Sunday, 13 November 2016

Love Trumps Hate Trumps Love Trumps Hate

The mother of all jellyfish days . . . er, weeks . . .

The U.S. presidential election has unleashed a firestorm of conflicting emotions, and not just between voters with polarized viewpoints. In my current experience, many individual psyches are also engaged in a war of swirling perspectives. I do not discount that this may be due to white privilege, of an inexperience with being hit in the gut with the reality of loss of civil rights and overt racism.

Though I’m appalled at the prospect of the Trump presidency due to begin in January 2017, and disgusted by the many terrible xenophobic expressions of hatred, both psychological and physical, that his most ignorant supporters are committing around the country both before and after the election, I have had the weird but plausible thought that Trump is the crack in the vessel that allows the sunshine in, or the pore in the infected underbelly of this country that may drain and allow the deep, centuries-old wound of racism and misogyny to heal . . .

But, as with dealing with a surgical incision that succumbs to an antibiotic-resistant infection or gangrene, or performing emergency treatment to save a critically ill patient from toxic shock, it appears the healing will not be easy or pleasant. There will be a healing crisis – healing of deep wounds is painful – and sadly, there will be casualties as citizens strive to reconcile national divisions and move forward. And if there’s no reconciliation at all, we may experience something far more terrible – armed skirmishes in the streets (we have those now due to the proliferation of guns and police brutality but I’m speaking of an even more fractious situation than the current one) – or even of outright civil war breaking out either regionally or nationally.

In other words, I have never thought this oily billionaire turned politician could ever fix the economy or save America from anything – he is far too wounded himself and his ideologies too divisive – but could he be the negative catalyst that moves the country forward nonetheless? I often question myself when my thoughts stray this way because this President Trump thing could do endless harm to the most vulnerable among us, and who knows what terrible things could happen on the international stage.

Donald Trump is definitely no savior nor is he a true leader; he is a symptom, a manifestation of the obscured xenophobic, racist, sexist thought he promotes. Trump may be just the man to unwittingly inspire perhaps one of the greatest revolutionary movements since the American Revolution in the eighteenth century as people rally to oppose his demagoguery. But he is definitely not revolutionary in the way that some Trump supporters thought to take their country back.

Plus, even if he is an unwitting catalyst for social change (not by his actions or policies but because of our collective reactions or proactive resistance), this doesn’t mean that we should tolerate bullshit or endure four years of a Trump administration. Trump denounced support by the KKK only after public outcry, but he never challenged the unbridled racists, sexists, and others with deplorable and ignorant attitudes at his campaign rallies, and he has not my knowledge stepped up to the plate to discourage the tremendous evil in the many small acts that his most toxic supporters are now committing against our most vulnerable citizens. He has knowingly enabled these actions, just as they have either deliberately or unwittingly enabled his worst attitudes. [After this writing he has chosen disgraced politicians and even a white supremacist for his transition team and cabinet. If you're not alarmed yet, you should be.]

It is obvious he is an unbalanced person himself. I am no psychologist, but I do have degrees in anthropology and the humanities, as well as some direct experience in the matter by having had some unpleasant relationships with narcissists. To the best of my knowledge, Trump’s behavior is that of a classic narcissist. Narcissists display grandiosity, require excessive admiration, have a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy for others, believe that they are unique or uniquely qualified and yet are extremely insecure and fragile. They have fantasies of unlimited success and exaggerate their own successes, but at their very core, are exploitative, taking advantage of people in many different ways. If you examine them closely, they have a chameleon-like nature, often seem to be role-playing (because they are), and some psychologists say they have no authentic personality because there was a lack of mirroring and nurturing in their childhoods.

Sound familiar? Trump has faced numerous lawsuits in the past for fraud – not paying people who have provided goods or services to his business projects – and he still faces a lawsuit for creating a fraudulent university that promised the sun, moon, and stars to aspiring student entrepeneurs but extorted millions of dollars from them instead. This is business as usual for Mr. Trump! We know for a fact that the Trump family regularly funnels money from the Trump charity into their own pockets, and that many of his so-called campaign expenses were payments made to family members. The latter move is likely not illegal, but is certainly ethically challenged. Pundits predict his legal woes may allow for an impeachment. Then we’re looking at President Pence, but that’s another story . . .

Trump is an entrepeneur and not a career politicians, but even so he is the worst-case caricature of a salesman or a polit-trick-cian, a lying, two-timing, forked-tongue rapscallion who says anything for a vote or a sale. Typically narcissists say or do almost anything that comes to mind at any given moment, no matter how hurtful or false, if they see any personal benefit. Lying is a basic part of their nature, and they often employ what psychologists call “gaslighting.” If you’ve ever known someone who basically tells you that black is white and white is black and subverts what you know to be reality into an ongoing construct of lies and deception until you begin to doubt your own perceptions, then you’ve been duped by a narc.

Witness Trump’s racist supporters, many who have been claiming for eight years that Obama is a racist who has divided America. They are not only employing psychological projection, they are gaslighting. The end result of gaslighting is that the victim is further victimized by the abusive narcissist’s claim that they are the true victim. Narcissists take their victims into their rabbit hole of contradictions. This creates an unsettling sense of anxiety and confusion for those who have contact with the narcissist.

And we all have contact with Trump! What is both fascinating and extraordinarily appalling is that US citizens are all being gaslighted by a master narcissist, with the numbers of victims potentially soaring to millions on the national level and even billions on the international level.

New Yorker writer Mark Singer interviewed Donald Trump in the 1990s, wondering what Trump thought about when he was alone. (See Don P. McAdams’ story in The Atlantic here.) Singer reported that Trump seemed baffled by his question. Singer rephrased the question to ask Trump if he was his ideal company, meaning his best companion or best friend – typically, a healthy person feels secure in their solitude and is, in essence, are their own best friend. Trump’s answer was telling, shades of the recently revealed “grab ‘em by the pussy” remark made about ten years ago:  “You really want to know what I consider ideal company? A total piece of ass. . .” 

One could make the excuse that Trump was just a wealthy celebrity in the era of both remarks, but his attitudes have clearly endured to this day. Trump’s misunderstanding of Singer’s question doesn’t mean that he’s unintelligent. His answer reflects his psychological makeup and how far removed he is from having a fully integrated and healthy personality. He is socially awkward, clueless about healthy human nature, something that many much healthier people also struggle with, and yet they still progress. The difference is that Trump is locked into his perceptions. People with NPD rarely seek help – they never think they need it. Any relationship or social chaos created by a narcissist is always the other party’s fault. Unlike the average person, they never apologize for any fault or for any situation in which they said or did something hurtful. Their sense of self-worth is so fragile that they cannot accept even the tiniest bit of responsibility for their words or actions. They cling to their shaky illusion of perfection.

Trump’s NPD is why he has encouraged unhealthy behaviors at his political rallies, why his policies are geared toward xenophobic fear of “the other,” why he only denounced support by the KKK after public outcry, and why he’ll likely either not denounce the abuse that his supporters are heaping upon minorities and women before and after the election, or will do so under pressure. If he does denounce this situation, it is likely to be an insincere and calculated move designed to improve his image, not a heartfelt condemnation. And it certainly won’t come as an apology. His words and actions will blow with the wind of self-aggrandizement and his unruly, misguided supporters will not necessarily be quelled.

Witness Trump’s rapid shift on Twitter about post-election protesters. He insinuated they are paid to protest and called them unfair, which he knows is a bald-faced lie, and nine hours later, praised them for their passion. I call bullshit. This is not a change of heart – this is narcissistic manipulation, making nice to set himself up to take authoritarian action later.

What psychology knows about narcissists has mostly been gleaned from their victims, who often do seek help to understand their predicament after being steamrolled by a narcissist. Even a relationship with a mild-mannered borderline or covert narcissist can be devastating, and those who have had the great misfortune of relating to an overt malignant narcissist often need years of hard work to recover.

If this is true for individuals, think again of the collective strain on a country that is already engaged in a long struggle to redeem its bad behavior. While the United States has long upheld ideals of freedom and equality, it also has long history of institutional abuse of its original indigenous inhabitants, of its non-white immigrants, including those kidnapped for chattel slavery, of LBGTQ communities, and of fully half of our citizens at any given moment – women – and Trump has maligned and insulted these people at various times in his campaign rather than pledging his support.

A resistance to the hatred perpetuated by Trump and to his presidency started immediately after the election in myriad forms – through protest action, community organizing, through dissent in the arts, music, literature, journalism, and even in individual, everyday acts of kindness. We are witnessing the early days of an unparalleled tsunami of creative dissent, practical action, and spiritual illumination. This arises also from the many mighty streams of dissent that have arisen throughout American history as people have struggled with the institutionalized genocide of Native Americans and African Americans, and many other social ills that Americans have collectively banded together to fight and to change.

So if you feel crazy since the November 8 election and are trying to make sense of what just happened and what will happen in the near future, know that you are not alone. You’ve just witnessed on a grand scale the havoc that NPD can produce . . . You’ve.Been.Trumped! Or as Yoko Ono so aptly puts it here . . .

I’m at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland for a one-month residency (beautiful country, lovely people, fantastic experience!) While I'd love to ignore the U.S. presidential election and its immediate aftermath until I go home, I cannot.  Ive been examining the paradoxes and confusion inherent in this situation. One aspect that interests me and simultaneously pushes my emotional buttons is the balance between fear and hope. There is hope, of course, but telling frightened people that everything will be okay while we are freshly absorbing the sobering prospect of a Trump administration is well-intentioned and perhaps even true (after all, in a very basic cosmic sense, we’re always okay no matter what happens, even unto death) but it also smacks of white privilege or of a sort of maternal or paternal condescension.

On the other hand, this type of disappointment and suffering has been going on for a very long time in 'Merica and it seems mostly white people are reeling because of Trump's election . . . many minority people are either afraid but not surprised or simply more circumspect about reality: business as usual.

Many spiritual expressions of comfort sound like empty religious platitudes at this point, even though many are tried and true. If you’re on the receiving end of a narcissistic-fueled racist or sexist incident, it doesn’t feel okay even if you’re a resilient, forgiving person. And for a child or young person, these incidents can be emotionally crippling and take years to recover from.

After three days of reading various reports of racist and sexist assaults on property and people, I gradually started to become numb. Add this danger of growing numb to hatred to the already festering problems with institutional racism in law enforcement and the judicial system, and it may set the United States of America back dozens of years, if not decades. Nor does it take a giant leap of imagination to consider that if this bad vibe continues, the country could devolve into an unrecognizable hellhole that it may never, ever recover from.

love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is

Trump’s ‘Merica, Days 1-3
9-12 November 2016
(with thanks to journalists Tom Boggioni, Shaun King, Madison Feller, Prachi Gupta, Bil Browning, Sydney Robinson, Caitlyn Dickerson, Stephanie Stall)

Please do not feed the fears!

A twenty-four-year-old language arts teacher at Dacula High School discovered a note in her classroom on Friday. The message: “Your headscarf isn’t allowed anymore. Why don’t you tie it around your neck and hang yourself with it . . .” Signed, America.

~ Mairah Teli (Dacula Georgia)

We are in the end times – no fear!

“More texts from my sister: ‘I was on this bus to St. Francis and a bunch of girls get on. They looked around and looked at me and said, Aren’t you people supposed to be sitting at the back of the bus? I looked around and saw that there were mainly black and Hispanic people sitting in the middle of the bus. I asked this girl to repeat herself and she said, Aren’t you supposed to be sitting at the back of the bus now? Like, Trump is president!”
~ Adriana Medina (Queens, NY)

Maybe Trump won’t be so bad after all.

A woman in South Philly (Pennsylvania) awakened to find her SUVspraypainted with ‘Trump Rules’ and ‘Black Bitch.’
        ~ Photo courtesy activist Shaun King on Twitter

Stay strong! No fear!

“Street vendor here just yelled, ‘hey guys, at least it will now be legal to grab pussy!’ And high-fived a group of men who laughed.”

            ~Prachi Gupta (New York, New York)
A reporter who interviewed Ivanka Trump and was publicly called non-intelligent by Donald Trump

Love will Trump hate!

Police were alerted after people seemingly dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes were photographed marching on a bridge in Mebane, North Carolina on the morning of 9 November following Donald Trump’s presidential win. Reporters at the scene claim this photo was shot the night before, on election night, and is of people waving Trump, American, and “Christian flags.” Law enforcement claims this group has no known affiliation with the KKK, though some people in the photo appear to be hooded and wearing robes.
       ~ Shorty Guizman – @kelbi1lewis (Kebane, North Carolina)

Try to stay calm!

“I can’t believe this happened to me, but then again, I’m a [gardener]. Not a full 24 hours have gone by and a lady driving around looking for recycling stops and starts yelling at me and my workers: ‘Trump is getting’ ya’ll outta here’ and ‘No visa, no America.’ Bitch ran away when I told her, ‘I’m a citizen, fuck off!’ 
                ~ Eddie Moreno (La Palma, California)

We lived through eight years of Bush; we can live through Trump.

“I was walking on Washington Ave. Bridge when I was stopped in my tracks by a white male Trump supporter who yelled at me to ‘go back to Asia’. . .  I pretended not to hear anything because I didn’t want to create conflict . . .  he followed me . . . grabbed my wrist . . . told me I was rude . . . said I only got into the University of Minnesota due to affirmative action . . . he punched me . . . I used my self-defense skills to break free and punch him in the throat . . . the police who came did not listen to my side of the story and put me in cuffs . . .”
~ Kathy Mira Tu (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Don’t mourn, organize.

“A house three blocks away from where I used to live in Noe Valley – Cordova Heights is now [flying] a Nazi flag in the front yard.”
      ~ Cristina Cordova (San Francisco, California)

All those who do harm are like a precious treasure.

“Two students from Babson College sped around the Wellesley campus [a women’s college], laughing and screaming from a pick-up truck with a Trump flag. They parked in front of the house for students of African descent and jeered at them, screaming Make America Great Again. When one student asked them to leave, they spit in her direction.”
 ~ Sydney Robinson, Student reporter (Wellesley, Massachusetts)

Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered.

“Wow. I’m waiting with my son in his kindergarten line and a little girl and boy (in his class) are saying they voted for Trump and teasing a Hispanic kid by saying he’s Mexican and [will be going back to Mexico and to a different school].”
 ~Julio Puentes (West Valley City, Utah)

Despair in no answer . . .
 “I’m 35 & had never been called a racist slur. Recently my 5yr old experienced just that by a group of teens. Feeling scared in OH.”
 ~ Cristal Nelson – @CristalCNelson (Ohio)

Pray for peace and love!

 “This morning, as I pumped gas in Safeway at Centralia, a block from the school I work at, a man said to me, ‘Go back to Africa, nigger . . .’  . . . I am biracial . . .”
~ Sarah Stone (Centralia, Washington)

The true nature of mind is a union of love and compassion.

Sign placed on a car:  “Can't wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. #Trump2016 #Repent #GodBless” 
                                                                                    ~ (North Carolina)

love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is

Wrathful Dakini

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Life in a Nutshell

 And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

::: William Shakespeare, As You Like It (c.1599-1600), Act II, scene 1, line 15

It's about time!

For what?

Well, for a blog post. I'm surprised I let my posts lapse so long again. Well, maybe not surprised at that, but surprised at the quick passage of time between then and now.

Being an indie author is hard work and time consuming. Working for a living as a freelance editor on top of that is double the fun. And both fill my days and sometimes my nights too.

Not to mention that I'm still refining my PhD proposal. It's funny how a mere thousand words can be such a hassle. An interesting hassle, and a lifechanging journey, but time-consuming, to be sure. I've just emerged from a month's round of reading, contemplating, and revision. Academic proposals make writing fiction and all the attendant frills like cover letters, synopses, and book pitches look like a cake walk.

Keep your fingers crossed for me - I mailed off my latest proposal draft two days ago to the academic committee who will review it , and though I'm not sure it's ready for primetime, I hope to squeeze by for an offer of place. I had two offers from two universities last year, but didn't win a scholarship for either, so even if I'm admitted to a program this time around, I still have the scholarship hurdle to clear.

As if I didn't have a full plate with all of the above, plus family time, I also decided to be a publisher. Whoa. Insanity.

Multiply your indie author publishing and PR worries geometrically. I almost hesitate to reveal this new endeavor, because although adding an author friend's book to my publishing imprint along with my own novel is exciting, I'm not likely to continue publishing new books under the imprint unless the press sells more copies.

So I'm not accepting manuscripts for consideration at this time, even though I work side-by-side with my fabulous editorial assistant Miss Tootie (pictured) at Tootie-Do Press. I know of much larger operations than mine that publish dozens of e-books a year that have closed recently, and I'm doing both print and e-book - and still the titles seem lost in the tsunami of books 'n e-books published around the globe every year.

I have the advantage and the honor of networking with many writing and reading friends and associates around the world - but then, likely so did the publishers who threw in the towel and closed up shop. So my new position as publisher is a dicey one at best. But I'm having fun with it, and try to have a sense of humor about all the time this endeavor sucks up. If you enjoy unusual speculative fiction and creatively formatted print books - or a quick and inexpensive download for your e-reader - then have a look at our Tootie-Do Press titles.

The Ardent Writer Press
I've also quietly assumed some lit agent duties the past two years and have negotiated contracts for two memoir titles due out this summer and fall - Searching for Nannie B. by Nancy Owen Nelson, PhD (The Ardent Writer Press) and Crime a Day: Death by Electric Chair and Other Boyhood Pursuits by Joe DiBuduo (Jaded Ibis Press). Excitement! I hope that Joe and Nancy's readers will enjoy their memoirs as much as I have - they're both compelling adventures.

Jaded Ibis Productions
Like the publishing endeavor, I'm uncertain whether I'll take on more clients as an agent, but I'll keep my antenna up and my mind open. The reason I'm a little reticent to continue is that many publishers pay royalties just once a year, and I need more work that pays upon completion. And more time to do my own writing!

On that note, it's also about time that the nomination for Loretta Lynch as US Attorney General was finally approved. While I don't agree on her position about legal marijuana (I'm pro and she's con), I think she's a brilliant lady who deserves the position. Her greatest challenges will be about the current - and necessary - furor over lethal use of force by police, especially in regard to African Americans and other minorities - and the homeless and handicapped of all colors - who are unfairly targeted by law enforcement.

So, that's life in a nutshell. Trying on hats. Busy doing, busy thinking, busy growing. Just the way a writing life should be.

PS - Happy Birthday, Will! And I hope all of you, dear readers, had a lovely World Book Day 2015

Tootie-Do Press
Tootie-Do Press


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Writing for Social Justice

You don't write because you want to say something; you write because you've got something
to say.

The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is- it’s to imagine what is possible.

How can one not speak about war, poverty, and inequality when people who suffer from these afflictions don't have a voice to speak?

One of the most powerful types of persuasive writing, in my opinion, is writing for social change. As with personal journaling, it is likely one of the most common types of writing, because as the eminent American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald pointed out, “you write because you have something to say.”
And who doesn’t have something to say?  The average person doesn’t translate their thoughts and opinions on social issues into fiction or lengthy nonfiction narratives. But they do write letters to the editor or respond to editorials and features in periodicals and online journals, or to television newscasts and op-ed shows with telephone calls and social media. This illuminates the importance of literacy in society. Writing to foster and encourage improvement in the world affirms our individual humanity and our place in the circle of life.

And writing for change is a good way to hook young students on persuasive writing. Years ago, I did a long-term sub as an English teacher in a charter school whose students were mostly unsuccessful in larger public schools and were taking a go at computer-based education in smaller classrooms. Whether they held liberal or conservative opinions, they loved the English Comp unit in which they chose a recipient for a letter about any social justice issue large or small that they then had to write, edit, sign, and mail. There wasn’t a single student who fluffed off on the assignment.

There are a variety of issues that affect most people, if not everyone on our small planet:  ongoing problems with the world’s petroleum-based economy, terrorism, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, and environmental degradation. These issues merit perennial attention, comment, and action. And sometimes these diverse issues are inextricably linked in amazing ways!

In the US, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in civil rights as neo-conservative and a few neo-liberal politicians, especially in the Republican-controlled Congress or Republican-controlled states, attempt to roll back the clock on hard-fought and already settled policies affecting women, especially in regard to abortion and birth control. Other hot-button issues of the day are voter registration and voting ID issues, self-defense / firearm laws that sometimes lead to the questionable deaths of young people people of color, poverty and minimum wage reform; police brutality and community policing issues; and Middle Eastern politics, especially relating to the recent declaration of war on the West by the Islamic State.

An issue that surfaces periodically in American affairs but is coming to a head due to its inextricable connections with civil rights, racism, and questionable self-defense laws, is police overuse of force, as well as citizen abuse of U.S. self-defense laws. We’re seeing many cases popping up like bad dreams across the USA, as tensions mount in response to shooting deaths by police or citizens of young people of color. One of the most controversial cases in recent weeks is the shooting of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a case that brought thousands of people and the mainstream media to the streets of this small community. The spotlight remains bright there as a grand jury deliberates whether or not to charge Officer Wilson with responsbility in the homicide. As I write and edit this essay, a jury in Jacksonville, FL is hearing the final arguments in the retrial of against Michael Dunn, the infamous white shooter of a black teen. Self-defense or irresponsible action with underlying racism and anger? [Note: Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of teenager Jordan Davis on Wednesday, October 1, 2014.]

Certainly the police use of force issue isn’t restricted to minority communities, for there are high-profile cases across the country that involve women and children and white victims. One case that brought a flurry of writing and activism in my neck of the woods is the police beating of white, homeless, thirty-eight-year-old Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, California in 2011. The killing, completely captured on video, stimulated my writing ire because of the particularly brutal actions by three officers and the negligence of three others. It was difficult to accept that it took a full year to arrest two officers and terminate their employment and even harder to accept the not guilty verdict in January 2014.

There are a host of other issues that capture my attention, but I’m particularly vocal, or should I say prone to set my opinions to writing, in response to social justice and civil rights cases. I’ve written many a letter to the editor of newspapers, as well as letters to police chiefs, presidents and prime ministers of nations, heads of corporations,  and to my city, state, and local representatives.

My writing process is simple: experience concern or outrage in response to an issue or the news of the day, sit down at the computer or with pen and paper and mentally work it out into a coherent letter or essay. I could say more specific things about this genre, but writing for social justice is as natural as thinking or speaking, and it’s easy to find your voice for this purpose. All it takes is a lotta heart, a desire to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, a commitment to create the highest and best circumstances for all, and some attention to writing organization and detail.

Here are some resources and sites of interest for emerging and expert writers, and for writing teachers and students:

Photos February 2014, 5000 Angelenos for Kelly