What I’ve Learned About Trauma


There have been three major traumas in my life: witnessing spousal abuse, the death of a parent, and the onset of a major illness. All three occurred in that order, and as a result, all three have determined the trajectory of my life.

But I believe I’m not alone.

Of all of my “good” traits (because therapy has confirmed for me that good and bad are relative terms defined in relation to one another), the one I’m proudest of is my ability to make friends. I have found that many people live in a constant state of distrust, believing that enemies are around every corner. I tend not to do that. I do tend to overshare, which I will admit is not the best tendency to have, but it’s one I’d rather have than living in the cynical belief that everyone I meet is looking to screw me over. Call it naive if you must, I just don’t think that most people you meet and directly interact with are out to get you. I know that makes life less sexy, not as exciting, and is bad for ratings, but having lived in five different cities by the time I was twelve, and ten by the time I was forty, encompassing four different states, that just hasn’t been my experience. The vast majority of people I’ve met over these years have treated me well. As for the others, I believe that what I experienced were traumatized people like myself. Worst of all, I believe that trauma has made it very hard for people to connect.

And I want that to change.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of what causes trauma; for that I recommend reading Peter A. Levine’s Waking the Tiger. Though I don’t agree with everything Levine says in that book (because Levine has a specific theory on how to heal trauma that he’s  arguing for), I do agree with his observation that negative things that have become commonplace in America today – increased violence, distrust, conflict, fatalism and fear – may very well be the result of widespread individual trauma. Our extremely partisan politics? Trauma. Increased preoccupation with sexuality? Trauma. Anger and violence? All trauma, and forms of trauma I name specifically because I’ve seen them all at work in me and nearly every negative person I’ve met, whether in real life or online. What to do about it I don’t know for sure, but I know a couple of things that don’t help, and am writing this blog posting in hopes that we all try to avoid them and endeavor to connect with others again, like I felt people used to when I was growing up. So if you agree and before it’s too late, let’s all try to stop…

  1. Assuming your way is the right way – Of all of the things that annoyed me about my father growing up, this was easily #1 on the list. My father felt like he was the authority on everything, Archie Bunker style, and that there was no way anyone else’s viewpoint could possibly be right. Why? Because according to him, he read a lot, was a good student growing up (untrue, as I later discovered), learned from people who knew (or so he thought), and had common sense. As it turns out, he was wrong about nearly all of it, and ended up having to be cared for by his children in his old age, despite coming from a huge family of fairly wealthy people who all claimed to love him dearly, but were at most willing to visit him sometimes. I’ve heard it in our media since the way I was born too, of course. “[Insert gender here] are always [something unfavorable].” “[Insert culture here] tend to be [something unfavorable].” “Your best bet is to listen to [someone rich and or powerful], because clearly their [wealth / power / material success / appearance / past achievement] proves that they know what they’re talking about!” None of it is true if you study law or even simple logic, but to the person who assumes they’re right all the time, it’s just a big circle – “because I believe it, how could it possibly be wrong?” Or worse, “that’s the way it’s always been.” Self-validations without some kind of proof or argument to back them up rarely amount to anything I’ve found, but so called “common sense” seems to be validation enough, and an excuse to push people away. The result? Loneliness, disconnection, and in the worst cases, terrorist attacks and school shootings.
  2. Needing to protect one’s ego – If you want to see a discussion of any kind come to a screeching halt, watch what happens when someone feels their ego or identity is being attacked. If you want to thwart your chances of connecting with somebody, say something to challenge their ego or identity, and watch the walls go up. Notice that I’m not commenting on whether somebody “deserves” the way they’re treated because you know, the whole good / bad thing. Most of the conflicts I see fall into this category though, and I believe that the reason this is so prevalent online is because without the person standing in front of them, people feel empowered to jab at anybody. Way back in Elementary School I learned that it’s hard to hate somebody you know, so through the “miracle of technology,” I feel that we can now “safely” hate from a distance. The problem with that? We ultimately still hurt others, because we also learned in Elementary School that words can hurt. When you live in a society that’s not in direct contact with others though, as is not the case in Elementary school, how do you even know whether you hurt somebody unless they tell you? And if they’re protecting their ego, why or when would they do that? So much easier to just stew in your pain or hurt others back, perpetuating the cycle and possibly leading the target to believe that people in their immediate sphere are that hurtful too. Why even bother to connect at that point?
  3. Judging others – Related to #1, I find that people have a tendency to form an opinion about others and their behavior, and then assume that this opinion must be right, because they’ve assumed that their way is always the right way. The reason I think this hurts us as a society is because it gives us a justification to avoid rather than connect. Without connection, I don’t see how you can teach or help anybody. I think it puts us all in that constant negative space that has made life so unbearably miserable for many of us. Worse, I feel like we’re not sharing direct information anymore either – if you’re not connected to an actual person who can hear and respond to your actual, specific, personal experience, I find that your natural (and marketed) inclination is to seek guidance from an impersonal, electronic, second hand source. While I see the value in that impartiality (you avoid judgment, after all), to me you’re losing “care,” that quality people extend to people they’re connected to directly. In absence of that, I believe that people are left to their own, thoroughly biased assumptions, often to their detriment. When people start judging themselves in this way, without a care in the world as they say, I find that they tend to be reckless at best, and overly harsh at worst. If there’s no one that cares to talk you down from believing that you’re [label], your own worst instincts can take hold and make you do things you might later regret. If you’re suffering from trauma, I believe that’s like throwing gasoline on an open flame.

For me, the upshot of all this is a society where I don’t see many people truly happy with how they’re living and who they are. Sure, we’ve got a lot more stuff, but stuff and people (and keep in mind, dogs are considered property or “stuff” under the law) are two different things. Without people in your life to care that you’re even alive, I find it very hard to function. I know that in my case, it’s always been the people in my life when I was at my lowest that have kept me going, no matter how bad I got. I do not know what I would do without them. What scares me is that I meet people a lot these days that claim not to have that and also claim not to care. They may be absolutely right about that – they may be alone and happy that way, and I may be judging them too harshly for being so. I find however that whenever I show kindness to others, those same people who claim they’re alone and loving it cling to me the most. Yet for me to connect with them, it’s usually me making the effort. If that’s not a sign of trauma, I think I clearly don’t know what is. And I just can’t help feeling like the version of America I’m living in now is not living up to what I was led to believe it could be, not in terms of our institutions, but in terms of the people I meet – or fail to – every day.

What I Learned About Accepting It

This week was the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election, so NPR affiliate KCRW in Los Angeles did a call-in retrospective of the spectrum of reactions people had to the election and to Trump’s Presidency thus far.  Most of the callers recounted their feelings of shock, sadness, disappointment and so on, but I just rolled my eyes, remembering that I feared he could actually win all throughout the campaign season.  How did I know?  For me it wasn’t hard to tell if you knew the state of the country as I see it.  Heck, I was reminded of that when I joined a live tweet for last weekend’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead:

Though The Walking Dead is on its surface a show about killing zombies, I’m a fan because to me it’s really about human nature, and what people do in situations that are bleak.  The best episodes to me are about character, and the show is so popular that doing its broadcast, fans get on Twitter and “tweet” out their reactions to each episode in real time.  This season the show features what I see as a  moral dilemma, as the survivors of the zombie apocalypse find themselves at war with another group of extremely savage and violent survivors.  As the main characters fight their battles, they find themselves struggling with whether it’s better to kill those who have or tried to kill them in the past, or to show mercy.  I believe that mercy means realizing that when put into a desperate situation, people will do desperate things to survive but are ultimately still people, and thus possible to rehabilitate.  I feel that our civilization itself argues for this, and I see it in our criminal justice system: I think we as a society believe that it’s better to give people a chance than it is to take revenge, hence “innocent until proven guilty,” hence states in the US without a death penalty, hence even our prison industrial complex, unfortunately.  I thought the Walking Dead’s fans were like me, but through the live tweet I realized that to the vast majority of them, it’s just an eye for an eye, kill or be killed, if you kill my dog I will slay your cat, and I believe that kind of thinking is what gave us Donald Trump too.  That’s why I felt the election would go as it did.

If there is one thing I see and hear consistently in all of Trump’s speeches and his supporters words it’s anger.  I feel that many of his supporters are barely-educated lowbrows whose only answer to everything is to hit somebody, like a child might.  To me they seem to value machismo a lot too, which is what I gathered from the bulk of the tweets of the Walking Dead’s fans also. Growing up all over this country has led me to believe that there are a lot of these people like this, so when they encounter a storyline in which there is a clear “bad guy” on the Walking Dead, they understand only one kind of reaction as valid:  Hit him.  Kill him.  So while I’d always believed that because Walking Dead has earned a decent amount of critical acclaim its audience was more sophisticated, the live tweet forced me to  accept the obvious: The Walking Dead is a popular show about killing zombies, so its audience would naturally reflect popular opinion, the same opinions that got us Trump.

In my life I’ve gotten tons of advice that later turned out not to work as intended: be honest.  Be yourself.  Do well in school.  Dreams do come true.  In every case, I had to adjust what I was taught to fit reality as I knew it.  While this has allowed me to survive and even thrive, at the end of the day, I feel that the world is a certain way, and while you can re-frame it to cope, when the rubber meets the road, it is what it is.  We are the culture of the quarterback and the prom queen.  Cheaters prosper all the time.  Bad things happen to good people on a regular basis, and as my therapist taught me, what is “good” anyway?  Most importantly, our culture, the same culture that loves the Walking Dead but doesn’t understand higher forms of morality, voted for and elected the guy that reflected their sensibilities.  Regardless of whether we like it, that’s reality too, and I believe that the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can deal.

I realize how cynical that sounds, but I honestly believe it’s realism, not cynicism.  In the French philosopher Voltaire’s 18th century satire Candide, he muses that in the final analysis, we as individuals have the greatest amount of control over our immediate sphere – our family, our house, our neighborhood; perhaps our town.  I always took that to mean that we do the best we can with anything above and beyond ourselves, but we ultimately are most directly responsible for our own experience of life.  In Candide, awful things happen to the main characters constantly, but they adjust and keep going because that’s really the most that they can possibly do.  This is how I live my life too.  If I can influence somebody who might vote for Trump I do, but I recognize that I might not be able to.  At the same time, Trump moves people so much more than I possibly could, so I feel that I have to prepare to live in the world that I get, regardless of whether it’s going my way.  I feel that what helps me to do that best is to recognize and accept the fundamental truth that we live in a country full of people that love and support Trump, but that not everybody did. and they won the election.  Though The Walking Dead’s live tweet suggests there are a lot of them, the goal of those of us who aren’t should be to come together, “find our tribe” as others have put it, and work toward making the best life – in our immediate sphere – that we possibly can. I feel that at the end of the day, it won’t matter what those who disagree with us are doing.  They can kill all of the innocent people they want, we will stop them if we have to, and not do the same because we believe that’s what’s best for us.  As long as we acknowledge that they exist but decide and live by what’s right for us, I believe that we truly can all get along.  Denying what’s so however, or abdicating our ability to make things better for ourselves seems to me to be just a recipe for misery and conflict, and I refuse to live that way.  Even in a world full of people who would elect Donald Trump.

Donald.Trump As Negan


What I Learned About Letting It Slide

I believe that we as a society have come to let misogynistic behavior slide, to the point that men don’t even know what the true definition of rape is. And I think that’s asking for trouble.

Of the many stories that have revolted me with respect to super film producer Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual harassment, one that bothered me a lot was my favorite NPR show Marketplace’s recounting of how Hollywood talent agencies routinely sent attractive young actresses to meet with Weinstein for years, knowing full well what his reputation was.  The idea that for years my favorite industry in California would treat the young hopefuls arriving in my favorite city trying to be famous (as I did) like lambs ripe for slaughter disgusts me in ways I can’t possibly describe.  One of my favorite things that happened in California though was that I’ve become a bit of a feminist within the last year or two, and in that spirit, anything that harms women always shakes me up.  This one in particular reminds me too much of the way my mother was married off to my boorish oaf of a father in the name of religious and cultural duty.  The talent agents in question were motivated by staying on then well-regarded Weinstein’s good side, so like common pimps, they sent him women and the entertainment industry looked the other way.  Boggles the mind.

Marketplace joins a chorus of people asking how this could happen.  This morning I was reminded of the answer.  Anybody who knows me well knows that I am a huge fan of KTLA in Los Angeles, the news station that had my donor and I on following my kidney transplant so we could help raise money for Lupus LA. When I was earning my paralegal certificate, I became friendly with one of their morning anchors via Twitter, and he even met me when I visited Los Angeles, making me a die-hard KTLA viewer.  KTLA covered the Weinstein story extensively, in no small part I’m sure because it was playing out practically in their back yard.  Yet in spite of all that, KTLA’s notoriously foot-in-mouth weather man Henry DiCarlo decided to drool over Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander’s model fiancee Kate Upton, and as usual, everybody let it slide.

Here’s the thing: do I seriously think Henry DiCarlo is a sleaze and would-be rapist?  No.  What I think however, is that by letting this kind of thing go on, KTLA normalizes “guy talk,” which I believe is a slippery slope to normalizing deviant, and even criminal behavior.  I know he’s not the first, but I’d like to use this entry to explain why I doubt he’ll  be the last at this rate, because I believe we have come to let this kind of misogynistic behavior slide, to the point that men don’t even know what the true definition of rape is.  And I think that’s asking for trouble.

Remember what our President Donald Trump’s explanation for bragging about being able to grab women’s crotches due to his fame was?  He called it “locker room talk.”  I believe that as long as we use “boys will be boys” explanations for what is ultimately abusive behavior, we minimize and start accepting it.  How many times have rapists used “she led me on” as an excuse for having committed the act?  How many times have women internalized and blamed themselves for having been assaulted?  A friend of mine was raped, and told me that afterwards she “never should have said [her attacker] was cute.”  Does calling a man cute warrant violence against her?

As I said, I’m new to feminism, but for those of you still uninitiated, here are some basic rules for guys and others that I’ve learned from mainstream feminists that has served me well thus far:

1 – Never comment on a woman’s appearance unless you have a relationship with her, in which case comment more, and favorably.  This one not only has kept me out or trouble, but has worked surprisingly well in other ways.  I have found that we as men get shaken up, even fearful when we find ourselves sexually attracted to someone, causing us to make conversational flubs, at best making us look stupid, and at worst, creeping the girl out.  I have found however that if I can turn this emotional response into an intellectual one, wracking my brain to find something to talk to the girl in question about that has nothing to do with her appearance, it forces me to listen as well as look.  If she’s wearing a uniform of some kind, I can strike up a conversation about that, or if I like her earrings or some clothing item, I can compliment her on that safely.  If she responds, I have to listen to her response to continue the conversation, and in doing so she might like me back, or I may just realize we have nothing in common or she’s otherwise not worth my time.  Either way, the focus stays on who she is, not what she looks like, and nobody gets hurt.

2 – Sex is only consensual if both parties are actively giving consent.  This is where I feel many people fail in the definition of rape.  If one starts having sex and the other person lets it slide, that’s rape.  If one person changes their mind in the process of intimacy, it’s again rape.  If it’s a quid pro quo situation, where she has sex in exchange for something, that’s rape too.  This means that a “pity screw” (trying to keep it clean here) is also technically rape, as are many scenes in adult films if the girl never actually gives consent.  This also means no implied consent, no “she led me on,” no “she was asking for it – look at the way she’s dressed!”  Women’s appearance does not equal consent.  She has to clearly give it.

3 – She does not know you or the thought process going on in your head.  This I learned from the feminist critic Arthur Chu.  I have found that many socially awkward men pine obsessively about some particular girl, get up the courage to approach her, don’t get the response they want, and then turn into misogynists, because they somehow believe there’s a pattern of injustice and rejection against them.  The thing is, in life people don’t know what’s going on in your head, and the woman who rejects a guy today usually has nothing to do with the other women who’ve failed to accept him in the past.  Treating women according to a process that exists entirely in one’s own head is not only unfair but unrealistic.  If she doesn’t know you, she doesn’t know what you’ve been through, and thus couldn’t even possibly be sympathetic if she normally would, and thus undeserving of your mistreatment.

4 – Violence against women will hurt not just her, but any children a man might have.  I am living proof.  My father’s abuse of my mother left me emotionally stunted, and no matter how hard I try, I often feel like I will never overcome that.  My self-esteem is irrationally low, and my many achievements have thus never made me into the person I feel I should be.  The good news is that it has given me the ability to be self-critical (to a fault, but I’m working on that), something I find that many men lack, and thus can’t deal with all of the above.

5 – “Pick Up” and “Pick Up Artists” don’t have the answers, because they ignore the fact that women have agency.  I will confess, after breaking up with my first serious girlfriend, I tried my hand at being a “Pick Up Artist,” one of those sleazy guys who think they can seduce women, as described in Neil Strauss’s (still) classic semi-autobiographical book The Game.  Pick Up, and its accompanying “Seduction Community” remain popular I think because as one honest pick-up artist put it to me, “guys want sex so badly, but the only thing standing between them and it is the girl.”  As a result, I’ve found that gullible men spend thousands of dollars trying to teach themselves how to say and do all the right things to get women into bed, not realizing that they could do everything exactly as the rules of Pick Up dictate and she could still say no, or do everything incorrectly and still succeed just because the girl likes him.  At best, I believe Pick Up can give men the confidence to talk to more women the way Dumbo‘s “magic feather” convinced him he could fly.  At worst, I fear it could get them close, but in frustration based on #3 (because let’s face it, knowing and using learned and canned techniques is a totally individualistic mental process) turn them into rapists.  As long as women have agency, I have found that there is no “magic bullet” to romance (and if your answer to that is, “that’s just because you failed to get it right,” I’ll add that in my experience, things that require circular justifications – like pyramid schemes – are inherently flawed).  I believe the most Pick Up can do for you is just facilitate your trial-and-error process, and I’ve found that you don’t need a guide to do that.

After Uber’s issues, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and now Harvey Weinstein, I think it’s pretty clear that women fed up with being second class citizens in this country are not going to let it slide anymore.  Why should anybody care, besides the obvious?  In the Middle East, people got sick of letting it slide years ago, and gave us the Arab Spring.  For many, that meant a chance to make real and lasting positive change by any means necessary.  For people like Muammar Gaddafi?  Not so much.


Rules from an actual woman

The psychology of letting it slide



What I Learned About Acknowledgement

The first roommate I had in California was completely different from me.

She was what you would call a “redneck,” a white person from a rural background, of limited means or formal education, and likely descended from the people in the old South that didn’t own slaves but maybe wish they had.  She loved country music, and wasn’t crazy about rap or urban culture in general, which I am all about.  Her family used racist terminology (behind the backs of those they’re racist against, of course) and didn’t see what was wrong with it, because in her words, “we’re not really like that.  We have a lot of Black friends.”  Her favorite show in the history of television was “Roseanne,” because it most accurately reflected the world as she (and many Americans) knew it growing up, while my family used to call that show “slob TV.”  Indeed, people like her were the kind I hated and feared most growing up, so to those who know me well, it’s a shock that someone like this and I were friendly, let alone friends. What brought us together then?

We both come from abuse and tragic loss.

Right now, there is a pretty fierce racial debate in this country, centering first around  NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and then others’ decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem that routinely precedes any American sporting event.  They do it to protest widespread and common incidents where African Americans interact with police and ended up dead, regardless of whether they’re armed, guilty, or actually resisting arrest.  As someone with more African American friends than most despite not being African American, I’d like to approach the controversy from a slightly different angle than any I’ve seen in most media discourse about this: the perspective of abuse.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned hanging out with so many Black folk, it’s that many routinely feel used and abused, and as I learned from hanging with my roommate and from my own experience, what a person who’s abused needs more than anything for healing to begin is to have that abuse  acknowledged by the abuser.  The longer it isn’t, the more I believe the abused feel not just hurt but antagonized, which I’ve never seen end well.  I know it hasn’t for me or my old roommate.

What I hear most when non-Black people discuss race in general is a minimizing of how Black people came to this country.  I feel that while we as a society are quick to do all we can to atone for a Holocaust that we as a nation didn’t personally commit, to the point of giving the Jewish community a country with nuclear power, we won’t even issue a formal apology for slavery, no matter how many times Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) asks.  The excuse I hear most for that is that Conyers wants reparations, which are impossible to grant, even though it hasn’t been impossible to give reparations to interned Japanese or to give casino lands to Native Americans.  (At minimum, I’ve always felt that if Republicans are so keen on tax breaks, why not at least offer those to people of African descent?)  At the end of the day, it feels like if our first and only Black President couldn’t get it done, there is little hope that African Americans will ever get the acknowledgement, apology, and restitution that at best would be a good faith attempt to make them whole.  As a victim of abuse though, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

My old roommate badly wanted her mother to admit to the abuse my roommate experienced from people her mother hooked up with after her father died tragically.  I could relate to this because I’ve long wished my father would admit to abusing my mother and that it was wrong.  As much as I love him, it’s a wedge that’s always existed between us, and though it ironically brought my roommate and I together, I feel that it kept me from having the kind of parental relationship with my father that could’ve corrected many of the vices that have held me back my whole life, like my low self-esteem, uncontrollable rage, and overblown reaction to being snapped at or honked at in traffic.  Because my father never could acknowledge what his abuse of my mother did to her and to me, I feel I was never able to grow up normally, as the trauma of witnessing and dealing with that abuse haunted me for the rest of my life.  What I realized from my roommate though was that there was a reason that it couldn’t: for a parent to admit that something they did or didn’t do so fundamentally damaged their child is more than most human beings can bear.  Like losing a child, accepting one damaged their own children is something I don’t think one can recover from, so it’s safer for them to live in denial.  As painful as that is to the abused, I see it as a natural human psychological defense, and though I still resent that, I’ve accepted it.

Obviously, African Americans are not white people’s children.  White people are, however, the reason why Black folk are even in this country, and at one point in our history, white people were the only way black people could access any resource or experience, good or bad.  I feel that if Caucasians as a whole were able to admit this, through some formal, government-sanctioned means, we might be able to begin healing the rift between the races.  Instead, despite mountains of evidence presented within the last few years of ongoing and disproportionate police brutality, African Americans have received the same tired excuses they’ve heard since getting to this country.  “You made us do it by your actions,”  or “it’s not as bad as you say it is.”  Or my favorite, because it’s a variation on the Nazi’s “we were just following order,” of  “I personally didn’t do it.  It happened a long time ago.”  I find that any victim of abuse has heard versions of all these excuses before.  It’s the abuser never coming out and admitting that it happened, let alone making attempts to atone for it, and after a while, a victim gets fed up.  In the case of Colin Kaepernick and the players who’ve since joined him, I think they get to the point of wondering why they should honor a country that’s given them abuse and excuses as much as its given them anything else.  I’ve heard the counter-arguments, that Black folk should be grateful they live in a country that allows them to make a good living playing football (just as it “allows” them to perform music… and little else), that the flag and what it symbolizes is more important than their concerns, and that Black Lives Matter are evil and should be denounced.  To me, these are still all just excuses from an abuser to the abused, and at this point, pretty pathetic.

If we really wants to move together as a country of UNITED States and individuals, I think the only way is to acknowledge how differently we’ve treated some individuals over others, and seek real restitution in a formal, official, and substantive way.  Until then, I think we’re just excusing, and thus perpetuating more abuse.  And people won’t stand for that.






What I Learned About Politics

Believe it or not, I thought last week started well in the world of politics.


Anthony Scaramucci was on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, and he and Colbert had what I thought was a mostly civil discussion.  I was honestly glad to see Scaramucci there, as glad as I was to see Tomi Lahren on The Daily Show, because there’s a part of me that always hopes that if people talk intelligently, all of the things that we fight about may actually get solved.

Unfortunately, what I learned in California is that to me, it seems like politics is not about solving problems.  It’s about “winning.”

Just as our legal system is deliberately designed to be adversarial, I believe that our political system is about scoring points and thus winning elections by making the other guy look bad.  I don’t think it’s about solving the problems politicians say they want to solve when they campaign.  If politicians actually wanted to solve problems, I feel that “compromise” wouldn’t be the dirty word that it seems to have become.  Although Stephen Colbert began the week by talking to Scaramucci, one of President Trump’s former staffers, perhaps even in the spirit of compromise or civil discussion, I felt that President Trump ended the week by trying to save face, or put another way, by trying to keep others from scoring points off him.  And I personally believe that by doing so he actually made things worse, thus confirming my feeling that Trump isn’t fit to be President.

Look, I feel that when the sides get to actually talk to each other publicly, like Colbert and Scaramucci or Lahren and Trevor Noah, it’s a good thing.  To me it allows the American voter gets a chance to hear where these people stand on important issues and ideas, particularly with respect to each other.  Ideally, I think this gives voters a chance to decide who they agree with so they can then vote accordingly.  When it’s personalized however, and just about sides scoring points against each other or the other’s party, I don’t see how anybody learns anything.  I think the focus shifts away from what people are talking about, and instead to how they – and their opponent – look saying it.  I don’t think it gets us closer to solving anything, it just forces the speaker to become defensive.  And to me this is a game that a President can’t – and shouldn’t – play.

I feel that one of the bigger differences between the President and any other politician is that he’s the President of everybody, not just his party or his voters.  He’s the President of people who hate him as well as those who love him.  Years ago Roger Ebert did a special show where he talked to then-President Clinton about his favorite movies, and when they got to Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999), Clinton said that he’d seen it, and then when Roger Ebert said someone had emailed him saying that the cynical film was what a modern generation who never went to war needed, Clinton didn’t pander to the popular film’s message to score political points with its Generation X fans.  Instead, he expressed his feeling that young people had an unrealistic view of war, and that they had more constructive outlets for their desire to act on their emotions by changing things for the better.  I never forgot that, because to me, that was a Presidential answer, one that demonstrated a concern for people who were unhappy, and that wanted to teach them to channel that negativity into something more positive.  Though Clinton was endlessly criticized, I always got the sense that he understood that the criticisms were part of the job, and that they didn’t affect him personally.  This is the same vibe I got from all of the Presidents in my lifetime up until now – that Presidents knew and accepted that people were going to take shots at them, but that this was just part of the point-scoring game.  At the end of their day, I felt past Presidents realized that their responsibility was to the American people – all of the American people.  Though they didn’t always agree with some of those people’s views, Presidents nonetheless cared about them more than they cared about scoring political or personal points.

Regardless of what you think Trump’s views on race are, the whole ugly episode after a white supremacist killed young protestor Heather Heyer struck me as the response of a man still trying to save face.  I don’t want to speculate on why he took so long to respond, but to me at best it was just negligence – being “asleep at the wheel.”  Having gotten “caught,” I feel he gave a half-hearted response out of spite for being criticized, and then when asked about it after the fact, he effectively threw a tantrum.  Like Pee Wee Herman falling off his bike and saying “I meant to do that,” I felt that Trump made up some crap about having to get all of the facts, a statement he thought he could pass off as wise or politically correct.  Then he pathetically tried to add to his “wisdom” by saying he needed to see both sides of the “issue,” not realizing that to most people, there can’t be an “issue” when it comes to the Alt-Right – they’re just bad.  Long story short, I felt that he didn’t respond when he should have because he didn’t know to, responded the way he did out of spite, and then clarified in the worst way possible to preserve his lost dignity.  All mistakes that a true American President wouldn’t, and more importantly couldn’t make in my opinion, and again, proof to me that ideology aside, he just isn’t the guy for the job.

In a politics of point-scoring, I feel that political skill, keeping your cool, and then apologizing for your mistakes (like Bill Clinton did) or making restitution somehow (like Richard Nixon did) is what makes a President a President.  Why?   Because at the end of the day, A President’s primary concern needs to be the good of the country and everybody in it.  I think that our society plays the point-scoring game because that’s the nature of the political beast, but a President has to be above that.  Trump proved to me this week that he’s not, so any discussion like Colbert-Scaramucci or Noah-Lahren is impossible.  If his track record so far is any indication, I think that this inability will ultimately cost him points, making him – as he likes to put it – a loser.