book reviews, religion

Reviewing Sins of the Father: The Long Shadow of a Religious Cult by Fleur Beale

Alright… so I’ve had my nap and finally finished Fleur Beale’s fascinating book, Sins of the Father: The Long Shadow of a Religious Cult. Neville Cooper, who died of cancer at age 92 in 2018, was the founder of the Gloriavale Christian Community currently located on the West Coast of New Zealand. Many people regard the Gloriavale Christian Community as a religious cult. I had not heard of it until recently, when I got a message from a lawyer in New Zealand who invited me to write about it. This book, originally published in 2009, is about Phil Cooper, one of the sons of Neville Cooper, and his first wife, Gloria.

I recently reviewed Daughter of Gloriavale, which was written by Lilia Tarawa, one of Neville Cooper’s granddaughters and one of Phil Cooper’s nieces. Before I get going too far into this review, I have to explain something. Due to a revelation Neville Cooper got from God, he later went by the name “Hopeful Christian”. Many of his followers have also changed their original names, mostly to adjectives that describe a “Christlike” quality. For instance, Neville has children named Hope, Faith, Miracle, and Charity. Lilia Tarawa is one of Miracle’s daughters. Sins of the Father is about Phil Cooper, who is Lilia’s uncle, and six of the children he had with his first wife, Sandy, who was later renamed Prayer. Sandy/Prayer also has another daughter by Phil. Her name is Cherish, and at the time the book was published, Phil had never met her in person. Phil also has a daughter named Jess by his second wife.

Phil Cooper was born in Australia in 1962. His parents moved him and his then ten siblings to New Zealand in 1967, when he was five years old. At the time, Neville Cooper was a traveling preacher who had developed a following and was invited to speak around the country. However, his teachings were at odds with mainstream Christianity. He was considered a fundamentalist. So Cooper decided to start his own community at Haupiri, located on New Zealand’s West Coast. He eventually named the community Gloriavale, in honor of his first wife, Gloria, who had predeceased him by many years. At this writing, several hundred people still live in Gloriavale. The women wear long blue dresses with white headdresses. The men wear blue shirts and blue trousers. The women of the community do what’s commonly considered traditional women’s work– cooking, cleaning, childcare, teaching, and the like. The men work in Gloriavale’s businesses or do manual labor such as farming or construction.

As he got older, Phil Cooper decided he wanted to leave Gloriavale. He chafed under his father’s oppressive rules, as well as his narcissistic and controlling behaviors. When he was sixteen years old, Phil ran away from Gloriavale, eventually landing in Australia. He had nothing, but managed with help from kind strangers. At one point, having landed in Brisband, he met Mormon missionaries who helped him out by giving him a ride. He ended up converting to the LDS religion, knowing that his father would disown him if he knew. Neville Cooper considered Mormonism as “false religion”. But as a sixteen year old, free from the compound, Neville wasn’t that worried about temporarily being Mormon. He bought himself a tape player, something that was forbidden in Gloriavale, and became familiar with the contemporary music of the late 1970s. Eventually, he was tracked down by his sister, Charity, who tried to talk him into coming home. Although he didn’t want to go home, he realized he missed his family, and he returned to Gloriavale to face his father.

When he first arrived home, Phil’s father welcomed him and he was allowed to return to his apprenticeship. But being on his own had given Phil a bit of an attitude that Neville didn’t like. Phil wore a watch, which Neville considered “worldly”, and he didn’t like that the young man had a tape player and listened to worldly music. So Phil was subjected to his father’s discipline. There he sat in Neville’s room, where 25 to 30 of the community’s men were also gathered. Neville severely chastised his son, demanding that he change his name because he didn’t want to be associated with him. Neville took Phil’s beloved watch and smashed it. Phil didn’t react, so his father got his mother and sisters to lay on the guilt, pressuring Phil to give in to his father’s demands for compliance and obedience.

Neville tried to threaten Phil with stories about how terrifying and dangerous the world was, but Phil had just come from the world, so he knew it wasn’t true. Then Neville told him that God would do terrible things to him and he would die a gruesome death if he didn’t repent. Finally, after hours of berating and extreme pressure, Phil cracked because he was exhausted. And then he took that precious tape player that he bought in Australia and threw it on the floor, breaking it. Meanwhile, Phil’s older sister, Faith, and her husband, Alan, had decided to leave Gloriavale with their five children. Like Phil, they found the community’s rules stifling. Moreover, Neville Cooper was a sexual deviant, who dictated just about everything in his followers’ lives, from who they were allowed to marry, to what they named their children, to what they wore and ate. Unlike Phil, Faith and Alan were successful in leaving permanently the first time they left.

For awhile, after he ran away, Phil became an obedient, model son, working very hard to win his father’s approval. In 1981, he decided he wanted to marry a young woman named Sandy, so he asked his father’s permission and Neville agreed. Phil was 18 and Sandy was 21 when they got married. They had plenty of time to make many children, so that’s what they did. Neville constantly reminded his followers of the importance of being Godly and obedient. However, he and the other men of the community used pornography. Young women who put on weight were forced to fast and were verbally abused. Sandy was fondled by Neville, and some of the girls in the community were forced to join the elders in hot tubs. Children grew up living in one room with their parents and witnessing them having sex.

Neville also believed that once girls hit puberty, they were ready to be married and start having babies. Pregnancy was an opportunity for the women not to work as hard, since they were allowed to rest more when they were having babies. Children in the community were involved with overseeing births, most of which took place at home, unless there were medical issues. Childbirth was considered totally natural and something that should not take place in a hospital unless there was a medical need.

In 1995, Neville Cooper went to prison for about a year on sexual abuse charges. His son, Phil, and some of the girls who had fled the community testified against him. His followers remained steadfast in their loyalty to their leader.

Before long, Phil Cooper was once again at odds with his father’s strict rules and abusive methods. When he was 27 years old, with help from a couple of his brothers, Phil left Gloriavale for good. At the time, he had five children between the ages of eight and sixteen months. After he left, he was told by a community elder that he would no longer have any communication with his children. Phil was heartbroken, so he decided to abduct his children, and his wife, Sandy. Again, he was able to pull off his plan with help from a couple of his brothers. Phil and his family eventually landed in the United States, where Sandy gave birth to Phil’s sixth child, a boy named Andreas. Sandy was never happy outside of Gloriavale, though. She went back twice, despite Phil’s protests, because she didn’t think she could live a Godly life without being in the Gloriavale community. After the second time, Sandy stayed, and later granted him a divorce.

But unbeknownst to Phil, when she left him the second time, Sandy was pregnant with his seventh child. He did not know about his daughter, Cherish, until she was much older, and at the time this book was published, had never seen her in person. One of his other daughters, Dawn, also willingly went back to the compound. The rest remain happily outside of Gloriavale. They have been able to go back a couple of times, but with every visit, there is both the pressure to stay and conform to the community’s culty standards, and careful minding of their visit so that they don’t influence anyone else to leave.

Phil and the other children eventually left the United States, having spent some time in the Hutterite Community in Minnesota. One of his children, Andreas, was named after one of the Hutterites who helped Phil. That group was apparently a much nicer one and more Christlike, and they treated Phil and his family with kindness. But they needed to go home and be closer to their family. So Phil and his kids moved to Australia, even though Andreas, having been born in the USA, was an American citizen. They had to get him Australian citizenship.

My thoughts

Fleur Beale has done a fine job with Phil Cooper’s exciting and amazing story of escaping his father’s cult. She’s a good writer, and her style is engaging and interesting. I liked that she included photos, some of which are in color, and is careful to explain some of the more complicated aspects of this story.

Oddly enough, aspects of this story and some of the methods used to get Phil to comply with his father’s wishes reminded me a lot of my husband Bill’s ex wife’s methods. One of the ways Neville would get his children to fall in line was to get other family members to put pressure on them and employ abusive methods like shunning, lovebombing, and group or family pressure. Bill’s ex wife also does this. Younger daughter has said that when she left home, her sisters would call or email her, berating her for being on a “high horse” or being “prideful” and telling her she should humble herself. Incidentally, when Bill was freshly divorced and leaving Mormonism, younger daughter also accused him of being “prideful”. Ex resorted to extreme measures to get her way and always punishes anyone who goes against her wishes. Neville Cooper was like that, too.

Neville Cooper/Hopeful Christian is often described as a very charismatic narcissist. Everything had to be done under his conditions; it was his way or the highway. Bill’s ex wife is the same way, and he has described her as “charismatic”– the type of person who can sell ice to Eskimos. Or, at least she can if they are unaware of the type of person she is.

Neville Cooper sounds like he was the same way, controlling and convincing people to do everything in exactly the way he wanted it done. A wide variety of abuses were employed to keep everyone in line, to include ostracizing members of the community. It’s no wonder Phil Cooper couldn’t stand it anymore. He recognizes that he has some of his father’s qualities, too, although he does his best to temper them. The children who left the compound with him are grateful that he got them out, even though they had to grow up without their mother. Neville Cooper was addicted to power, and he was ruthless in his quests to get it.

This is an excellent book about Gloriavale, and a young man who decided to risk everything to escape it, even though his father was the leader of the cult. Phil Cooper’s story is very interesting, and I think Fleur Beale has done well in writing the tale. I would definitely recommend Sins of the Father: The Long Shadow of a Religious Cult to anyone who is interested in learning more about this community, especially if it’s paired with other books about Gloriavale. It really is an interesting cult– and a reminder that the United States is not the only place where dangerous and charismatic leaders get into power and enslave people.

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Biden, politics, Trump

Is Mike Pence finally “woke”?

Today’s featured photo is a screen grab of a video about the attempted faux coup last week.

Please forgive me for using that term. I kind of hate the expression “woke”. And please forgive me for yet another political post, although I have a feeling I’ll be writing them for some time to come… at least until the dust settles on Trump’s exit from the White House.

I didn’t write anything yesterday, nor did I practice guitar. Instead, I watched a lot of old episodes of Glee and hung out with Bill. We did a lot of talking about the events of last Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence is probably feeling the heat right now, as pissed off MAGA cultists descended on the Capitol and erected a gallows as they screamed “Hang Mike Pence!”.

Trump stoked the fires of public resentment against Pence for refusing to “undo the will of the People”.

Why were they screaming? Because Donald Trump had expected the vice president to “overturn” the results of the election. Trump repeatedly made the false claim that Pence had the power to nullify the will of the people. He also repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was “stolen” from him. And he encouraged a mob of people to take action against legislators tasked with certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Mike Pence, who has been totally loyal to Trump for the past several years, did not do Trump’s bidding. And now, he is discovering what happens when you cross a malignant narcissist. Although he’s probably never been formally diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, it’s pretty obvious to me that Trump is a narcissist. A lot of people might claim that most politicians are narcissistic. And they would be right in making that claim. But there’s a big difference between being “narcissistic” and having full blown NPD. And even within the realm of NPD, there are varying degrees of it. I think Trump is pretty far on the NPD scale, which means he’s extremely entitled, very immature, and completely focused on himself and his own needs. Couple that with his charisma and innate ability to say what people want to hear, and you have a very dangerous individual.

I don’t agree with Mike Pence’s politics at all, but here he sounds much more presidential than Donald Trump EVER has. But I suspect that Mr. Pence thought Trump would burn out quickly and he would wind up being the 46th president.

Right now, I think Mr. Pence is understanding what it means to go against a malignant narcissist, even when it’s the right thing to do legally, ethically, and morally. Unfortunately, hitching your wagon to a narcissist in hopes of getting ahead often ends in disappointment. Always remember that narcissists ultimately don’t care about anyone but themselves, and it doesn’t matter how loyal you are to them or were in the past. The minute you cross them, you’re in their crosshairs of revenge. They see other people strictly as tools to be used and they have no compassion or understanding when someone disappoints them, even when it’s because they have been put in an impossible situation, as Mike Pence was.

Donald Trump now faces a second impeachment, and Pence is under pressure to invoke the 25th Amendment. If you ask me, he should have done that a long time ago. But I can see why Pence would not have wanted to invoke the 25th Amendment, even though Trump is clearly unstable and dangerous. For one thing, there’s that old boy network of mutual back scratching and political favors. Pence wouldn’t want to piss off his buddies in the Republican party. But there’s also the fact that Trump could go off the deep end and do something much worse than what he’s already done, simply out of spite. And there are thousands of people who want to hang Mike Pence for not being totally obedient to Trump rather than following the Constitution.

This morning, a friend of mine shared a Twitter feed showing people who were mobbing the Capitol being refused return flights as they were being arrested. Some of them are crying pitifully as they are correctly being kicked off of flight, labeled terrorists, and escorted away in handcuffs. Indeed, people who breached the Capitol are being identified, and those who managed to leave the nation’s capital are being arrested at home. Somehow, these folks, in an era of iPhones and surveillance videos, thought they could get away with their felonious behavior without being held accountable. I guess it’s a good thing Trumpers are not known for wearing face masks. It makes identifying the perpetrators of these crimes much easier than it otherwise might have been. And these folks are going to find that Trump will likely do NOTHING for them as they properly face charges, fines, and possible jail time for what they did.

Powerful words from a true leader.

Yesterday, I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech about the events of last week. I was actually pretty moved by what he had to say. Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly no paragon of virtue himself, but he would have been 1000 times better in the White House than Trump has been. Unfortunately, Arnold, who obviously loves America, can’t run for President, because he’s a naturalized citizen. But even though I have sworn off voting for Republicans, I might make an exception for Arnold Schwarzenegger, because he’s clearly a much fitter leader. And what he says about the effects of Hitler on his home country of Austria, are very astute. He’s not the only one who has seen the parallels of Trump’s leadership and the rise of Naziism in Europe back in the 1930s and 1940s.

One more thing. I don’t think this is over by a long shot. The MAGA crowd is super pumped and emboldened right now, and while Trump might be riding off into the sunset soon, there’s sure to be someone else waiting in the wings. I suspect it’s someone younger, smarter, more likable, and actually knowledgable of and dedicated to the cause. I don’t think Trump actually cares that much about the MAGA movement. He just wants to stay in power and avoid the extreme narcissistic injury of losing. But I feel certain that there are other people out there who really do believe in forcing America to turn into their warped white supremacist Christian vision of what they think it should be. You can bet that even if Trump’s era ends, someone else will try to do what he failed to do.

We must all stay vigilant and aware of those who want to turn our country into real life Gilead. That’s why I hope Mr. Pence will do the right thing and help the Democrats get Trump out of power as soon as possible. There’s a lot he can do in the next nine days. I’ll be surprised if Pence actually does invoke the 25th Amendment, but I think it’s the right thing to do. I believe our country is in serious danger. I already have more respect for Pence today than I did a week ago. I think doing the right thing by the American people and helping to restrain Trump would go a long way in redeeming Pence’s lapdog image, at least as far as I am, personally, concerned. I do think Pence has more concern for others than Trump ever will. He’s certainly saner and more competent.

Bill has empathy for Mike Pence. He once worked for a man who is a lot like Trump is. Being second banana to a raging narcissist is a thankless and punishing endeavor. Bill was fortunate in that there were a lot of people who supported him and realized the terrible position he was in, and he came out of that experience relatively unscathed. However, when he was working for that man, it was hell on Earth. I’m sure Pence can relate, because I don’t think he has the same extreme ego Trump has. People like Trump never choose people like themselves to work with them. They look for people who are malleable and trustworthy. So now that Pence could be “woke”, like so many of the rest of us have been for years now, maybe he will earn the trust of the majority of Americans who would like to see Trump removed from power. Even if it means he never again has another peaceful moment.

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book reviews, politics

Grateful to have left “The Room Where it Happened” by John Bolton…

In about three weeks, Donald Trump will (hopefully) leave the White House, and Washington, DC, for good. I also hope that will mean fewer political posts on my blog, since political posts invite commentary that I often find irritating. I don’t enjoy being annoyed, and yet I can’t help but opine about Trump’s egregious abuse of power. That means my posts get read by his supporters, who feel compelled to “set me straight” about my opinions.

I have felt compelled to write about Mr. Trump, probably because Bill and I have had some unfortunate and extensive dealings with much lower level narcissists. We’ve learned a lot from being exposed to narcissists, and that makes us able to spot them quite easily. Donald Trump is the Grand Poobah of narcissists, so I find his behavior very triggering. When I get triggered, I want to write. But, to tell you all the truth, I don’t actually find politics or politicians that interesting, except when they are engaged in specific topics for which I have an interest. And usually, it’s only the topics I care about, not the politician. Trump is different, though, because he’s a walking billboard for narcissistic personality disorder. It distresses me that so many people still don’t see him for what he is and don’t realize the damage he’s done– and NOT because he’s supposedly a Republican (not really), but because he’s a vile, self-obsessed, money grubbing, maniacal asshole who has been enabled by people like John Bolton, one of Trump’s many ex flunkies turned author.

I expect I will still occasionally write about politics once the orange walrus has waddled off into the sunset, but I hope it won’t be as often. And I hope I will write about a wider variety of people rather than just Trump. I am truly troubled by the number of people who continue to support Trump. But, after reading John Bolton’s book, The Room Where it Happened, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. If someone like John Bolton can be taken in by Donald Trump, I suppose anyone can.

Who is John Bolton, you ask?

I know I would ask that question, in any other presidential administration. And mustachioed John Bolton has worked in a few of them. Wikipedia says he’s an “attorney, diplomat, Republican consultant and political commentator who served as the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as the 27th United States National Security Advisor from 2018 to 2019.” Bolton truly has an impressive resume, having been educated at Yale University and spent his working life rubbing elbows with Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and yes, Trump. Bolton is also a military veteran, having served a total of six years in the Army, Army Reserve, and the Maryland Army National Guard. He’s been a Republican heavy hitter since the early 1980s. If you read my post yesterday, you know how very long ago that was. 😉

When Mr. Bolton’s book was first published last June, I initially resisted downloading it. I still have several Trump related books to read and, again, I’m not actually that interested in the nuts and bolts of politics. I think I changed my mind after I read Michael Cohen’s book about being Trump’s lawyer. I thought Cohen’s book was rather illuminating and kind of tragic in some ways. I thought maybe Bolton’s book would be similar, with juicy, yet readable, stories about what it’s like to work with Trump as U.S. President. Well, I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t.

I finally finished Bolton’s book late last night. I’ve been chipping away at it for weeks. And, I have to say, I don’t feel I came away with much new knowledge after plowing through all 578 pages of The Room Where It Happened. John Bolton comes off as overly impressed with himself, unrelatable, and pompous. I’m sure he’s very competent as an attorney and political advisor. He’s clearly an intelligent man. But he does not have a gift for writing. There is not much engaging about his book. Reading it, for me, was like sitting through a very long-winded lecture while I also had an urgent need to pee. I was quite “antsy” to finish it. I’m glad I finally did.

There were a couple of times when I thought about abandoning my efforts to read Bolton’s lengthy tome; it was so dry. But I like to finish what I start, especially when it comes to books. If there is one thing I learned when I used to write book reviews for Epinions.com, it’s that it’s not really fair to review a book I haven’t read… and not finishing a book is akin to not reading it. However, I’m not going to sugar coat it, folks. This was rough going for me. Parts of this book were about as interesting as watching flies fuck.

The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir promises scathing details and damning evidence of Donald Trump’s corruption as “45”. And maybe, somewhere buried in the many pages of complex and clumsily constructed text, there’s an exciting tale to be told. Alas, this book was not well-edited, so it’s easy to get knocked off course by minutiae and random asides. I found it a frustrating experience trying to read Bolton’s complicated accounts of what supposedly went on while he was serving as Trump’s security advisor. Nothing was particularly exciting about this book, and every time I sat down to read more of it, I felt like a masochist.

So what did I learn from reading The Room Where it Happened? Not that much, actually. The most interesting part of this book, for me, is probably the title, which was reportedly “borrowed” from the popular musical, Hamilton. Bolton mostly writes about his work with an air of being “above” the job.

One thing I have observed, though, is that Washington, DC is full of narcissists who are convinced that they can reform the biggest narcissist of all, Donald Trump. Think about it. It takes a special kind of arrogance for someone to look at a guy like Trump– who might as well have a flashing neon sign over his head with the word “narcissist” on it– and think that he can be reformed or guided in any way. Even though I know, just by the sheer number of YouTube channels and self-help books out there about narcissistic personality disorder, that many people have narcissists in their lives, it seems that a lot of folks still haven’t been clued in by what Trump is and what that means.

Even after four years of watching this very selfish man do everything in his power to destroy democracy and use his time as POTUS as a way to line his pockets and reward his cronies, rather than serve the people, many folks still champion him and think he’s the only one who can “save America”. Well, my friends, that is utter bullshit. In fact, there’s a whole slew of people who can do a better job at making America a better place, simply because they have a conscience, a functioning brain, and a heart.

Another thing I’ve learned, which was reinforced by reading Bolton’s book, is that you can be very intelligent, experienced, politically savvy, and highly accomplished, and still be suckered by someone like Trump. John Bolton, like other Trump flunkies, thought he could advise Donald Trump. He was mistaken. Trump doesn’t answer to anyone but himself. The only way to survive working with him is to agree with everything he says and does and kiss his ass, even as you helplessly watch him destroy everything. He fires or forces to resign anyone who isn’t willing to pucker up for him. Once he’s done using a person, they will be discarded. This is what ALL narcissists do to some extent, although some narcissists are more narcissistic than others are. I suspect John Bolton has a healthy level of narcissism himself. Many politicians do, due to the nature of their work. But he wasn’t a match for Trump. No one in Trump’s administration has been.

I think Bolton would like to think he made a difference, hence his decision to write this book… which shows a frank lack of consideration to his readers. He could have easily shaved at least 100 pages from this volume, which would have spared his readers some time and saved a few trees (for those reading the print version). He could have enlisted the help of a talented writer and/or an editor, to make his story more concise and engaging. Instead, he decided to take us into “the room where it happened” all by himself. Once again, he’s grossly overestimated his abilities, but at least he does give us a few interesting photos at the end of the book.

It was a colossal chore to read The Room Where it Happened, but great God almighty, I’m free at last. And now, I feel like the world’s most disastrous dinner date has finally ended. I suspect I’ll feel similarly on January 20th, 2021.

John Bolton talks about his thick skin.
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Bill, Ex, family, Trump

Things are getting pretty surreal…

I’m not surprised that things are surreal… Trump is doing all he can to hold on to his power and people in his base are talking about taking extreme measures to keep him in power. And yet it’s very clear that Trump has lost the election and will be forced to leave the White House. Biden is projecting calmness and maturity and other world leaders are looking to him. News sources are showing less Trump more Biden as Trump continues to whine about non-existent fraud and refuses to cooperate with the transition. It feels a lot like breaking up with a narcissist.

To be clear, I never dated or married a narcissist. Bill did, and she employed similarly “nuclear” tactics on a much smaller scale. The damage was pretty extensive and extraordinary and the bitterness lasted for many years. It’s really only been in the last few years that things have started healing.

My husband spoke to his daughter the other night, just before we knew his dad had passed away. She wisely brought up the logistics of going to Ray’s funeral and how it won’t be possible for a lot of people who otherwise would have gone, mainly due to the raging global pandemic. This is a scenario we never could have foreseen even a year ago. I have been wondering how the inevitable funeral for Bill’s dad would happen. Now, it appears it will happen without Bill due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

Last night, Bill got an email from his daughter and she made it clear that she could now see how the explosion of her parents’ marriage had affected so many people. It didn’t have to be this way. I think younger daughter now sees more of the truth, which often happens as people grow up and their perspectives broaden.

The same is going on as Trump is forced to reckon with the realization that he has lost. I have read articles about how he’s now talking about a run in 2024. God help us! But I think it won’t happen because there are other people who want to run… people who hitched themselves to Trump’s star in a bid to further their own careers. And once Trump is cast out of power, he’s only going to find allies in true right wing nutjobs who continue to worship him despite his tantrums. This is what tends to happen to narcissistic types in the long run. They typically don’t have a pleasant end.

I am hoping the garden variety conservatives who supported Trump have had their eyes opened. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how “dirty” the Democrats are. I won’t argue with that point. Pretty much all politicians lie and make deals. It comes with the territory. But there are definitely degrees of depravity. I never saw Obama stoop to the levels that Trump has. I never even saw either of the Bushes doing that… or Bill Clinton. Trump is truly in a class by himself, and it’s alarming how much he has divided the people. It’s not unlike a really nasty divorce, complete with false accusations, DARVO, and gnashing of the teeth. It’s embarrassing and horrifying to watch, even from abroad.

Last night, I read a rather poignant opinion piece on CNN written by Richard L. Eldridge, a journalist whose family pretty much disowned him over his negative views of Donald Trump. I could really relate to what Mr. Eldridge wrote, especially these parts:

“Over our love-filled 50-year bond, you chose a hate-filled New York millionaire who has never spent a moment with you, cried with one of you when your dad died, hugged another of you at your mom’s funeral or otherwise cared about you.

I know his supporters, you included, see the version of Trump he claims to be. Here is who I see. A man under seemingly constant investigation while in office. A man who brags about grabbing women by their genitals. A man who — though he denies it — others say calls members of our military “losers” and “suckers.” A morally bankrupt, impeached and now lame duck President.

A man who refers to members of the press — my chosen profession for the past three decades — as “enemies of the people.” A man who mocks the disabled, who basks in the adoration of a crowd chanting his name as he engages in cruelty.”

This is what divorcing a malignant narcissist looks like. When you break up with one, they become very nasty. That’s stressful enough when it happens in a one on one relationship. It’s especially horrifying when the malignant narcissist happens to be a world leader who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. I suspect the coming days will be very scary and surreal, and I pray that people with decency and integrity do what is necessary to contain Trump and his minions before much more damage is done and we become a nation that is literally divided, much like my husband’s family was. If that happens, we most likely won’t be reuniting after fifteen years of silence.

As for my father-in-law… I really wish there was a way we could have been there for him and his wife. I am hoping the funeral can somehow be Zoomed or at least recorded for Bill. He truly adored his father, who was a man worth adoring. It’s breaking his heart that he can’t be at the funeral. At the same time, this morning he told me that he was glad he was with me instead of his ex wife, who would be making the whole thing about her and forcing Bill to calm her hysterics rather than giving him the support he needs and deserves.

I think America needs calmness, love, and support, too… It’s nice to see leaders of more sensible nations offering it to Biden in the hopes that we can all come together and live peacefully. I’m going to try not to be distracted by Trump’s tantrums or disturbed by the delusions of his base… but I can’t help but be very concerned about what’s going to happen before January.

Mary Trump talks frankly with Katie Couric about her uncle’s loss.
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book reviews, narcissists, politicians, politics

Reviewing Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man…

I decided not to write a new post this morning because I was eager to finish reading Mary Trump’s brand new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Released a couple of weeks ago, slightly ahead of schedule, this book, written by Mary Trump, the daughter of Donald Trump’s older brother, Freddy, was bound to be a fascinating page turner. Having just finished reading this afternoon, I can confirm that this book is quite a shocker for those who don’t know anything about malignant narcissists. Unfortunately, for those of us who have been exposed to malignant narcissists, it just confirms what we already know about 45.

Although I have not been compulsively reading all of the books that have come out about Donald Trump, I did decide that I wanted to read Mary Trump’s book. Why? Because not only is she Trump’s niece, she’s also a doctoral level psychologist, having earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Adelphi University. As a trained clinical psychologist, she’s surely run into her share of narcissists… and one of the most famous and most toxic of them is her uncle, her father’s younger brother, Donald John Trump, who happens to be the POTUS right now. Hopefully, Americans have come to their senses and will do their part to get him out of the White House in November. This is a very serious situation. If he’s not voted out, I truly fear for the future of the United States.

Before Mary Trump became a psychologist, she studied English. She has a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree in English from Columbia University. So, not only does she know about psychology, she also knows how to write. And although lately it’s been my habit to fall asleep when I read, I did find her account of growing up Trump a real page turner.

Just in case anyone is wondering, yes, Mary Trump voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She was despondent when her uncle became POTUS, knowing that he was in no way fit for the job. And yes, she does an excellent job explaining how and why Donald Trump should have never been considered presidential material. But she also explains how and why he ended up in the position he’s in. This is a man who has lived a life like the emperor who got new/no clothes. He’s been enabled by people his whole life, and they have contributed to his grand delusions that are so harmful because they alter his judgment and make him blind to reality. Most of all, he simply doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about anything but money and his own interests.

I’ve looked at a few of the reviews on Amazon. Many of them are positive, because a lot of people are bright enough to see why Trump is terrible for America, but they also recognize that Mary Trump’s book is a very good read because it offers a unique look at who Trump is through the eyes of one of his relatives… who also happens to be a trained clinical psychologist. The negative reviews, not surprisingly, are dismissive, not very insightful, and clearly written by dyed in the wool Trumpers. For instance, here’s the best rated positive review.

Now, have a look at the “most helpful” negative review…

I don’t know who “Sheryl” is, but she clearly admires people who are abusive sociopaths and doesn’t recognize a harmful person when she sees one. And sadly, she has a lot of company.

Mary Trump starts at the beginning, as she explains how it is that a German couple originally from Kallstadt, in the Kingdom of Bavaria (now part of the Palatinate, located about an hour from where we currently live) wound up in the United States. Friedrich Trump came to the United States at the age of 16 because he didn’t want to do military service for Germany (sounds like someone else we know). He worked hard in the United States and made some money, then went back to Kallstadt, married his wife, Elizabeth Christ, and took her back to the United States, where they had a daughter named Elizabeth.

When Friedrich’s wife, Elizabeth, missed home, they tried to move back to Germany, but Bavarian officials stripped Friedrich of his citizenship because he had not done his military duty. The young Trump family, with Elizabeth then four months pregnant with Donald Trump’s father, Fred, moved back to the USA. Fred Trump and his younger brother, John, were born in New York in 1905 and 1907 respectively. John Trump went on to become a famous scientist. Fred Trump, born with a head for business, went into the real estate game with his mother, Elizabeth, after Friedrich Trump died of Spanish Flu in 1918.

According to Mary Trump, Elizabeth Trump was ruthless, and had a thirst for making money, which she shared with her older son, Fred. In fact, for all of the contempt the Trump name has, I have the sense that it was really Fred Trump’s mother who started the chain of fuckery that has resulted in Donald Trump being the 45th president of the United States. Trump’s paternal grandmother was also a piece of work.

Fred’s wife, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, came from the scenic Isle of Lewis in Scotland. She’d come to America because all of the young men in her small town had gone off to fight in World War I. The ones who weren’t killed were coming home by sea when, just a mile off the coast of the harbor, their ship hit rocks and sank. Most of the people on board died, and Mary’s family told her that if she wanted to get married, she’d need to leave town. She went to America to work in the homes of wealthy people and, perhaps, find a man to marry and have children with someday. She met Fred Trump, and instead of being hired help, she was the lady of the house. But that didn’t stop her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, from coming over wearing white gloves to check on Mary’s housekeeping (there must be something in the Bavarian water).

Fred and Mary went on to have two daughters and three sons. Their eldest son, Frederick (known as Freddy), was Mary’s father. He had married Linda Clapp, who was a flight attendant for TWA (Trans World Airlines). Freddy Trump had very briefly been a pilot for TWA, going against his very overbearing father’s wishes and not going into the family business. Because he made the decision to try to live his life on his own terms, Fred Trump treated his namesake like shit. And Donald Trump, his second eldest son and fourth child, stepped into the role as heir apparent.

In gripping prose, Mary Trump explains how Fred, and to a lesser extent, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump treated her father, who died of alcoholism at age 42. She also explains how she and her brother were basically screwed out of their inheritances as they were expected to stay loyal to the family. When Freddy Trump died, apparently so did his children’s connections to the Trump family. Mary and Fritz Trump got medical benefits through the Trump family and their signatures were needed so that Fred Trump’s will could go into probate. But Fred Trump disinherited them. Their father’s twenty percent of the Trump fortune was redistributed to the rest of the family. Why? Because Fred Trump didn’t want Freddy’s ex wife, Linda, to have access to any of the Trump fortune. And the rest of the siblings wanted to cut Mary and Fritz out because– well– they’re greedy people with no empathy.

I wrote a post yesterday about how the Trumps and the Duggars have things in common. Well, Mary Trump pretty much lays it out how family was treated. There was no love or camaraderie in that family– except for money and power. And Donald Trump was basically molded into the monster he is today by his parents, especially his father.

I was shocked by some of the stories… yet I was also not shocked, given that I know the type of person Trump is. This is a family entirely driven by greed– so much so that they didn’t care about each other, let alone people who worked for them, rented from them, or otherwise had business dealings with them. All of their “friends” were people who could do something for them, especially people who had powers that could be exploited legally. For example, Maryanne Trump became a judge, not necessarily because she was a brilliant prosecutor, but because she could help the family out legally. Anyone who didn’t do what Fred Trump wanted them to do was ostracized, yet still expected to be loyal. And those who weren’t loyal were treated with extreme contempt. Sadly, if you want to break free of the Trump cult, you have to expect that you’ll be cast out completely, in all ways. And if they suddenly start being “nice” again, that’s the time to be the most on your guard.

Fred Trump didn’t seem to like anyone… except for Donald, whom he carefully groomed in the ways of screwing over people for his own gain. However– as Mary points out– there is an important distinction between the two men. Fred Trump had a genuine head for business and making money. Donald Trump does not. His father and his father’s powerful friends propped up Donald for many years, bailing him out when his ludicrous business ideas turned to shit.

Trump is now surrounded by yes men and men who are much smarter than he is, yet know how to stroke his ego to get exactly what they want. His ego takes precedence over everything, which is why he is unfit to be the president. He doesn’t care about running the country. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. And people like Vladimir Putin and Mitch McConnell are know what to say and do to get Trump to do what they want.

Both Fred Trump and Donald Trump like young women. Even into his 90s, Fred Trump made a habit out of carrying around a photo of a half naked girl who may very well have been younger than 18. Likewise, Trump enjoys young, beautiful women… and won’t hesitate to “grab ’em by the pussy” if they let him.

I have never made it a secret that I despise Donald Trump. For me, it was very easy to see why he was not fit to be dog catcher, let alone president. But Mary Trump’s book lays it out in black and white and confirms a lot of what I know, but also includes some passages that were eerie, because they were the same kinds of things Bill heard from his narcissistic ex wife and a narcissistic colonel with whom he went to war and who was later very publicly and well-deservedly fired for abusing troops. Toward the end of the book, as Mary Trump was winding up her conclusion, I read a passage aloud to Bill. It was about how Donald Trump has “suffered” and how, if you want to be in his good graces, you’d better agree that he’s “suffered”, or he will do his best to get revenge. It was the same kind of shit he heard from his ex wife and his wartime boss, both very damaged souls indeed. But Ex and former boss are not running the country… and really, neither is Donald Trump. He is just filling the POTUS role until we get someone more competent in charge.

Seriously… I know many people have fallen hook, line, and sinker for Trump’s bullshit. I think they will very extremely embarrassed in the future. It will be akin to being a Hitler supporter. And they won’t want to read Mary Trump’s book, because they think she’s just bitter, jealous, and petty. But, I promise you… if you know anything about narcissists, the behaviors she writes of are uncannily similar. These folks seem to have the same playbook. They’re bullies with no imagination, and no souls.

One last thing… I found Mary Trump’s book interesting for an unrelated personal reason. It turns out Fred Trump was a big fan of Norman Vincent Peale’s. It so happens that Norman Vincent Peale’s son, John Peale, taught me philosophy at Longwood University. I recently reposted a review I wrote of John Peale’s book about being raised by his famous father. I did not have a good experience in John Peale’s class, although apparently, before he experienced serious health problems, Dr. Peale was a much beloved professor at Longwood. When I had him, I didn’t even know who Norman Vincent Peale was, and I never found out until a friend, whose parents also loved Norman Vincent Peale’s books, told me who he was. Anyway, Norman Vincent Peale’s famous advice was to think and be positive. Mary Trump called him a “charlatan”. I don’t know that I’d go that far… but apparently, she’s bitter about Peale because Fred Trump took his advice to heart and “thinking positive” was Fred Trump’s answer for everything. And “thinking positive” is not always going to work. Sometimes, you have to face reality and do what needs to be done, lest a disaster strike.

I think Trump’s presidency has been one long, horrific, surreal disaster and I hope to God we’re rid of him soon, before he destroys the country. I know some people think that’s hyperbole, but honestly… if you haven’t spent time with a malignant narcissist, you don’t realize just how incredibly destructive they are. And Donald Trump and his ilk are off the charts in being malignant narcissists. So I urge those who want to know more about who Donald Trump is, and how he came to be who he is, to read Mary Trump’s book. She’s not full of shit or affected by “sour grapes”. She’s written the truth.

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