The Rule of Assholes

The Rule of Assholes: every group has their assailed, the true test of a group is if they put them in charge.

The rule of assholes was invented due to a disturbing growing adherence to the false equivalency fallacy in order to attempt a straw man argument about a hypocrisy that may or not be there. There are those who feel that if you point out hundreds of instances of a wrongdoing,  your whole argument can be undone if your opponent can find singular incidents where others are doing the same thing. 

Basically, the argument becomes you can’t call out group A on bad behavior because I can find instances of group B doing the same thing. 

The Rule of Assholes answers this by acknowledging that every group will have someone who will push action past moral boundaries. That is inevitable. The Rule of Assholes, however, responds to this inevitability not by absolving all groups, but by making how the leadership responds to the assholes. Does the leadership reject the assholes? Does the leadership take responsibility by trying to offer restitution? Or does the leadership encourage the assholes? Does the leadership show off the asshole as the ideal? Does the leadership give the assholes a place in the leadership.

Essentially, we all have that friend who drives like an asshole, but smart people make him a passenger and never give him the keys to the car.

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The Dark Sin Eater, or, What is the real appeal of Trump?

The term “Sin Eater” refers to an old world occupation where an individual would sit on or at a grave site and have a meal with the recently dead. Through this ritual act, the person would take on all the sins of the departed. This usually would be done if the departed died before last rites or other forms of ritual sin cleansing could be performed, and the sin eater would take on those sins so the loved one could enter heaven. In many ways this was a beautiful solution to an existential religious anxiety about the powerlessness felt against the fear of dying unexpected and without preparation. The dead, now powerless to repent their own sins, had someone who could repent for them. It was a role taken on that reflected the self-sacrifice made by Jesus from the Christian religion the Sin Eaters spawned from: your sin is too oppressive, so I will serve you by taking it on and having it forgiven for you.

When I talk about a “Dark Sin Eater,” I am referring to a phenomenon that has emerged over the years that serves as a corruption of this role.  The Dark Sin Eater does not serve the dead, does not provide the relief for the dearly departed, but rather targets the living. Those that call upon the Dark Sin Eater are not incapable of repenting their sins, as is the dilemma for the dead, they just don’t want to. They love their sins, but want to avoid the consequences of sinning. They want to sin, but they also want to be seen as being sinless. The Dark Sin Eater does this not by taking away your sins in a Christ-like sacrifice, but rather by taking away your responsibility for them. but in that dark absolution comes the hidden cost, for when you hand over your responsibility, you also hand over your power and freedom. The deal is simple: Sin all you want, I will let you feel good about it, and in return, I get to rule you.

Where does this sin come from?

In order for any society to function, people have to abide by certain restrictions. We can’t just take what we want when we want it, we just can’t attack people because we have the urge to, etc. We have these restrictions because without them, society will fall to chaos. The urges to attack others, whether fueled by fear or just the drug like high of aggression, and the urges to take what we want have to be restrained.

Because of this, many of us learn to restrain ourselves. The whole process of growing up and maturing occurs as we learn to accept we have to work for things, that we can’t have everything we want, that we have to grow past fears, and that we have to reject the drug like reward for being aggressive. Empathy helps us along with this task, but it still involves a lot of frustration as we get torn between the shame of hurting others and the childlike desire for impulse indulgence. The overall reward for going through this process is a stable society that cares for us as we care for it.

However, not everyone follows this path. Fear can be overwhelming, the urge for that drug like hit from aggression can be too tempting, or we just feel too entitled. When this happens, society steps in to correct. Sometimes, it does so through official sanctions, such as through applying fines and jail time. However, the most common way society corrects is through the application of shame and stigma. We know we cannot survive outside of society, and to be separated from others is far more frightening than most other fears we have. In short, when we do something we want to but society tells us “NO!”, we feel shame. We feel bad. We have sinned. But we can be absolved by changing and growing up with the rest of society.

People, however, still want to indulge these immature urges. They want to find a way to make the theft, aggressions, and fearful lashing out acceptable. They try very hard to define the sins as sinless, often by finding ways to “other” people, defining the target as separate and therefore “less than”. This technique has often worked, as seen in the rampant prejudice and victim blaming that has plagued humanity over the past centuries. But as society continues to grow up, the newly emerging mature sensibilities are allowing this to occur less and less. Many have openly embraced the abandonment of this prejudice and victim blaming. Others are begrudgingly accepting the evolution of these sensibilities. Still others, sadly, are fighting it tooth and nail.

And this is where Donald Trump gets his appeal.

From the start of his campaign, Donald has been walking the path of the Dark Sin Eater. Whether through speeches glorifying violence against protesters, making stochastic threats against Hillary, claiming he was powerful enough to shoot people without repercussion, or othering minority groups like Muslims and Mexicans, Donald’s speeches flaunt a disdain for societal rules against violence, nullifying its sinfulness among his supporters. And when you hear his supporters speak, they don’t talk about his economic plans or policy points, they support him because “he says what he thinks,” praising him for telling them what they want to hear so that they don’t have to feel shamed for their fearful or aggressive urges. His method of gaining support frighteningly invokes a process similar to how racist groups will manipulate people into supporting them. Where society has been trying to tell them that threats and violence are wrong, he has been telling them that if he were to be put into office, they could indulge guilt free. His whole appeal is based in this absolution of the horrific.

So at each of the debates, stop and ask what vision of America Trump is building. Does he present real steps for a stable country and world? Does he have an outline on how to make more society just and fair? Does he have any real policy details that he puts out? Or does he just speak to indulgence of emotional urges? Does he tell you about scary minorities and how he will ruthlessly attack them and punish them for you to help you feel safe again? Does he just attack and attack, pushing the idea that truth comes from violence and aggression? Does he argue point by point, respecting the rules of the debate, like a mature citizen and leader? Does he childishly cut people off, shout over them, and focus on appealing to emotion and making personal attacks? Is he acting as the Leader who will help America continue to grow and mature, or is he acting as the Dark Sin Eater, telling America he will let you do what you want guilt free if you just let him rule you?

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Bernie Supporters, We Must Grow Up

Did I just piss you off by inferring you are acting like a petulant child?

Well, good.

You see, when you are pissed, you are motivated, and right now we need to stay active and stay moving.

The mistake that we are currently being pushed to make it that of focusing on who is going to be President now that Bernie is no longer in the race. Every one is asking who are you going to go after? Will you suck it up and vote Hillary? Will you vote Trump out of spite? Will you try to drink from the Stein? Are you toying with the Johnson?

The truth is, these are the wrong questions. This is the wrong conversation right now.

We are making a very childish mistake if we are looking for one person to be our end all and be all hope. To think that if we just elect the right president the world will be glorious is naive and misguided. It is hope nested in the desire to have a nurturing parent figure take care of us again. It is a hope for a mother or father who will scoop us up at the playground and kiss our boo-boos better. We are asking for someone else to fix things for us. Those are the wishes of children, and we need to plan like adults.

Bernie Sanders did not rise overnight. Despite the fact that he is a socialist Jew with carpentry skills, he is not a Messiah who was sent to deliver us. He has been fighting his cause for years with little visibility. What moved him to the front was not that he decided the stars were right to step forward, what moved him in front was our voice and spirit. In 2011, we decided on our own to stand up and push for income equality, holding banks responsible, removing money from politics, etc. Bernie did not call us together, we came together on our own. Bernie was able to step forward because his voice and our voice sang in harmony. He was ready to step up, but we pushed him to the front. If we make this all about one man and one office, we blind ourselves to what really happened.

We have more fight and spirit than anyone else out there. Hillary worked for this for over a decade, and we still rivaled her. The Tea Party was artificially built up and inflated by the same media that tried to play us down, and yet we are bigger than them. But the reason why Hillary won and why the Tea Party has more politicians in power is because they played long game, they didn’t throw it all behind a single make or break person to do it all for them. They took charge and crept into power, they didn’t did just demand it all in one grand gesture. This is how the adults play the game. This is why they win. If we focused that energy they way they did, we would be unstoppable.

So we need to grow up and do the same.

Instead of relying on some governmental parent to feed us and change our diapers, we need to become the parents. We had a message we put behind one leader in one race. Now we need to become our own leaders and now we need to focus on every race. Start local chapters, run for city council, run for mayor, run for local and state legislature. This will not be an instant victory, but it is how people really take back the country. Become more than just one man. Grow larger than just one election. Become the legion of a million men and women that fills every seat from your town to the nation. Only then can we make the changes we cry out for.

Vote for who ever the hell you want for President. We are putting too much emphasis in that one office. If you look at how the government actually runs, you will see that the President is not the end all be all of power.

No seriously, look at it over the past decade and you’ll see how congress has been able to nullify the powers of the president whether he be wise or a fool. That isn’t going to change just because we elect the right person to that seat.

The truth is, if we had elected Bernie, it would have only been a symbolic victory, and had we stopped with only his election, it would have been a hallow one as well, as congress would have obstructed the policies that would have improved this nation out of pure spite. If we really want the revolution, we need to really push for change. Rather than rely on a single man, each of us needs to step forward and push it through. Every time you try to tell someone else how they should be voting, you are fracturing the movement that needs to focus on more, which is exactly what they want you to do. Every time you bicker over Hillary, or Donald, or Jill, or Gary, you distract from all the other seats we need to focus on taking, making sure they can still hold the real power. If we turn on ourselves, if we eat ourselves alive, we will disappear into nothing. If we move forward and mature in our tactics, we will become the movement they fear.

So let’s do this. We can grow up. We can play this game the way the adults do. We can win the long game, so long as we don’t quit after this one round.

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Stop Being Stupid about Guns Part II

It’s been about 4 years since I pointed out how stupid this country has been about guns. Since that post, nothing has changed.

And its not like the American can’t agree on what needs to change or talk civilly about this issue, because in the periods between shootings, we can. For instance, most people, whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, gun owner or not, agree that we need a good system for background checks for gun sales. Every time I have brought up my plan for gun control, the audience, no matter if they are liberal, conservative, pro-gun, or anti-gun, have all stated that this is something they can get behind and support if it were ever to be implemented.

So we actually can have a civil conversation and agree on how to balance gun owner rights with safety and life. We can actually do this.

But we don’t.

And the reason is stupid.

You see, every time there is a shooting, rather than bring up all the civil conversation we had been capable of, everyone goes to their corners and regurgitates the same stereotypical talking points and shout them at each other. These tropes are so predictable that it could probably be turned into a drinking game or a bingo game. Rather than remembering what we have agreed upon, we end up arguing the semantics of the term “assault rifle,” asserting whether the first half or the last half of the second amendment phrasing is the most important, or we just degenerate into insulting each other. Everyone is yelling and no one is listening.


And none of this actually does anything to solve the problem that the majority of Americans agrees needs to be solved.

And many are quick to point out that this is the intention of the NRA and their pocketed politicians, that they purposely release a slew of distracting strawman arguments so that people can’t come together and pass the laws that will effect gun manufacturer’s profit margin.

But even if that is true, we don’t have to stupidly play their game. We don’t have to follow their fallacious arguments and chase their distractions.

Even if it is true that they are being greedy or evil, we are still empowering them, and therefor we are being stupid. And if we stopped being stupid, they wouldn’t be able to win.

So here is how we can stop being stupid about guns:
1) Keep having the conversation even after it has stopped being a social media trend. We should not only talk about it because it has become popular due a recent terrorist. Instead, actually commit to the conversation.
2) Find the points of agreement in this discussion. If you find yourself arguing over 99% of your opinions, make note of that 1% and build on it until you have a decent plan that people can civilly talk about and agree on. This will become the smart and constructive conversation.
3) The next time there is a shooting, and there will always be another shooting so long as we continue to be stupid about guns, only talk about the points of agreement. Every time people try to bring up the stereotyped and polarizing talking points, make the smart choice to redirect back to the constructive. Don’t chase the distractions and don’t play with the strawman, but rather only let the conversation be about what everyone is already agreeing on.

To do anything else would just be stupid, and we need to stop being stupid about guns.

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Isis Did Not Draw Him to Terrorism, Terrorism Drew Him to Isis

There are a lot of people were trying to make the Orlando shooter indicative of the entire culture of Islam. It is true that the shooter was raised Muslim, and it is true that he made mention of Isis in the 911 calls made as he began shooting. However, the CIA had actually found he was not connected to Isis, and instead of showing similar violent tendencies, the other members of the mosque that he attended rallied to show support for victims by organizing a blood drive. In fact, the mosque’ s Imam described him as having problems, and not someone typical of his mosque. So the Orlando shooter was not someone who is typical of his Islamic community. He was typical however, of the shooter profile that I had pointed out in the past.

As I mentioned before, when it comes to mass shootings, there has emerged a typical psychological profile. Namely the shooter feels that he is in some way a failure and is seeking to reclaim his power by going out in a blaze of glory while taking as many people as he can with him.

This blaze of glory pattern was set up for the Orlando shooter, life events had triggered his self esteem and identity.  The shooter had been rejected from a criminal justice program, a personal failure and point of embarrassment for him. In addition, the shooter had shown signs of being homosexual himself.

Now I need to clarify this last point. The reality is there is nothing wrong with being homosexual or being included anywhere in the LGBT community. However, in the shooter’s mind this was a problem. Society, not just the Muslim community but society as a whole, has been constantly reinforcing the vilification of the LGBT community. Often times, people with a will to violence and hatred are that way because they need to her and denigrate others in order to feel good about themselves. The act of aggression activates reward centers in the brain. Hatred is a drug and these people are addicts. Having someone to discriminate against, having someone to declare lower than them is a necessary reality for them in order for them to get their high.

So imagine what this hate junkie was faced with. After years of getting his hit by targeting those socially lower than him, he suddenly finds himself having urges that society, not was in society but society at large, constantly tells him means he is now “less than.” Inundated with the hateful words of pastors, pundits, and politicians as well as bathroom laws and laws that enable discrimination, he has been taught to hate what he is. Faced with this, he could either challenge the reality of this discrimination, or he could purify it from his essence. Challenging the reality of this discrimination however would mean this would also have to challenge his own tendencies towards hatred, and it would mean giving up his fix. So instead he chose purification, and rather than purify from within, he chose to purify outwardly. It is here that he made the decision to become a terrorist.

So why choose Isis?

The shooter believed that he had been discriminated against because of his Muslim heritage. He felt that one of his failures was due to the fact that he was Muslim. In a classic “Screw me? No, screw you!” style reaction, he reacted to this perceived attack on his identity by doubling down on his it in the most aggressive way, the way your average racist doubles down on his slurs when he feels he is not being treated as special enough, or the average abusive douchebag takes back his manhood by beating his wife after feeling emasculated at work. And since Isis believes itself to be the perfect Islamic state, they became the perfect magnet for this angry man looking to prove himself not to be a failure. But the truth is, even if he had not been Muslim, even if he had not been rejected from the program, and even if Isis itself had not existed, he would have found some reason to justify his rampage. The failure and impurity he had been taught to feel by society’s, not just the Muslim society but our society as a while,  hatred of the LGBT community was so strong that he would have been driven to kill no matter what, and all that would’ve been different was the name of the group he invoked as he went out in his blaze of glory.

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Dan Turner, 20 minutes is a lot of time

Dear Dan Turner,

In less than 20 minutes you can strangle a person, and feel the life slip through your hands.

In 20 minutes you can provide CPR while waiting for an ambulance to arrive

In 20 minutes you can take a drive drunk, and end up smashing into the car of a family just trying to make it home after a long day.

In 20 minutes you can call a cab and wait to get home safely.

In 2o minutes you can take a person’s wallet and be across town before anyone knows.

In 20 minutes you can by a meal for a starving family.

In twenty minutes you can walk into a building armed and claim life after life after life.

In twenty minutes you can have a heartfelt conversation that turns a person’s life around

You see, when time actually matters, 20 minutes is a lot of it. It’s a lot of time to think, to plan, to even feel hesitation and remorse. It’s a lot of time to consider your morals, your values, and decisions.

In short, it only takes 20 minutes to define you.

In those 20 minutes of action, your son could have chosen to bring that girl inside, could have chosen to cover her up and help her get to safety. He could have called one of her friends or her family to pick her up so she could be safe at home.

Your son did not do that.

Instead, your son raped her. In those 20 minutes, your son’s character was defined, not as one who respects others, not as a good person willing to act in the best interest of others, but as a person willing to commit a horrific act if he thinks he can get away with it.

And in less than twenty minutes, you made the statement that let us know where his lack of regard for others came from. Your son brutalized a woman, and you are asking us to dismiss that. We now know why he didn’t think twice about his decisions. We now know why he did not act like the decent person you pretend him to be. We now know why he did not choose to protect this school mate as a real upstanding citizen would. In your words, you showed the kind of petty entitlement and permissiveness that taught him to do whatever he wants, because the people he hurts just won’t matter to you so they should not matter to him.

20 minutes is a lot of time.

20 minutes is enough time to define a person.

I would write more, but I only had twenty minutes to compose this post.

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The Broken Geek: Civil War

Previously, I have used various personalities of the Avengers team to illustrate basic psychodynamic personality structure types. I have used these structural descriptions to help explain the basic motivations of the characters in Age of Ultron. These same personality structures were visible in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. Notably, the personality types of both Iron Man and Captain America not only shown through in the movie, but were driving force to explain why the two followed the courses of action they did. [Spoiler Warning]

As I have previously pointed out Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers, seems to demonstrate the characteristics of a depressive personality structure, while Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Stark, appears to have a more paranoid personality structure. Because of this, Steve is driven to perpetually seek to drive out his own sense of imperfection as well as battle to control his internal badness. Steve is perpetually driven to prove himself not to be “bad”.  This is the source of Steve’s strong moral code, as the code helps him to restrain his “badness”. This is also the source of his compulsion to be the person who stands up for others in order to prove himself as a “hero” and therefore not “bad”. When Ultron taunts Captain America that he’s “pretending [he] could live without a war,” Ultron is referencing this defense, for without a war to fight, he is stuck feeling inferior.

Iron Man, in contrast, is driven seek out and destroy the “badness” outside of him in order to deny the sense of “badness” he feels within. As such, Tony is perpetually stuck in a cycle of proclaiming “I’m not bad, you are.” In the beginning of Civil War, we’re introduced to Ironman’s fundamental trauma, the death of his parents right after a fight where he showed disdain for his father. Generally, such an interaction tends to generate a sense of shame in a child because his final interaction with his parents was filled with regretted statements of anger instead of love. The shame seeps into Tony, and Tony is entered into the cycle of denial to escape it. His grandiosity and cockiness are intended to compensate for this shame, and anyone who challenges these defenses risks making him feel the “badness.”

The Toxic Relationship

These two contrasting personality organizations create an interesting dynamic between the two that is seen throughout the movies. Early on, in the first Avengers, there is a lot of friction between the two, as Tony’s arrogance conflicts with Steve’s strong sense of morality. Steve is compelled to maintain his high ethical standards, and Tony is compelled to oppose them as such a morality conflicts with Tony’s denial. Tony cannot prove others to be bad to deny his own shame if there is such a moral pillar standing in constant contrast. Tony and Steve become begrudging friends due to their team partnership, but in the process a weird codependence forms between them. Steve’s depressive personality structure causes him to seek out the good in others and needs and prone to forgiveness, as this allows him to acknowledge the good in others that he wishes he could acknowledge in himself. This forgiveness then supports Tony’s defenses as the constant tolerance and forgiveness given by Steve helps to calm Tony’s shame.  As a result, Tony to seeks to align himself with Steve so they both can join together in his fight against the badness outside. However, Tony is still compelled to challenge Steve whenever he can, so that he can still be assured of his own goodness, as confirmed by Steve’s tolerance. In essence, Steve is compelled to tolerate Tony’s arrogance because it allows Steve to practice the forgiveness he wishes he could get to himself, and Tony is compelled to tolerate Steve but still challenge him, because doing so assures him he is not the shameful person he seeks to deny.

The Trigger

The narrative begins with Tony’s shame being triggered. His attempt to prove himself as good by funding the students’ grants at MIT was thwarted by the mother of a young man killed in Sokovia confronting Tony about his role in that tragedy. Tony had created the Ultron robot that had started the events that ended in the destruction of the city in Sokovia, and the shame triggered was intense. In order to escape the shame Tony needed to find some way to find someone else to make the “bad guy” and then align himself with the forces against that “bad guy.” It is this drive that causes Tony to align with the registration act and the oversight of being proposed by the various governments, even though such alignment seemed so starkly out of character for him. When Tony’s sense of shame had been so strongly triggered, he was psychologically compelled to seek out some other “badness” to blame and oppose. When approached with the accords, the government hands Tony a way to support his psychological defense mechanisms against the shame by giving him a role in restraining of the dangerous people who are not him.

As Captain America is faced with the accords, however, he is then forced to face a challenge against his defense mechanisms as well. Steve’s main objection to the accords is that with them in place, somebody else could potentially order him to do something immoral, forcing him to become the “bad” he feared, or he could be ordered not to respond to a bad situation, preventing him from doing the “good” he needs to prove that he is not “bad”.

The Homewrecker

When Bucky enters the scene, he becomes a third party that allows both Steve and Tony to shift the focus of their defenses onto. For Steve, Bucky it the old friend, who’s badness is not his fault, and in desperate need of the forgiveness and redemption contained in the second chance, i.e. Steve can do for Bucky what he wishes the world would do for him. For Tony, The Winter Soldier is the ultimate representation of the evil forces plotting that he can fight to prove he is not he bad one, i.e. a guiltless representation of the outer badness he can oppose guilt free to deny his own sense of shame. With Bucky in play, Steve no longer needs Tony’s arrogance to serve as a focus of his forgiveness, and Tony no longer needs Steve’s tolerance to chase away his shame. Their codependence is broken, and they are free to fight.  Steve needs to protect his friend at all costs and give him his redemption, and Tony is an obstacle to that. Tony needs to take down the dark forces that Bucky represents, and Steve is a player to be defeated because he has allied himself with that darkness conspiracy.

Forgive me for I have done nothing wrong.

Eventually, Zemo’s manipulation of the situation is discovered. Tony does not repent. He is suddenly willing to accept that Steve and Bucky are not the bad guys and welcome them back onto his side, but he does not show regret for locking up half of his team. The evidence of Zemo’s plot allows him to focus his attentions on a bigger conspiracy, a bigger badness that he can fight. He is now able to join his former friend and be welcomed back into the fold in a forgiveness forced by circumstance, but he is not able to admit he was wrong for opposing his friend in the first place. Steve takes him back because his drive to forgive will always compel him to take him back.

One of us is bad, but it can’t be me, so let me punish you so it all can be right again.

Zemo’s reveal, that Bucky killed Tony’s parents, sets off Tony’s righteous rage, and such rage is always uncompromising.  It does not matter that Bucky was brainwashed. It does not matter, that there is a larger issue in play that affects far more people. Nothing can dissuade it, no fact, no explanation, and no relationship. When righteous rage is in play, nothing matters but the rage itself. The rage releases all that pent up shame onto another target, unleashing all the toxic energy built up over all the years. Just as the depressive personality seeks to forgive in response to the desire to be forgiven themselves, the paranoid personality seeks to punish in response to the denied punishment their shame constantly aims at them. Bucky needs to be destroyed at all costs. Any tactic, any casualty, any collateral damage is justified because if he can finally conquer this avatar of the “badness” outside of himself, he hopes that he never has to face that inner shame again. Tony turns on Steve again in order to get to Bucky. Tony will kill his friend, let his team be destroyed, and even let Zemo win just so he can let out this rage. Because if he doesn’t, he has to continue to live with his shame.

Forgiven again

In the end, Steve sends a note to Tony. Despite all the fighting, all the destruction, and all rifts between them, Steve still reaches out to Tony to extend the forgiveness. Steve knows that Tony will be Tony, that he will repeat the damage if allowed, but he still has to forgive, because if Steve cannot forgive Tony for all his imperfections, then he fears that he can never be forgiven for his.

And thus we have the psychological motivations for the players in Civil War. The relationship that guided this epic battle was rooted in conflicting ideas on how to destroy a perceived “badness.” Captain America’s “badness” is owned without question, and he is drive to control himself absolutely, gives the forgiveness he wishes he could give himself, and seeks to prove to the world that he is “good.” Tony denies his “badness,” and he is compelled to find forces to challenge and fight in order to attack the “badness” without to support his denial of the “badness” within his shame perpetually asserts. Their relationship becomes one of constant stress as Steve is compelled to seek perfection to dispel his badness while forgiving Tony’s jabs, and Tony is compelled to challenge Steve because such a moral code triggers his shame in contrast, while seeking Steve’s alliance because Steve’s forgiveness soothes the shame.

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The Broken Geek: Batman V Superman and the Death Of Heroes

The long awaited Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrived in theaters last week, and it has met to mixed reviews. People genuinely liked the fight scenes and the characteristic Zack Snyder visuals, but they also frequently commented on how there were just too many plots crammed into the movie to really do any one justice and the chaotic pacing and transitions did not give any one character time to really have their own story or development.

However, for me, the real problem of Batman V Superman is its lack of Heroism.

When you look though time, myth, and history, heroes were never heroes because of their power. Sure, we had the supernatural strength of Hercules and Samson, the unparalleled guile and strategy of Odysseus, the near invincible Beowulf, or the magically imbued Monkey King Sun Wukong, but they are not heroes because of the power they have its because of the ideals they imbued in their exploits. After all, their opponents were often equally, or even more powerful than the heroes that bested them, and yet the stories are not about the villain. Instead, Hercules fought for redemption against the sins of man and society, Sun Wukong sought to protect those weaker than him while challenging the highly ordered orthodoxy, and Odysseus stood to show how the mind of man can challenge savage elemental gods. These were  not stories about ideal bodies, but stories of ideal hearts and souls. Each hero faced pain that should have broken them, but instead of crumbling, they found the resolve to hold to their moral ideals and become more.

These stories were not just about entertainment, they were meant to teach is all to be more. They served as blueprints about how we could face our challenges, endure and grow, keeping to ideals instead of sacrificing them.

This is what Batman V Superman lacked

Let’s start with Superman. After all, this was originally supposed to be his sequel. The original was was heavily criticized for the amount of destruction and the outright killing of Zod. This criticism was not without merit. Every other Superman representation makes efforts to drive the battles outside of cities where they can. This is where the conflict of morality occurs. Superman is written to be as physically strong as he needs to be, so he is able to squash any opponent if he let loose. But the challenge comes in in that he struggles to make sure his powers never lose control and that his battles are contained to prevent collateral damage. His struggle is not one of strength, but the struggle to maintain the ideal of the preservation of life in he face of a strength that could inadvertently crush it.

Snyder’s Superman lacks this heart. He is less Speigel and Shuster’s Superman, and more Nietzsche’s Ubermench. The main struggle in Man of Steel was not how to use his powers, but if he should. Pa Kent, rather than teaching Clark the struggles of humble morality, teaches him to hide his power, even to the point of letting people die, because of the way others would fear him. Superman’s big growth is in that he lets himself be known to the world. He doesn’t espouse any higher morality than that. He is strong and we are told we should trust him because he is a god among us. The conversation does not go beyond that. In this supposed sequel, there is a little growth in that Snyder tries to portray the Superman doing things that don’t kill people, but when it comes to one of the pivotal plot points, that growth is seen to be superficial. In the terrorist scene, Superman allows a shootout to go on. It is only until his favorite human, Lois Lane, is threatened, that he does anything, and that action is to throw the gunman threatening Lois through a wall (a move that should have killed him unless that terrorist also had super strength). Other Supermen would act early to end it quickly. Other Supermen would draw their gunfire safely through super posing, melt the guns or force them to drop them with heat vision, or just simply disarm them with super speed. Overwhelming force allows for overwhelming control in the situation. But Snyder’s Superman waited until it only affected him, and then just used his might. The reason why this scene was such an effective trap for Superman is because his might-makes-right attitude set himself up to be open and vulnerable to this entrapment. A less impulsive, more intentional Superman would be harder to frame because his actions are more thought out and beholden to more than just his impulses.

Next we have Batman. Batman has two rules: no guns and no killing. These rules are supposed to keep him from going down the path of darkness that he skirts. They are the ideals that keep him from becoming the criminals he hunts.

Snyder’s Batman carries a gun, brands villains, and kills-ish. Snyder actually comments on his thought process involved letting Batman kill. Rather than explore the complexity of his no kill rule, as Nolan does, or show this evolving ethos as Tim Burton did, Snyder looks for the loop holes. Snyder looks for ways to make it ok for Batman to kill and skirt the morality that has defined the character. Instead, he is a man with an obsession, and his money and strength and absolute rightness in his mind are his justification for carrying out his obsession. He is more a likable version of the classic Lex Luthor than he is Batman.

If there was one real hero in this film, it would have been Wonder Woman, but she was not given enough screen time to rally flesh her out. Hopefully she is treated better in her movie than Superman and Batman are in this one.

Finally, we have the villain: Lex Luthor. In the comics, Lex has taken several forms, from basic mad scientist to the modern incarnation of corporate CEO/Politician. The Lex we have come to know is a man who’s mind rival’s Superman’s strength. But beyond his machinations, he is an imposing figure. Unlike the Joker, whom you fear for his mastery of chaos, you fear Lex because he has become a master of the rules of the world and twists them for his needs. He is a foil for Superman, because where Superman restrains himself so as to not let loose his power, Lex is restrained from the world, and mastered the letter of the external rules in order to ultimately skirt them as he looks for the opportunity to be allowed to let loose. Snyder’s Lex Luthor has been described as more of a Riddler character than that of Lex. Gone is the calm discipline and imposing force. Yes, he plots and tricks people, but he doesn’t have the control of the system. He is less the principle you fear, and more that annoying kid who uses his father’s money to push his way into your private superhero club. And what gets lost in his gravitas is the conversation between the hero who uses the rules to constrain his power, and the villain who seeks to avoid the rules to unleash his.

In the end, the ire targeted at Batman V Superman is earned. Snyder is great for recreating comic book visuals, but he consistently fails to capture the essence of the hero. Instead of the pillars of societal virtues we are asked to emulate and grow from, we are given characters who only seek to enact the might-makes-right morality and Mary Sue fantasies. We get not the analogs for the struggles for growth and maturity, but an almost masturbatory fantasy in which we could do whatever we desired if we just had the power, and that we can be always be inherently right despite what society says. Instead of mature heroes of struggle and virtue, we get childish god-things, which is ironic, because the heroes of myth originally arose to oppose the childish god-things that populated the fears of our ancestors.
As I was writing this, I was actually watching the Supergirl/Flash crossover. It was everything Superman V Batman was not. It lacked the budget for complex visuals and prolonged epic fight scenes, but it had the heart of a hero. Supergirl had fallen and was searching for redemption. Her enemies had ganged up on her and help from the Flash was not even enough to win in the end. It was when she showed she was willing to give it all to save people she did not know, common people stepped up, and it was not super strength or speed that won, but brave men and women with words and a fire hose inspired to be more by a hero. The plot may seem cliche and simplistic, but it drove home the narrative of the hero.

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How to Stump Trump: Send in the Clowns

The Trump Presidential Campaign is frightening for a number of reasons. He’s targeted specific racial and ethnic groups in his rhetoric, he’s made comments encouraging violence at his rallies towards protesters, his treatment of the media at his rallies is causing concern, he asks his followers to swear loyalty oaths, and he has recently started to assemble his own Lion’s guard.

But what is especially frightening about this is that what is emerging in his activities is that he is running as a tactician, not a leader, and there is an important difference there. Being a leader is not just about giving orders, a leader needs to focus on building and sustaining long term structure and stability for its group. A tactician, however, is all about meeting specific goals and objectives that are set before him. The leader needs to focus on long term success, while tacticians only need to focus on achieving the short term goal. The tactician is about winning the battle, the leader is about pulling their people out of the war. Once you understand that difference, the behavior of Donald Trump begins to make a lot more sense. This tactician mentality is visible in his business ventures. When he was asked about his various bankruptcies, Trump justified them stating that he “used the laws to corporate advantage—smart!” High risk ventures, large possible gains, but ready abandonment of long term stability are reflected in a mentality that sees bankruptcy as a smart way to take advantage of legal mechanisms. As a result, he engages in a lot of businesses, that are low risk to him, some succeed, some fail, and then he sells his name and brand on the successes and tries to get you to ignore the failures. And in doing so, he reaches some moneymaking goals and builds a brand he can cash in  on. And this tactician mentality is making its way into the campaign as he makes a lot of attention grabbing statements, doubles down on the ones that gets him the right attention, and ignores and tries to pretend the statements that gets him in trouble don’t exist. In addition, one of his business strategies is to win not by having the best stance, but by identifying the biggest competitor and taking him out, a strategy seen in his debates.

This tactical focus puts the events of the Chicago rally in unique perspective, which some are now saying was planned to happen the way it did. Specifically, here is the related timeline:
1) Protesters have been interrupting Trump rallies
2) Trump makes statements that encourage violence, or at least absolve it towards protesters who interrupt his rallies
3)Trump schedules an event at the University of Illinois, a college that is known to be very politically active and racially diverse, including being active in the Black Lives Matter Movement
4)The Trump Rally at the politically active university is met with political action in the form of a counter protest
5) Trump counters his rally, claiming “Law enforcement” advised him to cancel it due to security concerns. NOTE: CHICAGO PD HAS FLAT OUT DENIED THAT THEY EVER MADE SUCH A STATEMENT TO HIM
6) Trump rally goers who have been encouraged towards violence against protesters who disrupt their event get into some violent interactions with protesters after their event is canceled
7) Trumps use this cancellation and the scuffles to play the victim, attack his biggest competition Bernie Sanders (who had nothing to do with the protest), and justify his forming the Lion’s Guard.

So this is where it is really disturbing. There is a reason why his policies are either very vague or overly simplistic. His campaign is unconcerned with long term leadership because a tactician’s focus is on his immediate goal: getting elected. There is a reason he is willing to say anything that gets him attention and adoration, and why he dismisses criticism: this is the winning Trump business strategy. But this also means he is working the campaign like a chessboard, focusing not on creating a debate over the ideas that will serve the country best, but rather on what traps he can create to give him the winning edge. His goal is not to lead, but to win, and he will use anything to get him that victory, that that is why he is so dangerous.

However, there has been a new strategy offered to work against Trump. To take out a tactician, you need to knock him off his game. You have to find his trigger, the thing that causes him to abandon the strategy that he controls, and put him off balance so instead of leading you into his trap, he is forced to follow you into yours, and Seth Meyers found that trigger.

Donald Trump’s ego cannot handle ridicule. This is the reason Trump had to chase Rubio’s comment insinuating his small penis size. Unlike like his stances on immigration and Muslims that he becomes vague about and will try to avoid, Trump was compelled to respond, his ego could not let that statement go unanswered. So that is where we need to start hammering him. We also need to keep the jokes original and fresh, as he will habituate to repeated jokes, such as comparisons to Cheetos.

Let’s hit him with so much mockery that he is compelled by pure ego to make him reduce his rallies and speeches to constantly responding to the most inane jokes so that the world can see he has nothing policy wise to offer. Let’s use his ego to nullify his strategy. So let’s send in the clowns.

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An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

Dear Democratic Party,

In the next couple of months, you have a very important choice to make as to who you will let run for President. However, there is an aspect to this conversation that you might be missing.

Hillary Clinton appears to be the candidate that best represents the Democratic establishment. She has worked hard for that position, serving various important roles in the party and in the government, and she has learned the ways of the party elite. So it makes a lot of sense that she would have the support she does within the party.

However, I would like to offer that Bernie Sanders best represents the larger America.

Now, I know this claim may seem like the idealistic rhetoric that every supporter says about their candidate. There is, however, some support for this notion with Bernie. You see, over the past decade, I have chosen to make sure I stray from the echo chambers on the internet, and have actually invited debate on my pages among people of various political orientations. As long as they follow basic rules of civil debate, they are allowed to voice their opinions, and people have been allowed to debate those voiced opinions. These debates have gotten heated, and sometimes moderation was necessary as strongly polarized views came into conflict. But the result has been a fair representation of the views of several political orientations, not just the views I like.

So you can imagine my surprise when people who have formerly argued a lot over political ideas all started voicing support for Bernie Sanders. And these aren’t the Dank Meme stash Berners that have populated the net, these are people who have been politically active, research their stances, and are willing to put them to the test in the rigors of reasoned debate. The result, be they Republican, Democrat, Liberal, or Conservative, has been the decision that Bernie Sanders is the best candidate in play. One such combatant in my rhetorical Thunderdome posted this note a few months back. When you follow the link, please take a look at the share count, it wasn’t as viral as an image from a Dank Meme Stash, but close to 2k shares is respectable for a post you have to read and think about.

What this means it that Bernie Sanders has the best cross party appeal, and this is important. We live in a world that has reduced politics to a simplistic marketing game. People are asked to pick at team and hope their team wins the voting competition. This reduces the American political system to the point where it is on par with the Team Edward/Team Jacob advertisements of the Twilight movie series, and has overall degraded the American political discussion. What Senator Sanders has offered in his positions has elevated the discourse back to where it needs to be. Lines that have been drawn for years are now being ignored and people who have gotten used to shouting at each other are now sitting down with each other. So when I say that Bernie Sanders best represents American views, that is what I am referring to.

So we have a few months to go and a lot of discussion among the Super Delegates. In all the talks and dealings, I would ask that you keep this letter in mind, because the question you need to ask yourselves will be crucial for the soul of the party as well as the soul of the country as a whole. Will you focus your support on the candidate that represents the party interests, or will you support the candidate that attracts people regardless of party affiliation? Will you reward the candidate who has worked to speak for the party, or will you allow the person who speaks for the larger America to represent us?

In my opinion, even though it is understandable that you would want to support Hillary given all her work and effort for the party, it is the better choice to nominate Bernie Sanders as doing so would be the choice that better represents what the American political system was meant to be.

Please consider this in the final negotiations for nomination. We have an opportunity to nominate someone speaks for more than just one party. We have the opportunity to nominate someone the nation as a whole will rally around. Let’s take this opportunity seriously, because should we let it pass, it would represent a dire loss of our great nation.


Dr. Zachary Maichuk



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