Thoughts on “Unite the Right”, Trump, and This Blog

I have some things I want to say about the weekend’s events with the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia…but it’s mixed in with some other stuff, so bear with me…

Content Note: alt-right, Andrew Anglin, Charlottesville, David Duke, Donald Trump, Jason Kessler, Protest, Racism, Terrorism

Swatika in a bold red circle with a slash through it. Keyword: Unite the Right

Image Description: Swastika in a bold red circle with a slash through it.

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It’s important to me to be fair. I like to try, to the greatest extent possible, to see all sides of the story.

It’s been important to me not only to comment on how Donald Trump and his statements and policies violate the rights of others, but how attitudes toward:

have been ugly and at times hypocritical as well.  Not because I like him – I don’t like Donald Trump at all. But because Donald Trump and the people around him have rights, too.

I feel like I’ve been fair.

But I’ve decided after this weekend that this blog won’t be a space anymore where Trump his administration get protective space. I started leaning that way after his tweet in July about barring transgender people from the military. I see now that he’s pursuing that course of action and I just…don’t want writing a defense of Trump in light of legitimately problematic ways that he and his administration are talked about (like falling back on sexism to criticize Kellyanne Conway) to be mistaken for support for Trump’s policies and how he conducts himself as President.

I’m especially resolved on that decision after his response to the “Unite the Right” protest.

Trump’s Response to the “Unite the Right” is Unacceptable

On Saturday, Trump said:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

It’s hard to know where to start, especially since Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert was (badly) defending the statement on Sunday.

And good for the GOP who are breaking rank and letting the President know that his statement was unacceptable. Credit where it’s due.

Andrew Anglin, a prolific neo-Nazi with a large following, had this to say about Trump’s speech:

“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides! So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Something that the White House should consider, perhaps.

As for what I need to say on all this…

The Alt-Right Can Believe Offensive Things If It Chooses

I’m not disputing the “Unite the Right” protesters’ right to gather and protest the removal of General Lee’s statue, any more than I dispute the right of the people to counter-protest “Unite the Right.” Not because I believe in what “Unite the Right” stands for, by any means. I think that the alt-right’s beliefs are disgusting and their justifications for those beliefs are ridiculous. I think that it’s pathetic that the removal of a Confederate statue got the movement so riled up. But just because I (and most of America) doesn’t agree with them doesn’t take away their right to peaceful protest. If I’d believed for a second that the “Unite the Right” protesters had actually come with legal, peaceful protest in mind, I wouldn’t have been so concerned when I heard that the protest was in the works.

But, as we all know now (and I think we all suspected),  “Unite the Right” wasn’t intended to be just a peaceful protest of a statue’s removal. Marching onto a university campus at night with torches, yelling racist statements, isn’t peaceful – it’s a terrifying act of intimidation and violence.

They marched up the door of a church where an interfaith prayer service for peace was going on, making people scared to come out.

Counter-protesters reported that they had torches swung at them and pepper spray and lighter fluid used on them.

And that was Friday night; the official “Unite the Right” protest didn’t even begin until Saturday.

Peaceful protest was never the intent.

And I’m aware that the counter-protesters were violent as well. Earlier today, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was  escorted away by police from where he tried to speak at the protest, after being  shouted down by the crowd and being pushed and tackled. I’m not going to defend assaulting Kessler. Violence isn’t appropriate, period. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and creates an atmosphere where everyone is unsafe.

However, those that are criticizing the counter-protesters for being violent need to acknowledge that the alt-right folks set the tone for the weekend on Friday night when they terrorized the UVA campus.

Their antics that night may not have legally been terrorism, but they were certainly an act of terror in spirit, escalated the next day by an act that was clearly domestic terrorism –  and because of it  19 people were injured and a woman, Heather Heyer, is dead.

As Jake Tapper said to Tom Bossert: “How many people did the counter-protesters kill?”

Headshot of a white woman, 32, with curly reddish hair and amber eyes. She is weaing pink lipstck and eye make-up in blue and purple tones. She has light freckling on her nose, and dimples. She is smiling. Keyword: Unite the Right
Heather Heyer, 32

Image Description: Headshot of a white woman, 32, with curly reddish hair and amber eyes. She is weaing pink lipstick and eye make-up in blue and purple tones. She has light freckling on her nose, and dimples. She is smiling.

Donald Trump Owes America More Than What He’s Been Giving It

Donald Trump refuses to call these things out for what they are or give any compelling argument that he’s committed to making America a place where all people truly are equal, and that makes me sick – because he’s the President, and even if the “Unite the Right” protesters had sat cross-legged in a park in silent meditation all weekend, he still shouldn’t be behind what they believe, or what any group whose philosophy involves restricting the rights of Americans based on race, sex, religion, sexual preference, gender identification, or disability believes.

And he should be prepared to say so clearly and definitively. When David Duke says about the President, “We’re doing this in your name,” a President who truly believes in an America where everyone is equal says, “Stop. Immediately. I don’t want to be associated with what you, your beliefs, or what you do.”

Duke, on what “Unite the Right” represents to him:

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

I fear for a country whose President won’t denounce hate.  And I don’t want my blog to be a place where he gets anything that can be construed as defence anymore. I’ll be thinking very carefully about what I write about Trump in the future.

I feel like I need to make my allegiances clearer… and that I owe my American friends more than what I’ve been giving them.

I know that none of this is much help to a country that’s frightened and grieving and feeling very divided – but it’s what this Canadian has to give today.

And maybe this, because Trae Crowder always nails it…*foul language – NSFW*

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Trumpcare, Mental Health, and the Goldwater Rule

Back to politics today for  a moment…because there’s something I want to say, and because I’m struggling with something about Donald Trump and the Goldwater Rule.

Content Note: Ableism, Healthcare, Politics, Trump, Mental Health

Senator Susan Collins, a white woman with short red hair wearing a dark blazer, white blouse, and pearls, stands in front of an American flag background. Keyword: Goldwater Rule

Image Description: Senator Susan Collins, a white woman with short red hair wearing a dark blazer, white blouse, and pearls, stands in front of an American flag background.

Although I have Republican friends that I cherish in spite of our differences in opinion, regular readers know that as a group I’m hard on them. I’ve called them out, sometimes by  name (some have told me unfairly.) I don’t believe that I’ve been off-base.

But I also believe in giving credit where it’s due. So, to Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who’ve stood firm in this round of Obamacare repeal deliberations that what’s been included in the proposed repeal scenarios are not good for their constituents, despite bullying from Donald Trump, thank you. Thank you on behalf of my disabled American friends, and the children, families and elderly people of America that not only depend on Medicaid to keep them happy and healthy, but depend on it to keep them alive. Thank you for insisting that America be a country where everyone is taken care of. Your integrity and courage give me hope.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a white woman with short blonde hair wearing a red blazer, a write blouse, and a pendant on a chain, stands in front of some trees. Keyword: Goldwater Rule

Image Description:  Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a white woman with short blonde hair wearing a red blazer, a write blouse, and a pendant on a chain, stands in front of some trees.

Thank you also to John McCain, a man with whom I’ve definitely had my disagreements, who came to Washington in spite of his cancer diagnosis, right after brain surgery, speaking eloquently about bipartisanship and the need to work together to craft a plan for healthcare, pushing himself through the week and into the early hours of the morning last Friday night to cast the vote that brought down Trumpcare. Sir, I salute you.

Senator John McCain, a white male in his 70s with white hair wearing a navy blazer and blue dress shirt. stands against an American flag background Keyword: Goldwater Rule
MESA, AZ – June 4: Senator John McCain (R – AZ) appears at a town hall meeting on June 4, 2010 in Mesa, Arizona.

Image Description: Senator John McCain, a white male in his 70s with white hair wearing a navy blazer and blue dress shirt. stands against an American flag background.

I won’t ever forget what the three of you have done for my American friends.

And to the rest of GOP who are struggling with the idea of single-payer as an idea for health care in the US…on one level, I get it.

Didn’t think I’d say that, did you? Well, I’m nothing if not practical. Single-payer isn’t a perfect system. Not by a long shot. Are there wait times? There can be, for non-emergency issues especially. Is it bureaucracy-heavy? Not any more than the bureaucracy created by the American system having to deal with many insurance plans, I’d argue, but I could be wrong. But even though I waited a couple of months for the functional MRI that the AVM Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital needed to decide how to best treat my AVM, I didn’t have to worry about whether my family could afford to have one of the best neurosurgeons in North America specializing in AVM treatment rooting around in my head for 14 hours.

Take our system and make *your* single-payer system better. Show us up. In fact (if it’ll get you moving on this), I’ll bet that you can’t do it. Go ahead and prove me wrong.

Please! 🙂

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Now…why I’m struggling.

Donald Trump, Mental Health, and the Goldwater Rule

Last week, two friends who work in the mental health field, for whom I have a great deal of respect, said that despite their concerns about the Goldwater Rule, they firmly believe Donald Trump has a mental health condition and needs evaluation to determine whether he’s psychologically healthy enough to continue on as President. The American Psychoanalytic Association officially said recently that members shouldn’t feel restricted by the the Goldwater Rule when discussing Trump.

This is a tough one for me. I don’t like Trump at all, simply because I don’t tend to like people that are lying, arrogant bullies.  But I’ve fought hard against the idea that he’s unfit for office because he’s “crazy” because:

  • Even the most qualified mental health diagnostician would need time and access to Trump to make an accurate diagnosis
  • If the policy is that a clean bill of mental health is required to be the President, then Presidents as far back as Lincoln have been in violation
  • It’s ableist. There’s no reason that a President with a well-managed mental health condition should be treated any differently, in terms of perception of ability to govern, than a President with any other sort of well-managed condition.

And I think that ultimately I still believe that the Goldwater Rule should apply to the position of the President, provided that some other safeguards are put in place (because we do know that Presidents have had mental health conditions, and even degenerative brain conditions, that went largely unnoticed while they were in office):

  • Any President (not just Donald Trump) gets his or her mental health evaluated by an independent mental health practitioner on a regular basis. (I don’t know if this happens, or how often.) The Presidency is an extremely high-stress job, and it’s not unreasonable to periodically check at the very least whether that stress is having an adverse affect on the President’s well-being.
  • Concerns about the President’s mental health are treated like concerns about the President’s physical health – they are quickly, and thoroughly evaluated and, if necessary, treated. The President takes time off work if necessary, but the assumption is that he or she will be able to return to work, and that it will happen as soon as possible. The public is entitled to no more information than it would be if the President had a physical issue.

In other words: If the White House properly monitored the President for mental health conditions and ensured that if there were any conditions that were affecting the President so much that they interfered with his or her ability to govern that the President took time off (if necessary) and received the treatment and education needed to ensure that the condition was well-managed and no longer an issue…then I’d continue to stand on the Goldwater Rule and say, “It isn’t up to people who’ve never spoken to President to make a diagnosis. It’s up to the White House.”

But I don’t have that confidence in this White House. They can’t even make Donald Trump stop using his phone. They’re not going to convince him to let someone do even a simple mental health evaluation, or start treatment if that was deemed necessary – and Donald Trump is not a man that would step down. Not for the good of his health. Not even, I don’t think, for the good of his country.

So, I Struggle…

I’ve struggled as I’ve watched mental health diagnosticians openly break the Goldwater Rule since Trump’s election with their pronouncements in the media that he’s got any number of mental health conditions.

I struggle now, wondering if they were right to break the Goldwater Rule the way they did.

I don’t think that a mental health condition should automatically disqualify anyone from any job – I know too many people with well-managed mental health conditions that are in high-stress positions and that do an excellent job. But, like my friend said:

Whether someone agrees or disagrees with the content of his inflammatory statements, that is not the issue. This is not a matter of attributing mental illness because of disagreement with his views/statements. If you go back and view interviews with him from decades ago, he’s still the same big jerk, but his behavior has changed.”

It’s one thing to be a seventy-year-old civilian man with no insight into behaviour change and perhaps the need for help, and with apparently no one around you who will call you on that blind spot. It’s quite another thing when you’re the most powerful man in the world.

I think I know now where I land on this. If the White House won’t take action when there are indicators that the President needs treatment for a mental health condition, other people with experience and knowledge in the field of mental health need to be allowed to speak without fear of what it could cost them. It’s ableism to say, “People with a mental health condition can’t be President,” but it’s not ableism to expect Presidents that do have mental health conditions to work with their staff and medical team to manage those conditions so that their ability to govern isn’t affected.

To be clear:  Mental health professionals who are worried that Donald Trump isn’t competent to lead need the freedom to speak about it. Someone has to.

 

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Thoughts About the May 4th Vote to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

I watched far too much CNN last Thursday. But I couldn’t turn it off. I couldn’t believe that the vote to repeal and replace Obamacare was actually happening.

Content Note: Ableism, Healthcare, Politics

Headshot of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (white male in his 40s with short, wave brown hair and blue eyes) looking thoughtfully into the camera. "Hey Girl, I'll Cover Your Preexisting Condition" is written across the picture in white block letters. Keyword: Obamacare

Image Description: Headshot of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (white male in his 40s with short, wave brown hair and blue eyes) looking thoughtfully into the camera. “Hey Girl, I’ll Cover Your Preexisting Condition” is written across the picture in white block letters.

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Watching from my privileged place here in Canada, where:

  • My mother spent six weeks in intensive care before she died of cancer
  • My father had surgery to fix the three breaks in his leg after being hit by a car and spent two months in a physical rehabilitation hospital
  • My twin niece and nephew were delivered by emergency C-section at 26 weeks and spent the next 3 months in the NICU
  • I had 2 brain surgeries to correct a congenital vascular malformation and spent 5 weeks in the hospital after the ensuing major stroke and nearly six months in inpatient stroke rehabilitation

…I reflect on how we only saw bills for ambulance service and records transfers…and think about where any of us might be if we lived in an America where Trumpcare was the law…and I am appalled.

Appalled

I’m appalled by the bill itself, although I’m fairly confident that despite making it through Congress, it’s dead in the water when it reaches the Senate. It barely got enough support from the GOP to squeak through the house. It *won’t* get the support from the Democrats that it needs in the Senate without major changes. Paul Ryan was so desperate to push this through that he didn’t wait for a ruling from the CBO about the cost of the bill and who it will affect (although we know that the CBO’s analysis of the first bill that Ryan failed to shove through Congress six weeks ago indicated that 24 000 000 people would ultimately lose their health care because of it.) Trump was twisting arms to get people to vote for it up until the morning of the 4th. Representative Chris Collins told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he didn’t even read the whole bill before voting “Yes” on it and he was not the only one.

Process-wise, this was a nightmare, and it will continue to be a nightmare for the GOP.

And for what? As Nancy Pelosi said on the floor of the House last Thursday, the people who voted for this will “glow in the dark”. The Democrats will make sure that everyone remembers who voted to repeal and replace Obamacare also voted take away health care for the Americans that need it most. Because I am furious on behalf of my disabled American friends, and scared for their future, here’s a list of who voted which way on the Trumpcare bill. Make the people who voted “Yes” glow in the dark for midterm elections in 2018.

What The Fight to Get Rid of Obamacare Is Really About

Obamacare sure as hell isn’t perfect. It needs to be fixed so that healthcare becomes and remains affordable and accessible for everyone. But it’s only in the minds of a group of Republicans who want to obliterate anything with Obama’s stamp on it that it needs to be repealed and totally replaced with something else, instead of tweaked so that the people who got healthcare coverage under Obamacare could keep it and so that coverage could become more affordable for those that are paying far too much for it right now. In their zeal to repeal and replace, with the bill they’ve presently voted on, they’ve thrown an alarmingly large group of Americans that includes the elderly, disabled people, people with cancer, people with mental conditions, people addicted to drugs, and women who have been sexually assaulted under the bus and pretty much said, “We don’t mind standing back and watching you die.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s list of pre-existing conditions that have universally been used to deny people insurance in the past, and that have raised premiums in the past, if I lived in US I’d be at risk of outright losing my insurance or a premium hike for factors that I can’t control, several times over. So would friends and loved ones, including my baby niece and nephew, who didn’t ask to be born three months premature.

Conclusion

I don’t believe that this bill will become law. But if it did, people who depend on getting health coverage through Obamacare would die. It is simply unfair that ability to obtain healthcare be tied to how much money you make. It’s more than unfair. It’s barbaric.

American friends, tell your representatives that when you call them — that the world is watching, we’re judging, and we’re using words like “barbaric”. Ask them if they can live with that.

Not sure what else to say about this right now. Just know that there are Canadians who are watching what’s going on and talking about it amongst ourselves, and that we will help however we can.

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Jason Chaffetz, Health Care, and Privilege

CNN has been out at my place since yesterday, and I didn’t get a chance to get caught up on newsletters or internet because I was at work…but even from the little bit that I picked up about Trump’s new healthcare plan, I’m seeing problems.

Content Note: Classism, ableism, poor shaming, Trumpcare

Image Description: Red medical bag with a with white cross on it and a stethoscope resting on it. Keyword: Jason Chaffetz

Image Description: Red medical bag with a with white cross on it and a stethoscope resting on it.

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I like Obamacare. I was happy to see that so many people, particularly disabled people and people with pre-existing conditions, finally got healthcare. If I’d been American when my brain arteriovenous malformation was discovered, I doubt that any health insurance that my family could have afforded could have covered the cost of the surgery to repair it, let alone the cost of hospitalization and rehabilitation after the post-surgery stroke and the years of medical follow-ups. My surgery wasn’t emergency, but it was important — given that I was only 22 when my AVM caused my first brain bleed, it was likely to cause another, potentially much more serious one, but no one could say when. Would we, had we been Americans, decided to take postpone a costly surgery as long as possible, or not do it at all, and just hope for the best?

It might not have been an option. As a Canadian, I was able to make my decision based on the risks of having the surgery or not having it, and cost wasn’t a factor. Given that there was a 75% that they could treat the AVM with no ill effects, but later in life I might have another bleed while driving down the highway or holding a baby and potentially lose control of my left side, the choice seemed easy. I just hit that 10% that comes out of a major surgery in that area of the brain with severe damage, and that’s what happens when you play the odds. At least the AVM is fixed, and I didn’t have to worry about whether my healthcare was going to bankrupt my family.

I can work, but it’s complicated (ultimately because of my disabilities.) The jobs that I can do are usually part-time, low-wage, with no benefits. I’m one of the lucky ones — because I live in a low-rent building and because a government program covers the cost of my medications, I can still pay all my bills.

Jason Chaffetz, Healthcare, and Class Privilege

One of the bits about Trump’s new plan that I did hear yesterday (because it’s all over my Facebook feed) was the Jason Chaffetz interview with CNN. If you haven’t had a chance yet to hear the very definition of class privilege, take a listen (or read the transcript below the video, from 1:47 to 3:02):

Alisyn Camerota: What if it leaves lower-income Americans uninsured?

Jason Chaffetz: Well, we want them to be able to provide, have a method so that they can get access to it. There are things that we really do like, for instance dealing with pre-existing conditions, allowing people up to the age of 26 to —

Alisyn Camerota: You’re going to keep those tenets?

Jason Chafferz: Yup, these arbitrary lines of states —

Alisyn Camerota: Sure.

Jason Chafferz: So I think there’s a lot of good things that we need to —

Alisyn Camerota: But access for lower-income Americans doesn’t equal coverage.

Jason Chaffetz: Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want. And you know what? Americans have choices. And they’ve gotta make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and that they want to go and spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should go invest in their own healthcare. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.

Alisyn Camerota: So, in other words, for lower-income Americans you’re saying that this is going to require some sacrifice on their part.

Jason Chaffetz: Well, we’ve got to be able to actually lower the cost of healthcare. I mean, one of the things we’re concerned about is healthcare inflation is just consuming the American budget, both for the families and and at the federal government. We have to be able to drive those cost curves down and provide good quality access. We do think that with more choice, that you will get a better product at a lower price, and that’s good for everybody on the entire spectrum of income.

Chaffetz goes on to say later that a potential outcome of the plan is more access, less coverage (3:54).

Let’s run down Jason Chaffetz’s assumptions about lower-income Americans and their lives, as indicated by this conversation:

  1. They’re frivolous and don’t make good spending decisions.
  2. They have money that they can put into saving for healthcare and just aren’t doing it.
  3. They should sacrifice even items that arguably aren’t even luxury (many people don’t use a land line anymore and depend on a cell phone) to bring down health care costs for everyone, when it doesn’t seem that he’s holding higher-income Americans to the same standard.

There’s also an implication that giving up that cell phone should be enough to provide people savings enough to get all the coverage they need, when the new plan has shown no proof of that so far. This tweet talks about the cost of a phone vs the cost of a young woman’s ankle surgery.

The GOP Doesn’t Like Low-Income Americans

It’s a relief that Trump has decided to keep the Obamacare regulations on pre-existing conditions and staying on parents’ plans until 26, and that he’s committed to making the plan portable across state lines. And when Jason Chaffetz went on FOX to further explain his comments, after social media exploded, he said that, “What we’re trying to say — and maybe I didn’t say it as smoothly as I possibly could — but people need to make a conscious choice and I believe in self-reliance. And they’re going to have to make those decisions.” That sounds much better than the plan he described on CNN.

However, I wouldn’t forget his words in that first CNN interview. GOP policies regarding low-income Americans tend to be punitive, assuming that all low-income people are either out to scam the system or irresponsible, and that higher-income people are deserving of better treatment. When we consider that the GOP also wants to cut Medicare, this healthcare bill as described by Chaffetz on CNN is all those things; even though he’s tried to walk it back, we shouldn’t be shocked if that’s exactly what Trump’s healthcare plan turns out to be.

The American Medical Association agrees that the current version of “Trumpcare” won’t provide adequate health care for vulnerable Americans. AMA President Andrew W. Gurman said in a press release about Trumpcare:

“The AMA supported health system reform legislation in 2010 because it was a significant improvement on the status quo at the time; and although it was imperfect, we continue to embrace its primary goal — making high-quality, affordable health coverage accessible to all Americans,” AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, M.D. said. “As drafted, the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits. By replacing income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits, the AHCA will also make coverage more expensive — if not out of reach — for poor and sick Americans. For these reasons, the AMA cannot support the AHCA as it is currently written.”

Other groups have joined the AMA in its stance, including the American Hospital Association and the American Academy of Family of Physicians.

I’m Worried

Canadian healthcare is far from perfect. Obamacare wasn’t perfect either. And I’m only learning about this new plan, and I’m willing to see how it pans out.

But I’m worried, even just after hearing Chaffetz’s CNN interview, that disabled people who can’t work and other groups living in poverty are going to suffer under this new bill. Please be prepared to fight for them.

They need your voice.

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Calling Liberals Out about Kellyanne Conway

I asked you all not to make me do this again — to make me write something where it comes across like I’m defending Donald Trump. For those that haven’t heard me say it before, I don’t like the man. I don’t like what he stands for. I don’t like that my nieces and nephew are spending their formative years in a world where he is President. And I don’t like Kellyanne Conway either, for that matter.

Content Note: Sexism, Crude commentsRoadway stop sign. Keyword: Kellyanne ConwayImage Description: Red roadway stop sign

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I’m Canadian, but I watched the campaigning for Election 2016 from the word “Go!” I didn’t like Kellyanne Conway when she was working for Ted Cruz, I liked her even less during Donald Trump’s campaign, and I like her even less now. I have a grudging something-very-vaguely-resembling-respect for her in that I think that she knows that she’s full of shit and she’s found a way to weaponize it — The Daily Show did a good piece on Kellyane Conway’s rhetorical strategies  — and you can’t deny that, while it was working, the method behind her madness was arguably brilliant. But the fact remains that she’s full of shit, and it’s hard for me to have any long-term something-very-vaguely-resembling-respect for someone who lies so easily and so much that Morning Joe will no longer interview her.

That’s a low, right there.

There is plenty — plenty — about which Liberals can rightfully criticize Kellyanne Conway:

  1. How she joined Trump when it looked like he’d win, after personally maligning him as part of the Cruz team. Although, to be fair, she wasn’t the only person involved in Election 2016 who sold out in this way.
  2. Her allegiance to a bully of a President who’s just about every “-ist” there is.
  3. Her refusal to give a straight answer to a question — the reliance on lies, deflection, and denial. Not something that just she does these days, and not something just the GOP does, but frustrating all the same.

However, liberals are *not* sticking to criticisms of her on these grounds. I’m hearing some nasty sexist attacks of Kellyanne Conway from liberals, in conversation and on Facebook and other places, and that needs to stop.

We are better than this.

If You Don’t Like What Kellyanne Conway is Doing or What She Stands For

Then you need to say so and make an argument.

Don’t:

  • Say, “She’s ugly” or “She’s haggard-looking” or “She looks like a coke addict.” Especially if you’ve talked in the past about how sexist it is that there’s so much focus on looks in women in politics.
  • Call her a “whore.” I shouldn’t even have to explain why this is wrong.
  • Make crass, sexist jokes about her. At the Washington Press Club Annual Dinner, Cedric Richmond said, about the picture profiled in the video below: “And you can just explain to me…that circumstance, because she really look kind of familiar in that position there…”

ETA: Richmond’s joke was in response to a thread in a comedy routine earlier in the evening by Republican Tim Scott that “a whole lot worse” had happened on that sofa in the 1990s. Richmond’s full joke (as opposed to the bit that CNN chose to air) went as follows: “Tim, you kind of opened the door. I really just want to know what was going on there, because, you know, I won’t tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that circumstance — because she really looked kind of familiar in that position there. Don’t answer — and I don’t want you to refer back to the 1990s.”

Image Description: Kellyanne Conway kneels on a white sofa in the Oval Office, knees slightly apart, back against the back of the sofa, looking at her phone. She wears a dark dress that ends just above her knees.

Richmond has since apologized to Kellyanne Conway for his joke, and insists that he didn’t mean for it to be sexual. I wasn’t sure that it was at first, but I changed my mind before I even heard the full joke, after thinking about just what was aired on CNN. I’m still mentioning it in this call-out despite Richmond’s apology because Nancy Pelosi didn’t seem to think that the “familiar” joke required an apology when she was interviewed about it on “State of the Union” on March 5.

In case the captioning doesn’t work, here’s the transcript:

Jake Tapper: I need to ask you about this rude joke that was told this week by a member of your caucus, a Democratic Congressman, Cedric Richmond, at the Washington Press Club Annual Dinner at the expense of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway. Take a listen:

Cut to Cedric Richmond at the event

Richmond: And you can just explain to me that circumstance — because she really looked kind of familiar in that position there.

Cut to Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper: Leader Pelosi, the joke was sexist, it was disgusting…shouldn’t the Congressman apologize to Kellyanne Conway and, honestly, why isn’t the Democratic Party expressing outrage about this?

Nancy Pelosi: I wasn’t at the dinner; I’m just finding out about this. The fact is, I’m still in sort of a state of, “What is going on here?”, that the person who occupies the White House is the person who was on that Hollywood video that said the crude things he said about women. You all are criticizing Cedric for something he said in the course of the evening, and maybe he should be criticized for that, I just don’t know the particulars. I do every day marvel at the fact that someone who said the gross and crude things that Donald Trump said wouldn’t even be allowed in a frat house, and now he’s in the White House.

Jake Tapper: Well, I think we’ve covered the Access Hollywood tape quite a bit, but I guess the question is: If one only criticizes Republicans when they make crude comments, does that not undermine the moral authority if you don’t criticize when Democrats make crude comments?

Nancy Pelosi: Well, I think everyone was making crude comments and I, I just don’t know, I wasn’t at that dinner. But I was at the dinner last night at the Grid Iron Club and we were all, I think, quite, shall we say, respectable. I’ll look at what my colleague said there. But I do think that, in the Oval Office, we were always…always with decorum appropriate for the White House.

Nancy Pelosi, Meet Me at Camera Three

I thought that the Access Hollywood video was disgusting, too. But Kellyanne Conway wasn’t there, and even if she was — citing Donald Trump’s record of bad behaviour toward women doesn’t mean that a member of your party gets a pass when he makes a female White House counselor the subject of a sexist and disgusting joke. Nor does “everyone was making crude comments” excuse his.

I appreciate that you were trying not to make definitive statements about a situation that you knew little about, but you came across as defending a colleague who told a sexist, demeaning joke about one of the President’s main advisers, even going so far as to imply that because she didn’t conduct herself with the standard of decorum that you and your colleagues did in the Oval Office, that she should expect that rudeness.

And if the GOP had done that to Hillary, you and a bunch of other Democrats would have screamed bloody murder. You know it’s true.

I just hope that later on you reconsidered your words and how they came across, and that you were one of the people that encouraged Richmond to apologize.

Bottom Line

Again — there is plenty to criticize Kellyanne Conway on without being sexist. derogatory, dismissive, and crude.

Criticize Kellyanne Conway all you want. But have some integrity about it.

Don’t let Trump take that from you.

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Just a Reminder that Barron Trump is Off-Limits

There’s so much to say about Donald Trump right now. But there’s also some things I want to say about his ten-year-old son, Barron Trump, that I think we need to remember as we go into the Trump Presidency. Because the fact that the youngest Trump child was mocked on social media for his appearance at the Jan 20 inauguration is bad news, folks.

Content Note: Bullying, Exploitation, Lack of Consent

"No Bullies" in red block type with a black shadow giving it a 3-D effect against a yellow starburst with a bold red border and a black shadow. Keyword: Barron Trump

Image Description: “No Bullies” in red block type with a black shadow giving it a 3-D effect against a yellow starburst with a bold red border and a black shadow.

***

Mocking Barron Trump is Not Cool. Period.

Of course, we can’t know the political affiliation of the people who made the mocking tweets in question, but it doesn’t matter that much — I don’t care whether you lean to the right or the left, the minor children of political figures are off-limits. Trump’s adult children chose to get involved the campaign and Presidency — they shouldn’t have to put up with cyberbullying (no one should) but should expect potentially difficult questions they’re held accountable in their roles. Barron Trump didn’t have a choice about whether he’d be involved in this — he didn’t ask for the public scrutiny and shouldn’t have to deal with it. Liberals who’d bully a child aren’t ones with whom I want to be involved.

Barron Trump and the Autism Question

Which brings me to the other thing that’s happening that isn’t cool.

One of the tweets in the linked Bustle article above makes mention of the rumours that Barron Trump is autistic. Speculation along these lines started during Trump’s campaign, and it’s annoying that it’s still going on. Judging by the comments in this article, lots of people are more than willing to, based in the very limited footage of Barron Trump in the media and without the qualifications to diagnose, state definitively that he’s autistic.

As I’ve written before, I find armchair diagnosis extremely irritating (in general, not just when it’s happening to the Trump family.) I think it’s irresponsible, that it has great potential to perpetuate stigma and discrimination, and that the way that both parties used it during the election was dangerous. I wish that people wouldn’t speculate about whether Barron Trump is autistic. That sort speculation often comes with negative messaging about being autistic, and we should all know by now that there’s nothing wrong with being autistic.

In Barron Trump’s case, speculation about an autism diagnosis has also given rise to other unsubstantiated rumours and support for ridiculous demands on the Trump family. Despite acknowledging that there’s been no proof to support that Barron Trump has any sort of health condition, reporter Samuel Alioto writes that “evidence is mounting” that Barron is autistic, citing specific mannerisms and Trump’s parental age, and a tweet and remarks during a campaign debate by Trump about seeing a two-year-old become autistic after receiving vaccinations that many believe was about Barron; “it’s all over social media”, after all.

Crack journalism, that. Not much better than the video that caused Rosie O’Donnell to speculate whether Barron Trump is autistic, using as evidence things like his parents’ assertions that he’s good at computers, loves math and and science, and likes to spend time alone and keep his room clean, coupled with his “strange movements”, and “anti-social” behaviour at the RNC.

Melania Trump sued to have the video taken down and it’s since been re-uploaded, but it’s a piece of garbage and I’m not linking to it. Comments on the video suggested that her insistence on taking it down was a sign of denial or shame on the Trumps’ part, but I don’t agree — I would have done the same thing in her place. No matter how well-intentioned you fancy yourself, you don’t get to insert someone else’s kid into your cause and use footage of them without speaking to the family first. It’s disrespectful and completely dehumanizes Barron Trump in much the same way that Jim Carrey dehumanized Alex Echols when he used his photo without permission in an anti-vaccination Twitter rant.

Alioto’s conclusion that Barron Trump is autistic led him to write:

His parents choices have thrust Barron into the public spotlight, so now the issue must be addressed by his parents. If the story is verified, it would mean that Donald Trump did not tell the public a personal fact about his son that would have engendered public sympathy for him. He put his family’s privacy above political gain, which is certainly laudable. But now that there’s active speculation about Barron, it’s time to come forward.

Uh, no.

Maybe I feel differently about this because I’m Canadian and, honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many children the last three Prime Ministers have had, let alone their names. I suspect that I’m not alone in that. The Prime Minister’s children stay very low-profile in Canada (with notable exceptions, of course — Ben Mulroney and Justin Trudeau blew that theory to bits.)

But I’ve never felt like disabled people in general (let alone those in politics) are required to become advocates just because they’re disabled, nor are families with disabled children required to be poster families. Any disability that Barron Trump may or may not have is no one’s business but his, his family’s, and the people with whom they choose to discuss it, and if Barron is autistic there may be good reasons why the family isn’t speaking about it:

  • Melania Trump may not want added pressure to step into an advocacy/activist role.
  • The family may feel like the extra attention may not be good for Barron at a time when there are a lot of other changes to adjust to.
  • Barron Trump may prefer that the family not speak about it,

If Barron Trump does have autism, there’s nothing to suggest that that the family is staying quiet about it because of shame or denial, and the insinuation is unfair. Unless you’ve got everyday access to the Trumps, you can’t know what goes on in their family.

I loathe Donald Trump

But I’ve got no reason to dislike his kid. Is Barron Trump autistic? None of our business. Go about yours, and if you’re one of the ones mocking him on social media, leave him alone.

Because of nonsense like this, I’m spending too much time writing stuff that feels like uncomfortably like I’m defending Donald Trump. Don’t make me do it again.

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Meryl Streep, We Don’t Need Your Outrage

I blogged about the incident where Donald Trump mocked disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski back when it happened during the primaries, and frankly I roll my eyes a little bit every time someone brings it up as “his most shocking moment” or something equally hyperbolic. If it’s online I leave a link to my blog post and move on. But I’ve just seen on CNN clips of Meryl Streep’s reference to the incident in her otherwise lovely speech at last night’s Golden Globes about the incident, and it truly pissed me off. So here I am.

Content Note:  Donald Trump, Bullying, Nothing for Us Without Us, Ableism

"No Thank You" against a cream-coloured background. A black pen sits to the side. Keyword: Meryl Streep

 

Image Description: “No Thank You” against a cream-coloured background. A black pen sits to the side.

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The captions are very good on this video. To access them, hit the icon on bottom of the frame (toward the right side) that looks like an index card.

While I agree that Donald Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, and his refusal up to this morning to apologize for it, is crude and tasteless, and that, as Meryl Streep said, Trump does have more “power and privilege” than Koveleski, I take absolute exception to the idea that Kovaleski has “no power to fight back.” He could have spoken out about the incident when it happened. I’m assuming that he chose not to, but I don’t even like to speculate about that, because I’m tired of people assuming that they must know how he feels about the incident.

People have certainly been clear about how they feel, though, and the resulting narrative is that this incident was the lowest point of Trump’s campaign. Not his statement that Mexicans are criminals and rapists. Not his campaign promise to deport 11 million people. Not his proposed Muslim ban, or the comments about sexual assault, or the promise to repeal Obamacare (which will affect many disabled people.)

No, apparently it was the mocking of Serge Kovaleski (again, in extremely poor taste, but are we surprised?) Because he’s a disabled man, and because we all know that disabled people are powerless and can’t fight back.

I do get that Meryl Streep’s overarching point was that when the President bullies people, other people take it as permission to bully people. But I’ve fought hard (and am still fighting hard, with other advocates) to get society to see that disabled people are *not* powerless.

I am *not* powerless.

I do not let people like Donald Trump take my power.

And I don’t need the outrage of people who see me as powerless. Thanks anyway, Meryl Streep.

And you know what else I’m tired of, Meryl Streep? And CNN, for that matter? People not calling this gentleman by his name when they’re speaking about him. His name is Serge Kovaleski. He’s a Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist. Not “a disabled journalist” or “the disabled journalist”. Your outrage rings hollow when you can’t even be bothered to learn his name, especially when you’ve admitted that you’re reading a pre-written speech. Google is your friend.

Have a great day, everyone!

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Trump Wins the Election – Thoughts on What Happens Now

It’s taken me a couple of days to figure out what I want and need to write about Election Night 2016 and Donald Trump’s win.

Beside a country road, yellow diamond road sign says "Donald Trump Ahead"

Image Description: Beside a country road, yellow diamond road sign says “Donald Trump Ahead”

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So, Donald Trump and Election Night 2016.

 I was on the verge of tears for 3 days afterward. I don’t think that this is totally the election; I’ve got some Seasonal Affective Disorder, and while the end of Daylight Savings Time is much easier for me to handle now than it has been in the past, it still does somewhat throw me for a loop a bit, moodwise.

And what to say about the election? Like most people, I was surprised that Donald Trump won. And I’ve been heartbroken. And scared for the future of both my American friends, and for the world.

Donald Trump and Conflicting Feelings

Surprised that he won, yes. But not shocked. Not as much as some people were, I don’t think, because I’ve felt for a long time that Clinton’s campaign wasn’t as strong as people were saying it was. Was she the best option of the two of them?

Without a fucking doubt. But was I fully comfortable with her? No.

But I think that Canadians have less of a problem than Americans do with voting someone in with whom they’re not fully comfortable if it means keeps a less desirable candidate out, and I don’t know why that is.

However, I rarely talked about my discomfort with Clinton openly. I felt really uncomfortable doing so around other liberals, especially women. It just wasn’t worth drawing the castigation of her supporters (and that’s what it really did feel like — castigation.)

I’ve read a number of theories now about why the election played out the way it did, and more and more I’m liking the one that talks about the Trump Silent Majority — the voters, mostly rural, with whom his message of an improved economy and more American jobs really resonated. Not necessarily racists and homophobes (although some of them certainly were, from the media coverage that I saw) — but hard-working people to whom even the middle-class struggling to make ends meet looks elite. I’ve lived in a very small town in a rural area for most of my life. I knew immediately what pundits meant when they started talking about the Trump Silent Majority. I can’t speak personally to the challenges that it faces, because I grew up in a middle-class family where both parents had good jobs; even now, as a white, straight, disabled person working, renting in the area and able to pay all my bills each month, and living in a country where my healthcare expenses are covered, I look at all of this from a very privileged position. But I have an idea of what the challenges are. And I can empathize with feeling powerless to change your own life. It does fuel a sort of desperation, particularly when it’s accompanied with economic hardship and the difficult decisions that go with that (I have been unemployed long-term; it was much more stressful than I imagined it would be.)

For whatever reason, these people felt heard by Donald Trump, in a way that they felt the government hasn’t been hearing them. They saw Clinton as part of the government establishment that hasn’t been hearing them, and she just couldn’t convince them that she could. The Democrats should spend some time asking themselves, before the next election, why that was.

Again, for the Record — I Don’t Like Donald Trump

I watched the entire 18 months of Donald Trump’s campaign. I think he’s a liar and a bully, a racist, misogynistic, petty excuse of a man who is immensely privileged in many ways and can’t — won’t — examine it. But he also won the Presidency fair and square and, as Hillary Clinton said herself in her very classy acceptance speech, he deserves the chance to lead. This sentiment has been echoed by Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

It doesn’t mean you have to like him.

It doesn’t mean you have to approve of the action he takes.

Don’t Give Up Your Power

It doesn’t mean that if Donald Trump does indeed start to restrict the rights of American citizens that you shouldn’t make your voices heard. In fact, given that he talked in his campaign about restricting the rights of American citizens, you should probably be planning for what you’ll do when that happens. What non-violent, legal protest are YOU willing to engage in? Who will join you? Reminder: Protest comes in many forms. What are your talents? How can you put them to use?

We’re all angry and hurting right now, but please don’t stay there forever. Take the time that you need to mourn, and then channel that energy into something that will bring about change. Lots of organizations are going to need to more volunteer power than ever to buffer vulnerable people against the changes that Donald Trump’s proposed changes could bring. Again, what are your talents? What can you offer to these organizations? Even a little bit of time helps.

Some liberal women that I’ve talked to have decided, in light of Donald Trump’s talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, to set up monthly donations to that organization. They do a lot for women’s health and could certainly use the money regardless of whether their government funding is stopped.

Here is a list of American pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-Earth, anti-bigotry organizations that need support.

You are not powerless. Please remember that.

Remember the Children

I think it’s particularly important to reassure children who are upset by Donald Trump’s election that there are adults in the country who are committed to keeping them safe. Children have absorbed too much of what’s been said in this election, I think — with social media such a force in their lives from such a young age, it’s hard for them not to. I was exposed to Canadian politics from a fairly young age (CBC radio was always on in my house) and I had an idea before I was 10 years old which federal politicians my parents didn’t especially like…but I wasn’t sure why. I knew broadly that there was big stuff going on with my country — that Quebec wanted to leave, that there were scandals going on within the government…but it wasn’t until I was in my teens that people started to say, “Here’s how these grown-up issues will affect you.” I wasn’t asked to deal with the “grown-up” while I was still a child.

One of Stephen Colbert’s employees told a story on “The Late Show” last week about how his son woke him up on November 9th, asked him if Donald Trump had won, and burst into tears when he said yes. And that me profoundly sad. The kids have been listening much more closely than we thought they were, I think, and were saddled with some intense grown-up anxieties that their psyches weren’t designed to handle. We need to be more careful.

That’s what makes stories like the one that came out of Bret Harte Middle School in Los Angeles on Nov 12 so awful. The teacher in question, who told an 11-year-old student that Trump would deport her parents and leave her here to be placed in foster care, has been fired, but that’s not really the point. This is the stuff that you’re going to need to be prepared to call people on in the next 4 years, and to say to Donald Trump, “We need to know your stance on this, when people use your name to scare children in this manner. “ Whatever Donald Trump’s plans on immigration end up being, an adult that children are told they should trust using this sort of rhetoric in the classroom is inexcusable and an abuse of power, and not something that a President should want his name attached to.

Here’s another good article on protecting our children in the wake of the election.

The father…Colbert’s employee…his response to his son was perfect, by the way. Look for it in the video below, which I’ve also linked to because I liked what Colbert had to say about helping our kids deal with this. He’s been one of the media people that’s kept me sane for the last 18 months.

I hope that all of you are doing okay. I really do.

But While I’m Calling People Out…

If you’re a Clinton supporter and you think it’s okay to call Melania Trump names like “slut” (I’ve seen this in Facebook groups) and that it’s okay to hold up signs at protests that say “Rape Melania”, you need to stop and ask yourself if you really believe that Hillary Clinton would want you to express your support of her in this way.

I truly don’t believe that she would, and it makes me sad and angry when I see Clinton supporters engaging in this sort of behaviour. No woman deserves to raped, and I’m sure that anyone who wants to criticize Melania Trump can find reasons to do so without getting into slut-shaming.

And before you start to criticize her, please ask yourself if your anger is truly with her, or with her husband, and target it accordingly.

That’s all for now…please take good care of yourselves and each other…let’s try our best to stop the carnage.

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Ann Coulter Uses the Word “Retard” Again

When I heard that Ann Coulter, in a throwback to the 2012 election cycle (albeit a bit earlier in this time) had used the word “retard” again, I wasn’t going to write about it at first. But obviously I’ve changed my mind.

Content Note: Ableist slurs, Ableism, Donald Trump, US Election 2016

Headshot of Ann Coulter at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards - woman of indeterminate age with long blonde hair and blue eyes, smiling into the camera. Keyword: Ann Coulter

Image Description: Headshot of Ann Coulter at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards – woman of indeterminate age with long blonde hair and blue eyes, smiling into the camera.

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In 2012, after a Presidential debate, Ann Coulter tweeted “I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard”, in reference to Barack Obama, and I said that I was “shocked.”

I’m not shocked this time around. I’ve heard her talk a lot in the last four years.

This time, she was defending Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski. In her new book, In Trump We Trusts, she writes (as reported by theslot.jezebel.com):

“Trump denied knowing that Serge was disabled, and demanded an apology, saying that anyone could see his imitation was of a flustered, frightened reporter, not a disabled person. It’s true that Trump was not mimicking any mannerisms that Serge has. He doesn’t jerk around or flail his arms. He’s not retarded. He sits calmly, but if you look at his wrists, you’ll see they are curved in. That’s not the imitation Trump was doing—he was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid: “’Ahhh, I don’t know what I said—ahhh, I don’t remember!’ He’s going, ‘Ahhh, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said!’”

Even if I chose to overlook her use of “retard” and “retarded”…it’s a terrible argument, and Ann Coulter knows it.

Call Her What You Want – Ann Coulter is a Smart Woman

Check out Coulter’s biography. She’s a corporate lawyer. She worked for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, for God’s sake. She’s a best-selling author and columnist and a respected Conservative pundit, and you don’t get to her level in the right-wing media when you’re a woman unless you’ve got some major brains in your head.

Granted, Coulter was fired from MSNBC (twice) because she’s so controversial. Personally, I think most of her expressed opinions are disgusting. But I’d bet money that a lot of her bluster is just that – bluster. She’s worked hard to get to the top and she knows that the more she can shock people, the longer she’ll stay there. The people that are buying In Trump We Trust aren’t going to be bothered that she used the word “retard”. She’s hoping that you’ll be bothered enough that you’ll buy the book to see what else she’s said, or that you’ll at least talk about this one page in her book long enough to keep her in the news a little longer so that her fans who haven’t heard about her book will buy it.

And yes, I do realize that I’m contributing to this by writing this blog post. But:

  1. I’m not going to get into the number of people that access this blog in a day, but this post isn’t going to be what keeps Ann Coulter in the news.
  2. The people who consistently access this blog aren’t likely to go out and purchase Ann Coulter’s book even out of morbid curiosity.

Bottom Line

Ann Coulter is a shock jock, and she plays that game really well.

Each time she says “retard”, she knows what the response will be, and she’ll only use it as “evidence” to support her Trump-ish narrative that America is too politically correct and that people can’t speak their minds for fear of the “thought police” coming after them. I’ve been hearing this narrative for years, and it irks me. I’m not in favour of “silencing” anyone – people should feel free to say what they want. But word choice has consequences, so people should ask themselves, “Am I willing to live with the consequences?” before tossing around words like “retard” like they don’t have any historical context and emotional weight behind them.

Apparently Anne Coulter feels so strongly about using shock value as a way to stay in the spotlight that she’s willing to live with the personal consequences of using ableist language (not to mention racist, classist and sexist language) in her speech and writing. And that’s her problem. Not yours. The best thing you can do is continue to let her know that there are consequences to using language that’s hurtful to other people.

Ann Coulter – Here’s What You Can Do

You’re not going to change Ann Coulter. But here are some things you *can* do:

  • Refuse to even read her books (let alone buy them) and tell people why.
  • When people bring up her theory that Donald Trump wasn’t mocking Serge Kovaleski, tell them that it’s a load of crap and explain why (it’s not that difficult; just go over the paragraph I cited.) Be sure to include that she should know herself that it’s a load of crap, since she’s a corporate lawyer and can presumably spot a poorly-constructed argument.
  • Continue to explain to people why “retard” is hurtful and why people get upset when celebrities use it. Mention that she’s a frequent and unapologetic offender.

But at the same time, don’t let her hateful rhetoric rent space in your head.

You’ve got much more important things to think about than the ramblings of a woman who feels irrelevancy nipping at her heels.

 

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Armchair Psychology and Election 2016

So I’ve been working on my post about the Democratic National Convention (which I’m finding very difficult to write, for a number of reasons) and I’m hoping to get it online soon. But something else has come up that I want to talk about: how armchair psychology has entered the campaigning in the 2016 election.
Content Note: Ableism, Mental Health, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Politics, Election 2016
The word "crazy!" on a white cloud against a psychadelic background. Keyword: Armchair psychology

Image Description: The word “crazy!” on a white cloud against a psychedelic background.

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Now, I’m certainly not the first to write about this and I won’t be the most eloquent. But I’ve actually noticed this happening since the primaries, when Donald Trump likened Ben Carson’s self-described “pathological temper” to the pathological issues of a child molester (in that neither can be cured, Trump said, but that’s not how the public took his comments.) Nonsense with a recent petition put me over the edge.

Yes, nonsense.

For Clarity’s Sake

Let me say it again, for those that haven’t heard me say it before: I intensely dislike Donald Trump and just about everything he stands for. I think that he’s a bullying, abusive liar and the idea of him as President of the USA is terrifying to me. Despite having some misgivings about Hilary Clinton that I’m finding fairly difficult to navigate my way around at the moment, I’ll still do whatever I can to get her elected, because the alternative is just unthinkable. (And for what it’s worth, the idea of voting someone in to keep someone out doesn’t create any real cognitive dissonance for me — as a Canadian voter, I’ve had to do this several times.)

But despite my dislike for Donald Trump, armchair psychology in the form of speculation about any potential mental health diagnoses he may have has made me uncomfortable right from the get-go, from everybody but a select group of friends and colleagues that I know have a lot of experience in the mental health sector and the qualifications to diagnose someone given the opportunity to spend adequate time with a person. Not that I’m perfect — I’m not qualified to diagnose, and I can remember discussions with these colleagues where, as we’ve speculated on what might motivate some of Trump’s behaviour, I’ve said that it seems like narcissism or perhaps even sociopathy are possibilities. Even those discussions were ones in which I shouldn’t have engaged in, and I don’t anymore. I should have known better than to engage in that sort of speculation.

But I will say this: the difference between this discussion between me, as a person with education about mental health issues and experience in the field and these colleagues presently working in the field and able to diagnose, and the average person on the internet saying, “Trump is such a psychopath” (or “Could Trump Pass a Sanity Test”, where noted media figure Keith Olbermann evaluates Trump for psychopathy using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist) is:

  • My colleagues and I know that it’s dangerous to toss around mental health terminology in the general public arena with regards to a person’s potential mental health diagnoses, especially if you’re someone with the power to influence the way people vote (another candidate, a speaker at a convention, a media person), when you’re not qualified to diagnose people. Armchair psychology has consequences.
  • My colleagues and I are careful to avoid even the suggestion that a mental health diagnosis makes people unfit for certain kinds of work, because that’s ableist bullshit.

And this, which really should be most obvious reason to end all this armchair psychology, and the reason why the internet petition encouraging the Republican party to have Donald Trump evaluated for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is in particular so objectionable: My colleagues and I know that even if a person has the credentials required to diagnose mental health conditions, it’s unethical to do so without meeting the person and spending time with them.

(This petition is still up, but I’m not going to link to it. It’s easy enough to find if you want to look for it.)

Unethical! And the petition’s creator knows this — she said so in the preamble to the petition. The interesting thing about this petition is that while its creator seems to know why asking people to sign a petition saying “Donald Trump is a narcissist and I think it makes him unfit for President” would be inappropriate, and makes it appear like she’s not asking people to do that…she ultimately really is. And if she is a mental health professional (she doesn’t state her qualifications), that makes the petition particularly egregious.

Let’s unpack this.

The Petition to Have Trump’s Mental Health Evaluated

The creator, stating that she knows that it’s unethical for clinicians who haven’t spent time with a person to diagnose them, is calling on mental health diagnosticians who have observed in Trump’s behaviour (in the media, presumably) the nine diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as listed in the DSM-V (she then lists them) to endorse the idea that the Republican party should evaluate Trump’s mental health fitness to hold office based on what they’ve seen. The petition was specifically targeted (as you can apparently do with the particular company that she used to create it) to clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

I would imagine that her argument is that she’s not asking anyone to diagnose, but instead asking people with the credentials to diagnose to suggest to the Republicans that they find someone who can ethically evaluate Donald Trump and have it done for the good of the country. But there are a couple of problems with this:

  1. This petition didn’t stay among mental health diagnosticians. I found the link to it in a Facebook group whose members work in all sectors, and a lot of people indicated that they signed. The link to the petition also went out over Twitter using a hashtag that trended. It invited armchair psychology from all over the world.
  2. Even if it stayed in circulation only among mental health diagnosticians, it’s a request with a bias toward the idea that Trump *does* have a personality disorder that will make him unfit to govern. Obviously the creator, despite her acknowledgement that it’s unethical for someone in her position (assuming that she’s a diagnostician; again, she doesn’t state her qualifications) to do so, has decided that Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is asking other diagnosticians to support her (again, unethical.)
  3. Even if we completely ignored what I said in Bullet #2…she’s asking diagnosticians to support a request to the Republicans to have Trump evaluated for mental fitness based on media footage of his campaign. We don’t see or hear what Trump is like at home, church, in his office every day (at least not unfiltered through the media). We see him in only one facet of his life, and a request to evaluate him based on that is unfair. And unethical.

Story time.

The Unfair Assumption That Unwanted Behaviour is Always Due to Disability

I was in a support position for a family where a 17-year-old male had a developmental disability. The parents came to me at one point and asked if I could arrange for an appointment with a behaviour consultant from a children’s support agency.

“His disability is making him disrespectful, argumentative, and very difficult to deal with,” they said. “We can’t get him to do anything we ask.”

“We can do that,” I said, “There’s a waiting list, but I’ll get the referral started. But keep in mind…him being disrespectful, argumentative, difficult to deal with, and unwilling to do what you ask might have more to do with the fact that he’s a 17-year-old boy than it does with his disability.”

My point? Trump could have an off-the-scale case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or he could simply be in possession of the “healthy dose” of narcissism that psychology professor Dan McAdams told the Toronto Star “most people running for high office must have.” Adams did go on to say that “It does seem to be the case that he’s kind of off the map,” but also said that he wouldn’t give him a mental health diagnosis.

Trump certainly has been described as a narcissist by many people, and this tendency appears to be accompanied by an inflated healthy self-esteem, a tendency to speak off the top of his head and behave erratically, and a strong dislike of admitting he’s wrong. Inappropriate trait for someone who wants to be President just on their own — why, asks David Perry, the need to further pathologize them? The insistence on doing so without evidence that it’s merited reinforces ideas that:

  1. If there’s something “off” about a person, they must be “crazy”
  2. A mental health diagnosis makes someone unstable and therefore unfit to hold political office (bullshit ableism)
  3. The stigma that continues to exist around having a mental health diagnosis is justified and even rational

Armchair Psychology is Dangerous -Especially During Election 2016

It kills me that I’ve spent over 15oo words talking about why Trump needs to be treated more fairly. But this isn’t merely about defending about Trump. *He* also needs to be called out for how he uses armchair psychology diatribes about Hilary’s mental instability. Questioning the mental stability of those who disagree with him is part of Trump’s modus operundi, as pointed out in Vanity Fair (from the preamble to the the results of Keith Olbermann’s afore-mentioned piece about Trump and psychopathy):

“Except that in his year of campaigning, Donald Trump has called Lindsey Graham “a nut job,” Glenn Beck “a real nut job,” and Bernie Sanders “a wacko.” Trump has insisted Ben Carson’s got a “pathological disease,” and asked of Barack Obama: “Is our president insane?” He called Ted Cruz “unstable,” “unhinged,” “a little bit of a maniac,” and “crazy or very dishonest.” He also called the entire CNBC network “crazy.” He called Megyn Kelly “crazy” — at least six times.”

Here are some recent comments from him attacking Clinton’s mental health status:

This armchair psychology needs to end. We also need to call out people like the speaker at the RNC who explicitly talked about Clinton being unstable (I wish I could remember who this was; I’ve tried to find the clip, but I can’t. Does anyone remember who I mean?) and individuals from the far, far right media crowd like Info War’s Alex Jones who have made “Hilary Clinton is crazy” a stock part of their message.

The campaigns, the media, and people who seek to influence voters need to work in the world of facts, not ableism and messages that contribute to stigma.

Because that really is bullshit.

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