Sunday, July 26, 2015

Donald Trump is the Republican Party

Photo: Gage Skidmore
Donald Trump's dominance in the GOP 2016 presidential field — an epic clown show in its own right — pretty much tells you all you need to know about today's Republican Party.

The Republican Party is unsalvageable. It's a pathetic organization that draws out the worst elements of human nature and has absolutely no business being a major governing force in American politics. It needs to be scrapped entirely and rebuilt from scratch.

I've said that many times before. But the latest chapter in this ongoing soap opera ought to leave no doubt whatsoever.

Trump has led in all but one poll conducted of GOP presidential hopefuls in the month of July. That includes a CNN/ORC Poll, released just today, that was administered entirely in the aftermath of his remarks about John McCain's war record.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What if we all walked in each other's shoes for once?

Would we be so quick to judge if we could see in full?
The other day, a friend of mine pointed out to me that I was being negative.

He was right. I was complaining a lot that day. Part of it was because I've been going through some rough times recently.

The other part, to be perfectly honest, is that I've always been sort of a "glass half empty" kind of person. I'm not necessarily defending it; I'm simply saying that's how I am.

And I'm not sure why. My best guess is that, as a highly sensitive person, I'm simply more aware of and affected by the problems and brokenness in this world and in my life. As a result, it's a lot more challenging for me to view things with untempered optimism.

But what struck me about my friend's words was that he was not saying them merely as an observation; he was instead implying that I shouldn't be that way.

I don't blame him, though I do feel like he misunderstood me — as if the only meaning behind my negative mood was that I was trying to be a pain or unpleasant.

The thing is, I'm the same way. I look at how other people are, particularly their less desirable characteristics, and I judge them. I claim a position of superiority over them. I tell them — or at least I think to myself — that they should be different. I conclude that it's a mistake for them to be the way they are, either in a particular moment or in general. I presume that the way they are is somehow wrong.

Often, this is a defense mechanism on my part. For example, if I scorn someone else's regular bids for attention or affirmation, it's actually because I myself want to be seen and affirmed, and I'm angry that the other person is receiving it when I'm not. I'm projecting.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I'm turning off email notifications on this blog

A few people subscribe to this blog, meaning you get emails when I publish a new post. After today, I'm turning off that feature. I have a couple reasons for this.

The first is that whenever I open my own email, it's full of trash — just all kinds of junk mail, particularly of the political variety, that I have no recollection of ever having requested. (In most cases, that's probably because I didn't.) I hate the thought of adding to that trash, even if you did in fact request to receive emails from this blog at some point in time.

Second, and much more to the point, I'm going to start posting stuff on here that's a lot more personal, and it seems awkward to be having that kind of content emailed out to people. But you'll still be able to read it here on the actual blog whenever you want, if you want.

Third, this blog has a staggering 11 active subscribers. That's right — eleven. Probably even fewer than you would have guessed, right?

If you're one of them, thank you for reading. Nothing else is changing — just the fact that you won't get emails from me anymore.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scott Walker won't win Wisconsin — or the presidency

A map of results from 2012. Too much blue for you here, Scott.
Narcissist Scott Walker is running for president, despite his utter lack of qualification for any position even remotely resembling the one to which he aspires.*

No surprises there.

Part of his sales pitch is that he was able to win three consecutive elections as a Republican in Wisconsin, a traditionally blue state, so he should be able to easily win as a Republican candidate for the presidency, right?

That sounds convincing, but it's way off. Here's why.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Understanding the highly sensitive person

You've probably never heard the idea of a highly sensitive person (HSP). Until fairly recently, neither had I.

But I've read a couple of excellent books recently — The Highly Sensitive Person and The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, both by Elaine Aron — that have convinced me that I am one.

I'll admit that at first I thought this was a phony categorization, fabricated for people who simply can't get their shit together and deal with the realities of the world. More of an excuse than a legitimate trait, if you will.

But then I realized that this was the same harsh internal voice that I have long used to condemn myself. Frankly, I never would have even been aware of it if I hadn't spent nearly four years in therapy and another two studying psychology. I've unconsciously worked very hard to develop a "false self" — that is, an external version of myself that better conforms to social and cultural demands but simultaneously betrays my true nature and identity.

There's good reason for that: We live in a society that usually doesn't honor sensitivity. The preferred personality tends to be bold, gregarious, adventurous, decisive, and unafraid (at least on the outside). No one writes on their cover letter or resume that they tend to crumble under extreme stress. Most prospective employers, of course, want to hear the exact opposite.

It's hard to define the highly sensitive person in one tidy sentence, so instead, I'll use myself in a variety of examples.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Beaver Island, Michigan: An undiscovered gem

Sunset over a placid Lake Michigan from the beach in front of the family summer home on Beaver Island.
I'm visiting Beaver Island, Michigan, this week. I've been coming here since I was an infant, and my folks now own a summer home on the shores of Lake Michigan. Time spent at this place has taught me a great appreciation for a treasured (and arguably underrated) American gem: the Great Lakes.

Beaver Island is the largest and only inhabited island in an archipelago in the northernmost part of Lake Michigan. The rest of the islands are either owned by the state of Michigan or local townships and are protected as wilderness; one or two are privately owned but remain undeveloped nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Let's learn to love America like grown-ups

This did make me proud of my country. (Official White House photo: Chuck Kennedy)
Americans are a diverse people, and we love our country in some very different ways.

Some espouse, either explicitly or in practice, the "love it or leave it" mentality — which usually means, "We're the greatest nation in the history of the world, dammit, and if you're going to talk about what's wrong with it or what you think other countries are doing better than us, you're being unpatriotic and don't belong here." Sometimes, that sounds like this:
“I’m running [for president] because I want to stop President Obama and Secretary Clinton from turning the American dream into the European nightmare,” [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal said on John Catsimatidis's radio show on New York's AM 970. “We are on the path towards socialism. It’s not too late, but the hour is late.”
Others, meanwhile, hold a more nuanced affection for the United States — something along the lines of, "Yes, this is a wonderful, beautiful country, one that's worth loving and cheering for, and one that's worth being proud of. But it also has a long list of shortcomings and problems. Let's work on fixing those precisely because we love this place."

In the wake of a whirlwind of historic headlines and Supreme Court rulings last month, those two approaches to patriotism are especially relevant.