Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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An Act of Resistance (Podcast)

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chicago literary celebrity Ben Tanzer this past Tuesday at the famous Billy Goat tavern. We discussed racism, anti-Semitism, refugee culture, victim mentality, perpetration of atrocities, acts of resistance and paths to convalescence.

The result is this podcast.  Hope you’ll check it out. 

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Photo by Ben Tanzer.


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An open plea to the Electoral College

Dear Electors:

You don’t need to be told this is a pivotal hour in world history.

In only days, you’ll meet and cast your votes to determine the fate of the world. Perhaps most of you, when you were selected to represent your states as Electors, looked at your role mostly as an honor, an expression of your patriotism, perhaps a noble way to participate in our nation’s process of government. The entire world, people from Taipei to Tallinn, know it is more than that now.

Your voting body was created for this moment. To quote Peter Beinart, from the Atlantic:

“It is ‘desirable,’ Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, ‘that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of’ president. But is “‘equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.’ These ‘men’—the electors––would be ‘most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.’ And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—‘the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.’”

You probably didn’t expect it to be true when you became an elector. However, the moment for you to discern and investigate is here.

I’m pleading with those of you in position to do so, no matter where you identify on the political spectrum, to act in whatever way necessary to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.

I share the same concerns over the threat posed to our constitution, political system—and also to global stability—that has been expressed in recent months by so many statesmen, political scientists, journalists, columnists, educators, former and current intelligence officials, and many other professionals. If you do not share their views, if you do not believe that the president-elect is a threat to world peace, if you do not feel he is unfit to act as president on account of his conflicts of interest, his business practices, his misogyny, blatant racism, ignorance of the constitution, unpredictable behavior, narcissism and addiction to praise, assault on scientific consensus, assault on the Bill of Rights, assault on factual information, or his gaslighting claim that our intelligence community is a factory of conspiracy theories, perhaps you will finally be concerned by his potential exposure to blackmail by international adversaries and bribery by foreign governments.

Surely, this last bit must concern even those who loathe Hillary Clinton and the American establishment. We might prefer reruns of Happy Days to TED talks, the NFL to MLS, but we should all agree that a president even potentially exposed to manipulation by foreign governments threatens us all.

It’s true we’ll be in peril no matter what you decide. Our nation has been damaged by this election—it has allowed our most heinous demons to surface—and we’re going to struggle and suffer, some more than others, no matter what decision you make. You might feel that by keeping the demagogue from office you’d betray the people and system, triggering some kind of upheaval. I’m begging you to compare that possibility to another: that you might be protecting the people from harming themselves in a way they never expected, from losing to a narrative written on a rug about to be pulled from under their feet.

I’d like to think that 100% of us would stop a young man from running around a field of stumps with a screwdriver in his mouth, no matter how dramatically he protested against us. The fire department still shows up if our neighbor sets fire to her own house, and doctors will stitch up our self-inflicted wounds. We have laws and customs designed to mitigate self-harm. The Electoral College is an expression of this, as conceptualized by a man, Hamilton, virtually all Americans currently admire.

One way or another, you’ll get to tell the story to young people who will one day wonder why you acted as you did. At minimum, think about what you know of the man you stand to empower, and weigh that against what you’ll tell the kids living in his aftermath, whatever shape it takes.

“I exercised my duty to uphold the will of the people and the system.”

“I exercised my duty to keep the office of the president from falling to a man who was not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

I’d trust, given the circumstances, they’ll understand.

—Gint

“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?” 

Alexander Hamilton, March 14, 1788

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Image of Alexander Hamilton from Wikipedia


The American press is in a fix

The American press, and to a smaller extent the whole of the Western press, finds itself in what’s almost a double bind.

I have no doubt that Donald Trump is afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If you don’t know what that is, you need to read this Medium post composed by N Ziehl. American journalists are not equipped to cover a narcissist. They’d struggle to cover a narcissistic manager of a Jiffy Lube, but a President of the United States afflicted with NPD ruins a journalist’s methods.

Like most professionals, individual journalists are not trained to deal with a narcissist’s constantly shifting truth, false reality and gaslighting. (Gaslighting is a really important concept. Everyone needs to learn what it is and how it works, because Trump keeps doing it.) They are trained to deal with liars and evasion tactics, but when it comes to uncovering truth or meaning, they try to connect dots logically, to search for rational motivations and a reasonable relationship between actions and thoughts. None of that is available in a narcissist’s behavior.

Like most organizations, media companies are not armed with the assumptions necessary to tell an accurate story about a narcissist president—newsrooms assume there is always more than one take on a story, more than one angle and interpretation. The highest forms of essay writing focus on nuance. With a narcissist, there is only one story, and it has neither a flip side nor an alternative take, no nuance at all. The story of the narcissist is that he lives in his own grandiose reality, motivated entirely by self-gain and others’ adulation, unable to feel empathy for anyone. Stories about narcissists can either point out the narcissism or they can enable it. There is no gray area, so forget about nuance.

Quite obviously, journalists have to quote the words the president utters, then attempt all sorts of interpretations when applicable, present the slant they’re after. The problem is that a narcissist’s words are meaningless; the reason they’re shocking is because they don’t represent reality. He wants our adoration, and if he can’t get it, he’ll distract us by threatening our safety or by actually putting us in harm’s way. If we find ourselves identifying his tricks, he’ll burn down the neighbor’s garage and force us all to rush over with buckets. Most of us care about our neighbors. He cares about himself.

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Now, here’s the double bind.

In America, the problem around telling this story lies also in the way newspapers create revenue streams. Revenue has always been tied to circulation and the size of an audience; obviously, the bigger, the better. Unlike in decades past, when print companies depended at least partially on their brand and their mission to sell a whole paper with advertisements inside, now they depend much more often on individual stories or topics that get shared by readers. The biggest story right now is Trump’s insanity and the threat it poses civilization. It’s dopamine, and media companies know it because they’ve been riding it now for almost two years.

The American press has to change the way it covers the president. Unfortunately, doing so threatens their bottom line.

I still think news companies can generate revenue and get clicks by writing about Trump’s professional enablers…essentially the rest of the federal government. Attention, or the lack of it, is the most potent weapon we can employ against a narcissist. Because they need it, they’ll throw tantrums, insult people, contradict themselves, threaten us with prison, make deals with our enemies, etc. If they perceive it going elsewhere, they become crazed with jealousy and make irredeemable mistakes.

It’s accurate to report that the Republican Party is enabling and attempting to benefit from a narcissist, just as it’s accurate to report that Twitter is enabling a narcissist. This is the brutal truth of the matter. Those who benefit from the narcissist—specifically, those who figure out a way to increase their political power or their profits by blowing sunshine up Trump’s ass—need to be investigated and exposed by the press. It’ll drive him nuts to know someone else is getting more air time, and it should still provide the American public the dopamine it needs to keep on clicking.

It is also not inaccurate, and hardly a disservice, to teach the American reading public about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It used to be that the quiet kid in class was the only one who knew about it. Now we’re all in the same ship because we decided to put one in the Oval Office.

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Picture of “Ugly Building” from Wikipedia.