The Fetishization of the American Businessman

2017/8/17: An updated version of this piece appears on medium.com.

Donald Trump clearly doesn’t care about governing or know anything about governing. He has never given any indication that he did. Vague statements in his campaign didn’t magically turn into knowledge after the election.

Donald Trump wanted to be president in order to protect and promote his business and the Trump brand. He probably also wanted the power, but we have no way of confirming the latter other than his insistence that he won the election in a landslide [read: he didn’t] and his language befitting of a demagogue. We do have evidence, however, of his financial stakes.

Trump has refused to separate his business interests from his presidency, refusing to put his assets in a blind trust, instead handing over management to his two oldest sons. After the election, the Trump Organization doubled the initiation fee for its Mar-a-Lago resort — which Trump has since called “the Winter White House” — to $200,000. Trump Hotels’ CEO also said, after the election, that they planned to triple the number of Trump Hotels in the country. And that’s just in the U.S. According to the Washington Post, “at least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia, and the Middle East.”

This is dangerous to the American people. The President of the United States is supposed to represent national interests and not, say, what he stands to profit from a casino or a luxury condo in Turkey. It’s not a coincidence that the Muslim-majority countries on Trump’s first attempt at an anti-immigration executive order were countries in which he has no business investments. The stated purpose of the order was to prevent terrorists from entering the country, even though no terrorist attacks have been committed on U.S. soil by people from any of the banned countries. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

You can find a laundry list of Trump’s business conflicts of interest here. It’s long. And it’s not subtle. My personal favorite is the Chinese trademark dispute that had been going on more than a decade and was magically settled in the Trump Organization’s favor after he became president.

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To Amy on Her 37th Birthday*

Heidi and Amy. c. 1987.

I don’t think I’ve ever told Amy this, but years ago, probably when I was in college, I internally accepted the idea that my adult life would end up with me living in her basement.

Set aside the fact that I intuitively — and, as it turns out, correctly — knew that I would not be good at being an adult. I also knew that Amy would have a better grasp on figuring things out than I would and that she would willingly house me for an open-ended period of time and not judge me for not having my shit together.

Years have passed since this personal revelation. But during those years, even though her life at times was very distant from mine literally (as she lived on two different continents) and figuratively (because I’m an emotionally distant android-like creature on a good day), I continued to live with this plan in the back of my mind. Even when she did not have a reliable address, let alone a basement.  

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What Do Identity Politics Mean When You Don’t Have An Identity?

maskI had a friend in college who told me that statistically I didn’t exist. And maybe I don’t.

He said it because as an American I’m a bit of an anomaly. But the truth of his off-hand comment has lingered with me for years. Beyond the demographic categories I can’t escape, I’ve tried identities on for size—with varying degrees of accuracy.

But let me go back.

My childhood doesn’t fit me. The child I was is incongruent with how I see myself now. I know I lived through grade school, through college, through job after job after job. Through labels—grounds crew, barista, teaching assistant, cashier, first grader, freshman, senior, summa cum laude, employee of the month, girlfriend, single.

But was I any of those things? Was I an archivist? A graduate student? A partner? A mentor?  Continue reading

Fiction Excerpt: The Reasons Why

I rarely ever post any fiction, even though that’s primarily what I write. Posting fiction is far more terrifying to me than posting an essay or my thoughts on wealth disparity in the 21st century. Much like Steve Rogers, I’m always honest, but there’s the tactful honesty by which I live my life, and then there’s fiction writing, which is exposing my imagination–the only part of myself that no one can take away from me. But I promised myself I would do this, because I certainly don’t agonize over words and made-up people for my health, so here is an excerpt from an old version of a piece of forever unpublished fiction. I don’t think context is required, but it’s set in England, c. 2010.

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I needed another perspective, so later that day, I called Caroline.

“Colin asked me if I had ever been in therapy.”

“That’s random.”

“Yeah, he said it was for a school project, and he assumed I had been in therapy. Is it weirder that he assumed I had, or weirder that I haven’t?”

“I think it’d be pretty normal to see a therapist after someone in your family tries to, you know.”

“I think we all sort of managed to cope on our own,” I said, the words ringing hollow. I didn’t want to say what I was really thinking, that even though dad had been devastated, and Rhi, Jack, and I had been some combination of bereft, angry, and guilty, none of us were ultimately surprised that mum tried to kill herself.

“Well, sometimes you don’t realize how much you were affected by something until years later. I’m just saying, even now, it wouldn’t be weird if you wanted to see a therapist.”

“And it’s not weird that I haven’t?”

“You’ve always seemed totally normal to me. Your family’s never seemed as weird as you make them out to be.”

Maybe we weren’t weird, or any weirder than any other family, but the idea didn’t leave me—the idea that maybe we all assumed mum would end her own life, a matter of when and not if. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, but I went for a walk after I hung up with Caroline and wound up near a bookshop just as the afternoon rain shower started. I ducked into the shop initially for cover from the rain, but I wound up leaving with another of mum’s books.

This one was about the history of polo, titled Riding Off. The cover of the book had a polo scene on it, but the players weren’t in normal polo costume. They were carrying polo sticks and the whole thing was in sepia tones to give off the impression of vintage. I bet mum hated the cover.

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Way Down to the Very Bottom of Everything

This has nothing to do with the post. Looking at the ocean just makes me feel better. Photo by me.

This has nothing to do with the post. Looking at the ocean just makes me feel better. Photo by me.

I do this every year. I indulge in the game of time and I reflect on the previous 365 (or 366) days. I don’t think a new year is something to celebrate. For me, it’s a time to reflect.

2016 has been being called a terrible year by many people in my circles—a lot of death, a lot of loss in other forms, what seems like an increase in violence and destruction in the world, a baffling presidential election in my country.

In darker moments, I fear what is to come. I spend too much time thinking about the consequences of capitalism, about war, about bias, about how often it seems people misperceive the shared world around them. I tend to use my intellectual fascination with the ugly aspects of humanity to shield myself in numbness, but in my bleaker moments, I feel that fear and frustration deep down in the pit of my stomach. I fear I’m running out of time.

I wonder sometimes if I live in the same world as other people. I wonder if it’s not the condition of alienation that comes with capitalism, with being defined as a woman, with being a philosophical thinker, but something else. Something active, sinister. I’ve been ignored and silenced and not taken seriously for most of my life, partly by my own doing, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Sometimes screaming into the void is all I can do.

But it doesn’t help. So I feel like I’ve started to disappear.

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To Tell the Truth

“Post-truth.” “Post-fact.” “Fake news.”

These are terms I hear flying around lately, and I feel obligated to step in.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

There are and have been philosophical debates on truth and reality for centuries.[1] Is truth only what is verifiable? Is it correspondence? Is it coherence? Is reality only the material reality through which the natural sciences are practiced? Is reality always already filtered through a subjective, phenomenological perspective?

Truth and reality are messy concepts, because truth and reality are created, defined, and evaluated by human-made standards.

Truth isn’t one thing. The truth of an event isn’t “what actually happened,” because when anything happens to a person that particular experience is happening to someone with a perspective. And with any perspective comes bias. Bias from actual limitations of human sensing, pattern recognition, and comprehension, but also bias from socialized beliefs and bias from a personal agenda, all of it.

You are biased.

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You Don’t Like Hillary Clinton Because She’s A Woman

via ABCNews, Getty image

I love this photo. (via ABCNews, Getty image)

For weeks, I’ve been trying to write something about the latent sexism that I hear in nearly every negative claim made about Hillary Clinton. The problem is that I don’t have a knockout argument, and I fear this is the case because sexism is so deeply ingrained in us we can’t see it. We subconsciously don’t want to believe that women can be good leaders.

But I have to try, because I don’t see enough people talking about this (though if you search you can find some op-eds).

As a disclaimer, I’m not arguing that you should vote for Hillary Clinton, I’m trying to show you that institutional sexism is affecting your perception of her.

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via American New X

There’s even a chart! (via American New X)

I read an article yesterday, which explained very clearly (with data and facts!) that Hillary Clinton is generally honest. She is one of the most honest politicians that PolitiFact.com tracks. I think this author’s assessment was probably right, that people fixate on her few untrue assertions: “It seems that people want Clinton to be a liar, and really don’t care that Trump actually is one.”

Using her email scandal against her is beating a dead horse at this point. Her biggest opponent in the primaries was sick of her damn emails back in October of last year. The director of the FBI said it would be unreasonable to press charges. If you’ve ever worked for the government and/or had a government phone, you might think this scandal is ridiculous for the same reasons I do. (I suspect that Clinton wasn’t trying to hide information, but, rather, trying to use her phone[s] in a way that was actually convenient and efficient–the government’s protocols are not.)

Not to mention, in an era of Wikileaks and Panama Papers and an OPM data breach that compromised personal information of an estimated 21.5 million people, do you really believe that cybersecurity is possible? Really? And what do you think was in these classified emails? Do tell, because I love a conspiracy theory.

But as far as I can tell, this is the reason why a lot of people don’t trust Clinton.

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