Duggars, Ex, narcissists, psychology, Trump

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…”

This morning, I’m reminded of the popular saying that serves as today’s post title. It’s a lesson we’ve learned again and again. The universe will give you opportunities to learn lessons. In our case, we have apparently needed to learn more about narcissists and narcissism. And we have had several teachers who have appeared. It’s only been recently that we’ve been learning the lessons and changing our approaches to dealing with these types of people.

Yesterday’s post turned out to be more popular than I was expecting it to be. I’m sure part of the reason it was so compelling is that it included a somewhat “sordid” true story. Even three years on from our last move, it still made me nervous to share that post. It occurs to me that some people might read my posts and think I’m just whining. Maybe I do “whine” more than I should. It would be nice to have more of a “get on with it” attitude about more things.

I have what Dr. Phil would call a “psychological sunburn” about certain issues. That means I’m unusually sensitive about some things. In my case, it’s dealing with abusive people. I’ve mentioned before that I feel “saturated”, especially when it comes to verbal abuse. I just can’t abide it anymore. I don’t willingly engage with people who are like that, and writing helps me process it. I realize it probably comes off as a little “off-kilter” to some people, although I also know that some people can relate and appreciate these posts. So I keep writing them.

Narcissism is a hot topic these days. Spend a few minutes on YouTube and you’ll find so many videos about narcissism and narcissistic people. Some people are as tired of hearing and reading about narcissism, as I am of hearing about the pandemic. I don’t know why others are so interested in narcissism, but I know I am, because I’ve spent a lifetime being subjected to the general fuckery that can come from being around abusive and exploitative people. It’s a lot to unpack.

The first time I ever heard the term “narcissism” was when I was a senior in high school. I was taking a psychology class, and my teacher was the kind who loved to show “made for TV” movies to demonstrate certain psychological disorders. We watched the 1989 film Small Sacrifices, which starred Farrah Fawcett and was based on true crime writer Ann Rule’s excellent book. Fawcett portrayed Diane Downs, a woman who shot her own children and then claimed that she was carjacked. I remember my teacher saying that Downs had narcissistic personality disorder.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was seventeen years old and really didn’t know a lot about the world. Hell, at that time, I didn’t even realize that my father was an alcoholic, even though it was pretty obvious. I was used to seeing him drink excessively, and was accustomed to the erratic and sometimes scary behavior that resulted from his drinking, PTSD, and depression.

It never occurred to me that, years later, I would marry a man whose ex wife was extremely narcissistic, or even that her shockingly abusive behavior, as egregiously selfish and damaging as it was, would be something that a couple of my friends would also experience with people in their lives. I started to look around and realized that I was seeing narcissism all over the place.

When I started to realize how common and pervasive narcissistic behavior seemed to be, I wondered if maybe I was imagining it. Like, maybe I was akin to a physician in training with a little knowledge, suddenly seeing the signs and symptoms of a disease I’d just learned about in a class. I do have degrees in social work and public health, but narcissism isn’t something we necessarily learned about in school, except when I took an undergraduate course in abnormal psychology. I did very well in that class, but I am certainly no expert.

I started learning a lot more about NPD years ago, when I watched my husband’s ex wife treat my husband like literal shit. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the disrespect she showed toward him and his family, and ultimately, her children. I couldn’t believe her nerve. I was very surprised that so many people let her get away with the things they let her get away with, like denying Bill access to his children and telling outrageous lies about him to everyone, including his own parents and the children. Then I learned more about the physical and sexual abuse that occurred, and saw the proof of it.

I knew there had to be something very wrong with Ex, because her “reasons” for her actions didn’t make any sense to me. They did not fit the man that I knew, and have now known, for over twenty years. She made claims that he hates women and was abusive to her. And yet he has never as much as raised his voice to me, let alone a hand. He’s literally one of the kindest, most gentle, and agreeable people I’ve ever met, in spite of his long career as a soldier.

At first, I thought maybe Ex had borderline personality disorder. I read a lot about it and realized that her behavior ticked a lot of the boxes. But people with BPD are usually somewhat treatable, if they realize they have a problem and want to get help, and they aren’t as cruel as Ex is. Ex has been hospitalized on a few occasions, and I’ve seen her spouting off about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which is a treatment used for people with BPD. However, her behavior doesn’t seem to change, and there are still many signs that she’s got other issues– namely with narcissism. I have studied narcissism for years, and I am convinced that’s her main problem, at least at this point in her life.

Of course, it’s also certainly possible that she has both disorders. Sometimes cluster B personality disorders do overlap. Or maybe she’s got another problem entirely. I can only guess, based on what I’ve witnessed, heard about, and experienced in my years with Bill, and my own educational pursuits.

All I know is that when I started to read about narcissistic personality disorder, Ex’s behavior started to make a lot more sense, and was much less shocking. In fact, once I learned about personality disorders in general, Ex started to become more predictable. While it was still terrible to observe, and awful for my husband, who was denied contact with his daughters, there was something almost comforting in knowing that it wasn’t just our imagination that she was so incredibly controlling, and shamelessly self-centered and hurtful. Indeed, later when Bill started talking to his daughter, she confirmed that she was treated as badly as he was. Younger daughter recently announced that she’s expecting another baby. She wrote that she was much more nervous about telling her mother than telling Bill. Bill always reacts with kindness. Ex doesn’t.

Some might wonder why I write so much about Ex. To that question, I can only answer that it helps me process and unpack. People often assume she’s a normal person and I’m the problem. I would like to ask people who automatically assume that I’m the problem, to stop and think about what they would think, and how they would feel, if they were married to someone who was DENIED access to their own children by the other parent. I would expect a loving parent to want the other parent to be involved, if only for the sake of the children, who deserve to have access to their parents and should not be saddled with an unnecessary stigma of being the child of an abuser.

If there was a legitimate reason for the other parent to be denied access, there should have been documentation as to why that was necessary. But in Ex’s case, she was apparently married to two men who were not fit to be fathers to their children. She denied her first husband access to their son, and only helped them reunite when it suited her toxic agenda. She did it solely to be cruel and punitive to Bill, who was asserting himself because his former stepson was quite obviously using him for money. When Bill busted the young man for hiding the fact that he was changing his name and didn’t bother to tell Bill, but kept accepting child support from him (at age 21, no less), Ex suddenly decided that the young man should be in contact with the man she claimed was “crazy” and “abusive”. And now we know she said the same things about Bill, although as his second wife, I can attest that he’s not the one who is “crazy” and “abusive”.

Once I learned more about narcissism, I found out that a lot of people are dealing with narcissists in their lives. I wonder how that is possible, since it’s supposedly a “personality disorder”. But then I realized that one doesn’t have to have NPD to exhibit those behaviors on occasion. Narcissism seems to be an epidemic in western society. In fact, it seems to be somewhat celebrated and even normalized in American culture. Obviously narcissistic people are the ones who often end up being “stars”. They often have powerful jobs and lots of prestige, or they have a lot of money. But then you look at their personal lives, and examine things they’ve done to get ahead, and you realize they aren’t people you’d necessarily want to know.

Donald Trump, to my mind, is a VERY obvious grandiose and malignant narcissist. He’s had a string of unfaithful marriages and business failures. So many people who have been associated with him have ended up in trouble with the law, ranging from his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to people who invaded the Capitol building last January. There are many stories of him abusing women and being racist. He doesn’t seem to care beyond the superficial for anyone, except maybe his daughter, Ivanka, whom he’s said he would like to date. He’s been friends with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as Steve Bannon. And yet, we made him President of the United States, and many people– some of whom I consider decent and basically intelligent– are still fooled by his icky, superficial and totally fake charm. They see his selfishness and crazy behavior as strengths.

It was my husband’s ex wife who made me realize how dangerous Trump is. Once I started studying narcissists and saw how these people put on public faces, but are toxic nightmares behind closed doors, I realized how terrible Trump as a leader is. And then I saw the proof of it in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which thank GOD he lost. I only hope that he can’t run again, because I’m not altogether sure he wouldn’t win. And if he wins, God help us all, because he would have no reason whatsoever to curb his behavior. He wouldn’t be able to run for another term and would be even closer to the end of his life, anyway.

But Trump is an extreme example of a narcissist. The truth is, they’re everywhere, and that’s why so many people are obsessively reading about them and watching videos about their behavior. Most of them don’t reach the terrible extremes of Trump. Most are probably not even as extreme as Ex is. I would say most narcissists are mainly just what we’d call inconsiderate assholes. They aren’t necessarily dangerous, but they are very unpleasant and toxic to be around. Some go to more extreme lengths and are incredibly dangerous and harmful, particularly to innocent people.

I look at Josh Duggar, whose trial is set to begin tomorrow. This is a man who was lecturing the masses about family values several years ago, as he was meeting and brutalizing a sex worker, cheating on his wife, and apparently, viewing illegal pornographic images. I have never met Josh Duggar, but he definitely has a lot of the signs of NPD, and he’s been raised in a culture where his selfish, destructive, abusive behavior is tolerated and even celebrated.

Meanwhile, since he’s been caught with illegal images that were described as the “worst of the worst” that experienced investigators have ever seen, Josh and his equally narcissistic father, Jim Bob, have been doing everything they can to get out of being held accountable for this behavior. Hell, Jim Bob is even running for public office again, even though his son is probably about to go to prison. Go figure that decision, except that Jim Bob is also extremely controlling and self-centered. Why should we care about these people? By all rights, we shouldn’t, but their story is compelling, because they have that yucky charisma and charm that a lot of narcissists have. I only hope that this time, they finally get held accountable for the things they do.

I come by my fascination with narcissism honestly, because it has affected me personally. I know that I’m not alone. I really think our culture has a lot to do with why this issue is so prevalent. Sadly, narcissists really hurt people, and they cause damage that is not easy to overcome. Whether it’s dealing with an abusive ex spouse who uses children and other people to maintain control, or it’s just a boss or a landlord who lives to make someone’s life hell, or it’s a person who is running the country and refusing to play fair, narcissists do a lot of harm to decent people. And I think the high number of books, videos, and blog posts about this subject only show that many students are ready, so the teachers have appeared.

Now… I’m going to dive back into my latest book by Les Carter, and I hope tomorrow, there will be a fresh book review. I’ve got several new books that I’m dying to start reading, but I can’t tackle them the way I used to. I hope everyone has a great Monday.

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book reviews, divorce, psychology

Repost: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind

Here’s a great book suggestion for anyone dealing with parental alienation syndrome. I read and reviewed this book ten years ago, before Bill’s younger daughter reconnected (the other remains estranged). Because I like to be helpful, I am reposting the review as it was when I originally wrote it for Epinions.com in 2011.

Those who regularly read my Epinions reviews may know that my husband has two extremely alienated daughters who haven’t spoken to him since 2004.  I have only met my husband’s kids once, back in 2003.  We had a nice enough visit, but afterwards, their mother decided that I was too much of a bad influence on them.  She ramped up her efforts to get my husband’s kids to reject him.  Today in 2011, he has no contact with the two kids (now adults) with whom he used to enjoy a very warm, loving relationship.  My husband’s daughters are textbook examples of kids who are affected by Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

PAS is a term that was originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist.  Dr. Gardner noted that sometimes in highly contentious divorce situations, one parent may misuse socialization techniques to turn their child against the other parent to the point at which the relationship is completely destroyed.

PAS is a very controversial topic.  Since alienating parents usually tend to be women, a lot of feminist organizations deny that PAS is real.  A lot of legal and mental health professionals also argue about whether or not it’s real.  I am myself educated as a public health social worker and, having spent almost nine years living through PAS with my husband, I have no doubt that parental alienation syndrome is very real and very scary.  It absolutely deserves to be taken seriously, especially by the family court system.

Although I’ve pretty much given up hope that my husband’s daughters will ever have a normal relationship with their father, I do still feel the need to read about PAS and related subjects such as narcissistic personality disorder.  That drive to research led me to read Amy J. L. Baker’s excellent book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind (2007).  This book is very well-researched, well-written, and I guarantee that anyone who has experienced the PAS phenomenon will recognize the uncanny steps a determined alienator will take to destroy a child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

Who is Amy Baker and how did she research this book?

Dr. Amy J. L. Baker is director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child protection of the New York Foundling.  In researching Breaking the Ties That Bind, Dr. Baker interviewed 40 adults who believed that when they were children, they were alienated against one of their parents.  She also interviewed people who were targeted parents of parental alienators.  Chapter by chapter, she uses her subject’s stories to lay out what PAS is and outline the tactics used by parental alienators to sever family ties. 

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I read about the experiences of these adult children of parental alienation syndrome.  Many of the alienating parents were women, though some of them were men.  And in some cases, the alienation tactics even had some validity because there were some targeted parents who really weren’t very good people.  In other cases, the children eventually realized that they were manipulated to hate their other parent and their relationship with the alienating parent was damaged.  Sometimes they were able to reconnect with the lost parent and build a positive relationship; sometimes they found out that the “dead” relationship was better off left alone.  I liked the fact that Dr. Baker explained how adult children of PAS eventually figure out what happened.  In some cases, adult children of PAS figure it out when they themselves become targeted parents, either by marrying someone who alienates the kids or by realizing their alienator parents have turned into alienator grandparents by trying to turn their grandkids against their parents.  Sadly, sometimes PAS victims never learn the whole truth, but Dr. Baker seems to think they usually do eventually “get it”, even if it takes decades.

According to Dr. Baker, the vast majority of parents who alienate their children from their other parents are people who have personality disorders, most notably narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  Based on our situation, I am inclined to agree with Dr. Baker, although I also recognize that there are varying degrees of PAS and sometimes the PAS is even somewhat unintentional.  

In any case, the children are the ultimate losers in situations where one parent alienates children from the other parent.  Dr. Baker notes that children never forget that they have that other parent “out there” and every time the alienating parent punishes them for mentioning or missing the other parent, they are punishing them for their identity.  These kids are ordered to deny half of their DNA in order to keep their custodial parent happy.  That forced denial has to hurt on many different levels.  Indeed, through her research, Dr. Baker found out just how the realization that they have been lied to and manipulated can be so hurtful to children, who have often lost many years with their other parent.  In some cases, the other parent has died, making reconciliation impossible. 

Overall 

If you, or someone you love, have been affected by PAS, I highly recommend reading this book.  It’s probably one of the very best books I have ever read about parental alienation syndrome.  In so many ways, I found Baker’s book very insightful and helpful.  I found myself feeling a lot more empathy for my husband’s kids, despite the horrible way they have treated him and the rest of his family over the years. 

This is also an excellent book for mental health and legal professionals; indeed, I think it ought to be required reading for custody evaluators, especially those who doubt PAS exists. 

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

Review of Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion, by Mrs. Anne McCrea

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that Bill and I have had our share of encounters with narcissists. I also have what would have been a professional interest in narcissism, thanks to my background in social work and public health. And the whole world has been subjected to the whims of the Grand Poobah of narcissists, Donald J. Trump, who is pretty much a walking billboard for the condition.

Since I’ve already written so much about narcissism in other posts, I’m not going to define what it is. I think most of us have a pretty damned good idea of what it is, although some people still haven’t gotten the message that our soon to be exiting president is a narcissist. Sadly, I think most people who know what narcissists are don’t understand what being involved with a narcissist means.

For instance, yesterday I read two accounts in the news about people who heeded Trump’s call to storm the Capitol. Both of these folks, who have been arrested and are looking at prison terms, are pleading with Trump to pardon them. They think he owes them that for their loyalty. But Trump doesn’t have any loyalty to anyone but himself. Moreover, the faux coup attempt of last week was a failure and, in fact, made things worse. So, even though Trump egged these people on and they threw themselves under the bus for him, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll feel any pity for them. His first instinct is to save himself. And screw all of the people who broke the law to try to keep him in office. My guess is that they will be at the mercy of the courts, and it’s unclear how much sympathy they’ll get from their judges.

Narcissists don’t care about gestures. They don’t care that someone “tried” if their try ended in failure. They only want positive results, and they aren’t believers in the idea that it’s the thought that counts. Their good graces are short-lived, and those who are in their sphere are only as good as their last good deed. And since the mob failed to “stop the steal”, so to speak, Trump likely thinks his supporters are losers and suckers.

Robbie Rist, who played “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch, dislikes Trump as much as I do. He shared this very astute cartoon four years ago today… It’s pretty much dead on.

In any case, I’ve read a lot of books about narcissism, but I’m always interested in reading more. I don’t remember how I discovered Mrs. Anne McCrae’s book, Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion. She does have a Web site, as well as a Facebook page, but I found out this morning that I wasn’t a follower of her page. It’s possible that this book was a suggestive sell on Amazon and I decided to download it after reading some of the very positive reviews.

The first thing to know about this book is that Mrs. Anne McCrea is not a mental health professional. She is simply someone who has experienced the pain of being in a relationship with a narcissist. So it’s important to keep in mind that her views are mainly those of a layperson’s. The book is mostly well-written in British style, as Mrs. McCrea is from the United Kingdom. I did notice some grammar and spelling errors, but they were minor and not that distracting.

In 2014, McCrea launched her Facebook page, having studied narcissistic personality disorder. The Facebook page mostly has clever memes on it, but there are also informative posts on how to spot a narcissist and tips on how to get away from them. In 2017, she published her book, which is written in a sympathetic writing style to which I think many readers will respond. The book mainly contains a lot of what’s on the Facebook page, minus the memes and personal interaction. It’s a quick, easy read, though perhaps not the most professionally written or polished book on this subject.

This book is not so much about what happened to Anne McCrea as it is a primer on narcissistic personality disorder. A lot of what’s in this book can be sourced elsewhere. But she does include special interest chapters. For instance, she writes about children of narcissists, as well as families with narcissists in them– narcissistic siblings, children, parents, and co-parenting all get mentioned. I suspect that much of her material for those chapters may have come from her Facebook page and the forum on her Web site.

Anne McCrea’s story

After the sudden death of her husband, who took his own life, Anne McCrea was left vulnerable. She soon found herself in the clutches of a very controlling, manipulative man, who turned out to be a narcissist. It took six years to break out of the relationship, which also negatively affected McCrea’s daughter. At Christmas time in 2012, McCrea writes that the narcissistic man told her daughter that it was no wonder her “daddy did what he did”.

McCrea highlights other cruelties she experienced at the narcissist’s hands in a letter she wrote to the man after their breakup. She writes that one can’t expect “closure” from a narcissist, but writing the letter made her feel better. I kind of liked what she wrote about forgiveness. A lot of times, people say that you must “forgive” people who have wronged you in order to heal. McCrea writes that she disagrees that forgiveness is essential. She claims that she doesn’t feel pain for not forgiving the narcissist.

I tend to agree that forgiveness isn’t essential, although it could be that different people have different opinions about what forgiveness actually is. Some people think forgiveness means that all is good between an abuser and a survivor. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think forgiveness is allowing yourself to get over the pain and not dwelling on it anymore. But different people take different amounts of time to heal. It’s just like any other injury. Recovery takes time, and the amount of time it takes is highly variable and dependent on many factors. Mrs. McCrea writes that most people take about two years to get over a narcissistic relationship. I’ve found that to be pretty much true in my case, in that I stop obsessing and ruminating in about that amount of time.

Overall

This is a decent book about narcissism. I don’t think it’s the best book. I’ve read a lot of them, and while I think that one can learn a lot about narcissism by being in a relationship with one, I tend to prefer counsel given by actual professionals with solid credentials. But Anne McCrea has written a pretty good book, particularly for reference purposes. She offers solid advice and reassurance, as well as reputable resources for further reading. She does a good job of covering the subject. I probably would have preferred more information about her own personal experiences rather than the textbook information she includes, especially since she’s not a professional. I can get textbook information anywhere, but Anne McCrea’s personal story is unique to her. I think she should have written more about that, than a general “how to” guide to surviving relationships with narcissists.

The below review, which appears on Amazon.com, also gives me pause:

If it’s true that the author responded very negatively to constructive criticism about grammar, then perhaps she has a touch of narcissism herself.

I think my favorite and most useful sources for information about NPD are on YouTube. I like Dr. Les Carter’s Surviving Narcissism channel, which he runs with survivor, Laura Charanza. I also like Jess Stanley’s channel on narcissism— she’s another one who speaks from personal experience, rather than professional training. And I like Dr. Ramani, who is a very warm, empathetic, mental health professional who is a veritable guru on this issue and has also written books.

Personally, I would probably go to any of those YouTube channels before I’d necessarily consult Anne McCrea’s book. But it’s not a bad book and I can see why some people like it very much. And her Facebook page is also a good source of information– but it’s one of many available sources. That’s not a bad thing, given what we’ve all endured for the past four years. I think a lot of us need soothing and understanding and will be healing for some time to come.

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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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