Tag Archives: Lionel Shriver

Trump vis-à-vis Hitler

 

 

 

“Anyone who thinks Trump is Hitler never studied European history.”

comnet posted by a reader of an op ed piece, The York Times, May 9, 2017

 

 

 

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An acquaintance of mine posted a comment on Facebook last evening — following up on comments arising from a blog post of mine yesterday — saying that Donald Trump is “worse” than Hitler was. He then followed up with the comment that there are “many parallels” between Trump and Hitler.

He means it; he was not trying to be cute.

I was astonished by such a comparison having been made. After a brief check of the Times, however, I learned that others have been saying the same thing.

Another Facebook commentator, responding to the first person’s comments, wrote:

“Agree.

“And more recent history, Milošević: not only narcissism, popularism, support of white nationalists, but disturbingly parallel in terms of the belief in ridiculous conspiracy theories.

“Have you read Mein Kampf? Distorted, disordered thinking, stream of consciousness writing. If Hitler had twitter, he would tweet like this man [Trump]. And if this man could write (a book for himself rather than paying someone to write for him), his writing would likely be similar to Hitler’s.

“Except, Hitler had ‘grander’ visions … this man is indeed an idiot who has no thought beyond ‘winning’.”

 

 

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After pausing to catch my breath, I would be inclined to say:

There may well be something to these comparisons in alerting us to current political developments in the USA and Western Europe, where the politics represented by figures such as Trump and Marine Le Pen in France, both of whom only recently did not seem to be taken that seriously, are in the ascendancy.

There may be instructive parallels with 1930’s-style Fascism.

Historical analogies can be useful.

But, in the case of such claims, it is necessary to maintain a truly historical perspective; to avoid “reverse presentism,” so to speak (interpreting current developments in terms of past ones); to maintain some degree of objectivity and balance.

I believe that the left has become unhinged over the Trump candidacy and election and has lost all sense of proportion and reason.

 

 

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Donald Trump has been called “a monster” by another one of my close acquaintances.

And, God knows what else (by others).

Trump does not have an appealing personality in many respects. (I can hear Trump haters saying to me, “you just discovered that?”)

I have not studied him closely, nor would I be qualified to develop a psychological profile.

But, he appears, more often than not, to be

an egomaniac

a male chauvinist

a groper, at least – I don’t think his several accusers, who all of them tell pretty much the same story, are making it up; I don’t believe his denials

an adulterer; probably — it would appear, undoubtedly — at various times in his life — a philanderer (in which categories I would suspect that he would be found to have a lot of company if a modern day Kinsey  Report were compiled and published)

crude — at least sometimes; coarse and vulgar

given to puffery, braggadicio, and egregious self-promotion

given to distortion and playing loose with the facts when it suits his own purposes, in his public pronouncements

stiffs businessmen and women whom he or his firm has dealings with

his firm scammed students of the bogus Trump University

has to be the center of attention and has always acted as if he was God’s gift to mankind and womankind

espouses truly reprehensible policies

wants to dismantle Obama’s signature achievements

insults, trashes, or smears political rivals and those he disagrees with

can be demeaning to persons and groups who have suffered or appear disadvantaged

intellectually shallow

 

 

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Are there any pluses?

is not an intellectual or an Einstein, but seems to have a quick grasp of issues and exhibits problem solving skills

does seem to have an ability to get things done

says what’s really on his mind instead of hiding behind politico-speak

he does have business experience and savvy, and he has shown an ability to cut through red tape and deliver results

 

 

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Politicians then and now have exhibited a wide range of traits and abilities (name your own), including:

high minded

principled

moral

venal

corrupt

duplicitous

eloquent

demagogic

highly intelligent

borderline stupid

and so on

 

 

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TRUE MONSTERS

 

Stalin

Hitler

Pol Pot

Idi Amin

 

not Donald Trump

 

 

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It would take quite a lot of butchery from our new president – he would have a long way to go — to match the track records of the above named historical figures and be classed among the worst of recent history’s tyrants.

An old friend of mine, whom I like and admire, marched with her extended family in an anti-Trump protest in Washington yesterday (January 22, 2017) and proudly posted a photo on Facebook.

One of her friends posted as follows: “Give me a break, _______. Trump hasn’t done anything yet and you guys are protesting. This is ridiculous.”

Well put. (Although I do not feel that protestors do not have the right to engage in a “counter inaugural” and to demonstrate on this or other occasions.) Hitler has a track record whereby history has indicted him. Trump’s remains to be seen.

 

 

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I wonder. Is the left most incensed about Trump the “sexist pig”?

If so, I wonder why more fuss wasn’t ever made and as much outrage shown over:

JFK (had White House interns procured for him — one recently wrote a book about it that was respectfully reviewed; and, his girlfriend, the moll Judith Exner)

Ted Kennedy (Chappaquiddick)

Bill Clinton (Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and countless others; probably Denise Rich, to whose husband Clinton issued a scandalous eleventh hour pardon; apparently forcing himself upon Juanita Broaddrick)

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     January 23, 2017; updated May 9, 2017

 

 

 

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Addendum: The following is my response to a reader of this post who criticized it.

 

__________,

Your feelings are shared by many of your and my relatives and friends and are well expressed by you.

A couple of comments by way of explanation.

I do not necessarily think Trump is great businessman, and he certainly is not a genius. I have read articles over the years critical of his business dealings and articles which point to weak links and question the financial soundness of businesses and holdings in in his corporate empire. I was trying to point out that, when assessing Trump in the round, he does appear to have business acumen and some of the mental abilities that go along with that.

As far as the implication that I am wasting my time writing about Trump goes, I think that the anti-Trump hysteria (as I view it) is symptomatic of something deeper and is an illustration of a zaniness on the left these days when it comes to things that offend them, Trump being their current bête noire. Which Lionel Shriver talks about. See:

 

 

I don’t like it when I see intolerance from either side, and when the public is in a frenzy, I find often find myself questioning it.

I could probably explain myself better if I took the time. But, one should not be faulted for writing what one honesty thinks, or for having an opinion that does not accord with others’. Nor is it a waste of time to point out what seem to be excesses by liberals.

It’s kind of like I’m being told, there is no point in even discussing Trump or any issues that might arise because of the controversy over his candidacy and election and revelations regarding him; that I am not allowed to even think or write about him, unless my view conforms and supports others’. But, for example, as was the case with my previous posts about the Billy Bush tape and the “Hamilton” cast’s remarks made to Vice President elect Pence, there were issues that arose that, aside from the news flashes, are worthy of consideration and, in my case, of reflection upon broader issues and concerns. Why should I steer away from controversial topics for fear of being disagreed with?

Many people became disillusioned with the Great Soviet Experiment, but were afraid to say anything. George Orwell saw that what was supposed to be an egalitarian, liberated society had actually become totalitarian and repressive, and wrote about it. I feel, as Lionel Shriver recently wrote, that “the left in the West [has] come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism [we] grew up with.”

Criticisms of Trump notwithstanding, it is not a waste of time to weigh in on such issues. They often arise when the person attacked is among the least popular and most reviled.

re Melania’s outfit and its designer

 

 

“There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as ‘moral indignation,’ which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.”

— Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics

 

 

632180544.jpg

 

 

New First Lady Melania Trump wore a beautiful outfit at her husband’s inauguration yesterday.

It was designed by fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

I thought she looked stunning and was reminded that Donald J. Trump’s third wife is (in my humble opinion) a beautiful woman, but that was the extent of my thoughts. I have little interest or zero expertise in subjects such as fashion or glamour.

But, within hours, a story about the outfit appeared in The New York Times:

 

“Melania Trump, Wearing Ralph Lauren, Channels a Predecessor: Jacqueline Kennedy”

by Vanessa Friedman

The New York Times

January 20, 2017

 

 
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A digest of the article:

“On Friday, Melania Trump wore a powder-blue cashmere dress and matching bolero jacket by the designer [Ralph Lauren] as her husband, Donald J. Trump, was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Though Mr. Lauren’s designs have been worn by first ladies from Betty Ford to Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama, the reference this time was clear: Jacqueline Kennedy. From bouffant to mock turtleneck collar to light pastel shade.

“Mrs. Trump has said that she looks to Mrs. Kennedy as a role model, and at least as far as her image goes, it seems she is taking that literally. … It was, in other words, a very considered choice. ….

“It remains to be seen whether there will be repercussions for Mr. Lauren, since he has just become the most high-profile designer to break with peers who previously said they would not dress Mrs. Trump. But just minutes after the news broke that she was wearing the brand, disgruntled customers posted numerous messages on Twitter saying they would no longer shop at Polo Ralph Lauren. [italics added]

“A spokesman for Mr. Lauren explained the decision as being guided by his respect for the office. In a statement, he said: “The presidential inauguration is a time for the United States to look our best to the world. It was important to us to uphold and celebrate the tradition of creating iconic American style for this moment.”

 

 

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My take on all this:

If I were a fashion designer and had the opportunity to design an outfit for an inaugural, I would jump at the opportunity. It would not matter how successful, famous, or rich I already was.

If I were a baseball player, I would want to play for the Yankees and appear in the All Star Game and the World Series.

If were an opera singer, I would probably want to perform at the Met.

And, so on.

Why should Ralph Lauren pass up such an opportunity?

Why should he have been or felt compelled to have a statement issued in his defense?

 
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Something quite similar seems to have happened yesterday with respect to the 16-year-old singer with a beautiful soprano voice, Jackie Evancho, who sang the national anthem. It is a notoriously difficult song to sing. I thought she did very well.

Ms. Evancho has been the target of virulent criticism over her decision to perform at the inauguration and was branded a “traitor.” Other performers and groups, such as the Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, underwent similar criticism and were subject to similar pressure.

 

 

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Apropos all this, points made by novelist Lionel Shriver in her op ed piece

 

“Will the Left Survive the Millennials?”

The New York Times

September 23, 2016

 

are highly relevant.

To quote from her incisive – thoughtfully written and judiciously framed, yet hard hitting — piece, which seems not to have received the attention it deserved:

“Among millennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.

“When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

“Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left. …

“As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump. … people who would hamper free speech always assume that they’re designing a world in which only their enemies will have to shut up. But free speech is fragile. Left-wing activists are just as dependent on permission to speak their minds as their detractors.

“In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out.

“… How is this happening? How did the left in the West come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism I grew up with? … Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree.”

 

 

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So true. It used to be that if you had had left wing leanings — if, perhaps, God forbid, in your idealistic youth, you had flirted with Communism; if you could be labeled a Pinko — you might very well lose your job. This was in the 1950’s, the era of McCarthyism, witch hunts, and the Red Scare. I remember that time dimly (having been in my childhood).

Now, the witch hunters have in their sights “innocent bystanders,” so to speak, such as Ralph Lauren and a sixteen-year old singer named Jackie Evancho, who get caught up in the tidal wave of anti-Trump frenzy.

People have a right to their opinions — including vehemently anti-Trump ones – and have the right, in America, at least; thank God – to express them.

In my childhood, when we got into arguments with playmates, we would say, “It’s a free country!” – meaning, I can say whatever I please (barring something over the top, such as a personal slur or an obscenity, which, as children, we would not have thought to use anyway, nor had consciousness of as being something one might be guilty of using).

People also have a right to practice an avocation as a designer, performer, or whatever without fear of retaliation because of the taint of “political incorrectness.”

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 21, 2017

Frank Bruni in defense of the “deplorables”

 

Other factors conspired in the party’s debacle. One in particular haunts me. From the presidential race on down, Democrats adopted a strategy of inclusiveness that excluded a hefty share of Americans and consigned many to a “basket of deplorables” who aren’t all deplorable. …

Liberals miss this by being illiberal. They shame not just the racists and sexists who deserve it but all who disagree. …

Political correctness has morphed into a moral purity that may feel exhilarating but isn’t remotely tactical. It’s a handmaiden to smugness and sanctimony, undermining its own goals.

“The Democrats Screwed Up” by Frank Bruni, The New York Times  November 11, 2016

 

 

 

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Three cheers for Frank Bruni. Finally, someone has actually spoken out against the views of the fanatical politically correct crowd: the new orthodoxy. (Well, that’s not quite right. Others have.)

And, defended the “deplorables.”

I’ve recently been called a “deplorable” myself!

 

—  Roger W. Smith
  
       November 14, 2016

 

 

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See also:

 

“Will the Left Survive the Millennials?” by Lionel Shriver, op ed, The New York Times, September 23, 2016

 

 

Ms. Shriver, a noted American author, brilliantly and incisively makes points along the same lines – to the effect that a new “totalitarian orthodoxy” is setting in — already has: the orthodoxy of the politically correct left.

A Response to the “Cultural Appropriation” Zealots

 

fiction-and-identity-politcs-lionel-shriver-sppech

 

Attached in the above Word document is the full text of a speech by author Lionel Shriver, “Fiction and Identity Politics,” which Ms. Shriver delivered at the Brisbane Writers Festival on September 8, 2016.

As noted in The New York Times, “Ms. Shriver criticized as runaway political correctness efforts to prevent artists from drawing on ethnic sources for their work.” She “was especially critical of efforts to stop novelists from cultural appropriation.”

The buzzword used by those who want to institute such bans is Cultural Appropriation.

Ms. Shriver’s speech is a devastating attack on the anti-cultural appropriation faction of the PC crowd. It demolishes their presuppositions, though, of course, they will never admit it; Ms. Shriver has already been subjected to virulent counterattacks.

The piece is extremely well written; well thought out; tightly knit; focused; effectively backed up with and illustrated by cogent argument, counterpoints, and supporting examples. Miss Shriver doesn’t miss a beat.

Her speech speaks for and stands by itself. I cannot imagine, had I been asked or had occasion to write such a speech, ever saying it better.

I would merely like to add the names of a few works of fiction (and one work by a composer) that come to mind, works that would probably be banned if the “cultural appropriation” zealots had their way:

Moby-Dick (Queequeg)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Hadji Murad (Leo Tolstoy)

Huckleberry Finn

James Joyce’s Ulysses (Leopold Bloom)

Porgy and Bess

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      September 16, 2016

 

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Also noteworthy, and right on the money, are the comments of Janice Gewirtz in a letter to the editor published in the The New York Times of September 16, 2016:

Perhaps the most absurd tenet of the spreading political-correctness takeover is the objection to “cultural appropriation.” I hadn’t realized that it had jumped, scarily, from the college campus to the critics of writers. Hats off to the novelist Lionel Shriver for speaking out against it at a writers’ conference in Australia.

One writer actually walked out of Ms. Shriver’s talk because it was a “celebration of the unfettered exploitation of the experiences of others, under the guise of fiction.” Isn’t that almost the definition of what fiction is? Will someone soon claim that men should not write about women?

Writers of fiction need to be unfettered to explore the limits of their imaginations, period.

— Janice Gewirtz

 

 

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See also:

“Lionel Shriver’s Address on Cultural Appropriation Roils a Writers Festival,” The New York Times, September 12, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/books/lionel-shriver-cultural-appropriation-brisbane-writers-festival.html?mwrsm=Email&_r=0

 

 

“In Defense of Cultural Appropriation,” op ed by Kenan Malik, The New York Times, June 14, 2017

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/opinion/in-defense-of-cultural-appropriation.html