Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Trump victory: Shock and “awww, sh!t!”

”We won in a landslide!”

It’s been a month now since the presidential election. Are you over it yet? I guess I am, although it was a shocker to my family and friends. On election day my next door neighbor was in Italy with her daughter. She said they couldn’t sleep all night after they heard the news. That seems like a fairly typical reaction; certainly the reaction of my wife and me.

Why did so many vote for Trump? Not forgetting that as I write this about 2.7 million more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton than Trump, and the election results hinged on Trump’s wins in three states. In the popular vote he lost, in the Electoral College he won. Such is the American system, as screwy as it seems to everyone. Except the winner, of course. Trump has recently been touring.  In what looks like a victory lap he thanked his voters. He said to one crowd, “We won in a landslide, folks!”  — an untruth so brazen only the most loyal of his followers would believe it.

It seemed obvious to most of us that reasonable people wouldn’t fall for a huckster, and we expected his fans to fall away once these truths were revealed: he doesn’t pay taxes; he stiffs building contractors; he uses bankruptcy as a business tactic; he treats women horribly. The stories went on and on. In the end it didn’t matter. His fans liked him and what he said, and ignored stories to the contrary.

A piece of commentary in the Sunday, December 4, 2016 Salt Lake Tribune, gave what I thought was a good reason why people voted for Trump.* Kristy Money, a psychologist specializing in relationship counseling, faith journeys and women’s mental health, wrote about “confirmation bias,” which is seeing only what we want to see.

Apparently Trump fans’ confirmation bias was enough that they looked past all of his worst traits to see what they wanted to see.

Yet how was it they were able to accept Trump’s outrageous conduct? You would think that religious types on the right who supported him would have been put off by stories of his immoral behavior, but another paragraph in the Kristy Money commentary explained how his true believers could accept a man with Trump’s character flaws: “Decades of social science research attest to how the human mind resists deliberate attempts by others to change our opinions and beliefs. In fact, there is a corollary phenomenon to confirmation bias, known as the Backfire Effect: Simply put, when someone with deeply held beliefs is presented with a counter-argument, their beliefs are strengthened rather than weakened. So there’s a very practical reason to stop trying to convince others: it has the opposite effect.” [Emphasis mine.]

So there you go. The Backfire Effect in action!

*I cherry-picked Ms Money’s commentary for psychological insight to use for my own purposes.Her article was actually about giving support to people who leave the Mormon church. You can read her original op-ed here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fifty years

Fifty years is a long time. Five decades. Break it down: in months fifty years is 600 months; in weeks it is 2600 weeks; in days (give or take, depending on Leap Year), it is an astounding 18,250 days!

Fifty years ago today, November 30, 1966, I entered the U.S. Army as a Private E-1. It wasn’t voluntary; I was drafted.

I had my pre-induction physical in July of that year, and five months later was finally sucked into the system. During the time between the two events I lived in denial. I thought I would get some sort of last-minute reprieve, but the closer November 30 came the more I came to the acceptance that there would be no divine intervention. I was indeed doomed to two years of active duty in the U.S. Army.

There were some benefits; after I was released in November, 1968, I went home and  a month later got married. I was able to use my GI Bill money for schooling. Two years ago when I went to Home Depot to buy a washer and dryer the saleslady asked, “Are you by chance a veteran?” I said I was. She said, "Good, I can give you a discount.” I don’t remember how much the discount was, but if my two years active duty could save me a few bucks decades later, well then, that’s fine with me.

On Veteran’s Day 2016 I got a free entree from Mimi’s Restaurant. They didn’t even ask to see proof I was a veteran.

I had my share of nightmares the first few years after my discharge. In dreams I would be drafted again and I would be loudly cursing and telling officers and sergeants to stick it up their asses, I wasn’t going to go! Brave talk, but just a dream. In my waking life I wasn’t going anywhere near the Army, and they wouldn’t want me, anyway. It took me me a few years for the dreams to end.

I have written before in this blog that I have a near-irrational fear of being accused of something I didn’t do, and going to jail or prison for it. That paranoia may have grown from my experience of being drafted. The Army wasn’t exactly like jail: there were no iron bars, but there were other similarities, especially in the first two months. All activities were regulated, even being marched to the mess hall for our meals. We were not allowed to have any clothes other than our uniforms, so if we went over the hill we could be easily spotted and rounded up.

Hmmm. That is something to think about! But using being regulated in a mass way actually goes back to kindergarten, when we obeyed the teacher’s orders. Sit down, be quiet, reading time, exercise time. We have all been through it.

Still, there was a feeling when I got the last day of my active duty Army “service,” I did have a sense of an iron gate creaking open, and being able to walk out into freedom.

It sounds like a contradiction, but now that it is long over and done, I am proud to be considered a veteran. I don’t necessarily feel like a “true” veteran because I spent my Army career mostly at a typewriter in Germany doing a clerk job, but my Honorable Discharge, in a frame on my wall, says I am a veteran. No matter how I feel about my service it is more than some people who have held the office of President of the United States. I have one up on men like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and now Donald Trump. Commander in chief is much more grand than Private E-1, as I became fifty years ago today, but I went through something none of those men went through, and so, yes, I am proud of that.

(For my 40th anniversary recollection of my first day,18, 250 — give or take — days ago, which I remember distinctly, unlike yesterday, which is a blur, go to “Draft Day”, posted November 30, 2006.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The writer who is ecstatic for the Trump victory

This letter appeared in my local newspaper yesterday.

Copyright © 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune

Ugh. Gloating! I couldn’t stand it. That letter inspired me to write this letter:

I thought the letter titled "Ecstatic about Trump" in the June 16 Tribune was satirical. I saw the writer used the German word, “schadenfreude.” I at first believed no true Trump fanatic would even know such a word.

Then I reconsidered. Since the word means to take pleasure in the discomfort of others I thought about the Nazis, who took a whole lot of pleasure in the ultimate discomfort for anyone they deemed not worthy to live in their Aryan world. Consider the Nazi mass murder machine. That reminded me that many backers of Trump are white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan-types who would be very happy to feel such “pleasure” in bringing such discomfort to people they don't want in America.

I then shifted my opinion, and knew the letter was not satire, but from a true Trump fanatic!

Sincerely, Postino

Monday, November 14, 2016

The dog kicker

Yesterday I saw an obituary for a former fellow school district employee, Brent, who died at age 67. Brent was two years younger than me, and he died from a heart attack. Brent was a devout Mormon, so he didn't smoke, drink (liquor or coffee). He was tall and fairly slim. Huh. I thought he'd live longer than he did. Longer than me, anyway. I remember Brent bugged me a lot because when I'd see him he'd get in my face and try to make small talk. He was not a natural small-talker, and as Greg, another coworker opined, "Brent tries too hard to make friends and it drives people away." I could see that. After I saw his obit I thought maybe I should have lightened up my opinion of him. Then I remembered a day maybe 20 years ago when Sally and I were walking into a high school for a meeting, and Brent was on the sidewalk talking to a man. A little dog ran up to Brent, which annoyed him. He hauled off and kicked the little dog and sent it yiping in pain into the bushes. The proverbial red mist floated before my eyes. I stopped and unloaded on Brent, chewing him up one side and down the other. Something a supervisor once told me was, "You have a tongue that cuts like a scalpel." I don't remember exactly what I said, but Brent went red in the face, said nothing, yet after Sally and I walked off he resumed his conversation with the man as if nothing had happened.

The next day I told Greg, Brent's office mate, who said, "Yeah, Brent's old man was like that. He didn't just kick dogs. They'd come in his yard, he'd shoot 'em." After the incident for the rest of the time I knew him Brent never mentioned my loud, angry comments on his act of animal abuse.

Maybe Brent cleaned up his act as he got older. Maybe he mellowed out. But I am sensitive to such cruelty. I am not religious, but it is my opinion that no matter how religious you are or observant of the rules of your faith, if you kick little dogs you should have a long wait to get into heaven.