Mass Hypnosis

I recently saw a television commercial for the latest episode of a popular show. It featured a lady who had just awakened from a coma of several years. The star of the show was filling her in on events that she had missed. The star says, “And Donald Trump is the President.” The lady tentatively asks, “President . . . of what?” The star replies carefully, “The . . . United . . . States . . .” Without missing a beat, the lady says, “I wanna go back in the coma.” Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States was completely ridiculous. It wasn’t even a consideration; nor should it have been.

There are some people who are so incredibly good at what they do that we can easily overlook the ugliest flaws in their characters. Others are so sweetly charismatic that we can turn a blind eye to steep canyons of ineptitude. Donald Trump doesn’t fit into either of those categories. Whether he’s praising the virtues of murderous Neo-Nazis, denigrating and persecuting refugees from “shit hole countries”, or simply fabricating “alternative facts” to demean a perceived enemy, Donald Trump is a true anomaly.

I’ve written before about Donald Trump’s blatant racism, sexism, xenophobia and general disregard for the truth. But, perhaps even more confounding than the man himself, are his supporters. These are people who will seemingly believe any un-researched, poorly presented fallacy that falls from Donald Trump’s mouth . . . without question.

Imagine, for example, that a reporter was filming me as I sit writing this very essay. Then imagine the same person posting their footage on a news outlet, commenting on the fact that he or she had recorded me during the writing process. At that point, I would respond by stating, “I wasn’t writing anything! That’s not even me! That’s fake news!” Now, the response from the, rightfully shaken, reporter would surely be, “But, Trevor . . . I was right there with you. We can all clearly see what you’re doing.” But the kicker is when 46% of the American population then chime in to support me and denigrate the reporter, who had done nothing more than his or her job. What kind of mass hypnosis does that require?  Donald Trump gets away with exactly this on an almost daily basis. And he is fully supported in this madness by otherwise sane and intelligent people. That’s not just scary; it’s surreal.

The closest comparison that I can recall would be Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany. Hitler was about 5’2” and slightly pudgy. He had dark hair and eyes, a mustache so comical that it’s become iconic (Trump’s hair?), and a skin complexion that clearly revealed that he was anything but “Pure White”. Yet, somehow, Hitler was able to use fear-mongering, half-truths and outright lies (Fox News, anyone?) to talk fellow Germans into hating Jewish people so much that they were okay with forcing Jews into Concentration Camps and putting them into gas chambers and ovens, among other things. Hitler touted a Master Race of blond haired, blue eyed, athletic intellectuals. And they obeyed his every word with full knowledge that he could never fit in among them in any way. That sounds like true mass hypnosis; a hive-mind mentality that went way too far. Hopefully, things in America don’t get that far out of hand.

Of course, any Trump supporter who reads this will inevitably respond with: “What about Obama?” or “Didn’t Hillary Clinton assassinate Lincoln?” or some other such nonsense. Their powers of denial and deflection are honed to almost the same razor-sharp level as Donald Trump himself. And the longer you engage with a Trump supporter, the more they start to sound exactly like him. They throw unsupported statements at you like poisonous darts and lose their tempers when you disprove those same statements with properly researched facts. And, if you happen to be online, that’s when the insults come. I saw a post recently that read: “The internet has made most of you comfortable with saying things that you would normally get punched in the mouth for, without consequence.” That statement fits this discussion perfectly. Many of these individuals will denigrate your intelligence, question your patriotism and even threaten violence in the vilest, most vulgar terms. Others go straight to the same racist and/ or sexist rhetoric that Donald Trump has made acceptable. There are no moral boundaries when it comes to “Making America Great Again”.

And what does that even mean? “Make America Great Again” implies that we need to be transported backward to some undefined Golden Age. What period of American History would that be? Is it Slavery, when African-Americans were considered 3/5 of a human being and no better than livestock? Maybe that’s too harsh. The Jim Crow era was much better, wasn’t it? Is it the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were forcibly robbed of their dignity as well as their way of life? Maybe it was during World War II, when Japanese-Americans were forced from their homes and into Internment Camps. It was also around that same time period that colleges and universities set quotas on the number of Jewish people that they would accept. And let’s not forget that it wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment finally allowed women to vote. So, People of Color and women are very curious. Just where are you trying to take us, Mr. President? Those great times you recall . . . were never so great for us. No hypnosis . . .

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The Court Of Public Opinion

In today’s world culture, I am often reminded of the Charles Bukowski quote: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” I believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, there is nothing . . . nothing . . . not one thing on this Earth . . . that entitles all of those opinions to an audience.  In fact, some of them don’t even deserve to be considered more than once. We have somehow, mistakenly, come to the conclusion that every opinion carries equal weight and validity.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

With the advent of the internet, we now have the ability to create websites, post blogs and publish books.  We can post our thoughts, feelings and treasured images instantaneously to myriad social media sites 24 hours a day.  But, when it comes to sifting through the vast fields of wheat and chaff that compose internet chatter, there’s an important question that most of us neglect to ask.  What are these opinions based on?  Is it education . . . work experience . . .  life experience?  What makes any of this information worth reading, let alone valid?  A large portion of these people have absolutely no idea of what they speak.  Over time, the internet has rapidly become the broad platform for idiotic diatribes.  A large majority of us . . . readily accept this status quo.

An opinion based on nothing can be a shallow, worthless thing to force on someone.  In the judicial system, they have what is called an “expert witness”.  That person is called to testify because of his or her specific knowledge, gained through education, career experience or other expertise.  They don’t just call in any idiot off the street to make that testimony.  They call on an “expert”.  They want to hear facts. I don’t recall the author of this quote, but it definitely further clarifies my meaning: “Every opinion does not matter. Every person deserves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but they do not get to draw their insanity on the public debate in crayon and assume it matters. That’s for others to decide. The elements of persuasion keyed to factual debate are far more important than opinion because facts actually get us closer to answers than lies do.” – Unknown

Now, I’m not saying that a college degree or long career is a prerequisite to expressing yourself.  Many people are well-read, intelligent and constantly immersing themselves in various subjects.  I, personally, have two art degrees, but have earned nearly as much with writing and self-publishing as I have with illustration and graphic design.  If you have watched pro wrestling on TV four nights a week for ten years, you know quite a bit about wrestling.  You don’t have to ever have stepped into a ring for anyone to listen to you.  On the other hand, your extensive collection of Jet Li and Tony Jaa movies doesn’t in any way trump my years of being slammed on mats and sparring with partners.  Perspective is key.

It seems that logging onto the internet gives some people instant expertise in everything.  They rant, hypothesize, hyperbolize and outright lie to anyone who will listen.  If you have strong feelings . . . feel them.  If you think deeply . . . dive right in.  Just keep that madness to yourself, if you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve heard people, when they couldn’t think of any other reason to trash a movie, say: “The editing was horrible.”  I stand there thinking: “What in the name of God do you know about movie editing? You just wanted to complain about something right?”  That and the ever-present “plot holes that you don’t want to expound upon” will end a conversation with me quickly.  More often than not, you just weren’t paying attention or went to the restroom at the wrong time, Mr. Spielberg.

No, having an ill-formed idea and a broad platform do not reserve you the right to beat me about the head and face with the club of your ignorance. Go and live.  Study something . . . anything.  Then we can talk.  Or don’t do any of that.  After all, this is all just my opinion . . .

 

Beggar’s Nation

Have you ever denied the sincere request of a small child?  Fairly soon thereafter, you probably heard him or her say in confusion, “But I said ‘please’.”   And then, you had to explain to that developing, young mind that you don’t get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do.  That’s just a part of life here on planet Earth.

Having grown up as an African-American male in America, I often scrutinize our collective history; past and recent.  It seems that there has always been a concerted effort to deprive us of things that should never have been denied in any logical sense.  And once there is any progress at all toward gaining or regaining said footholds, we, collectively, are to feel . . . grateful?  Be it freedom from slavery or the grips of Jim Crow . . . or gaining the right to vote  . . . or striving for the right to keep breathing after a “routine” traffic stop . . . there has been — and still remains — a lot to overcome.  And, be it through marches, gatherings, legislation, documentaries, or my writing these very words . . . it seems an accepted thing that people of color are constantly asking for — actively seeking — things that should already have been ours ages ago.  I have even heard it stated more than once that we are “always asking for something”.

I was recently sitting in the office of the Superintendent of my last job, listening to him explain to me how I should be grateful that he had chosen not to take disciplinary action against me for missing work, due to legitimate illnesses . . . with all the necessary documentation.  He was telling me how I owed “The Institution” something.  I could only sit there thinking: “Well, thanks, Easter Bunny, for doing what the Hell you’re supposed to do”.  That was the day that I resigned, as opposed to being bullied into something that was detrimental to my health and well-being.  But why should I have been grateful for receiving what I was due?  I didn’t even have some of those medical conditions prior to the wear-and-tear of working at the prison for so many years.

Likewise, I’ve written previously about working as a civilian in a Georgia police department.  My Sergeant at that time would become visibly upset whenever I handed him the paperwork for the civilian holidays to which I — and every civilian employee — was entitled.  Again, I wasn’t asking for anything extra, it was just a formality to give him paperwork for days that were already mine.  To this day, I have no idea why it even bothered him so much.  What bothers me is yet another example of my having to humbly request something that was, technically, already mine anyway.  And putting up with unwarranted, disrespectful attitudes in the process is never a welcome addition.

I can recall a particular call, during my time with that department.  I had been dispatched to a burglary at a lower income, Hispanic household.  My Spanish has always been basic, but a neighbor volunteered to translate for me, which was a major blessing.  However, my point is what she said to me as I was leaving. She thanked me for being respectful and listening to them.  Now, with no frame of reference for her previous experiences, all that I could do was assure her that it had been no problem.  But, the only reason that day still resonates with me, is because she felt the need to thank me for treating them like everyone should have treated them; like people.  Her sincere gratitude was almost saddening.

But it speaks to where we are as humans.  We repeat so much history because no one has paid enough attention to learn anything from it.  We are still demonstrating and protesting for the same things, often in the same ways.  And many of those who aren’t standing in direct opposition . . . are just missing the point.  As a wise man once said, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied”.  Be blessed . . .

THE RACE OF POLITICS

“I hate you. It’s not because of anything you’ve ever said or done. It’s not even because of you as a person; as I don’t really know you or anything about you. I just despise you for the pigmentation of your skin.  So, you can never do anything to fix it or make it right.  Oh . . . and I hate your parents and all of your kids too.”  No matter how tolerant or sympathetic you are . . . No matter how close you’ve been to a person . . . No matter whom you’ve dated or how long you’ve been married to someone . . . You can never truly know the full effect of these sentiments until they have been aimed directly at you by a sincerely devout individual; especially if you live that reality daily.

Of course, life isn’t that straightforward.  I actually have more respect for a person who’s honest enough to just admit what he or she is — even if their beliefs are repulsive.  But what usually happens is that school districts are designed separately but unequally; laws that negatively affect the poor and people of color get pushed through; or Presidential Cabinets are filled with men who have ties to White Nationalism (which anybody with a brain knows means White Racism).  What happens is our country elects a President who has full, open support from the Ku Klux Klan . . . and makes countless racist remarks in public . . . while campaigning . . . and we rationalize that decision.  And it wouldn’t be quite so glaringly ridiculous if we as a country had not passed over the single most qualified candidate of any sex or race to ever run for President (and no, there’s no arguing that point), for the least qualified, least knowledgeable candidate to ever run. And that person is an open and unapologetic racist, sexist, narcissistic bully.

Now, I’m not misguided enough to believe that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a fellow racist and/ or sexist.  But it’s obvious that his racism and sexism weren’t repulsive enough to your collective sensibilities for you not to vote for him. In fact, I was online prior to the election and read a post from one individual, stating that he felt that Trump’s shortcomings “didn’t affect national security the way that Clinton’s would”.  One could easily extrapolate that statement to mean that Trump’s biases didn’t affect him or his life.  At any rate, any serious look at the inept and delusional methods of the current administration will quickly call that individual’s line of thinking immediately into question.  There obviously has been a rather large effect.  From the ban on Muslims; to the monument to racism, now referred to as “The Wall”; to his support of and part ownership in the North Dakota Access Pipeline; to America’s newly strained relations with former allies and once neutral parties; the effects are there for all to see.

Likewise, The Patriarchy in America is extremely strong.  It’s apparently strong enough that even a lot of women have grown to accept it as normal.  Long before the advent of President Trump, I witnessed Republican Party members make repulsively sexist statements in public forums; only to have prominent female party members, such as Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin, fully support their campaigns.  And female voters followed suit.  I recently read that it’s common for women to vote the way that their husbands want them to vote.  As a supporter of equal rights for all people, I would sincerely hope that we have all evolved beyond that.  However, it has always been more than obvious that many people would have voted for a trained monkey if it meant never having a woman as President; no matter her qualifications.  Soon after the airing of the infamous video, in which Donald Trump blatantly speaks about sexually assaulting women, I read a Facebook post from a Christian minister.  The post read: “It’s better that our President grabs vaginas than have one”. This from — not just a fellow Christian but a leader of people — needs no further analysis.

When Donald Trump spoke of forcing kisses on reluctant women and grabbing their vaginas, I was supposed to be okay with it.  Well . . . I was not.  Donald Trump once yelled: “Look at my African-American over there!”  He did so while referring to the sole, misguided Black man at a particular Trump Rally.  Donald Trump was pointing out this man like an anomalous beast . . . in a cage . . . at the zoo.  And I suppose I was supposed to be okay with that as well.  Well, I wasn’t.  And many others claimed to share that sentiment.  Yet, here we all are, enduring some of the most questionable decisions in modern history.  And, after Donald Trump had won the election, becoming President of the United States, many of you were acting as though he had just won a Super Bowl or a UFC title.  “Well, he’s won now. Let’s just work together and move forward.”  There was nothing in the campaign of Donald Trump that suggested unity or diversity of any kind.  And we can see the divisive nature and “alternative facts” that dominate his Presidency.  Surely, if there had ever have been a time to “work together”; it would have been in keeping him out of office, wouldn’t it?

Is It So Difficult?

Is it really so difficult to grasp the concept that a person can stand in total support of Law Enforcement but still ask that individual members of said group be held responsible for and receive appropriate consequences for wrongdoings? In fact, it seems illogical to even SAY that you support Law Enforcement and at the same time to condone the presence of corrupt and murderous individuals among their numbers; staining the whole with their mere existence. Having worked closely with some of the best officers this country has to offer for three years in Savannah, GA, I’m more than aware of the utter chaos that our lives would be without the presence of police officers. Likewise, when I’m not creating art or writing down what the voices in my head are saying, I’m spending 12.25 hours a day “protecting the general public” from inmates. I get it. I also understand the need to eliminate corruption and stop overshadowing the efforts of the large number of good officers with good intentions in this country. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp that the deaths of unarmed and/ or restrained African-American men at the hands of police officers were unwarranted. One simply has to try. Be blessed . . .

TERMS OF ENTITLEMENT

My favorite non-art job was taking nonemergency reports for the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.  I was serving the community and assisting the sworn officers.  I enjoyed the freedom of driving around the city as I listened to the radio, awaiting calls that pertained to me.  And I was actually paid to write every day.   As a civilian employee, I was entitled to partake of a set list of scheduled holidays each year.  There, in fact, was supposedly no question about us taking this time off, but we were required, for some reason, to submit Leave Request Forms prior to each holiday.

My supervisor at this time was the Police Sargent who was in charge of the CSU (Crime Suppression Unit).  I distinctly recall one occasion in particular, when I was submitting a Leave Request to my supervisor during a shift briefing.  He looked at me from his podium and said: “Sometimes you act like you don’t like your job. Why do you always want so much time off?”  More than a little confused by his demeanor, I replied: “This is one of the holidays civilians are supposed to have. I’m just giving you the paperwork.  Why are you acting like I’m asking for something extra?”  One of the veteran officers in the room suddenly looked up from his notebook, his face appearing as though he had just swallowed a porcupine whole.  But there it was.  I had actually just sat there asking for something that already belonged to me; and quite cordially at that.

Likewise, Social Security taxes have been deducted from the various paychecks that I’ve received since my first recorded job at approximately 18 years of age.  The records would have started sooner, but, having grown up in Eastern North Carolina, my first job involved harvesting tobacco, where one is paid in cash at just below minimum wage.  Now, there are various political figures who refer to Social Security benefits for retirees as an “entitlement”.  These people tend to imply that Social Security is somehow something extra, if not completely unearned.  Okay . . . I woke up each day for 25 or more years (so far) and went to work of my own accord, never once given any choice as to whether the Social Security tax was deducted from my pay.  Undoubtedly, wherever those funds were held, they were accruing interest.  Therefore, at what point does giving my own money back to me become something extra or undeserved? And I will believe that the disbursements are due to stop, when the deductions stop occurring.

We live in a world of age old hatreds, discriminations and superficial biases.  From the Transcontinental Slave Trade to the Holocaust to the recent actions of the ISIS terror group and resulting movements of the European refugees, there are always oppressors and the oppressed.  Suffrage protests. Civil Rights marches.  There has always been someone fighting to be heard; fighting for equality; fighting for basic human rights.  It’s demeaning for someone to have to continually ask for things that should already be his/ hers; things that already intrinsically belong to them.  If we raise our children without a work ethic and a sense of perspective, they will undoubtedly grow up with a sense of entitlement.  My current day job is at a minimum security prison and I can say without a doubt that the majority of the inmates incarcerated in that facility have an illogical sense of entitlement.  Talking to some of them, you would almost get the impression that they were sitting at home watching TV, when someone from the State kicked down the door and said: “Alright you’re next. Get your innocent ass in prison.”  It doesn’t occur to them that, if they hadn’t raped or robbed or molested or burglarized or sold those drugs that they wouldn’t be in prison.  That is an unjustified sense of entitlement.  People seeking basic human rights —— asking to be treated like human beings —— are not expressing a sense of entitlement.  Let’s be for real.  Be blessed.