Parenting Kim Jong Un and Donald J Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As every parent knows for a threat to be effective the child must believe his father or mother will make good the threat if he does not comply. The child also knows that when the threat is outrageous (“you will be banned from all electronics for life.”) it is also hollow. Still, some children do not listen to threats even when they are consistently followed by reasonable consequences. This is often true of ADHD children, and those for whom the compulsion is too great (OCD) or the aversion to change too strong (ASD).

By the time children are teens the plot thickens. Now they are watching themselves through the eyes of their peers, not just their parents. Now they are clinging to new visions of themselves as capable, independent sentient beings with newly formed logical thinking processes. They are more apt to defy the threat if to comply would undermine this developing sense of self.

And then we have adults. And now for a threat to work it must overcome all the above plus pride if this all occurs privately and secretly, and much more if the threat occurs publicly (shame and loss of face), and more so still if the threatened figure is a man or woman whose sense of self, if not his very existence, depends on the adulation of the crowd.

There are public figures in this world whose behaviour we would like to change. Perhaps there are some of these whose sanity, whose internal stability and strength is sufficient to bring about a good response to threat.

Kim Jong Un is not one of them.

Please do not threaten this man. Never publicly threaten him. He will not respond as you wish him to.

Actually, Donald Trump may just be the right President for the task of soothing North Korea. He could invite Kim to Mar a Lago for a Korean BBQ and treat him like royalty. Let him expound. Set up a private communication system. Help him be more of a hero to his people by feeding and housing them better. Then privately discuss reducing his nuclear arsenal for something in return.

Of course this would require Donald to keep his own ego in check. Vain hope.

Could it be time for Canada to step in here. Are you listening Justin? Making Kim look weak and foolish before his own people could get millions killed. We need a Mike Pearson way of intervening now.

And all of you, including Pence and others saying that your patience is at an end, pay heed to the words of a much smarter man than yourself:

“Talk, talk, talk is better than war, war, war.” – Winston Churchill.

I am Distressed to Hear the War Drums

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I am distressed to hear the war drums. I am distressed listening to the talking heads, the panel of retired generals, pundits, and experts on CNN talk of war with North Korea. I am distressed by their matter-of-factness, by their strategic and political ponderings, all so devoid of horror.

How do we remain so inured to the real consequences of war?

My grandfather died in 1972. I had long thought he fought at Vimy, and on a visit there, to see the trenches and the monument, I wrote in the guest book, “I came to see where my grandfather fought.” In the trenches and the bomb craters one can smell the fear, sense the horror, see the threat of opposing trenches a stone’s throw away. At the monument, awe and pride intrude. My grandfather was here.

But it turns out he wasn’t.

Thanks to the wonders of the digital age I now have 93 adobe pages of my grandfather’s military record from the moment he enlisted until his discharge and the time of his death.

He enlisted in January of 1915 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force when it was still necessary for a married man to have his wife’s permission. His wife and my grandmother was Irene Alice who he left behind in Victoria with three children. A fourth would arrive, at least by my calculations, after the war.

On the enlistment form, just above a final declaration, is a curious question: “Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement?” He answered “yes” and then completed the form with a signature much like my father’s and my own. He was 28 years old and five foot nine. He was assigned to the 30th battalion and sent overseas in the spring of 1915. From January 1915 until March 31, 1916 my grandmother received between 30 and 40 dollars per month.

He spent the summer training at Shorncliffe, on the Kentish coast of England, and then, in September, he was shipped to the front. The front being the trenches of France, and then Belgium and the second battle of Ypres.

Twice in France he was taken from the trenches to a field hospital suffering from influenza. He was promoted to Sergeant by late September 1915, and then to Sergeant Major. Upon discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On June 3, 1916, at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, within the second battle of Ypres, my grandfather rose from the trench at the call to charge. A bullet pierced his right bicep and shrapnel hit him in the right side of his face. He was evacuated to the Graylingwell War Hospital with “wounds to his right arm and scalp”.

In the documents I have the army is more detailed and thorough in its descriptions of the pay records than either combat or medical experiences, but I do have terse notes by doctors and digitized versions of the original x-rays.

My grandfather’s right arm healed quickly. The x-rays show a piece of shrapnel behind the right eye lodged in bone. They did not attempt to remove this. He is transferred to a convalescent hospital with his arm healed and almost fully functional but suffering from poor sleep (nightmares of his time in the trenches), headaches and dizzy spells. The dizzy spells cause him to black out and fall frequently. Specialists cannot find a physical cause to explain these latter symptoms and they diagnose the etiology as, in part, “nervous”.

By August of that year he is declared medically unfit to return to duty and then formally discharged from the army in January, 1917. The monthly pay to my grandmother ceases two months later.

So he did fight in the trenches; he was wounded, and he was furloughed to London as I knew, but he didn’t fight at Vimy as I had come to believe. And it is 30 to 40 years later that I formed my first memories of my grandfather and he never spoke of the war and I had no idea of the questions I might ask.

But now my medical curiosity has kicked in. Initially his symptoms might have been concussive, or post concussive. Next he certainly suffered from what they called “nerves” and would soon refer to as “shell shock” and now PTSD. He did suffer the living hell of the cold muddy trenches in France and Belgium through the winter of 1916. He watched men dying suddenly. He watched men dying slowly. He watched men throw themselves into battle to relieve their growing terror.

But it is also possible that he continued to report dizzy spells and he continued to fall down at the convalescent hospital because he did not want to go back to those trenches.

Perhaps he had come to know that in war there is no glory to be had.

Birds and Squirrels

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I woke up this morning and saw through the window that a mid size but rather colorless bird was pecking at a dead branch. Down, peck, peck, up, look around, down, peck, peck. Was it eating grubs, termites, ants?

A black squirrel scampered along the top of the fence. And I wondered, “Do squirrels ever stroll?”

These observations and the queries they evoked sparked a small pleasure, a small sense of well being.

They also tell me that I am not depressed, that is, depression is not impairing the scanning, inquisitive function of my brain. Nor is my brain under the kind of threat that forces a dramatic reduction in its field of awareness.

I also know that unless I rear up and threaten both the bird and the squirrel I am nothing to them. I do not exist at this moment within their sphere of awareness. And this means, at least with respect to the squirrel and the bird, I am not psychotic. My brain has not created a false narrative regarding my relationship with squirrel and bird.

Do squirrels ever stroll? Do birds ever eat leisurely?

Depression impairs the ability of the brain to scan, focus, inquire, be concerned about, all but itself, its sense of dread, and the unwellness of its own body.

Psychosis impairs the ability of the brain to fathom its boundaries and relationships with others and then, because it is an imperative that we do so, because it is a primitive imperative that the brain find a way of organizing data to determine friend from foe, kin from stranger, threat from security, it applies the band aid of a simple false narrative.

Do squirrels ever stroll? Do birds ever eat leisurely?

The Brain, Cognition and Illness

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The aware, receiving, perceiving, organizing, planning brain.

Two recent writings got me thinking about this. The first was a comment from Mr. Summerville, in support of the absolute discharge of Mr. Vince Li, that Mr. Li showed “no signs of cognitive impairment”. The second was the raw honesty of Mr. Bowers when he writes that when he took a shotgun upstairs with the intention of killing his grandmother he was “bat shit crazy”.

I suffered one of those nasty strains of flu this winter. At the time it seemed to affect every organ in my body. Including my brain. That is my brain was aware this state of body sickness was impairing some of its functions as well.

I guess it’s tricky. We are aware when our stomachs aren’t working as we would wish them, when our prostates and kidneys are not quite right, when perhaps our livers are acting up, our eyes, our inner and middle ears, our calf muscles are balking. Well, really, it is our brain noticing these things. But when the brain is acting up, not quite functioning smoothly in one of its functions, there is no one left to tell us. That is, no other organ in the body is prepared to tell us that the brain is a little off. “Liver here. Brain, your thinking is off.” or “Brain, your medulla oblongata is a little sluggish this morning. Your perceptions are clouded.”

I have also suffered, by my own count, three depressions of clinical severity so far in my life. Perhaps the cause of these can be traced to my circumstances each time, perhaps my genetics, perhaps to my childhood, probably a combination of genetics and circumstances. But each time it happened I know my brain was impaired, not functioning well, not scanning, perceiving, reviewing, interpreting as it normally does.

You can find a list of the symptoms of “depression” in the DSM and on many a website not to mention TV advertisements for the latest antidepressant. But of course the organ experiencing these symptoms is the same one reading and hearing about them.

It is often family members and close friends who notice first. You are not yourself, they say. Or “the spark has gone from your eyes.” And always when I treat someone for depression and they improve, it is family members who notice the improvement first. The patient tells me they don’t notice any change, though I see his or her eyes are livelier, his face a little less strained, and the corners of his mouth more agile. And the mother or wife points out he came down for dinner, engaged in conversation, laughed at a joke. The brain of the patient hasn’t noticed these changes yet, because… well because its perceptual, interpreting, responding, scanning apparatus is still partially impaired.

Liver illness impairs the functioning of the liver. Mental illness impairs the functioning of the brain, and that can be some or many of its functions. Mental illness is a brain illness.

So let’s go back to Vince Li. His brain was absolutely definitely impaired at the time of his crime. And at this point if he is not terrified of relapsing, and thus wanting help for the rest of his life to keep himself from relapsing, if he does not himself (his brain) understand and want all safeguards in place to keep himself from relapsing, if he thinks he can just change his name and move on, then his brain is still impaired in some of its functions. If this is the case then his perceptual, cognitive, judgmental processes are still impaired.

Contrast that with the Blog written by Mr. Bowers. He has fully recovered from being “bat shit crazy” and he is fully aware he never wants to go there again, and he is fully aware (the perceptual, organizing, planning, monitoring, cognitive processes of his brain are functioning well) that he needs help and vigilance to never go back to that place again.

Mini Quiz – Are you Prone to Populism?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The men (I don’t think I can accurately say men and women) who came up with our Canadian Senate (the house of sober second thought) and the complex set of checks and balances of the American Republic knew we humans were, at least quite often, drunken, impulsive, short-sighted, and stupid. They knew we often react emotionally, that we throw logic to the wind, that we forget history. They knew that we, like mice, despite hearing the snap of a trap to our left or right,  still go for the cheese. We still buy the snake oil. We still go along with the mob and chant whatever the mob is chanting.

Below is a small test to prove this point. Please answer quickly according to that first impulse, the one Populist leaders count on.

1. A lane jumper on the three lane highway pulls in front of you, slams on his brakes causing you to do the same and spill your medium regular Tim Horton’s coffee in your lap.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Bitch slapped

C. Have his driver’s license revoked forever

D. Given a small admonishing toot of your horn.

2. A man is convicted of killing a child.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Castrated, put in a rat infested cell, and then taken out and shot.

C. Allowed to appeal on a technicality.

D. Sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 10 years.

3. For the fourth time this summer your neighbour has dumped his tree trimmings on your side of the fence.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. The recipient of three of your bags of garbage.

C. Cursed at under your breath.

D. Forgiven because, after all, the rather dirty Mulberry tree is yours.

4.  A young man has broken into your house, stolen your jewelry, smashed your crockery, and swilled your 20 year old Scotch. He should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Sent back to Jamaica.

C. Offered a community recreation center.

D. Face due process like everyone else.

5. A salesman talks your aging mother into buying  a very expensive furnace she does not need.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Tied in a gerry chair and left in the corner of a dementia ward.

C. Arrested for fraud

D. Be reported to the Chamber of Commerce and receive a letter from your lawyer.

6. Illegal immigrants

Should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Rounded up and dumped in some other country.

C. Put in detention cells for 2 years and then dumped in some other country.

D. Offered a specific monitored pathway to achieve citizenship within a reasonable time frame.

7. Hillary is just a little too smug and prissy in her boxy white pant suit.

She should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Locked up for life

C: Given I.T. and fashion advice

D. Elected anyway because she is actually competent

8. Those uppity Germans and Snooty French are having too big a say in how we live in England.

They should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Delivered divorce papers

C. Asked to accommodate our peculiarities a little more in the E.U. parliament.

D. Asked to remind us why we organized the common market and E.U. in the first place.

Analyzing Trump Gibberish

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When speaking to someone, perhaps answering a question, most of us occasionally go off on a tangent, we find the first clause of our thought and sentence has triggered a parallel thought. Many of us find at times that the thought, the idea we were expressing, requires a change of format, a change of sentence structure in the middle of the utterance in order that it make sense. At that point we pause, and then either find a link such as “about which” that will work, or we start over and restructure from the beginning. Sometimes we realize what we said was not clear, and then reformulate the thought with, “What I am trying to say is…”. Sometimes the whole sentence is verbalized before we realize that it doesn’t quite work as a logical thought.

But always, or almost always, we notice this ourselves, during the time we are talking or immediately after. That is, we listen to ourselves.

And this is one of the things perplexing about Donald J. Trump. He either doesn’t listen to himself or he doesn’t care what comes out of his mouth.

A recent New York Times article called it gibberish and indicative of some sort of derangement.

We are all capable of gibberish at times. What worries me is that Donald Trump does not seem to notice he is speaking gibberish. This may explain the ease with which he lies and contradicts himself.

I don’t really understand this. His narcissism, yes. His short attention span, yes. His lazy grandiosity, yes. But what does it mean when the President of the United States does not listen to himself when he speaks? What does it mean when he does not listen to himself and notice the inconsistencies and contradictions in his speech, when he loses his way mid-sentence? Apart from being dangerous for the rest of us?

In a state of mania a rapid stream of consciousness occurs, a flight of tangential thinking, “pressured speech” as we call it, random thoughts and exhortations, sometimes linked only by rhythm and rhyme. But President Trump is not manic.

I have spent many years listening to delusions. Clear, simple, “fixed” delusions (as we call them) contain an inner logic. Trump’s speech patterns do not contain an inner logic. By inner logic I mean that if one accepts the hypothesis that the Martians are controlling me, then all else that I assert on this subject is plausible, if I can logically link it to the central idea.

Fractured, unsettled, probing, scanning, disorganized delusional thinking is different. It is a brain frantically looking for an organizing principle. This comes closer to Trump speak, but he does not appear in any other way to be psychotic.

Sprinkling random observations into the middle of an exchange and then forgetting you have done this can be a sign of dementia.

“The snow is on the ground.”

“Mother, it’s July.”

“I know that.”

“Then why did you mention snow?”

“I didn’t say anything about snow.”

This is probably not the problem afflicting Donald Trump, but time will tell. If it is some form of dementia it will get worse.

And then, just recently in the Oval Office while holding a conference with some members of Congress, he announced, in relation to the battle for Mosul, and specifically the involvement of American troops, “they are fighting like they’ve never fought before.” He said this with a particular tone and prosody, and a smile of pleasure, of good news and high expectations.

It is an interesting phrase in that context, rather meaningless and perhaps somewhat insulting to the veterans of the Iraq war and many other wars. Except if you take the phrase and the contextual information together, the unspoken portion of this thought ends with, “because I am an inspiration to them.”

It is similar to other favorite phrases of his, such as “like you’ve never seen before”. “It will make your head spin.”

It is empty salesmanship, a promise of nothing really, and a way of taking credit if something good happens, a way of congratulating himself in advance.

And it shows a paucity of complex thought beyond that of a 14 year old.

Linguists point out that the ability to compose and utter a sentence consisting of several clauses, with a premise supported by observations, leading to a logical conclusion, is a product of reading. Prior to written language all we required was something like, “Lion come, run.” But Trump’s performance with the teleprompter demonstrates that he can read, he just doesn’t read much. This leads some pundits and scholars to point out that we are in a post-print age. That much of Mr. Trump’s base do not read either.

Still, one would think Mr. Trump would notice when he is talking gibberish. And I would think it is the moral duty of all those who get to interview him, to point it out.

We live in a new age, when the spoken words (and tweets) of one man are instantly shared with the world, and because of his position of power, they have impact, they have weight. But while the world is listening to this man, he is not listening to himself.

The silver lining to this is, I think, that the Merkels, Mays, Trudeaus of this world have figured it out: that all his utterances, lies, contradictions, illogical constructions, and gibberish, can be translated as, simply, “I am great and you are not.”

But this also means he can be easily manipulated by the Putins and Bannons of this same world.

 

A Rose by any Other Name

Guest Post by Joseph Merlin Bowers from The Unashamed Schizophrenic

I have a friend who is a dedicated and effective advocate for people like me who have serious mental illnesses. Living in a politically correct world, she asked me once what term I would prefer when someone refers to the mentally ill. After all we are told that words matter. Perpetuating stereotypes is the cruel consequence of words like crazy, lunatic, nutcase and the like.

I spent some time trying to think of the perfect word that would be descriptive, non-derogatory and accurately portray one of us with a serious disease of the brain. After some time I came to realize that I just don’t care and I probably should not.Two quotes come to mind: Shakespeare-“A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.” Brene Brown-“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”

Whatever word one uses to describe a serious brain disease, what matters is the image the word conveys to the listener and how that listener reacts to that image. I don’t care what you call me. I do care how you react to me and treat me.

I totally own my story. My story involves mental illness. When I went up the stairs in my house with a loaded shotgun intending to kill my grandmother, I was totally bat shit crazy. Sometime latter when in recovery, I apologized to my grandmother for scaring her badly. She said that the doctors told her that it wasn’t really me that assaulted her. That is only true in a sense. I would never have dreamed of harming  my beloved grandmother when my brain was healthy and operating normally. What I did had nothing to do with who or what I really am when healthy. But in another sense it was me. In the grip of insanity, I did what I did. It was me. It wasn’t anybody else. I can’t own my story without acknowledging that.

I belong to the biological explanation for most serious mental illnesses school of thought. I’ve seen brain scan and activity images showing physical differences in the brains of schizophrenics and people with bipolar disorders. When I first encountered this information I had two simultaneous reactions. My first was dismay. If my disease is a physical deformity what hope do I have of recovery. I can’t just change my behavior or my way of looking at things and reacting to events.

My other reaction was a feeling of liberation. My disease was not my fault. It was not my families fault. It was nobody’s fault!

I have friends whose stories are much harder to own than my own. Doing so requires much courage and strength. We have done things we will always regret. We wish to hell we could go back in time and undo what we did. To own our stories is necessary to put them behind us, get on with our lives and live in the now, looking to the future.We know the science of why we behaved in a manner uncharacteristic of who we really are.

We are ashamed of nothing. To react with shame to words like crazy, lunatic or nutcase is self stigmatizing. It involves buying into the fiction that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of. What other disease of what other organ should one be ashamed of?

When I acted crazy it was because I was crazy. I would prefer to have you say I was crazy than something like “a soon to be consumer of mental health services”.

Canadian Families Coping With Schizophrenia Don’t Have a National Voice

This blog post was written by Susan Inman and appeared in the Huffington Post on March 21. It is a sad shame that there is no longer a viable voice to express the concerns of families with members who suffer from schizophrenia.

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Families who care for people with schizophrenia once had an organization that gave them a national voice. They no longer do. This lack of national representation impacts not just our own situations; it also hurts the people we support, because they are often unable to advocate on their own behalf.

Family caregivers, who had previously established provincial advocacy organizations, came together over 30 years ago to establish the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

Certain core values originally united these organizations. These values included building close ties with the psychiatric and neuroscience communities which had come to see schizophrenia and bipolar illness as disorders of neural circuitry. These groups sought to provide the most up-to-date education about these illnesses to people with the disorders, to families, clinicians, police, and the public.

As well, these organizations have advocated for high quality supported education, housing, and psychosocial rehabilitation services.

These organizations have also worked to dispel the unjustified blaming of families for psychotic disorders that earlier theories about these illnesses had propagated. The legacy of these beliefs, which have faded from psychiatry, have persisted and negatively impacted other areas of clinical practice. Frequently clinicians are still training in the many credentialed programs that don’t require any science-based curriculum on psychotic disorders.

Until recent years, the goals of these family groups had been represented by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC). However, while sitting on many national committees as the presumed voice of families, the SSC has failed to support the perspectives of the families who created it. It does not address the lack of appropriate curriculum in training many clinicians. Similarly, it does not work to provide basic information about schizophrenia in the annual national mental illness literacy campaign in which it plays a lead role.

These failures are occurring because its current leadership has given itself a different mandate. It has supported trends in the social sciences that seek to de-medicalize mental illnesses and advance the idea that all problems arise from social and personal adversity.

Instead of fighting against the stigma that too often interferes with the ability of family caregivers to develop collaborative relationship with clinicians, the SSC Executive Director, Chris Summerville, has actively promoted stigmatizing attitudes. For instance, he promotes the notion that families undermine the recovery of their family member by holding stigmatizing attitudes towards them.

Summerville has written that families block their family member’s access to treatment because they don’t want to expose their ‘family secret.’ At the same time he has failed to help people with illnesses, their families, and the public understand anosognosia, the brain based inability of many psychotic people to understand that they are ill. This is the symptom that families struggle with as they try to get an ill family member into treatment.

The SSC has also failed to promote the most progressive, evidence-based psychosocial treatments. In recent years there has been extensive research about the common cognitive losses that are associated with the illness. While most people’s psychotic symptoms can be controlled with anti-psychotic medications, the cognitive losses often persist. These include difficulties with concentration, short term and working memory, problem solving, and judgment. While BC’s Early Psychosis Intervention toolkit makes this information readily available and even educates people about useful cognitive adaptation strategies, the SSC ignores this issue in its educational programs.

Cognitive losses are widely understood to be the biggest factor in the extensive ongoing disability of this population. While espousing its commitment to the Recovery Model, the SSC has not only failed to provide education about cognitive problems. It has also failed to promote the evidence based cognitive remediation programs that can improve recovery; these programs have been expanding in other countries for the past 20 years.

While the SSC has failed to promote programs that are desperately needed, it has played a leadership role in the mis-education of the growing peer support work force. Many of us hoped that the new national guidelines for training peer support workers that the SSC helped create, would begin to provide peer workers with essential information about the illnesses of the people with whom they often work. The guidelines don’t require — or even recommend — that training programs offer any information about mental illnesses. Instead of informing peers about why people suffering from psychosis sometimes need involuntary treatment, peers are encouraged to oppose it.

Now the SSC leadership has taken an even more alarming step in securing its vision for this organization. It’s created a survey that has been designed to guide responders to provide the desired responses. The survey wants a mandate to move away for what it calls the “western medicine biomedical disease model” of schizophrenia.

The survey is also looking for support for getting rid of the term “schizophrenia.” However, schizophrenia has long been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that is used in mental health, criminal justice, education and social services. The diagnosis enables people to access disability payments and many other essential supports.

The SSC survey argues that we should substitute the term “psychotic spectrum disorder” for schizophrenia and points out that this term is used in early intervention programs. It doesn’t say that, when cognitive and other symptoms persist once psychosis is managed, people often receive more specific diagnoses like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

It’s convenient for national organizations to continue to use the SSC to ensure the presence of a family voice. However, the SSC doesn’t represent the perspectives of the vast majority of family caregivers I’ve met in the last seventeen years.

Maybe it’s time for the leadership of the SSC to create their own organization representing the conditions they consider significant and the alternative treatments they help popularize. They could return the SSC to the families of people with severe mental illnesses who created it.

Trump Speak

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The collection of laughable, inane, grossly inaccurate, and stupid things that Donald Trump says grows by the week. They have become the fodder of late night talk shows and the target of journalists’ disdain. Satirists don’t have to satirize; they merely repeat what he says.

On the internet one can also find several collections of odd, funny, nonsensical things that came out of George W. Bush’s mouth. George occasionally mangled syntax; he created the odd neologism, mixing two words to make a third; he put his adjectives in the wrong place; he stumbled over language and grammar. One could make the case that he is a little dyslexic, or simply not gifted in the spoken language department.

He was on the Ellen DeGeneres show recently and he said, “…I’m going to use a big word now – symbiotic…” Ellen said, “Wow, four syllables..” The audience laughed, George smiled. And I rather liked him for a moment.

These days the journalists, the pundits, the comedians, the talk show hosts, pounce on the words of Donald J. Trump and point out their inanity, their inaccuracies, their wrongheadedness, and their untruthfulness. But beyond what he says and tweets, a true revelation of the depth of trouble we are in can be found in the way he says what he says. That is, not so much in the simple meaning to be found in his tweets and statements but the meaning hidden in the structure and form of his sentences (or lack thereof).

Whatever the subject, the reference point is himself. Whatever the subject, no matter the population actually affected, how it affects Donald is supreme. Whatever the subject, his words imply that he is supreme; they always imply that he is supreme.

Below is a list of things Donald J. Trump has tweeted or said. Let me point out what is happening in the first two. These two statements followed briefings by experts on the two subjects at hand. In them Trump indirectly admits that perhaps he didn’t fully understand the complex subject before, but then he quickly points out that “nobody” does. He has to say this to retain the fiction in his own mind that he is brilliant, superior, supreme, that he knows all there is to know, and all that anybody can know.

This is a very dangerous level of narcissism.

“It’s an unbelievably complex subject, nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” (Health Care Policy)

“It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.” (climate change)

“I know words; I have the best words.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border”

“I’ve never had any trouble in bed, but if I’d had affairs with half the starlets and female athletes the newspapers linked me with, I’d have no time to breathe.”

“I love the poorly educated.”

“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”

“Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”

“Cher is somewhat of a loser. She’s lonely. She’s unhappy. She’s very miserable. And her sound-enhanced and computer-enhanced music doesn’t do it for me.”

When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal? I beat China all the time. All the time.”

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

“Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.”

“I dealt with Qaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land.”

“Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women”

These quotes (and much of what he says and writes in tweets) boldly display:

  1. An appalling lack of understanding of issues/technologies/events/history/the world…
  2. An appalling lack of awareness of his own shortcomings and deficits.
  3. An appalling (and child-like) lack of awareness of a world beyond himself.

He could do great damage to the world within four years if he stays energetic, active, engaged, provocative and disruptive.

But clearly he has a short attention span and he doesn’t particularly like to read, work, study, or listen. So while he is watching cable news, golfing and dining at Mar a Lago, some contemporary Rasputins (Bannon for one) will be able to do great damage to the world.

We are about to find out just how solid and resilient and principled American Democracy really is.

 

 

 

 

Please, America, Please

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have always looked to our south, like many Canadians, with a little disdain, a smidgen of envy, a touch of awe, and no small sense of superiority. When you repeat over and over again, ad nauseum, that America is the Greatest country on earth, I want to politely shout, “No, you are not.” Perhaps by one measure out of twenty you are, but that’s it. One out of twenty. Maybe two. Military force and entertainment. Maybe three: military force, entertainment, and some of the sciences.

You got the atomic bomb first, with the help of a few imported scientists, but Canada was second in having the knowledge and technology to build one, and it did not. Perhaps this was a much more significant accomplishment.

You can see our relationship has been complicated.

Traveling in Europe we quickly identify ourselves as Canadian, not American. I know some Americans who do as well.

But I was in Paris when the twin towers came down, and we spent four days there watching the news. And I found, out on the street, that suddenly I too was American, North American.

How dare these primitives, these semi-civilized thirteenth century people, attack the greatest city on earth, the showpiece of my America? How dare such primitives, such pre-enlightenment Neanderthals attack this beacon of light, this democracy, our democracy?

At that moment the civilized enlightened world was with you, America. You had a free hand to go hard after Osama Bin Laden. Instead you invaded Iraq. And as the war drums grew I found myself saying, “No. They won’t do that. Nobody could be that stupid.”

But you were. And then you did it badly, ignoring history and everything we know about collective human behaviour, about what happens when you take away stability, structure, organization.

And once again I became a disdainful Canadian watching you torture yourselves (and others).

Of course, with your own disdain of regulations and oversight, you also allowed a financial crisis to assail the world, and for the gap in wealth to grow to outrageous proportions. The very rich got richer, the poor got poorer.

And then we had 8 years of Obama, a man who proved to be, if a little indecisive, at least sane, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and responsible. It looked like America had a chance again and might one-day regain a fourth or even fifth category of greatness.

Four or five out of twenty wouldn’t be all that bad. Education? Health care? Quality of Life? Women’s rights? Racial equality? Literacy? Scientific literacy? Standard of living? Clean air? Clean water? Mental health care? Less primitive corrections system? Modern transportation system? Banking regulations? Maybe you would even direct that famous American energy and ingenuity toward preventing the calamity of climate change?

But no.

Instead you took a mighty step backwards. You elected a child as president and a raft of 19th century idealogues to Congress. The arguments I hear on CNN about that whole list one paragraph above are silly, stupid, primitive, ill informed. With each of them the push is backwards: women’s rights, health care, EPA, great lakes, mental health care, climate change, education, science, corrections, regulations, wealth equality, race relations.

Please, America, Please. Those of you who are enlightened, educated, worldly, kind, sane, responsible – those of you who have empathy for others, who have outgrown or at least come to terms with your past – those of you who care about the real future – the future for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and the rest of the world for that matter – you need to resist; you need to turn the tables.

I could simply go on feeling superior and disdainful, but America is too important, even the idea of America is too important. We, the whole world, need a sane, stable, educated, advanced, involved, compassionate America.

And now I shall watch CNN again and cross my fingers.