I don't mean to say that conspiracy theorists necessarily intend to spread misinformation. But we can’t lose sight of what a qualified opinion is, let alone a fact. There is something amiss when we casually blur the distinction between what it means to know stuff and what it means to just say stuff. And there is something incurious about a want to lord the truth over the ignoramuses of the world. 

Ultimately, the weight and complexity of real conspiracies are diluted by tabloid-mannered jibber-jabber. For instance, the rich seem to want to get richer and the poor are getting poorer. It would be ill timed to bring flat-earth theory - or the like - into consideration of the expanding wealth-gap. Bottom line: we are being generous to grant the same level of credibility to conspiratorial thinking as we would to something of, well, actual theory.

Conspiracy Theories: Too Much Bullshit (Part 1) 

We live in a grand era for conspiracy theories and most of them are bunk. A rise in conspiratorial thinking is an inevitable by-product of the Information Age. The bar is generally lower for qualified opinion, particularly across the landscape of data mining social networks. Everyone has an opinion to drive the story - any story - and there are plenty of platforms from which to propagate. Meanwhile we might be losing the plot. 

It's very difficult to parse through the information milieu of modern life without some sort of formal literacy about how and why we communicate. Confusing opinion with fact is a common tell sign of our ignorance about what-is-really-going-on. And YouTube sourcing doesn't cut it. Wikipedia doesn't cut it. Lacking accomplishment in the field or subject of our commentary makes us less than an expert. Media illiteracy puts forth a worldview that is overly literal and dull, and it spurs the proliferation of hair-brained notions. 

Being informed is more a discipline than state of mind. Anyone saying differently is selling something. The truth – in the end – would seem obvious. But experiencing truth is a humbling experience, and curiosity presses forward by nature. It is always slipping through the fingers of those in the know. Truth exists in shades of grey and in nuance, not closets. The dopamine-addled folks who insist that there is so little time for understanding - for comprehension - for empathy - are not helping. 

Part 2 will be published next Saturday…

An Appreciation for Tom Petty (RIP)  

Tom Petty has been on the periphery of my music life ever since I can remember. It seemed like he was always cranking out solid hit singles with quiet dignity. I’ve listened to most of his music, watched his videos all the way through at least once, and tended to hear what he had to say in general. He appealed to all sorts of people and spanned generations. And it seemed he and I liked a lot of the same music. 

But Tom Petty was never a direct influence on me. Personally, I wouldn’t have considered him to be any kind of influence until a couple years ago when I moved to Grass Valley, California. The move led to a decision to retool my hyper nuanced and recklessly delivered Fringe Folk music. My “style” wasn’t likely to fly in small town USA, where minimalist musical adventurism is by no means the norm, at least as far as gigging and the aging enthusiasms of my peers are concerned. The thought was to try reaching people locally beyond a captive audience of indifferent bartenders. 

I decided to look for a template to help me say what I had to say in three or four chords (still trying to figure this out). I presume any songwriter knows how difficult this is to do consistently at a high level. I went to the drawing board of usual suspects: Hank Williams and Country music in general (“three chords and the truth” – blah, blah). I got back into the blues and rediscovered a love for the Beatles and the Stones. Eventually a light bulb came on somewhere between ruminations on Neil Young and Jackson Browne: the place to deep dive would be Tom Petty. 

I started to devour Petty’s music pulling from the county library, music stores and online. The more I listened the more I marveled. Tom Petty’s songs are almost all limited to three or four chords and, astonishingly, he covered only a handful of subjects in his writing. Yet, the music is so tasteful – it kicks ass you could say – and he almost never misses lyrically. He had an amazing band in the Heartbreakers too – guitar based rock just doesn’t get much better. I am now a huge fan. 

My Tom Petty playlist runs about thirty songs deep. I still listen to it regularly – especially at gatherings where people seem to have an appreciation for guitar rock and where ages span generations. Tom Petty was a solid artist. Authentic. I consider all the songs on my TP playlist to be more/ less great. I hold several of his songs in very high regard (Breakdown, American Girl, I Need To Know, Listen to Her Heart, Refugee, Even the Losers, The Waiting, A Woman in Love, A Thing About You, You Got Lucky, Change of Heart, I Won’t Back Down…). 

The passing of Tom Petty sends more guitar-rock real estate back into the sea. This is probably what bums me out the most. Tom Petty was one of those people who kept the notion of good rock and roll alive in the perception of the general public. There are not many of these so-called practicing masters left. Selfishly, I don’t like the thought of my appreciation for Pop stars being increasingly limited to dead people. It brings to mind my own mortality. Anyway, Tom Petty’s passing makes me want to play his music. RIP.

Whether or Not One Stands During National Anthem  

Fake issues are a problem because they are a distortion of real issues. Whether or not one stands during the national anthem is a fake issue. My political take is that having an opinion on the subject matters - but it doesn't matter that much - especially if you're not willing to have an honest conversation about where this all comes from in the first place. 

Concession stands don't close down during the national anthem. They almost never show the anthem on TV because ad revenue is more important. Some people are unable to stand for whatever reason and who is the moral arbitrator of that? People are so quick to judge rather than process things with logical discipline. 

I'm not convinced anyone really cares about what others do during the national anthem as long as it doesn’t impede on the liberty of others. I sound like a Libertarian now! And where are the Libertarians when you need them?! Critics of Colin Kaepernick’s protest have turned their attacks personal, resorting to shooting the messenger rather than discussing an actual issue. Such criticisms strike me more as virtue signaling gone wild. 

If people do care, I don't see how an opinion on whether or not people stand during the national anthem can work into an outrage. What are we even talking about? Is it the flag? Is it the national anthem? Is it the police? Just when did all this become so entwined and linked by subjective interpretations of patriotism? Since when does symbolism override exercises of liberty? 

Heightening the importance of symbols over an individual's right to protest is showing a lack of confidence that the symbols hold real meaning. Relying on iconography is desperate and histrionic so as to drain a symbol of its substance. What does it say when we find it acceptable to sell hotdogs and run car commercials, or use the bathroom, during the national anthem but bellyache when a high profile individual exercises a personal right to protest?

Fascism Is Real (Essay #5): The Problem With the Progressive Left 

This is my final essay on deeper issues within the cultural ramifications on the Donald Trump Presidency. The first four essays focus on the underlying fascism of “make American great again,” and to some degree the people carrying this flag forward. This final essay focuses on aspects of left wing culture that helped to enable the rise of Donald Trump in national politics. 

In my estimation, the left’s agenda should all cycle back to one focus: win elections. It sounds trite, but the challenges at hand seem obvious and the situation is dire. No one really has the time for excuses, denials or self-righteous posturing. Progressives need to get real about how certain go-to tendencies like virtue signaling, identity politics and precious hyper-vigilance are a massive turn-off amongst the general population. 

The problem is clear enough: We have Donald Trump for POTUS. In addition, we have a right wing Republican House and Senate. It’s a Republican high tide; their dominance extends throughout many state governments. Conversely, the progressive left has very little on the scoreboard of political representation. In response to this criticism, many on the left complain that the system is broken, which many be true, but in a democracy, elections have to be won to effect change. There is so little representation that one could wonder if the progressive left is a real coalition or just a group of reactionaries bonding over narrow self-interests that fade away once election season is over. 

The left needs to refocus the mission to include real electoral force. The most important factor towards achieving this goal – above all else – is to build durable coalitions of various interest groups that are capable of holding together despite differences of opinion. To each their own pet issues, but politics and personal ideals do not - and should not - always run parallel. The left needs to get out of the habit of killing its own. 

As evidenced by the last election cycle, many self-identifying progressives seem more comfortable with attacking potential allies rather than taking the battle to actual ideological adversaries. It was virtue signaling, identity politics and precious hyper-vigilance exemplified at its worst. These so-called progressives were given plenty of unchecked leeway to compulsively bash the Democratic Party and it’s presidential candidate, often times using unsubstantiated arguments that mirrored pro-Trump sentiments. Indeed, many on the left still seem almost satisfied by the results of this past election. This sort of toxic logic should be exorcised from the movement. 

But for all the heated rhetoric, where are the victories for the progressive left? Where are the success stories – the examples that lead people to actually respond in meaningful ways? Where is Joe Citizen discussing progressive matters in conscious deferral to the influence of a movement? Where is this undeniable political base evidenced in everyday civic engagement? And if civic engagement isn’t the endgame, what are we even talking about? 

Ideally, everyone should have ideas to effect positive change, and we don’t have to always agree. Recent progressive victories (gains in gender equity and LGTBQ rights) and defeats (an inability to protect reforms in education, the prison system, policing policies and to fight regulation roll backs impacting the environment and Wall Street) need a stronger Election Day identity to effect sympathetic representation. The progressive brand is badly damaged by not turning up consistently at the polls to coalesce behind the candidate that best matches up with the progressive agenda. 

The deeper problem for progressives is that despite having many things to say – perhaps too many things to say – they just don’t have much say in things that matter. There are no moral victories really. If progressives really want to understand and change this world for the better, they need a meaningful but succinct set of principals that can be shared with a broad coalition of diverse people. Strength in numbers is vital.

Fascism is Real (Essay #4): Reject the Premise 

The more time one spends on trying to understanding the Trump voter at this point, the less time there will be for resisting the toxic cynicism of their reactionary politics. The time for understanding is over. You can't really understand someone who lacks self-awareness, or sincerity, or analytical faculties. All you can do is play down to their level, which will sap your energy. 

Understand this: to have voted for a President Trump - for whatever reason - is to win by losing. That's the takeaway. To their mind, the thought of beating the liberal elite - or whoever the boogieman de jour may be - is more satisfying than the thought of loving their country. The focus forward has to be on containing the damage done by a Trump presidency and facing down the politically incoherent electorate that makes up Trump’s base, which appears chiefly organized around the adage of misery craving company. 

To better understand the "winning by losing" concept, let’s examine Trump's winning characteristics: born into privilege to evolve into an insecure brat, a scammer, egomaniac, narcissist, misogynistic, racist, obsessive peddler of cheap and tacky products, and so forth. All of this is true and verifiable by a quick review of the public record. And yet no one seems to have a firm handle on inner workings of how Donald Trump specifically makes his money. At any rate, for the Trump base, a disdain for elites apparently does not include a shallow and morally bankrupt rich white man. But by offering such a man their loyalty, they will lose in the end. 

Trump’s actual deeds, accomplishments and quantifiable talents are unknown for the most part, more or less lost in a glossy fog generated by expensive public relations companies. All we really have to go on in way of cold hard fact is that miserable personality. If being closed-minded, spiteful and intolerant is what wealth affords, who needs it? Does anyone want to see younger generations emulate Donald Trump's behavior over the years? Are being self-centered and shallow an image of strength that we want to project to the world? 

So the Trump voters got their president, but their ambitions remain clouded by fuzzy logic. That's on them. I don't have to do their homework for them. It's their legacy now. The Trump voter has no idea about what is happening or what Donald Trump is going to do as POTUS. And they don't want to know. This is at center of every premise that they put forth, and it leads to a contradiction at every turn. 

The Trump base is okay with flip-flopping and hypocrisy as long as it's their guy. They embrace moral relativism as evidenced by an unbalanced reaction to terrorist acts committed by Christians and Muslims; when Dylan Roof kills worshippers at a historic black church, they remain silent, yet these same people slap the label radical Islamic terrorist on the attackers in Manchester and lash out at pop star Ariana Grande’s “hate of America” as bringing on that attack. Their principals are rudderless as evidenced by countless attempts to explain away Trump’s boorish behavior over the years. And all this does is leave you exposed to the con. Trump is playing the room - that's the art of his deal, and it borrows heavily from P.T. Barnum's "sucker born every minute" maxim. Unfortunately, his base is in deep with the guy. Think about it... and you've already won half the battle. The Trump voter has not thought very deeply about it. And they do not intend to. 

When I say reject the premise, I am speaking from experience. I've spent quite a bit of time and energy trying to engage in a dialogue with Trump supporters and by enlarge it’s been an empty exchange. When they are not running from intellectualizing the matter, the Trump base will rest on loosely grasped platitudes, talking points and charged emotionalism. Or they bring up Hillary (Killary) or Obama (Obummer) or laugh about baiting liberals (libtards or snowflakes). Often they simply refuse to say anything so as to not have yet one more statement obliterated for its fleeting coherence (the price paid for not being able to think for yourself). These are group thinkers, and we should take warning considering the fascist rhetoric they are drawn to. 

In my view, the key to stemming a rising tide of fascist ideology in the United States is to reject each and every premise put forth by the fans of Donald Trump - upon utterance. Don't even let them get started. They already shot their credibility to hell. They would wave a flag and then defer out of service. They wouldn't hesitate to slam a veteran if their corporate overlords gave a directive to do so. They would make America great again by championing inequality. They give lip service to freedom, but they do what they are told at the end of the day. 

Donald Trump rewards his base for their loyalty by regarding them with open contempt. Whether it be laughing of his own political slogans as ridiculous, or playing the victim card, or talking in circles, or showing no tangible empathy for those being pushed towards and past the margins of society (for instance, people whose livelihoods are threatened by globalism AKA losers…?), etc. At this point, Trump’s base could act as the poster children for intellectual dishonesty or willful ignorance. 

The Trump voter exists in the shadow of their Commander in Chief. By proxy, the Trump voter shows love of country by cheating on taxes, criminalizing the poor and giving handouts to the rich. They want short cuts and scapegoats. They are the proud citizens of the best country on earth and but want to dismantle the government. Trump voters want to “make America great again” and "drain the swamp" by handing government operations over to corporate insiders who for all intents and purposes appear to be sycophants and hacks. This is not a people’s president, but a president poised to apparently grant his base their death wish. 

The basic conundrum of the Trump base is that they are perpetuating the problems they purport to want to fix. But these people, however clueless or ruthlessly opportunistic, are now running the federal systems established to methodically protect and serve the free citizens of a free country in a topsy-turvy world - Departments of Education, Commerce, Health & Human Services, Defense, etc. Their overly simplistic approach runs on the mantra of dismantling and/or radically overhauling these departments. It’s a massive undertaking but they are in position to do real damage. 

Just reject what they say and get in the habit of doing so in the moment they say it. It’s not your neighbor’s job to do it for you. It’s not the media’s job to do it. Communicating with dog whistles has to end. If Trump isn’t clueless, he is clandestine in his method and likely driven by a self-serving purpose. As for those who say "I don't like Trump, but..." – reject that too. There are no qualifiers. You either accept the racism, narcissism, anti-intellectualism, fascism - the shallowness - or you don't. It’s as simple as that.

Fascism is Real (Essay #3): We Don't Need a Strongman 

I haven’t lost hope on having a constructive debate with today’s Republican, but I’ve run out of patience with anyone putting forth simplistic characterizations of the left and liberals. Trump has taken it up a notch with uncivil (“Trump the bitch” and “lock her up”), and cartoonish (“Mexico is sending over its rapists”), perceptions of the "other" so as to betray any real understanding of the people they are deriding. Trump’s supporters are generally grossly misinformed when they speak about the left and liberals. And they will seemingly be the last to realize it. The modern Right, as if by mandate, favors a melodramatic and cheap marginalization of concepts they don't find agreeable. One should look to the Left for a better understanding of what the Left is actually doing wrong. The Right – and Trump voters in particular – are living in an alternative reality that is far removed from the conscious sussing of facts. 

If these were kinder political times, I would almost feel sorry for the Right. The Left tends to get in its own way, sure, but at least they move forward with principals resembling liberty and justice for all. In 2017, it is the Left that petitions our government to be more of the people/ by the people. The Left are calling for greater legislative transparency. The Left is more likely to have a vigorous and cerebral discussion about the future of the United States. The Right, by enlarge, has settled for rote exercises of flag waving and reactionary jingoism, actions that are quickly maturing into something resembling an intellectual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of hot-air paranoia. President Trump insults his constituency on a regular basis; at this point one cannot expect the modern Right to have the courage to admit their embarrassment with such a man. The Right’s blind faith in Trump’s odd mischaracterizations of democracy nullifies any credible sense of decency they’ve built up over the years. Make no mistake: it is the Left that is rising to fight against tyranny in the United States. The Right can apparently only cower to a so-called strongman. 

In the tactile world, a strong man would be defined by actions and accomplishments in terms of aspirational leadership qualities - achieving feats of strength, doing the right thing even when unpopular or risky, overcoming significant obstacles, etc. In politics, a strongman means something quite the opposite: someone who intends to rule by force and run an authoritarian regime. The political strongman is someone who generally lacks the attributes and integrity found in real strength, so they project an overly aggrandized image of themselves as overcompensation for deep insecurities. They are cartoonish figures, impulsive and dangerous. The image in their mind – ahem – trumps reality. The end game is to silence critics and ramrod an agenda forward without giving the people a say. 

Does this sound like someone we know? Let's examine how the Trump regime matches up to the checklist of a political strongman: hostile to intellectualism – check; disinterest in historical precedent – check; in constant need of flattery – check; decrying the free press as the enemy – check; threatening ominous retribution for critics – check; lack of transparency in governance – check... and on down the list of what would point to the makings of an authoritarian government. Dictators, in particular, have a tendency to set themselves up as a strong man and the ambitions of President Donald Trump do indeed run parallel with that of a dictator. 

Fear will define you if you give into it. President Trump is the answer for people who have given into fear, be it fear of immigrants coming to steal jobs, or fear becoming culturally disempowered, or a general fear of the frightful violence occurring all over the world. Or, it could just be fear of snakes and sharks, fear of the principals of evolution, fear of the unknown, fear of having some culpability with climate change, or fear of being exposed as not having actually done the self-work to live up an obnoxious moral disposition (evangelicals in pursuit of the Prosperity Gospel – I’m talking to you). President Trump is all too willing to indulge in fear-based rhetoric to fire up his constituency, on the political premise that he is the only man to alleviate these fears. The world is a mess and Trump is the only person who can fix it. And this is a subject that is not, and has never been, up for debate with Trump the politician. If you buy that premise, then Trump is your man – unequivocal belief is all that is required. 

But for the rest of us, President Trump just resembles a nincompoop. By Trump’s own words, there is no room for even partial disagreement with his agency; every challenge is interpreted as undermining of his strongman persona. He is basically at a point where he’s saying his critics are the enemy. This would be comical if the situation weren’t so serious. Free people don’t need a strongman for a leader, and even if we did, President Trump would hardly qualify for the role. As evidenced through the decades, Donald Trump’s accomplishments are rooted in extraordinary privilege. His art of the deal lacks actual accomplishment. I’m not sure anyone really knows exactly why Trump is rich and famous. But here he is: POTUS. And every day brings another example of how unprepared he is to handle the massive responsibilities of this job. As a strongman, President Trump is left with few options other than trying to outrun the big lies by limiting your ability to stand in his way.