Category Archives: Politics

The Women on the Right

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I am not puzzled by the heavy-set blowhard males who espouse the views of Briebart, Fox News, and the Alt right. I know them. I remember them. They were always loud, obnoxious, dripping with hostility, overcompensating for something: Didn’t make the cut for the football team, passed over for Prom king, snubbed by the prettiest girl in the school, not dumb but certainly not first in the class, never cast in the lead of the school play.

But I have been puzzled by the females espousing the same views. The Ann Coulters of our television. But then I think, maybe I’m being sexist. Maybe I expect women to all be kind, empathetic, generous, inclusive, self-effacing. There is no reason a woman cannot be as selfish and short sighted and loud as a man. After all, their bible was written by a woman, one Ayn Rand.

Okay, adjust your thinking David. A woman has just as much right as a man to be a Roger Ailes, a Sean Hannity, a Glenn Beck, a Bill O’Reilly. Women can be loud, obnoxious, and right wing too.

But my puzzlement has returned, for yet another Fox News commentator has been suspended for “lewd photos sent to female colleagues.”

My puzzlement is not about these men behaving socially and sexually as if their development was arrested at age 14. That goes with the territory. That is where they are.

It is all one and the same. Their sense of white male privilege extends to being lord of the jungle, having ownership of all they survey, and that includes the women folk. And their notion of courtship has always been to display plumage and induce fear.

But why don’t the women recognize this? They are not and will never be equal partners in this right wing endeavor. Hand maids, concubines, and incubators, yes. But not equals.

So I remain puzzled by the women. Unless, of course, they have a plan to get rid of all the blowhard males and take over themselves.

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Neo-nazis, thugs, and little boys.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In our history psychiatry overplayed its hand. As the theories of Freud, Jung, Adler and others caught on, some psychiatrists and psychologists thought we might have something to offer society as a whole. Perhaps psychological intervention could reduce violence generally, and even prevent war and promote peace.

This was overreach. And we are all aware now, I think, that the tools of psychiatry/psychology are more apt to be misused by the state (The Soviet Union), the CIA, Casinos, and by marketing, or building a better soldier, creating brand loyalty, selling junk food to kids, keeping a scholar or athlete focused.

For the most part the profession of psychiatry retreated to being a medical specialty engaged in the treatment of mental illness.

I was thinking of this while watching neo-nazi Christopher Cantwell on his Youtube video. He was an organizer and marcher in Charlottesville, and then a social media hit when he alternately ranted and sobbed on a self-produced video, after hearing there might be a warrant for his arrest.

Why any young and not-so-young American (or German or Canadian for that matter) might proclaim himself a Nazi today is a puzzle. As has been pointed out, they did not grow up watching their fathers lynch Negros or blame Jews for a recession. Where on earth does this come from?

But watching the performance of Christopher Cantwell it occurred to me that I had seen this many times before.

Troubled boys between age 14 and 17. Some ADHD, some labile emotions, and some developmental/cognitive immaturity. Within a half hour they might talk prison talk full of expletive laden revenge, need for respect, blame, threaten, and then cry, weep, apologize to me and their mothers. There is a frightened little boy inside that would-be thug.

They are trapped developmentally, still children dependent on adults, angry their needs are not immediately satisfied, experimenting with male roles of toughness, power, strength, (often borrowed from gang, drug, and prison cultures), ultimately terrified of adulthood and its demands for skills and responsibility.

Most get through this. Good parenting, time for the brain to develop and mature, some boundaries and structures that promote skill building and confidence, more self-reliance, less blaming of others. Sometimes pills for either ADHD or anxiety or both are required.

That is where Chris Cantwell is. I don’t know how much he truly believes what he says, but he is still, developmentally, 14 to 17, at once angry, blaming, playing a macho role, labile and fearful.

So yes, good parenting, some accessible mental health services, the right school system, opportunities to develop skills and confidence, could reduce the number of young men who become neo-nazis, or terrorists for that matter.

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.