Category Archives: Politics

Trump’s Great Service to Americans – But Time To Go

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The unraveling of Donald Trump is nigh. And if it happens soon, and if the reaction he has provoked has staying power, then, surprisingly, Donald Trump will have performed a great service for America. Perhaps the reaction to Donald will bring about a better America.

Donald has brought to light the simmering racism, the unholy divide, and the hypocrisy that is America. It has always been there of course, addressed politely from time to time, but recently not so overtly, so publicly that it could not be ignored by others.

To be fair though, the credit probably goes equally to Barack Obama, for it may be this unusual sequence of a first black president, and a very good one, followed by a Donald Trump that so ignited the fires of white supremacists and then lifted the fog of denial from the eyes of liberals.

All of them, the KKK, the Nazis and neo-nazis, the white supremacists, they all quietly nursed their wounds and hatred during Obama’s eight years. Now Donald has set them free.

On Tuesday, August 15, off the teleprompter, peppered with questions, Donald Trump revealed Donald. He was of course full of himself, referring back to his successes, even to his riches, boasting of his holdings, taking credit for an improved economy, defending his first statement after the events in Charlottesville, even taking it from his pocket and reading it again, even shamelessly claiming he received praise from the mother of the woman killed.

He became combative with the press, calling them fake news, stating he is more attentive and truthful than they are.

But most of all this exchange revealed his brittle narcissism and the extent to which he cannot tolerate any criticism, any possibility that he may not be the smartest, the best, the most successful person in the room, that he may have been imperfect this one time. And it revealed how his ego overshadows any concept of country, democracy, history. Asked if he would visit Charlottesville he told us he owns a house and a golf course there, the biggest, thus demonstrating his confusion between being president of a democracy and the emperor of all he surveys.

And it gave us a hint of how mad (this word meant to be read both ways) he will become when he is finally cornered and dethroned.

Do it soon. Do it carefully. Do it with a safety net in place.

On Democracy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In my childhood I took my birth certificate with me to sign up for a summer soccer league. Of course I lost it. There is a good chance I did not tell this to my parents. But three nights later we all responded to a knock on the door. Standing on the porch was a stocky man who proved to have a thick middle European accent and my birth certificate, a little grass stained.

I remember all this because he gave me a stern lecture about my birthright as a citizen in this democracy while I blushed under my father’s gaze. Although, in my defense it was either my father or my mother who allowed me to take this precious piece of paper on my bike ride to the soccer field in the first place.

Among many others I have been writing about the threat to democracy Donald Trump and his colleagues pose as they systematically undermine the Fourth Estate, the judiciary, instill unease in the citizens, point their fingers at immigrants, and undermine the people’s confidence in the electoral process.

But I did not think it would be so easy. Surely the very idea of free, regular, unfettered elections is sacrosanct in this American Democracy of which they are so proud.

Apparently not. A new poll finds that over 50 percent of Republicans would be quite happy to have the 2020 elections postponed if either Trump or the Republican Party suggested or requested this.

Wow. Should not their instinctive response be, “No way!”

So the groundwork has been laid. And apparently few Americans received the awakening I received in my childhood, a stern lecture from a man who escaped a tyranny, and who knew shortsightedness, indifference, and stupidity can lose a democracy but only bloodshed can regain it.

Fire and Fury

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago the person who oversaw both the men’s and women’s shelters in this city expressed his surprise that far more actual physical fights broke out in the women’s shelter than in the men’s.

But it did make perfect sense after we discussed it.

Some irritation would occur, expected when living on top of one another, and a man would verbally insult another man. Then a pattern of behaviour would unfold that was learned on the playgrounds of every public school, playing field and back alley, one that probably has genetic roots we can observe with our cousins, the apes and chimpanzees.

“Yeah, and who’s gonna make me?”

“You and who’s army?”

Chin thrust forward, the baring of teeth, the snarl, the threatened encroachment on the other’s space, insulting the other’s sexuality, his courage, his birth, his mother, name calling, dire threats for the future, the unfurling of plumage.

Other men (boys) would intervene pulling the two apart as they hurled their last insults at one another. Their assuaging words were always of the order of, “He ain’t worth it.”

This last part is important, for it is face saving for both antagonists. And an actual fight is averted. Life goes on.

In the women’s shelter, one would insult the other, and the recipient of the insult would hurl herself at the antagonist. They had not experienced the same playground socialization.

I am thinking about this because of Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump and the way war begins, and even those words of Tillerson and others, “It’s the only language Kim Jong Un understands.”

No. No. No.

Tillerson, your job is to put your arm around Donald Trump, pull him aside and say, “He ain’t worth it.”

Maybe no one can do that with Kim.

It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that one of the protagonists, these blustering would-be alpha males, especially the stronger of the two, gets pulled back.

“Donald, he ain’t worth it.”

Now if American leadership really was smart and confident, it could offer Kim some face saving device. “But we will look weak,” American leadership will scream. This despite the fact they have the capacity to destroy the world and we all know it.

Tillerson, you appear mostly sane to me, and a man who understands a few things. It is your job to pull Trump aside and tell him, “He ain’t worth it. You could take him easy, but it ain’t worth it.”

And would it kill you to promise Kim that you will stop flying B 52’s over North Korea and stop practicing war in South Korea if he stops testing A bombs?

“I Think Anthony Will Do Amazing.”

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In his brief sojourn in public life Anthony Scaramucci managed to provide hours of material for the late night shows and many columns of commentary by serious pundits.

It is all so troubling and disturbing. A man so obviously unqualified to be a Communications Director quickly drops the tenor of the office to the level of teen boy locker room talk in an under founded school system.

He has come and gone.

But within all the inaccuracies, lies, egoism, and stupidity of Donald Trump’s statements in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on July 25, this particular use of language stood out for me:

“I think Anthony will do amazing.”

There is a time in one’s development of intellectual and linguistic abilities when nouns and adverbs and adjectives get all mixed up, when the brain cannot yet formulate explanatory secondary clauses, and when the brain does not yet notice the misuse of words, catch this, and then explain further.

That age is about 13, 14, 15. (and younger than this of course)

13, 14, 15 is the age at which I hear kids use the phrase, “will do amazing.”

By 17, if they say “will do amazing” they catch themselves and explain further in a second clause, such as, “I mean, like, I think he will get really high marks.”

By university level they realize that the quality of being amazed belongs to the observer, not the doer, and the whole thing is phrased differently.

And all through the transcripts of recent interviews and off-the-teleprompter speeches it is clear Donald Trump does not catch his own absurdities, his own unfinished thoughts, his own deviations from logic, and his own outrageous boasting.

I hear the same from 14-year-olds in my clinical practice. By 17 or so, most have the ability to hear what they have just said, to notice when it veers from truth or logic.

My American friends, your president is a very narcissistic entitled 14 year old.

Though, I must admit, as damaging as he is to the reputation of America in the rest of the world, he may be less dangerous than many Republican alternatives.

Might I suggest a strategy to keep us all safe: Every other leader in this fragile world of ours should send Donald Trump an effusive Valentine card four times a year, at least.

The Ministry of Silly Walks

By Dr David Laing Dawson

We are living within a Monty Python skit. I must try returning my dead parrot to a Pet store and see what happens.

The American Congress has just granted Charlie Gard and his parents resident status in the U.S. so that Charlie can “receive the first rate American Medical care that he needs”.

This is the same Congress trying to repeal and replace Obamacare with a plan that would eventually deny health care for 30 million Americans, many of them children.

Polio is making a comeback. Measles is making a comeback, thanks to the antivaxers. Cholera is sweeping through Yemen.

Today, a child with cystic fibrosis in Canada will live, on average, ten more years than the same child in the United States.

A doctor from the U.S. flew to England to examine Charlie. The money spent to fly him there and back could feed 10 starving children in the Sudan for a year if he flew economy, perhaps 5 years if he flew first class. Or bottles of clean salty water and a dose or two of tetracycline for thousands of cholera victims.

This doctor, who has been experimenting on rats, would like to try his therapy on a human. He guesses at a 10% chance of “some improvement”.

With the goal being “some improvement” and the odds only 10%, most placebos do better. And I am not sure what “some improvement” looks like with an infant who cannot breathe or eat on his own, has brain damage at the structural and cellular level, and is dying from an incurable progressive genetic disease involving the mitochondria, one of those essential bits in every cell.

As with much of American culture and politics, I guess this isn’t about health care, saving and improving lives, treating illness, preventing disability. It is about money, self-aggrandizement, career, and celebrity.

In another real life skit NASA has had to officially deny that it is running a child slave camp on Mars. Or was that a child sex slave camp?

And in an open hearing a Republican Congressman asks “if Mars was different thousands of years ago, could there have been a civilization on Mars?” The scientist on the panel tells him Mars was different billions of years ago, but there is no evidence of any civilization ever existing on Mars.

The chairman thanks the congressman and says, “Looking forward to finding what’s up there, for sure.”

This last statement is interesting. Besides the notion that Mars is “up there”, this chairman doesn’t seem to know that with probes, orbiting satellites, and rovers, we have been receiving information about Mars for over 40 years.

Donald Trump thinks the “biggest crowd that ever gathered around the Eiffel Tower” came to see him dine, shortly after he made the “best speech any president has ever made on foreign soil.”

Ground Control to Major Tom.

Drip, Drip, Splash.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

First Stephen Bannon and now Rob Goldstone. Both men obviously eat badly and bathe less often than desirable. I’m sure neither man picks up after himself. Goldstone may have been the image in Donald Trump’s mind when he said that the hacker could have been a 400 pound man in his mother’s basement. (Though in his actual statement Trump managed to attach the “400 pound” description to the bed upon which the man sat.)

Again I’m glued to CNN listening to the panels dissect the latest revelations, this time of Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian Operative. And I know, looking at Don Jr., that if he were to emerge from the sales office on a Used Car Lot, I would take my business elsewhere.

I also think of the Kardashians, another name I cannot avoid, but about whom I need not waste a second of my time. I don’t need to watch them, read about them, think about them, despite their mastery of the celebrity game.

And Kanye West. Despite his crew’s mastery of Google algorithms, I can avoid reading, watching, or listening to him.

If only that were true of the Trumps. It should be. It should be.

Many politicians have lapses. The business of government can become corrupt. But it should always be serious. There should be some line between serious matters of democracy, of governance, of justice,  and the frivolous, infantile, adolescent high jinks of pleasure and titillation of Reality TV.

That line has frayed.

The impresario with no boundaries, a man who can’t tell the difference between using others and being used, emails Don Junior to tell him he can set up a meeting with a representative of the Russian Government who has dirt on Hilary Clinton. Don Jr., just as one might remark on a Facebook cat video, writes, “I love it.”

I can hear Putin saying, “Wow, that was easier than I thought it’d be. Make sure you get some video.”

Democracy can be slow, clumsy, frustrating, inept, but it is so much better than any other form of government. We have been told we need to be vigilant. We have been told we need to participate. We have been told how important the institutions of democracy are despite periodic scandals perpetrated by flawed men and women.

But it looks like we need to be told the operations of a democracy are serious. This is not reality TV. This is not Miss Universe promotion. This is not the bullshit and bafflegab of the entertainment industry. This is serious business, and it will affect the lives of my grandchildren.

Whatever their ideologies, from the freedom caucus to libertarian to liberal to socialism, it is time for American politicians to at least take their responsibilities seriously.

Now let me tell you what I think really happened one morning in the Kremlin a year or so ago:

“Vladimir, we have hacked the DNC server. We have many, many emails embarrassing to the Clinton campaign. Should we give them to Donald?”

“Nyet. He is stupid. He would boast about having them. Besides, we just give them to him what does that get us? Nothing. No. This is what we do. Find an intermediary to set up a meeting. Tell them we have dirt on Clinton and we want to share. This must be written. Go through Emin and that producer, Goldstone.”

“Who should they contact, my president?”

“Someone dumb enough to come to such a meeting. Donald Junior maybe, Manafort, Kushner, yes?”

“And when they come to the meeting we give them the emails?”

“No. No. That’s the beauty part. We get them to the meeting and record it but we don’t give them the emails. So then they’re compromised but we still have the emails and we can decide when or if to release them.”

“Mr. Putin, you are a genius.”

“I know. I know. Would you like to feel my bicep?”

“Is Donald Trump Human?”

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Men in Black, from 1997, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, is full of good moments. The particular moment that came to mind, for reasons that will become apparent, follows the recruitment of Will Smith to the very small and select team. Tommy Lee is showing Will Smith the ropes. He suggests they “check the hot sheets”. They stop by a News Stand to pick up a couple of tabloids, each with a lurid headline.

“These are the hot sheets?” asks Will.

“Best reporting on the planet,” says Tommy. “Go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.”

Smith spells out the gag: “I believe you are looking for tips in the supermarket tabloids.”

Their headlines include: “Pope a Father”, “Top Doctors baffled, Baby Pregnant”, “Man Eats Own House” and “Alien Stole My Husband’s Skin.”

The scene is played straight.

It is a very funny moment, I thought.

And I have always assumed that anyone reading these yellow sheets is engaging in a guilty pleasure. They are titillating themselves with implausible stories. Today those titles would be called ‘click bait’.

The publishers of these magazines, when they deal with celebrities, are marketing to our schadenfreude. Ah, how we enjoy reading that the lives of the rich and privileged may be as fraught with conflict and unhappiness, sin and regret, as our own.

But we know that when the story is not an outright lie, a gross exaggeration or invasion of privacy, it is still merely trivial. At least I thought we all understood that.

Hence the entire audience in the theater watching Men in Black got the joke.

But not, apparently, Donald Trump.

It is very distressing to learn that he and the publisher of The National Enquirer are good friends who influence one another. And that this publisher is thinking of buying Time Magazine.

There is a strange slippage afoot. I’m not sure whether we should be boning up on George Orwell or Lewis Carroll.

And I notice another thing entirely by accident. These Men in Black, American enforcement officers for true aliens, extraterrestrial aliens, of all shapes and sizes, some cute, some grotesque, some “legal” and some “illegal”, treat these aliens with much more decency and respect than Donald Trump and ICE treat human “aliens.”

Racism

By Dr David Laing Dawson

At least three times per week every week, between editorials in my local paper and the CBC I am made to feel guilty about any vestiges of prejudice I might have, or even my ancestors might have had, toward people of a different race. I often get to the point where I mutter, “Enough already”.

A fan of Star Trek has a vanity license plate with a form of “Assimilate” on it, the demand of The Borg. Someone objects for it is reminiscent of an attitude some of my ancestors had toward First Nations People. But we all know it is more complicated than that. To begin with The Borg are (or is) villain(s) in that Sci Fi series. And, despite the sense of loss felt by several generations, we all assimilate eventually, while retaining some ceremonial cultural practices and artifacts.

But perhaps we need to be scolded three times per week. For deep within the current political theater in the USA lurks the unmistakable venom of racism. Even the rush to a new health care bill is quite obviously being driven more by a wish to remove “The Stain” of having had a black president than any fervently held ideological position or humanitarian hope. It is there in the language used. It is there in the faces of the proponents of “Repeal and Replace”.

It is there in the stroke of Trump’s pen and the triumphant faces behind him when he signs off on orders to stop anything Obama started, no matter how innocuous, or, for that matter, no matter how obviously good it was. It is there in the tendency to excoriate anything achieved during the eight years Barack Obama was president. It is there in the ignoring of Sally Yates’ wise counsel. It is there in the attitude toward Sanctuary cities and Urban police. It is there in the sea of old white male faces standing behind Trump in the Oval Office. It is there in the soft and reluctant criticism of white supremacist groups. It is there in the activities of ICE.

When Trump claims the world “was laughing at us” this is code for “the world was laughing at us because we elected a black president.”

So, despite my first paragraph, despite my occasional irritation with excess political correctness, keep scolding us please, keep reminding us. It looks like we all need this if we are not to willfully or accidentally step on that slippery slope back to tribalism and contempt for those unlike ourselves.

 

Dump Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

If a doctor, teacher, manager, administrator of 70 years of age emailed, announced, or tweeted what Donald Trump just tweeted I would immediately suspect alcohol or frontal lobe dementia. Besides being relieved of his office, or license, his family would take him to a family doctor who might then refer him to either an addiction service or a psychiatrist/neurologist. It would be a striking failure of judgment only plausibly explained by frontal lobe impairment.

With Donald Trump though, this kind of behaviour is not new or unusual. But even a narcissistic misogynistic sociopath might recognize that in the context of being POTUS such a tweet would bring only shame upon his head and reduce, not enhance, his status.

So we have to conclude that either Donald Trump is the same Donald Trump he has always been plus he now has some early dementia, or, his personality disorder is so severe, his ego so fragile, that he cannot stop himself from engaging in a playground (age 14 maybe) retaliation, even when it would be so obviously damaging to him, his family, and his country.

Either diagnosis bodes poorly for the safety of our planet. Please, Republicans, understand this man will take you down with him. It is time to act.

Although, while Trump may be a threat to all things good and sane, from what I see and read, the Republican party in its current form may be an equal or bigger threat to democracy.

Kim Jong-Un Goes to the White House

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In our histories there were times the mad arrogant king could demand that his subjects, especially the Lords and Ladies of his court, prostrate themselves in obedience and offer unlimited praise of his highness. They would do this because to refuse brought about death for themselves and a life of penury or slavery for their families.

To my knowledge Donald Trump does not have such powers (yet). But still his cabinet engaged in such a ritual display before the world. As if from a script they each in turn offered the same words of honour and subservience, rounding off with a fantastical account of the state of the nation, the world, and their particular spheres of influence, and indebtedness to his majesty.

I could only listen to a few of these and perhaps, maybe, someone in the circle diverged from the script later. The last to speak I listened to described such a delusional world view I could watch no more.

This is not something we should be watching in a democracy. Perhaps North Korea, or Saudi Arabia, not America. The penalty for not complying, of thinking for themselves, of being principled and honest is not death. At least not yet. Where is their pride? Where is their courage?

More importantly, if they do not find this courage soon, the day may come when the penalty for disobedience will be death and a life of penury for their children