This Is Not Normal


With Mary Trump’s book release, can you hear me *now?*

Image by heblo from Pixabay

Mary Trump’s tell-all book about her uncle, the 45th president, came out and #DonaldTheDope is currently trending on Twitter. It’s just another day in this alternative reality shit-show. This jingoistic, slow-motion freefall towards autocracy in which we (or, most of us) have been the unwitting characters for the past 1,272 days. The nickname I’ve been using since he was elec—installed—is “imbecile-in-chief,” but there’s an array of other equally fitting nicknames coined by clever people. I’m sticking with imbecile-in-chief, though, because it’s rich. (The double entendre and all.)

Yes, I know that I sound very angry. That’s because I am very angry. And tired. So very angry about and so very tired of wondering when… if… people are ever going to wake up and suddenly start caring about this experiment in democracy we like to call “America the great.”

And, I’m also angry and tired because, well… look around. Take notice of the cultural, political, and economic landscape amid COVID-19; we’re not doing so well.

Perhaps the only good things that emerged this summer (thus far) have been three things:

  1. The release of Hamilton on Disney Plus (which is actually relevant here);
  2. the surprise SCOTUS ruling that delivered historic wins on several fronts, including key victories for the LGBTQ community and Native Americans. (Plus, the fact that the Supreme Court also issued a clear rejection of Donald Trump’s claim of absolute immunity for himself, his businesses, and his children from state grand jury subpoenas and subpoenas from three congressional committees. So, you know, there’s that, a small glimmer of justice and hope that stands out *in the eye of a hurricane.)
    *Props to you if you just, in your head, sang “in the eye of a hurricane,” Hamilton style.
  3. And, most importantly, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained righteous momentum. Finally. It was long overdue for us to (at the very least) collectively acknowledge the realities of systemic racism in America. The privileged choice to look away as Black lives are being mercilessly terrorized and murdered in the streets — usually by insecure, power-hungry White men, in broad daylight, with full knowledge that someone nearby was probably recording or live-streaming — has become a harder thing to do.

Really, I hate that it took a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders, on top of the blood of Black Americans (who definitely did not deserve to die) in order for a huge swath of White America to understand. But I guess that’s what it takes sometimes. Maybe that’s how we’re wired. Maybe it has to be in our faces. To feel up close and personal. That seems to be the thing that moves the needle from empathy to compassionate empathy — the latter kind being the specific type of empathy that moves us beyond feeling and into action.

When you’re stuck at home indefinitely and the only real entertainment you have is TV or the internet, it does become more challenging to look away from the headlines, i.e., to deliberately choose willful ignorance, and to also have a clear conscience about doing so.

I know firsthand, because in 2015, that’s basically what it took for me.

My youngest (who’s trans non-binary) began having an intense worsening of gender dysphoria (but we didn’t know it was gender dysphoria at the time). Our child socially transitioned soon after, and that’s when I experienced what microaggressions and discrimination look and feel like — although through the privileged lens of a cisgender person. Around the same time, I was bedridden from minor complications of back surgery. For days on end I laid in bed watching TV; it was all I could do.

Sandra Bland was the first story that got my attention. The first story I actually tuned into, followed, and listened to, intently. My mind was ripe, open to hearing since I’d just learned exactly how real discrimination is, and how much it hurts. Sandra Bland tipped the scales for me. And then I couldn’t look away; couldn’t stop learning more, talking about it, writing about it.

My point is, it took all of those conditions —having a trans kid, experiencing second-hand discrimination, and being flat on my back from surgery complications; it took being a captive audience with nothing but time on my hands and a new hunger for social justice — in order for me to start giving a damn about systemic racism in America.

Against this backdrop of conservative decay (wrought by the party’s own leader), juxtaposed with images of a nation’s right-minded moral awakening on systemic racism (among other social and systemic issues), Mary Trump’s book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the Most Dangerous Man” was released. It was only yesterday (July 14, 2020), but in the wake of its official release, intense reactions on social media were being birthed. They were multiplying, spreading with wild abandon, much like the family of undomesticated cats my family accidentally adopted that one time.

Opinions on Mary Trump’s book were appearing everywhere, but unlike typical opinions, these reviews and opinions seemed to be a whole lot of the same.

The most common reaction I saw all day — from Twitter, to Facebook, to Reddit, to LinkedIn, to TikTok — has been a reaction of equal parts surprise, shock, and horror.

Entire comment threads full of phrases like, “Wow, I knew he was bad, but not that bad!”

To that (and all other variations of surprise), I can only say, “bitch, please.”

Here’s the thing. There are those of us existing out here who’ve been sounding the alarm, sending out smoke signals, and waving our arms fervently since Donald first rode down that gaudy gold escalator. Warning against what would happen if people allowed themselves to be conned by the biggest conman, fraud, and failure of our time — someone who makes even Nixon appear more heroic.

For years, many of us have been writing, tweeting, talking, creating, showing… warning about what could happen to our country if a man notorious for being a serial cheater, liar, and scammer became president. Warning what could happen to our democracy with an erratic, impulsive, childish, narcissistic, sadistic sociopath; a sexually deviant, psychologically abusive, manipulative, and incompetent Dunning-Kruger president at the helm.

I’ve often wondered if the folks who refer to Trump as “a successful businessman” simply believe he was the character he portrayed on “The Apprentice” (which, despite being a “reality” show, was not based on reality at all; Despite his boasts, Trump has never fired anyone to their face a day in his life. He’s too afraid of that, so he has others do it for him).

I’ve wondered how so many people fell for this two bit con man. That, and so many other things.

Like, if die-hard Trump supporters think that Donald Trump actually wrote “The Art of the Deal” (he didn’t). His ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, has since expressed regret for writing it, has requested the book’s removal (or at least that it be re-categorized as fiction), and has given public account of Donald’s true nature. Schwartz, an award-winning author, still writes on the experience of getting to know the “psychopath in chief,” as he calls him.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Schwartz recalls Trump being a man with an alarmingly short attention span, and nothing more than “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” Schwartz noted that during the 18 months he spent with Trump, observing him in order to write the book, that he “never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.” Schwartz continued:

“That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source — information comes in easily digestible sound bites. I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.”

In a journal that Schwartz kept while creating this character for “The Art of the Deal,” he wrote of being baffled by the man who seemed “driven entirely by a need for public attention.” As he observed in an entry dated October 21, 1986:

“All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’ — recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular.”

A few days later he noted:

“the book will be far more successful if Trump is a sympathetic character — even weirdly sympathetic — than if he is just hateful or, worse yet, a one-dimensional blowhard.”

— excerpts from The New Yorker, “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All,” July, 2016.

Everything about Trump’s external persona is smoke and mirrors. Everything about Trump’s internal persona is Ted Bundy — but without the intellect, ability, looks, or superficial charisma of Ted Bundy.

The many court documents detailing Trump’s numerous sexual assault allegations (many of which only “went away” because they were paid off, a.k.a, “hush money”) are publicly available and free to read. So are court documents filed against both Donald Trump and (the now deceased) Jeffrey Epstein, together in the same lawsuits, for alleged sexual assault against minors. 12 and 13 year old girls, for instance. Sex trafficking of children.

Ever wonder why Trump talks about sex trafficking so frequently (and in such great detail), especially during those fun pressers on live, daytime TV? When it’s wholly inappropriate? During speeches that are broadcast nationwide, that have nothing to do with that topic in the first place? Watching his many odd rally-like press conference performances in the White House Rose Garden, where he recounts details of “duct taped” women arriving in vans, or women and girls “whose hands are bound and tied,” and “whose faces, mouths, and hair are covered in duct tape,” one gets the eerie sensation of familiarity, like watching a serial killer recount the details of their horrific crimes in front of the court, just for sadistic pleasure.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

There is a long documented history and paper trail of Donald Trump’s numerous business failures, scams and cons. There is a long documented history and paper trail of Donald Trump’s former college professors and classmates speaking out against how “stupid” and “arrogant” he actually is, and how how horrified they were to learn he was entering the political arena — some of which I referenced here, in this story.

There’s a long documented history and paper trail of Donald Trump’s (and of his father, Fred Trump’s) long-held, deeply racist and bigoted convictions, which they put into practice. The pair were famously sued in the early 1970s for housing discrimination against Black people. The details of the cases are horrible.

There’s the “Central Park Five.” Even worse and more unforgivable than the housing discrimination, as Donald Trump’s typical racial stoking actions directly contributed to the unjust incarceration of five innocent, Black and Latino adolescent boys (who have since been exonerated, although they’ll never get back the lost years of their youth).

What Donald Trump did to “the Central Park Five” (Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana) is undeniably worse than what “Central Park Amy Cooper” did, as we saw from Christian Cooper’s viral video. Trump’s behavior was (and is) the “Amy Coopers” of the world on massive steroids.

All this information is — and has been — out there in the public domain for years and years.

So are y’all really, seriously that confounded by this new account of Trump? That he really is that horrible?

I’d almost argue that the Mueller Report — now available in illustrated form via the Washington Post — contains far more frightening material than Mary Trump’s book. While her account is undoubtedly more frightening on a family/personal level, the Special Counsel team’s Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Election is far more damaging, in terms of revealing how far our democracy has slipped under the Trump administration, while seemingly nobody was paying attention.

There’s a veritable army of folks out here doing all the research for our fellow Americans, trying to put it in digestible fashion — by whatever means possible. Whether it comes in the form of traditional reporting, journalism or news stories, like the unwavering strength and calm exuded in Yamiche Alcindor’s reporting, or eye-catching photojournalism (which the Trump administration lacks), or nice and neat lists like Amy Siskind’s and McSweeney’s. It’s all out there.

There are social media accounts by legitimate scholars and experts in their fields, who publish educational, fact-based economic and political information in easy-to-understand context. Sometimes with drawings and charts. UC Berkeley Professor (and former Secretary of Labor) Robert Reich, and his company Inequality Media (who have a heavy presence on Facebook) often run short educational videos explaining how the Trump administration is not helping any of us, economically or otherwise.

There are people like Don Winslow who break down GOP techniques to their raw form to show you exactly how Donald (and his team of enablers) are using psychological manipulation against you. There are whistleblowers (and whistleblower complaint handlers), and numerous documentaries that lay it all out — how the current Republican administration is using psychological manipulation to turn you against logic, reason, and even your own family — often through social media alone.

There are filmmakers and documentary producers doing the same. Jen Senko’s expertly crafted documentary, The Brainwashing of My Dad is one of the most riveting of them all, and The Great Hack is perhaps one of the most well-made and eye-opening documentaries I’ve seen this decade.

For the younger generations, many of whom tend to be more fast-paced, visual learners (Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z, mostly), there are engaging short form educational videos that cut right to the chase, like those from Meidas Touch, which often uses the Trump campaign’s (or the Republican party’s) own words against them:

And of course, there’s no shortage of pieces by writers (like yours truly), who research, study, and write on culture, politics and equality. But today, especially today, I’m urging you to read black writers who are speaking truth to power. Here’s one list that highlights some powerful black female voices in 2020.

These varied and diverse forms of educational media are provided for everyone’s benefit, but especially, for those Americans who state time and again how much they don’t like to do “research.” Who don’t bother vetting odd-sounding stories, cross referencing facts, or fact-checking junk science or conspiracy theories. Because they don’t want to have to “think that much,” or because “that’s too much work.” They say, “when I get home from work I don’t want to have to do any more work.” (Which is why Fox News works for so many.)

And sometimes, these folks prove through their own words and actions that they don’t know how to properly do their own serious research, let alone, find *credible sources.

*Here’s a link to the most up-to-date, interactive media bias chart, which anyone can check out to see where their preferred news source falls on the scales, from original fact reporting to fabricated propaganda, and everything in between.

Many folks across various forms of media have been broadcasting the message loud and clear that Trump is every bit as evil as his niece describes. And yet, you know what we’ve heard in response for the past four years? That we’re “being divisive.” That we’re “too political.” That our message is “too polarizing,” “too angry,” “too harsh.” That we’re “not being fair,” are “being intolerant,” are “hypocritical,” or “not giving him a chance.” That we “want to see him fail.” That we’re “looking for reasons,” any excuse to “bring Trump down.”

But the thing is, he’ll bring himself down, and most of us know this already. We want you to see it. It’s not that we want his downfall; it’s that his downfall is inevitable. We simply want as many people as possible to fully understand his specific “art of the con.” Those of us studying him and warning of his danger? We already knew enough not to trust him or his brand. Why would we want to give him “a chance” after what we’ve witnessed, heard, and read about over the decades? Abusive people don’t change, and I hope to God America isn’t willing to become Trump’s next battered spouse.

Now that Mary Trump’s book is out and already widely read with jaws dropped, I wonder: will people finally see that the rest of us out here — all the “little people” — have been listening and reading and writing and telling the truth all along? That we weren’t exaggerating?

Look, no one has to like what we’re saying, but at least put pride aside and listen closely. You ask us to give Trump a chance, but the fact of the matter is, it’s time for you to give us a chance.

Dismantler of gender norms. Political news junkie. TikTok aficionado. Mom of 3. Work seen/heard @ HuffPost, Scary Mommy, NPR, SiriusXM, LTYM, TIFO podcast, etc.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store