What Trump Represents To Me

I wrote this several weeks ago and thought: what’s the point of even writing stuff like this? It’s a glorified Facebook rant, to be echo-chambered among my friends on Facebook for what reason? It’s also divisive. I was going to delete it. I promise to my 13 readers this is my only Trump post. And who cares? – it’s just my perspective. Talking politics is kinda boring, depressing, and makes me sound like an old whiny pessimist baby. I don’t enjoy thinking about it. But, considering that political systems are the only way to solve real world problems, it’s hard not to care.

Even optimism has its limits and demands a shred of evidence. And Hope, a religious virtue, doesn’t apply here baby.

Trump represents the mass incarceration of Black people. The phrase”law and order,” which Trump uses knowingly and strategically, is possibly the most terrifying phrase to the Black man and to Black people generally. For very good reason. Historically speaking, it means nothing less than the mass incarceration of black men, which has been going on for decades and continues to go on. As The New Jim Crow shows, it’s the new Jim Crow segregation. History is littered with politicians using that phrase – “law and order” – and then creating policies or defending policies that result in putting 1 in 3 black men into the prison system, disenfranchising citizens and destroying families. Both parties are guilty of this. In fact, after reading the book From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, I learned that tough-on-crime policies actually started with one of the best democratic presidents ever – good ‘ol Lyndon Baynes Johnson. To be clear, Republicans have been much worse, and much more open and harsh about it, but both parties are to blame. And intentions have nothing to do with it. Hillary Clinton, by her supporting some of Bill Clinton’s policies, by calling black men “super predators,” is guilty of the same shit (and I believe she apologized for that but, again, intentions don’t matter). Any politician can claim they had good intentions. They’re either lying or not smart enough (and we know they suffer from both). And Trump, if you judge a man based on what they say, could very well be the worst tough-on-crime president to date. His rhetoric, paired with his internalized racism (“I’m sure some of them are good people”), paired with his legal history of racial discrimination in housing, paired with his inaccurate hell-fire dystopian descriptions of “urban centers” (he would say “ghetto” if he could), paired with Rudi Giuliani’s idea of stopping and frisking black people on the street for being black. This is a recipe for what he would call a “disaster” (but he won’t call it that – he’ll call it “keeping our streets safe” from “bad people” or “thugs”).

Trump represents “no skin off my back.” In other words, I’m white, I’m male, I’m employed. I’ll be just fine thank you very much. Which means I could of voted for Jill Stein or whoever if I wanted (I didn’t). I didn’t wake up the next morning terrified. The worst thing I could possibly face is the loss of my pension, which I’m sure Trump would obliterate without a thought – not that he alone has the power to do that. I suppose that is a big thing. And that’s just me, standing on the pinnacle of privilege. Imagine other people.

Trump represents stupidity, idiocy, not being educated, not learning, not reading, not fact checking, not doing your homework, not qualified, not listening to science, not caring about objective facts or having a deep respect for them. He loved the stupid people that voted for him, and he seems to be uneducated himself. And if you’re stupid, it’s probably not your fault. That’s a societal problem. Our country made us stupid by having a stupid education system created by stupid politicians. So Trump represents a celebration of stupidity. Denying climate change, for example, which, apparently, might be some of the people he surrounds himself with as president (update: yes, he is), is the epitome and pinnacle of brash ignorance and willful stupidity. Good luck science. Good luck environment. You’re both fucked.

Although white children might be in luck because we invented a thing called “charter schools,” which is code for good white schools and everyone damn well knows it. Trump, by choosing Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, is pro Charter school. Let’s fund those with public money, and let public education continue to under-perform on the global stage. White supremacy continues.

Trump represents fake religion and everything that’s wrong with religion – and I consider myself religious. He’s not a religious person, and he’s not a good, nice, or decent person either – except to his friends of course (religious people are great at that). But masterfully, he convinced the masses of fake religious people, hiding behind their fake religious political party, to vote for someone that is so far from Jesus’ teachings it’s embarrassing. And then these fake religious people have the audacity to make fake religious excuses for voting for Trump, which is annoying to hear. Like “I believe God can use Donald” and “I believe God controls elections” and “I believe Donald will surround himself with good, smart people” or “I don’t really like him” or “it’s not about Trump.” Are you kidding me? Whatever makes you sleep good at night. Just know that you are watering down religion for good honest people; just know that you and Donald are the vipers and snakes that Jesus was referring to, when he was referring to hypocrisy.

A proper religion response to this whole debacle, although very depressing and defeatist, would be to disengage from politics altogether, to give up and give the system a middle finger. Disengaging from power structures, in fact, is a very religious idea. This could be based on a teaching that Jesus was probably right about – that politics has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, or righteousness, or the good life. Socrates was the same way. The real struggle is the spiritual struggle, and that’s a struggle we can actually win. In other words, politics is wordly, and wordly things are greedy and corrupt by their very nature. Politics has been the game of greedy, type A, white powerful men since day one. What makes us think that will change? Are good, decent people going to suddenly wake up tomorrow morning and want to be a career politicians? Probably not – they’ll be a teacher instead, and not get paid shit for their troubles. Unless they move to Sweden where they will be prized as educators of future people in the world.

The most effective response, in my slightly educated opinion, is massive, grassroots movements, ones that reign in power and demand things from it. Like the Civil Rights Movement of MLK, or the Black Power Movement (which was snuffed out swiftly by racist politicians), or the Black Lives Matter Movement, or several other movements I cannot name because they were started by women and thus forgotten or suppressed or ignored or taken over by men. Anyway, coordinated mass movements have shown to create policy changes, usually watered down policy changes that take a bite out of certain discriminatory policies. But make no mistake about it. We white men have a short game and a long game.. Unless anti-racist people control power, these successes will always be temporary, will always be threatened, will always be revised and watered down. As history has shown.

Trump represents the billionaire class. This is so obvious it doesn’t need to be mentioned, and he’s proud of it. He’s the spoiled rich kid who never moved beyond high school, as his emotional intelligence shows. He inherited wealth, which probably wasn’t taxed as it should be, which is unAmerican. He doesn’t pay taxes and thinks it’s smart. He wants to cut taxes for rich people and business. But rather than see Trump for who he really is – a spoiled rich kid that inherited wealth and still somehow managed to go bankrupt several times – white people would rather see him as the embodiment of the American Dream, of what’s possible for anybody that is given the chance and works hard and isn’t impeded by silly democrats and their spending and welfare state and taxes and love of helping Black people and Hispanics (which isn’t even true unfortunately). Trump is a lottery ticket and maybe they can win too.

Trump represents anti-feminism, masculinity, testosterone, power, backroom deals, and violence. He’s a sexual predator, a megalomaniac, and everything that’s wrong with the sexist culture that men have created and (many) women go along with. Women are property, either to be taken care of and praised (if they’re pretty and on his team) or harassed and ridiculed (if they’re ugly or cross him).

Or perhaps most white people don’t like him, as polls seem to suggest. We all don’t like the system, it’s not working for us. That’s one thing we all agree on, and I’m truly glad we do. We all hate the entire political system. We all hate politics, and are sick and tired of the status quo. We agree. I hope Trump breaks the system, shakes it up. I hope he sets term limits, bans lobbyists, and all sorts of anti-establishment things. Fire every single of them – federal, state, local. Let’s start from scratch. I’m sure there’s some specific things that he will do that I will agree with. But at what cost? Even better, let’s start a direct democracy where real people vote on laws. My faith in Trump to do anything rational is equivalent to my faith in ferries or ghosts. A bad tree produces bad fruit.

What Trump Represents To Me

Religion cannot solve Poverty, so Government must

The religious virtue of Charity is great indeed, but that alone cannot solve poverty. After thousands of years, the results are in. Poverty still exists, at alarming levels. Even the great secular charities, like Oxfam and Unicef, which do incredible work, cannot solve poverty. 51% of African American children grow up in poverty today – in America, in one of the richest countries in the world. That should make any decent person cringe. And that, my friends, is only the tip of the iceberg. World poverty – that is, living on a dollar a day – is even worse. When you stop and put people behind the numbers, it’s beyond comprehension.

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Charity, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

So charity isn’t working. Therefore, it falls on government. What else is there? Who else could it possibly fall on? It is the greatest, most important political issue of human history. What we need is governments that eliminate poverty through compassionate and rational policies and laws. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Budgets are a set of priorities. There’s enough money for whatever you want; it depends on what you want. We could probably solve domestic poverty and world poverty at the very same time, although I suspect that governments would start domestic and then spread outwards. Okay, fine. The only problem with that approach is that Third World poverty, if you look at the impact that one US dollar can make, is technically easier to solve…it would help more people faster. But these are details to consider after you make the commitment to solve poverty. That must come first.

Consider the billions of dollars that is wasted on corrupting the political process in America. That could solve poverty. Consider the billions of dollars of funding given to the comically giant Department of Defense, an outdated agency that should be shrinking every year. That could solve poverty. Consider the all-consuming, cut-throat profits, that corporations make, who don’t pay their taxes to the government. That could solve poverty. Consider one percent of the income of the richest people in the world. That could solve poverty (actually, it could probably solve poverty 12 times over…go read Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save).
Above we see Charity depicted as a mother with children. There are many layers of truth here. The irony, I believe, is that women – if they were in power – would probably solve world poverty. It’s time for women to stop being the object of men’s charity (a creation of men to begin with) and start being the solution to it. Still…..vote Bernie for President.
Religion cannot solve Poverty, so Government must

The Small Faith of a Philosopher

I wrote this several years ago but it still rings true to me:

Religion is nothing but the systematization of the experience of the divine. Let me explain: first, someone sees a shooting star. Then, they turn to the person next to them and say: “did you see that?” The person replies: “See what?” Then religion begins. It is based on the experience of God, but is more properly the articulation of what God is and how we ought to act in light of God’s existence. Thus, we get creeds, religious texts, and rituals. The most important part of religion, I propose, is the experience of the Divine. (Any mystic would propose the same thing.) This is the part that all religions share. The systematization part is important too for each particular religion, because it brings people together; but this part should not be taken as seriously as the experience of God. Many bad things can happen from considering that there is only one particular way to articulate, worship, or think about God. I’m not saying that there are many Gods. I’m simply saying that if one God existed, would not people have different experiences of that God? And would not people, living all around the world, come up with different descriptions of those experiences? And would not people come up with different ways of worshiping God?

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My faith is small in the sense that it is minimalist. I believe that God exists. It’s easy to say the word god, but when we understand how powerful and beautiful this idea of God is, we would realize that a small belief in God is larger than any system of belief that you could ever make up. The belief in God is enough for me, and has been enough for many in the history of the world. I need no more. God is too large. The simple belief in God is too incomprehensible and amazing to worry about other beliefs. Indeed, I suspect that the more beliefs a person has, the more that he actually doubts the existence of God, which is supposedly foundation for all these beliefs!
What God do I believe in, you ask? My simple answer is this: if you believe in a God, then it’s probably the same one I believe in. What I mean by “God” is fairly simple and universal: creator of the universe and perfect. Theology can try to add more to the idea of God, but probably in vain. The idea of God is fairly simple and yet ungraspable, understandable to children and yet transcendental. In a sense I do not understand God, and in another sense I easily do—and I’m content with that.

I am a Christian in the sense that I believe in what Jesus taught. I think that Jesus was right about pretty much everything he said. But his message is a universal one; available to you, to me, and to the kid growing up in an unknown African village. He simply preached the will of God, as he saw it. As far as I can tell, he was the most perfect person who ever lived, and has always been the best role model for me. A friendly, unbiased reading of the Gospels—one that is free of built-in assumptions or beliefs about who Jesus was or what the Bible is—confirms my sentiments. Was Jesus God? To be honest, I don’t think that makes much sense. To believe that Jesus is God is to believe that when Jesus refers to his “father in heaven” he is referring to himself; and when Jesus is praying to his father in the garden of Gethsemane, he is praying to himself? That doesn’t make sense. I do not see how making Jesus God helps faith or theology or my life one bit.

I am open to the fact that Jesus may have sacrificed himself for me in some way. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why Jesus’ death has anything to do with my sins, but I am still open to the possibility. Why? Because Jesus was a great person, and his death must have meant something extraordinary, especially since he did it voluntarily. He wouldn’t have given his life for any ordinary reason. I’m tempted to think that his sacrifice was much like Socrates, that is, in the name of justice; but it seems slightly different. When it comes to salvation, i.e. Jesus dying for my sins, my only worry is that people might use this belief to justify a life of habitual sin. After all, if Jesus died for my sins, doesn’t that continually take the blame off me? Therefore, if I sin, perhaps I should feel guilty for a moment, and then feel relieved that Jesus takes the guilt? No. That is certainly wrong and a direct contradiction of his teachings. If we are to believe in salvation, it must be interpreted in such a way that does not allow for this behavior. In my own experience, I believe that Jesus has “saved” me, but perhaps I’m using the word in a different way. The truth is that his teachings saved me, not his death. His teachings brought me from a life of questionable moral worth, to a striving for moral perfection; to amazement, to the belief in the greatness of human potentiality. An unbiased reading of his words truly touches our hearts and gives us a longing and passion for being a moral person in the kingdom of God. His teachings completely changed my life, more so than any living or dead person has; and this can certainly be called “salvation,” especially when those teachings brought me closer to God Himself than ever before.

The existence of God, intellectually speaking, is more likely than not. Many people are surprised by that statement, but those are the people that either haven’t pushed themselves intellectually or are too biased to see the truth. There are many more hints that God exists than hints that God does not exist. The theist has a stockpile of arguments, and a solid intellectual defense against all atheistic arguments. The problem of evil is, I believe, the only serious objection to theism, and it is answerable. This is why a person can both be a philosopher, in love with rationality, and a theist, in love with God.

What does faith amount to? That is one of the best questions we can ask; because if belief in God does nothing, and has no practical effects, then what would that say about belief in God? In my experience, faith does several things: firstly, it gives us a philosophical foundation. What I mean by this is that it gives our metaphysical questions grounding in the face of groundless, intellectually void alternatives. What was the first cause of the universe?—God, an uncreated mind-like being. How can we trust our senses?—God, a benevolent being. What is the source of the laws of nature?—God, a perfectly wise being. Do I have a permanent, unchanging identity?—A soul, created by God. Where do moral commands ultimately come from?—God, a perfectly rational being. Some would say that my answers—“God”—really amount to nothing but a word; that they explain nothing. In a sense, I agree! Perhaps they don’t explain anything, but they do give support and foundation, which is precisely their role. Those questions remain no matter what; they constantly nag at our intellect. Theistic answers give me a great sense of intellectual satisfaction, completion, and peace of mind. The alternative to these questions is no answer at all, which would only be intellectually satisfying it the answers were of an empirical, discoverable nature; but they are not. They are metaphysical questions and answers, which is why “God” is not an explanation in the scientific sense of the word; rather, it is a metaphysical explanation—a grounding.

Secondly, faith amounts to a radical change in perception: belief in God changes our perception of the world in a psychologically real and beneficial way. After all, a schizophrenic has a changed perception, but not beneficial. To believe that God exists is to believe that everything is a creation of God: and thus sacred, meaningful, and beautiful. We must admit that there is a fundamental difference in looking at an object as a) an accident or b) a purposeful creation. Why is a child sad to hear that his parents did not mean to have him? Why are parents unwilling to tell their children this? Either this universe was meant to exist, or it wasn’t. The truth of either claim changes our perception of the universe. Which do you think is true? Furthermore, to look at every object as sacred immediately has environmental benefits. All theists, according to their beliefs, should try to take care of nature because it is a purposeful creation. Environmentalism follows from the belief. Of course, in practice this does not follow from some peoples’ beliefs, but this is contradictory to their beliefs. Furthermore, to look at all objects as sacred and meaningful is to look at all people as sacred and meaningful. Usually theists think of all people as “God’s children.” The practical effects are obvious: if all people are created by God, then all people deserve respect, love, and care. Nobody is expendable. Nobody is not worth it. This is precisely what Jesus, and all great thinkers, taught as the most important moral principle.

Along a similar vein is the perspective shift that comes with belief in a transcendent Being. To believe in a transcendent Being (beyond time and space) is to believe in a mode of existence that is entirely different from the one we all live in. Perhaps only God exists in such a place—a space-less, time-less, and eternal place—but perhaps not. At any rate, the effect of such a belief is an expansion of your mind, a broadening of your conception of what exists. More specifically, it has brilliant effects on how we handle the situations of life. Your job interview goes badly; you break your arm; your best friend lies to you; you get in a bad car accident. To the normal human being, these are bad things that warrant depressive behavior. But with the perspective shift that comes with belief in God, all these events seem much smaller, a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things. We can easily brush them off our shoulders, perhaps shed a tear or two, and simply move on with a smile. I’m not saying that life’s events are less meaningful or insignificant—only smaller.

Thirdly, belief in God is a great source of happiness and joy. Personally, happiness for me comes down to believing that God exists. Out of all the possible sources of happiness—food, money, friendship, family—belief in God is the most permanent and life-sustaining. Why? Because if God exists, then the universe is a great place to be. Every time I seriously consider God permeating throughout the universe, I immediately become happy. This is the greatest psychological benefit of belief in God because happiness is the greatest psychological end. By “happiness” here I mean two things. Firstly, we have emotions that tend to flare up daily; some are happy, and some are sad. Belief in God can affect these in a positive way. After hearing a song that promotes belief in God, for example, we can have an emotional reaction that only can be described as “happiness.” Secondly, happiness can be thought of as a more permanent mind-set. Belief in God promotes this sort also.

The Small Faith of a Philosopher

What Causes Atheism?

Now of course there are many causes for atheism–personal, intellectual, emotional, societal–and I respect them all in varying degrees, but the one I come across a lot is this: a bad experience with a particular Christian or with a particular Christian institution. In other words, I believe that hypocrisy and setting a bad example accounts for much of it (not all of it, much of it). (I tried to research the causes of atheism in academic journals but didn’t come up with anything…so this is just my anecdotal opinion).

What I’m saying is not to be confused with the reasons for Atheism, the justifications and arguments that support it. That’s a different topic. And as I’ve said in the past, explaining the cause of something doesn’t explain it away. Theism has psychological causes too. What’s interesting about atheism is that only 2 to 11% of the world is atheist, and many in China apparently, making it an anomaly.

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Atheism is the view that there is no God and that religion is generally false; but when you talk to most American atheists, 90% of what they say is actually just about one religion: Christianity, and usually a particular version of it – fundamentalism. Chances are they think Buddhism is super cool (most people do). That’s a hint. Atheism is the drawing away from something, a revolt, a critique.

Update! I stand corrected. The title should rather be “What Causes Agnosticism?” I was told by someone, and I agree with him, that religious hypocrisy can and does lead a person towards agnosticism, away from organized religion – but not necessarily atheism. That’s a good point.

What hypocrisy? Hating gay people and abortion, just to take two big examples. If you are gay, you probably were judged and hated by Christians throughout your life. I don’t blame any gay person for being hostile to Christianity; it’s only natural. And as the world moves on and young people are more and more okay with gay people, and as Christianity drags behind on this issue (except the new Pope and more progressive forms of Christianity), this will still be the natural reaction. Now hating abortion is one thing (hate the sin, not the sinner…right?), and I think there is a compassionate way to be pro-life, but Christians have taken this to another level. To the point that I don’t want to be part of that crowd anymore. Sometimes pro-life is thinly veiled sexism or classism. Also, where’s the perspective here? On the one hand, there are real people dying from hunger, war, and poverty all over the globe. On the other hand, there are potential people being aborted for various reasons (including rape protection of the mother, or poverty). Hmm…I wonder where we should spend our resources, and time, and judgment on? I wonder what Jesus would do? When we have solved all the worlds imminent problems (hunger, poverty, discrimination, war), then maybe we can start yelling about abortion and how terrible it is. It takes up too much of our moral outrage.

Alas, this is how it was, is, and will always be. A significant percentage of the Christian population will be hypocrites. That’s human nature and math really, and Jesus predicted it:

“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Religion tends to set the bar pretty high in terms of morality, so, for example, loving your enemies will be difficult for Christians. This goes for any religion. Calling yourself Christian is very easy, but it should be the hardest thing to call yourself. This explains why Jesus called out the hypocrites, chastised the religious people who were keeping people from God. It made him angry. I suppose he was judging them, but it was by their own standards (Jesus teaches that God judges people by their own words). I suppose Jesus loved the hypocrites too, and would easily forgive them, but they were blinded by their own self-righteousness; the same blinding, ignorant self-righteousness that infects religion today.

Judge ye not, yet Christians love to judge. When you are constantly around religious people, it’s very tempting and natural. Keeping my distance from religion, while accepting its teachings, is one way I try to cope. The only perfect Christianity is the one in your heart.

What Causes Atheism?