At a time of such intense political and social stress, we hear the word “patriot” thrown around quite a lot.
“You aren’t patriotic!” people yell at those who disagree with them.
“A true patriot wouldn’t do what you’re doing, wouldn’t think what your thinking, wouldn’t believe in your beliefs!”
I don’t know if I’m a patriot or not. I’ve written before about the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to describe myself as someone who loves “my” country more than other countries.
What does it mean to “love my country” anyway? Does mean that I love the soil itself, the rivers and forests? Is it love of that which is familiar to us? Do we need to feel separate from others, and superior to them, in order to feel comfortable in our own place?
Or is patriotism a love of those who share our national community? Is it about loving and defending other Americans?
I don’t know. I’m not sure what other people mean by the word, and certainly have no clear definition myself.
But these days we are watching our President set himself up to dispute the results of our national election, should he lose. We’re hearing people vow to take up arms to protest the election results, or to defend them. Americans are already carrying loaded weapons into our cities to murder those on the “other side” in name of “patriotism.”
It seems likely that violence and disorder are facing us in the next few weeks and months.
So I’ve started to ask myself, “What am I willing to do in the name of my country? What would I risk in the name of patriotism?”
I’m not sure. But this is what I think.
I am sure that I will buy extra food, medicine and emergency supplies so no matter what, my family will have enough. I’m willing to can tomatoes and freeze batches of veggies and fruit.
If things get tough, and supplies become scarce, I’d be willing to share with my neighbors.
If it really gets bad, and people are hungry, I think I could manage to kill a dove or a duck or even a turkey. I’m not sure about my ability to kill a rabbit or a deer. But I don’t know; I’ve never been hungry or seen my family starve.
I would be willing to march in the streets with signs to defend a person or a group that was under attack. I’ve done that more than once already. I’d be willing to occupy a park or a building in the name of protecting other Americans.
But what I would not do is hurt or kill another American. I can’t see myself ever coming to that point. Not to prove my “patriotism” or to defend a political idea.
Because for me it isn’t important to love the dirt on which I live. I don’t consider democrat lives to have more value than republican lives. I will not hurt or kill any person who thinks differently than I do. I will not take up arms in defense of “America.” Not on the streets of Portland or Boston or this little town.
I believe that I could kill if I were forced to protect my family. I hope that I would be willing to do anything to save the life of any child.
But to use weapons against others to protect an abstract idea of “my” nation, or “my” party?
I wouldn’t do it.
At least, I fervently pray that I wouldn’t.
Now I just need to pray that most people feel the same way.
The global pandemic of Covid-19 continues to rage around the world. The entire west coast of the US is in flames. Protests continue in cities across America, and the violence is slowly increasing.
But that’s not why I am so afraid.
I’m terrified, my friends. I’m really scared right now, more than I have been at any other point in my life. What has me so frightened?
I’m afraid of my fellow citizens. I am afraid of a second civil war.
You gotta give it to Donald Trump. The man has managed to create his own reality out of thin air. He has grasped control of the facts and twisted them around to support his own narrative on every subject.
And he has made it impossible to argue effectively against him.
He’s done all of this with two simple, powerful words.
No matter what facts are presented to Trump’s followers, they are able to easily wave them away. “Nah, that’s just the corrupt media making stuff up!”
I see this over and over again on social media, and on news reports. I have had my own relatives and friends say it to me. When it’s pointed out that the raging wildfires are tied to global warming, Trump’s people respond with claims that “antifa” is setting the fires to create chaos. People believe it, because when you try to tell them the truth, they answer that the media is creating “fake news.”
There is no possible way to refute this kind of thinking. For instance, out there in Oregon, the FBI (THE FREAKIN’ FBI) has publicly stated that there is no truth at all to the antifa arson stories. NONE. And they should know. They have investigated it at LOT. They found nothing!
Pretty official. Pretty convincing to the vast majority of thoughtful and intelligent folks, right?
But look at a few of the responses that this one tweet got:
See what I mean?
If these people believe that the FBI is in the hands of the radical left, then what hope is there of convincing them of the truth? Reality has lost all meaning. Facts have no power.
So I am truly afraid of what is going to happen on Nov.4th and beyond. I’m afraid.
Fox News and other right wing outlets are claiming that Democrats, the left, and antifa are all threatening violence if Biden loses the election. They claim that they need to grab their guns so they can defend the country from the raging angry leftists.
And left wing media outlets, like Forward.com, predict that if Trump loses, the far right and it’s militias will engage in violence to protest what they will see as a “rigged election.”
And so left leaning militias are promising to take up arms to stop the right.
You see why I’m scared?
I’m scared because the one thing that Donald Trump truly excels in is controlling the national conversation.
He is a master liar. Perhaps because of his deep seated psychological disorders, Trump is able to lie without a hint of remorse. He can repeat the same lie over and over again with no qualms. He tells us that the election will be rigged. He repeats over and over that the election results will not be legitimate. He warns of violence. He talks about rioters and looters as antifa. He successfully whips up his followers and he does it by calmly stating over and over and over and over and over that any statement with which he does not agree is a lie.
Do you see how terrifying this is?
He can tell people literally anything, and they will believe it. As you read these words, there are people in the inferno of the American Northwest who are refusing to evacuate their blazing neighborhoods. They feel compelled to stay at home to protect their property from the “antifa hordes” who have set fires in order to loot property.
Even as I write this morning, people are walking around in stores without face coverings because they believe that “There is no Covid. It’s all a hoax to take down the United States.” Or they believe that it was created by the Deep State to control citizens.
This is, of course, beyond delusional. It’s outright crazy. But they believe it. Because Trump has gotten his followers to disbelieve the press. He has convinced them that his own FBI, CIA, Homeland Security are not to be trusted. He has told them over and over that our own CDC is lying to us.
And if facts are presented, all he has to whisper is his favorite motto.
As I listen to the droning of the impeachment trial, I have one deep, heartfelt wish.
I wish, oh, how desperately I wish, that the US Senate contained one truly inspiring orator.
Not a person who can repeat the same details over and over, in something close to a monotone. Not a person who can make one of the most mind-blowing events in our nation’s history seem as interesting as having your grampa read the phone book.
I wish for a real, live, Frank Capra inspired, Jimmy Stewart style oration.
This is what I want to be hearing from the Democrats today:
Dear colleagues, friends, fellow members of this august body,
I stand before you today not to repeat to you the same words that you have read and heard for months now. I stand before you, not to spin the facts or to impress the voters.
No. I am here now, on this most serious of days, to remind you of who you used to be.
I ask you, my friends, to look back into your own lives. I ask you to remember that moment when you heard for the very first time about the courageous events that took place in Lexington and Concord. When you first imagined the raw courage of the men, and the boys, who stood firm in the face of tyranny, knowing that they might give their lives in the name of democracy.
I ask you to cast your thoughts back to the moment when you first decided to run for public office. On that day, in that moment, did you not whisper to yourself that you would do your very best to serve your country with courage and honesty?
My fellow Senators, I ask you today to recall the moment when you raised your right hand and swore your allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. I ask you to think back and to remember your thoughts as you took your oath of office.
Didn’t you hope, somewhere in your deepest heart, that you would have the courage to emulate those famous men of the past? Did you not look out at your children, your spouse, your parents, and hope that you would somehow manage to make your mark on the history of this great nation?
Today we are faced with a situation unlike any we have seen before. Our country has found itself nearly torn in two, unable to agree on what is true, what is real, what is fact.
We find ourselves aligning behind the letter that follows our names. Am I a “D” or am I an “R”? We find ourselves under terrible pressure to shape the events of the day in a way that will best support our parties.
Dear colleagues. I have worked with many of you for years. I know you to be honest, sincere and dedicated to the ongoing prosperity of our country. A country that we all love and that we all share.
I ask you, today, as we look at the evidence that has been laid out before us, to think about your hopes and your dreams when you were sworn in. Did you not tell yourselves that in a moment of crisis you would plant yourself firmly on the side of truth?
Did you not hope that one day, perhaps a hundred years from now, your name would be recorded in the history books as one of those brave souls who stood up against the corrupt power of a tyrant?
Think about those dreams, my friends. Look to the future.
What is it that you want your grandchildren to read about you in their history books? Do you want them to read that you were one of the many who averted their eyes as the honor and integrity of the United States were sold to the highest bidder?
Or do you want to go down in the annals of history as one of the brave few who was willing to make a sacrifice to ensure that the heart and soul of the American nation would survive?
I trust you, my friends, to do what you know in your hearts is right.
Yeah. I know. This isn’t giving evidence. It wouldn’t be allowed.
But don’t you wish we could have heard it today? If not from Jimmy Stewart, then maybe from Adam Schiff?
I like the way Mark Twain described patriotism. He said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
Lately, the word ‘patriotism’ has been tossed around by both Democrats and Republicans as a way to paint themselves as the good guys and their opponents as the evildoers.
You know what I mean, right?
Trump claims that progressive Democrats “hate America”. He tells them that if they are so critical of our country, they should just leave. I don’t know about you, but I remember hearing similar sentiments from Republicans in the past, when the left was critical of various wars and regime building exercises. Feel free to leave if you don’t like it here with us!
We all know people who fly flags to show how patriotic they are. They wear red, white and blue shirts and sport “America First” hats.
And I don’t mean to point fingers at the Republicans alone, either. We have plenty of Democrats who are trying to seize the moral high ground. Maxine Waters demanded not long ago that Republicans must “prove their patriotism” in the age of Donald Trump.
So what is patriotism?
Is it blind loyalty to a piece of cloth? Or loyalty to a chunk of soil? Is it devotion and total acceptance of one politician, or one party, or one economic philosophy?
I say no.
I say this: Patriotism is the belief that my country is a place where people can live well and prosper. It is a determination to make that claim true.
So I will no longer register as either a D or an R. I won’t automatically support the person with the D or the R after their name on the ballot.
I will be a patriot by doing everything I can to make my tiny part of this huge world safer and kinder for as many people as possible.
My patriotism, from this day on, will be shown by listening to people with whom I disagree. It will be shown by donating to my local Community Action Committee. By donating towels and shampoo to the homeless shelter and volunteering at the hospital.
I’m a patriot because I believe that humans are the only part of the country that means anything. Humans need food and homes and clothes and jobs. Humans need education and health care. They need a sense of belonging and of a shared destiny.
Humans need to be able to raise their kids without fear. They need to be able to go through every day focused on the next meal and the upcoming holiday and the weather.
They need to be protected from the dangers of war, or xenophobia, or mass killings, of extreme poverty and sickness.
I’m a patriot when I greet the new cashier at my local grocery store, admire her bright red hijab and ask her what country she’s from. I’m a patriot when she and I share recipes for bone broth and wish each other a good weekend. I’m a patriot when I turn off the never-ending partisan blather about impeachment, corruption, lies, lawbreaking and who is less of a patriot than whom. When I turn on music and sing with my grandkids. I’m a patriot when I teach them how to make the Italian foods that I learned at my own Nana’s table and when we research new recipes together from countries we’ve never seen. I’m a patriot when I meet a Mom at the local park and learn that she came to Massachusetts from West Africa and we both hate the same ice-sleet storms that plague New England in late winter.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “The American President.” The girlfriend of the President is upset with him because he doesn’t stand up to his opponent, who keeps bashing the people who do support him. She says, “How can you keep quiet? How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans?”
I’d like both of our ruling parties to think about this quote. If you can’t stand half of us because we disagree with you, then you don’t “love America”. You are not a patriot.
WE are America. You either love us all, govern us all, protect us all, or you are clearly no patriot. And you are not fit for public office.
At the time we thought it was just his hugely inflated ego speaking, but now it looks like he was right.
Watching the latest evidence of corruption, lawbreaking, lying and stonewalling from the White House it has become evident that there is nothing Trump could do to provoke a reaction strong enough to get him out of there.
It’s obvious that no one in the GOP has any intention of turning against “their guy.” And it is not because they have such respect for the man.
Lindsay Graham, one of the best known and most respected Republicans in the Senate, called Trump a “kook” before he was nominated in 2016. After abruptly leaving the House of Representatives, former Speaker Paul Ryan said this about Trump:
I told myself, I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government.
One after another, nearly all of the conservatives chosen to work in the Trump administration have either been fired or have walked away from the chaos in the White House.
But other than one or two minor actors in the GOP (Just Amash, Jeff Flake), no Republicans have stepped up to admit that Donald Trump is unfit for the highest office in the land.
Instead, they are choosing to circle the proverbial wagons and stick together to protect their party’s interests.
As infuriating as that behavior is, however, I find it more upsetting that it is taking the Democrats so long to take action against this President.
It seems glaringly obvious that a strong case could be made for the 25th Amendment. There is the strong evidence of a neurological disorder on display every time the President speaks. There are the hundreds of mental health professionals who are convinced that Trump shows a serious personality disorder that makes him a danger to the world.
And then there are the daily lies, the refusal to allow anyone in his circle to testify before Congress, the complete contempt for the rule of law.
From where most of us sit, there is plenty to work with if the Dems decide to proceed with impeachment.
So what is it that makes Speaker Pelosi so reluctant to take any action against Trump? What is it that has the Democratic leadership insisting that “we must have all the facts” before proceeding with an inquiry intended to elicit those very facts?
It sure isn’t a love of the Constitution, that much I know for sure.
In Article II, Section 4 of that famous founding document, the case for removing a President from office reads like this:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.
There is nothing in these words to indicate that the decision to impeach should be based on the likelihood of getting a conviction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it suggest that the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings only if they are positive they’ll succeed in ousting the target of the process.
Nevertheless, that seems to be the thinking among the Democratic leadership.
“We can’t go ahead with impeachment,” the thinking goes, “because the Senate won’t vote to convict and remove the President. That would mean a failure for our party, and we might lose seats in the next election.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter how many high crimes and misdemeanors the President commits, we won’t hold him accountable because that would cause our party to lose votes.
The GOP is only interested in protecting the reputation of the party. They want to hold onto the Senate more than they want to save the republic from a crook (or a “kook”.)
The Dems are only interested in protecting their votes in the next election. They want to hold onto the House and flip some Senate seat more than they want to save the republic from a mentally ill, unstable, possibly demented narcissist.
To put it another way, it no longer matters how crazy, how criminal, how dangerous the actions of any future President may be.
As long as that President is a member of the same party that controls the Senate, they will be free to do anything they’d like to do without any worry.
Including, presumably, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.
The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.
Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t read my work before now..
I am a retired speech/language pathologist. For more than two decades, I spent every workday diagnosing and treating language disorders. I have helped people with a wide variety of communication deficits. I was very good at my job.
That’s why, in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of the field for several years, I am completely confident when I write that Donald Trump is exhibiting a serious language disorder.
Let me explain.
A deficit in expressing and/or understanding language is called aphasia.The term is most often used in diagnosing people who were not born with the disorder, but who acquire it later in life. Aphasia can be caused by a head injury, a stroke or as a part of a more significant cognitive decline in older adults.
One aspect of aphasia impacts a person’s expressive language. This is the kind of language disorder that is more obvious to those who interact with the affected patient. The person struggles to say what they mean. They may have difficulties in expressing ideas logically and specifically They might be seen to be searching for the right word as they speak. Many aphasic people develop an overreliance on empty words and phrases. I have known patients who included a favorite phrase or two into nearly every sentence spoken, as the rote language makes it easier to get out a full thought.
Some aphasic people make up words when they can’t find the one they need. The new word might or might not sound similar to the one that is missing.
People with expressive aphasia sometimes substitute one word or phrase for a similar one (ie, saying “chicken” when they mean “duck” or saying, “off the book” instead of “off the hook.”) Their conversations may seem rambling, with rapid jumps from one topic to another without any explanation. A story can go off on any number of tangents, leaving the listener confused.
Many people with what we call “fluent aphasia” can string together a long series of words that seem to make sense until you realize that there isn’t much content there. There are lots of pronouns and adjectives, but not enough nouns to make the meaning clear.
Aphasia can impact receptive language, or comprehension, as well. Aphasic people may struggle to follow complex conversations. They often misunderstand directions or fail to grasp the meaning of a question they’ve been asked. They find it confusing when more than one person is speaking at a time, or when the topic shifts in mid-conversation.
Some people with aphasia have problems with reading and writing. They may struggle to read anything other than the simplest of texts. Their writing can contain mistakes in syntax, word order or spelling that weren’t seen in the past.
Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly should.
The President of the United States is showing every one of these symptoms.
“Mr. President, are you demanding that the fed chairman lower interest rates?”
“No, I don’t demand it but if he used his head he’d lower ’em. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate. And when they borrow money, when you look at what happens, look at what’s going on over there. They borrow money, they actually get paid to borrow money. And we have to compete with that. So, ah, if you look at what’s happening around the world, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call, I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was right. He did quantitative tightening, he shouldn’t have done that. He raised interest rates too fast, too furious. And we have a normalized rate, I, we call it that. And now we have to go the other direction. We’ll see if he does that. If he does it, you’ll see a rocket ship, you’ll see….. And if he doesn’t, we have a very strong economy.”
“But we could have. We could be, we could be in a place that this nation was seldom at if we had interest rates cut by the federal reserve. The Federal Reserve has let us down. They missed the call. They raised it too fast and they raised it too high and they did quantitative tightening and they shouldn’t have done the tightening and they shouldn’t have raised them to the extent that they did. We could have had some raising but nothing like what they did.”
“Mr. President, what happened to your strong appetite for background checks?”
“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks, we’re gonnna be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we’re gonna be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border, and speaking about at the border, it would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in.”
“But what does that have to do with background checks and guns?”
“So what happens is….with background checks….we’re dealing with Republicans, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with the NRA, we’re dealing with gun owners, we’re dealing with everybody. And I think we’re gonna have something hopefully that’s meaningful.”
Note the repetition of phrases in this small sample. “We’re dealing with” and “we’re working with” were used over and over, with no description or clarification. Does he mean that he is meeting with those groups, or that he is making deals with them or something else? My impression is the President relies heavily on memorized phrases, which are easy to pull out and use.
Watch any of Trump’s unscripted remarks and try to count how many times he says, “We’ll see what happens.”
Note the word “raising” in the phrase “We could have had some raising.” The meaning is clear, but the word choice is troubling to this language specialist. We would expect the President of the US to say, “We could have had an increase.”
I’m sure you also noticed the rapid and inexplicable jump from the topic of background checks to that of the Mexican army at the border. It’s as if the word “loopholes” triggered a thought of the border crisis for some reason and that thought let made Trump jump completely off the track of the question.
Look at the discussion of Germany. Trump says,
“In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany.”
What’s much stronger than Germany? We can make a guess that he’s referring to our economy, but the language of the sentence is clearly abnormal. In English, we don’t use a comparative like “much stronger” without including the referent.
Then there is the repeated phrase “missed the call”. We have a few idioms that are close to this one (“missed the boat” or “missed the mark” come to mind.) But we don’t say “missed the call” unless we mean a phone call. Or we’re referring to a sports referee.
Do you recall when the President recently met with religious refugees in the Oval Office? The following exchange happened between Trump and a young Yazidi woman.
“All this happened to me. They killed my Mum, my six brothers, they left behind them… “
“Where are they now?”
“They killed them.”
She told him that her family had been killed. He asked “Where are they now?”
He did not have the slightest understanding of what she’d said.
We saw the same lack of comprehension this week when Trump was asked about having second thoughts on his trade war with China.
“Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not? Might as well, might as well.”
Once again, he completely failed to understand the question. A question which was then repeated by a different journalist, to which he replied,
“I have second thoughts about everything.”
Did he even understand the meaning of “second thoughts”? I am not at all sure.
Reading and Writing
Donald Trump is well known for his aversion to the written word.
When Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, spoke about his time at the White House, he said that Trump didn’t like to read. Tillerson was told that the President would not be reading the usual briefing notebook each morning, but instead would only accept bullet points or charts.
Mr. Trump himself has stated that he doesn’t like to read. In an interview with Axios shortly after his inauguration, Trump said that he doesn’t like to read, preferring bullet points to full essays.
“I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
Although he is the author of several books, we know that each had a ghostwriter. Trump claims to have attended the best of schools, but has never let his school records be made public.
I say all of this because it brings up the diagnostic question of whether or not the man has always struggled with reading and writing, or whether this is a new phenomenon.
Whether or not that disorder is progressive is difficult to say but when I analyze his conversations from years ago, I believe that it is. His past interviews were far more coherent and much more linguistically sophisticated than what we hear now.
Whether or not the language disorder is developing as part of some type of dementia is up to a neurologist to diagnose.
I am not qualified to say whether or not Donald Trump has a personality disorder or a mental illness. But I am qualified to say that when I listen to him speak, I am increasingly convinced that he has significant aphasia.
What I know is this. Something is most assuredly amiss in the brain of the President of the United States. And he is the one with the nuclear codes.
I’ve been writing about Donald Trump’s disordered language since the morning after his nomination. I listened to him speak extemporaneously on that morning after his big day, and I recognized the very same disorders of expressive language that I had seen for 30 years as a speech/language pathologist.
I wrote about my observations then, and my feelings have not changed at all in the past two years.
In fact, now I find myself ever more convinced that our leader has a significant expressive language disorder. But I am wondering now if that disorder is secondary to a cognitive disorder, like dementia, as has been posited by the group Duty to Warn.
I am not a neuropsychologist, so I am not qualified to speak on the question of Trump’s cognitive functioning. I’ll leave that to those who are so qualified.
But I think I need to go on the record in documenting what to me are clear and obvious symptoms of a language disorder.
So here I am.
Today I was in my car, listening to XM Radio. I happened to hear 10 minutes of comments by Donald Trump on the environment and his administration’s determination to keep it healthy and clean.
Here are my observations, as a retired speech/language pathologist.
Overuse of a familiar word: In the space of ten minutes, Trump used the adjective “incredible” 6 times. His other adjectives included “big, beautiful, tremendous”. The word “incredible” carries very little meaning, obviously. It could mean a variety of things, including powerful, successful, unexpected, unbelievable, etc. When a speaker relies on one word, it can be an indication of a word finding issue.
Trump was talking about the situation with Iran, and used this phrase “They threatened them dearly.” What does this mean? Huh? “Threatened them dearly”?
This one goes back to Trump’s statements at the Lincoln Memorial. In that speech, Trump used the phrase “they rammed the ramparts.” As a former speech/language pathologist, this sounds to me like a situation where the speaker knew the phrase “man the ramparts”, but was unable to recall it on demand. Instead, he used an incorrect and laughable phrase. One cannot “ram the ramparts” as Trump stated.
All of this is of serious concern. I’m not writing because I dislike Trump. I’m writing it because it is increasingly clear to me that we are all under the control and guidance of someone who is demonstrating very serious issues with communication and possibly with cognition.
We need this President to undergo a serious and complete neuropsych eval as soon as possible.
And as a committed and confirmed Bernie supporter, I’d like to see the same eval happen on any future elected President.