The Monsters Among Us

A man walks into a football stadium.

The man has been credibly accused of the sexual assault or sexual harassment of well over twenty woman; several have credibly accused him of rape; one was just 13 years old at the time.

The man has an extensive history of making public statements supporting racism, misogyny and white nationalism.

The man has an extensive history, in the public domain, of cheating people through the creation of fraudulent businesses and charities, refusing to financially honor his business contracts, and engaging in money laundering. Just that week, he agreed to pay $2 million in damages as he formally confessed to illegally misdirecting charitable funds from an event he claimed was a benefit for veterans.

The man has an extensive history of betraying, in a truly traitorous manner, the national security interests of the United States of America and its allies in deference to supporting the interests of Vladamir Putin and Russia.

The man has, hundreds of times, publicly violated his oath to faithfully execute the duties of the Office of President of the United States, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The man has, in fact, committed each of the 20+ horrific acts I called out in my last column: I am the Whistleblower.

And he gets an ovation from a significant segment of the 101,821 people attending the football game.

This actually happened on November 9, 2019 at the Alabama-LSU college football game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

This is the reality of 2019 America.

It isn’t hard to understand how one man can be so evil and act in such a manner to betray his country. One person we can understand. But a hundred thousand American citizens cheering him on?

What kind of people would act this way? I’ve thought about it over and over again the past week, and I can only come up with one answer:

Monsters.

And some of them are our neighbors, our business colleagues, our classmates, and perhaps even fellow parishioners at our place of worship.

They walk among us. They may often pretend to be people of decency, but their actions demonstrate that they are not.

Their applause supports a value system in gross betrayal of the moral and ethical code that has historically defined us as Americans.

We’ve all watched the bizarre, cult-like behavior of thousands of people attending Trump rallies. But this was different. The Trump rallies are created to draw in a crowd of “wackadoodles” on the fringe — the people who are fully immersed in his cult. We know they are out there, we are glad we live in a country with first amendment rights that allow wackadoodles to do their thing (as long as they don’t cause harm to others), and we dismiss them as being untypical outliers.

But the crowd at this football game wasn’t selected from outliers. Trump’s attendance at the football game was announced only days earlier, long after the tickets to the event had been sold. The crowd at this football game was largely the normal crowd of people attending a University of Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa.

And they CHEERED him.

In the two weeks preceding this football game, Trump had attended two other sporting events, driven by an apparent need to find a sport event crowd that would provide him with adulation. On October 27, 2019, Trump attended a Washington Nationals World Series game in Washington, DC and was met with boos (See: Trump met with sustained boos when introduced at Game 5 of the World Series ). Then on November 2, 2019, Trump attended a UFC event in New York City, perhaps with the belief that a UFC audience in his home town would provide him a friendlier reception (See: Trump Was Booed Again, This Time at a UFC Fight).

On his third try, at a game he seemed to attend for the sole purpose of finding a supportive crowd, Trump finally found success. On that day in Alabama, the world witnessed a man who is turning the United States into a cesspool of corruption being applauded by tens of thousands of American citizens. It brought shame upon each person who engaged in that behavior. It brought shame upon the University of Alabama. And it brought shame upon the United States as a whole.

We must never forget that it happened, and we must never stop asking ourselves how we became the kind of America in which it could happen.

Why people act this way

Two years ago I wrote an extensive column about the many different reasons that people still support Donald Trump… but at this point it basically comes down to one or more of four basic behaviors:

1. Ignorance –– People sometimes fail to acquire the knowledge necessary to understand what the man stands for and the acts of which he has engaged. They don’t know, and they often simply don’t care. Robert Mueller released an extensive report on Trump’s criminal and corrupt acts. Trump himself released a call summary of his “Perfect” call with the President of Ukraine, clearly showing that Trump was engaging in extortion and soliciting a bribe, betraying the national security interests of America, and asking a foreign country to help him manufacture political dirt on his opponent. Those who have not bothered to read the Mueller report and the Ukraine call summary may fall into this category. Ignorance is a lousy excuse — it is fair to say that we are at a point in America where ignorance in the face of crisis is equivalent to negligence to the basic responsibilities of being an American citizen.

2. Limited Intellectual capacity — Half the population has an IQ of less than 100. Some of the candles out there don’t burn very bright, and additionally, those who are the least intellectually capable often have the least ability to recognize the limits of their capacity. If a person reads the Ukraine call summary and isn’t able to comprehend that Trump has committed the acts that he did, in fact, engage in, then it is possible that they lack the mental capacity to have sufficient comprehension of the issues involved.

3. Immorality — Some people have a value system that is simply deplorable based on commonly accepted moral standards. They might support racism and the ability of wealthy white males to commit rape. They might hope to profit or benefit from the Trump presidency in some way that causes them to support his immorality, even if they might otherwise react with disdain. They might be criminals themselves, and believe that following the law is meant to apply only to suckers and those who are not white and privileged. They might prefer America become a Christian authoritarian state rather than a democracy. These people are willing to close their eyes to all the wrongfulness because they believe it furthers their personal agenda. Most of the Republican members of Congress seem to fit into this category.

4. Susceptibility to psychological manipulation, gaslighting, and expressions of cognitive dissonance — as contradictory as it seems, it is possible for a person to have a value system which does not support many of the negative things that Trump stands for, while also failing to be able to see that Trump stands for those very values that they profess to repudiate.

For example, a person might believe that if an American president extorts and solicits a bribe from a Ukrainian president, then it is wrongful and impeachable. If they were to read the call summary between Trump and Zelensky, but be told it was between Obama and Petro Poroshenko (the previous president of Ukraine), with Obama trying to dig up dirt on Trump’s son, Don, Jr., they would be able to easily see the wrongfulness of the acts being committed and repudiate them.

But under current circumstances, with Trump telling them it is a “Perfect” phone call, they are unable to read the Ukraine call summary and come to logical conclusions. This isn’t because of a lack of intelligence, but rather because either they support the immoral behavior in this instance because it benefits them, or because they are gaslit and cognitively dissonant. In the latter case, people are fundamentally unable to acknowledge empirical reality when it contradicts the way they wish the world to be. This is so illogical and illustrative of basic cult psychology that it is very difficult for people who are not a part of the cult to understand how others can possibly act this way, yet they do… millions of them, apparently (See my earlier column: Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency).

It is monstrously scary that millions of people in America have become seriously “detached from reality”  in complete disregard of empirical facts, egged on and encouraged by the disinformation campaign waged on a daily basis by POTUS and FOX News. It is one of the greatest challenges that our country faces today. When people discard science, when they disregard what they witness with their very own eyes and ears, to believe an alternative narrative provided by a cult leader, they are utterly lost to reason and being constructive members of society. (The seriousness of this trend extends well beyond Trump. See, for example: The flat-Earth conspiracy is spreading around the globe. Does it hide a darker core?)

And what about Trump himself, you may ask? What category does he fit into? Well, he often demonstrates that he is profoundly ignorant. He often demonstrates that he is not the brightest candle around either. But he is smart enough to understand how gaslighting works, and use it effectively and repeatedly to target those who are gullible (#1, #2, & #4) or immoral (#3). And his persistent actions over the past three years in refusing to cooperate with Congress; in repeatedly attempting to obstruct justice; in engaging in witness tampering and intimidation; in refusing to personally testify; in engaging in a persistent campaign of lies and gaslighting aimed at the general public… all demonstrate a consciousness of guilt that makes it clear that he understands that he is acting in a manner that is illegal,  corrupt and immoral.

History repeats

Surely we have all made mistakes in our lives, choices that we regret, and it is fair to say that one should be hesitant before being overly, or overtly, judgy of others. None of us are perfect. But one must also not forget that one of the reasons that Hitler was able to rise to power was because people of good conscience stayed silent as he did many of the same things that are happening in America today. (I won’t go into this at depth because it has already been covered so well by myself and others. See:

Leading Civil Rights Lawyer Shows 20 Ways Trump Is Copying Hitler’s Early Rhetoric and Policies;

Our Hitler, Our Nazis;

and my earlier column: Patterns of Force – Realizing Which of our Friends Would Have Supported Hitler.)

If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, we will not have a future worth living.

Part of what it means to be an American is to respect the rights of people to hold opinions that differ from our own. But just because we respect the right of a person to hold an opinion we don’t like, it doesn’t mean we have to respect a person who holds a reprehensible opinion.

I don’t respect people who, through their actions and words, are trying to destroy most everything that has ever been good and decent about America. They are not Nazis. But they are acting just like the Nazis did. And yes, absolutely, they are monsters, just like the Nazis were.

These flag-waving Americans at Madison Square Garden in 1939 were monsters too. Different century. Exactly the same value system. Exactly the same use of fake patriotism to mask white Christian nationalism. I once wondered how this ever could have happened. Now I know exactly how it happened.

Shame and redemption

I’ll never be able to look at the people who still cheer Trump on as I once did. I’ll always see them as people who betrayed American values and acted as monsters, just as I’ll always see the people who supported or stayed silent in Germany in the 1930s as having been Nazis.

Yet, some of those people, once Nazis, were able to become self-aware of the wrongfulness of their actions, and grow and learn from them. The shame of who they had once been never left them, but they were able to become better people, and it is important to recognize that today’s monsters have the same potential to create a future that is not fully defined by the mistakes of their past.

As I write this column, Anthony Scaramucci is speaking on CNN. Scaramucci briefly served as the White House Director of Communications for 10 days in 2017. Scaramucci now asserts that he is self-aware that he made a mistake supporting Donald Trump — and that he doesn’t need to be absolved of it but that he will do what it takes to help make things right. (See: Anthony Scaramucci: I was wrong about Trump. Here’s why.)

Scaramucci has made a number of statements in recent weeks that show true insightfulness regarding today’s political realities. He just stated on CNN that what we are learning about in the impeachment inquiry regarding Trump’s behavior with regards to Ukraine is just “the tip of the iceberg of traitorous activity and rank criminality” of the Trump presidency. Those who have followed in depth the happenings of the past three years, and have read my column Patriots and Traitors: The Dominoes of Impeachment II, know he is correct.

Is Scaramucci on the level, in terms of truly changing his value system, or is he simply engaged in opportunism to gain from the exposure, on CNN and elsewhere, as someone of notoriety who has switched his viewpoint? It is too soon to say. But he deserves the chance to redefine himself, and we should all be open-minded enough to know that people can, truly, change.

The University of Alabama will always bear the shame of what happened in Tuscaloosa the night of November 9, 2019, just as America will always bear the shame of what happened at Madison Square Garden on that night in 1939, along with the consequences of the decision we collectively made as a country on the night of November 8, 2016. Yet there should always be an opportunity to own our mistakes and find a better path in the future.

More applause, and a tidal wave

On Friday, November 15, 2019, America watched Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to the Ukraine, testify before a Congressional impeachment hearing regarding Donald Trump’s impeachable offenses with regards to Ukraine. During the course of her testimony, Trump engaged in a blatant act of attempted witness intimidation using his twitter feed, a matter which was discussed in real-time during her hearing. When Yovanovitch concluded her testimony, the entire gallery in attendence erupted in sustained applause — something that is not at all typical at the conclusion of a congressional testimony session. As Charles P. Pierce noted in Esquire (See: Remember the Applause That Followed Marie Yovanovitch Out of That Hearing Room), “It was a spontaneous outburst of appreciation for honest government and a spontaneous declaration that the country is tired of being used to feed the limitless ego and boundless psychoses of the vulgar talking yam.”

Historian Heather Cox Richardson recently noted in her daily Letters from an American column that “what is playing out in America right now is the most dramatic story in human history. It is timeless. It is the story of whether or not people will consent to being ruled by a few wealthy leaders without check, or whether they will stand up for their right to self-determination and equality before the law.”

We must also always be open to the idea that there may yet be some positive repercussions resulting from the Trump presidency, even if inadvertent. In that regard, I’d point out that “Roll Tide” is the rallying cry for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team. And, indeed, it does seem that, because of Donald Trump, a tidal wave is headed to roll in upon America in 2020 — one that cannot be stopped, even by climate change deniers.

But rather than crimson, it seems most likely it will, in fact, be very, very blue.

Roll Tide.

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Heather Cox Richardson’s daily “Letters from an American” provide truly insightful summaries of what is happening in American politics, with a healthy dose of historical perspective for good measure. She makes it possible to stay well informed in less than 10 minutes a day. If you are not reading these free columns, you are missing one of the most perceptive commentaries available. You can read her columns via her web site or her Facebook page.

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Cliff Kurtzman

Described as "pragmatically reckless with a high tolerance for ambiguity," Dr. Cliff Kurtzman is the founder of The Domino Principle. He is also an award winning entrepreneur, speaker, trend forecaster, and M.I.T.-trained rocket-scientist. Over the past 25 years, Cliff has launched several highly successful ventures by seeing technology trends in the world before they became widely realized, figuring out how they would impact our lives and then creating businesses that leveraged those trends ahead of many others. His bio is at http://www.kurtzman.biz.
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