Here Gwendolyn Brooks, born 100 years ago, explains and then reads her famous poem, "We Real Cool."
Here Gwendolyn Brooks, born 100 years ago, explains and then reads her famous poem, "We Real Cool."
“Enjoy the #SuperBowl and then we continue: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
So tweeted Trump innocuously on Sunday afternoon, giving me some vague anxiety that I think I’ve finally put my finger on.
Haven’t you ever had a boss who eventually, over the course of long workweeks, late-night emails and eventually working weekends, frames the industry you’re working in as the whole universe and the organization you’re working for as the only inhabitable planet?
And everything else—your family and friends, your intellectual interests and hobbies, art and music and food and sleep and God Himself—these are portrayed as irritating distractions that some of your colleagues do a better job of shutting out than you do.
Those are the kinds of bosses who make a noisy show of buying you and your spouse a nice dinner to thank you for working eight weeks without a day off. And who command you not to check your email during that dinner, or anytime that night! No, you must “enjoy yourself.” You must “relax.” You MUST. Or else! Hahahahahaha!
And suddenly you realize that your boss has you coming and going. Which is right where he or she wants you.
I think Trump is starting to feel that way, about American citizens. (And actually, citizens all over the world.) And I think citizens, across the political spectrum, are starting to feel that way about Trump.
A psychologist friend says his patients are straight-up asking his advice on what to do about Trump, and anxiety he causes. He gives them two essential strategies:
1.Do, rather than stew. He finds himself recommending specific political action groups that give their followers actual marching orders every day.
2. Use your crazy to your advantage. Compartmentalization, for instance, is something shrinks normally work to reduce. But if it helps keep Trump in his place, it's healthy. "Use your tools," my psychologist friend tells his patients.
Whatever we do: Whether you’re a Trump lover or a Trump hater or a truly deranged agnostic soul in between, let’s don’t underestimate the ability of a leader to warp our reality, to actually worm his way into our inner lives and make us question our own sanity.
Because once he’s in there, it’s too late for us.
It's not like we can quit, and look for a new country.
Not everyone digs my earnest urgings to communicate with people who don't fully share in my fear and loathing of President Trump. From the lively correspondences between Writing Boots, and the writing writers who read it, I got this last week—from a conservative:
The previous generation was right once again: Don’t talk religion or politics. I get it now. The oneupsmanship is spectacular: We hated Clinton, you hated Bush, we hated Obama, you hate Trump. In each iteration, the level of what’s off limits to do to the other side goes down and the invocation of the “but this is different” excuse goes up.
And the argument even to this is, “But this time it really is different.” Noted.
Yet it happens every time, both sides.
Letterman said the world is going to hell and all he wanted was good seats. Check.
Here’s something you and I can agree on, a quote from the late genius (who said “with every failure, my success grows greater”) Brother Theodore: In the best of all possible worlds, things are in a hell of a mess.
This is why I buy Cheetos, watch the Game Show network, and jerk off.
On Friday the International Association of Business Communicators joined the Public Relations Society of America and the Canadian Public Relations Society in explicitly condemning PR people who use "alternative facts." IABC's statement, in part:
IABC is unwavering in our commitment to and advocacy for our Global Standard and Code of Ethics. “Alternative facts” have no place in professional communication. I’m certain this was never in doubt for all of you as members. But should someone ask you for IABC’s stance on this issue, I invite you to point them to this blog post and our Global Standard.
To communicators who say these statements won't make a difference because Trump administration communicators don't belong to any of these organizations, I'd refer you to the Communicator's March, and the notion that every communicator has a role to play in upholding the standards of his or her own government agency, nonprofit or corporation. To become widespread, post-truth PR must spread. It's up to every working stiff in corporate communication to see that it doesn't.
At this moment and as events warrant, we hope their professional associations' uncommon courage at this moment gives them courage in common.
After more than 2,400 posts as "a tramp's journal on freelance journalism, business communication and other ways to earn a happy living on cheap talk," I decided that description, now that I am the editor and publisher of a magazine and the executive director of a global professional association, had become a bit of a put-on.
So I came up with something a little more accurate—and just as glib!
Despite my healthy fear and sincere loathing of President Trump, I have not yet turned on the people who voted for him, and I still believe that one of the actions we can take as patriots is to communicate the very best we can with people who are defining patriotism differently than we. Not to convince one another of our point of view—Lord knows we've been trying that for long enough—but to forge some kind of mutually workable alternative, to this.
But it’s hard!
Just the other day I managed to piss off one of the best-natured people I know, with a Facebook post about how I wish my male friends would stop “mansplaining to me how much calmer I ought to be.”
Though I hadn’t called him out or even hoped to draw him out, my friend correctly surmised that my post had been partly inspired by some posts he’d done doubting the wisdom and effectiveness of last weekend's immigration-order protests.
No big deal, though, right? Good-natured guy, right? Point taken, right? Or agree to disagree, worst case.
No, my friend got mad. How did I know he was mad? Because he said he wasn't mad. (I've been married a long time.) Why was he mad? I think it was “mansplaining.” I think that’s what really pissed him off.
Now, I thought it was kind of funny for a dude to complain about being mansplained to, and I actually thought it offered an insight into one of the reasons I get so pissed at conservatives. For all my life, conservative bosses, colleagues, family members and friends have chuckled at me like my dad, explaining Fiscal Reality 101 to a third-grader who wants a raise in his allowance to buy more candy. And I have resented it, and often bitten my tongue. And I still resent it, as my oldest and dearest pal learned toward the end of a long night of drinking and condescension shortly after the election. I still remember the look of stunned surprise on his face when I erupted.
But I’d rather be called a naive fool than a heartless, ignorant prick. Which is what conservatives have been called their whole lives. Of course, they don’t admit it hurts their feelings. They pretend to wear liberal scorn like a badge of honor. But the thing is, they’re NOT heartless. Conservatives have feelers too. They have been biting tongues a lot of the time, too. And when they are accused of being sexist, racist, greedy or selfish by someone they like—(let alone a "basket of deplorables" by someone they don't)—all those years of hurt come out. And usually, in the form of white-lipped rage.
Eventually, conservatives and liberals are going to have to talk to one another constructively, because we're going to have to contend with President Trump together. Not all of us, but some of us. And we each need to be aware, not only of the other person’s old hurts, but our own.
A vendor of mine observed this week that people are so obsessed with President Trump, "they don't even care about sports anymore!" He said he got to to the end of an article about college basketball and started reading the comments, "and they were arguing about Trump!"
If you think it's getting nuts over here, you should hear how it is outside our borders.
"I am freaked out, not sleeping," writes an otherwise implacable public relations director from Canada. "I gotta calm down. Something big and bad is coming."
All conversations must begin with President Trump. "How are you?" asks a European communication consultant. "I mean, apart from the absolutely terrible fact that Trump is now U.S. president."
Some prominent corporate communication professionals from outside the U.S. are debating on Facebook whether traveling here to speak at and attend business conferences is the right thing to do.
An Australian communicator says he is getting out of the U.S. gigs that he can and accepting no new ones. "Like South Africa, as much as I respected the people I did not support apartheid and therefore would not travel or speak there until it changed. I will do the same with the US now."
Is he comparing the Trump travel ban to apartheid? Not exactly, but he's saying he's going to respond to it in the same way.
Has he lost all perspective?
Haven't we all?
I’ve quoted the writer Marilyn Robinson, who wrote that fear is an “excuse” that has achieved “a respectability I’ve never seen in my life."
I’ll take it one further, and say that Americans, one by one and by and large, don’t actually fear terrorist attacks. Not any more than we fear dying in a plane crash. We’re not even afraid of car accidents, unless we’ve just had one, and they happen all the time. I think we are pretty damned sure we will not die in a terrorist attack.
I mean, do you know a mother who says she won’t take her kids to New York City or D.C., because that’s where terrorist attacks are most likely to take place? Do you know a father who won't fly, on account of terrorists used planes on 9/11? Oh come on, you would tell those parents, and you'd go home and laugh with your spouse about overprotective parents these days.
But now a politician comes along and promises you that by just giving the cold shoulder to some foreign-born jamokes you never met and never will, it will reduce your already infinitesimal chances of dying, or of your children dying, in a terrorist attack.
And suddenly you are contemplating your ultimate responsibility, to keep your children "safe"—this utterly relative term that is always used by politicians as if it’s absolute. You don't actually feel endangered, but now that you have a chance to keep your children truly safe, you must take it—and to hell with the foreign jamokes, who can keep their own damn kids safe (on a rowboat to Europe).
This morning on CNN I heard a Republican senator nearly chanting, America first, America safe.
Who are the children here?
I'm pretty sure the thing to do right now isn't to tell everyone else how stupid or hysterical (or irrationally calm) they're being, because you've got a proper perspective on everything and you've got everything under control.