Sunday, February 28, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
I'm not a fan of Trump. Anyone who reads what I write and sees my FB posts can see that.
Whenever I share something about him a little debate goes on in my mind about whether to post that meme or article.
'Do you really want to give the man the attention he so desperately craves?' The cautious part of my mind asks.
'A huge segment of the electorate and the media gives him that attention anyway.' I reason. 'And they often don't recognize him for the fascist blowhard he is.'
I had this same debate with myself while trying to decide on whether to dedicate a blog-post to his candidacy. I decided it was worth it.
If nothing else, I can make sure there's a public record of where I stood on his candidacy during this election.
I want to write this, not in the hopes of swaying his supporters. I'm almost certain they will defend the man regardless of anything he says or does. I write this in the hope that people who may regard him as just a joke will see just how dangerous he could be for America and for the world.
If I boil my feelings on the man's campaign down to one word, that word is 'repulsive'.
His personality, his platform (if his ramblings can even be called that), his manipulation of people's fears and prejudices, his willingness to dish out insults but throw a hissy-fit if anyone attacks him, his gleeful pride of his own ignorance, his blatant, never-ending ego-masturbation.
There is nothing, nothing redeemable about what this man says or stands for. His ravings represent a version of America that mindlessly indulges the darkest parts of our history and society.
Like many populist demagogues throughout history, he gives his followers a temporary but ecstatic high of security and confidence by making them part of his own grand myth. He makes his people the heroes of an epic story in which they are 'winners' and every problem in their life is the fault of some other (Immigrants, Muslims, Liberals, the Media).
Hitler did it, Mussolini did it and now Trump follows in their goosestepping wake. He is creating his own simplistic black and white universe for anxious Americans, angry (often justifiably) at all things established to lose themselves in. It's a universe removed from the complex nature of reality. But it's a simple one to accept and understand, which is why it has such appeal in a time of anxious uncertainty.
And it is that willingness to swallow Trump's koolaid that is most frightening. What Trump says is repulsive but I think there is still an argument to be made that he is simply a reality tv-showman playing to his audience's fears. There's still some doubt in my mind over whether he is truly committed to all the BS he spouts.
What is far more troubling to me are the people who get so lost in his fantasy that they begin to see everyone who differs or disagrees with them as an enemy. The example of two Boston men beating up and urinating on a homeless Hispanic man in Trump's name could just be the tip of the iceberg.
Once this kind of alternate, Nativist fantasy is mainstream (as I fear it is becoming) it can be hard to get rid of. Even if the story itself is inconsistent people cling to it because they need that story to make them feel empowered.
For the kind of mythology Trump peddles is not for strong, secure people. His story of 'Make America Great Again' is for those who are profoundly insecure and doubt themselves in a time of change.
And that includes Trump. He needs to believe his own BS perhaps even more than his followers do.
He bristles as every hard question thrown his way by reporters. He feuds with those few voices in the mainstream media that call him out on making up stories about Muslims cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center. He throws personal insults like a toddler when his own tweets get read back to him for a debate.
Is this the mark of a secure strong leader?
A man who styles himself as a strong leader who will make America great, cannot handle a tough line of questioning and talks lustfully about punching protesters in the face when they try and disrupt his rallies.
If this is what strength is in Donald Trump's America, if it is measured not by how well you can engage your opponent in mutual discussion but by how loudly you can shout, pout and throw a tantrum when the entire world does not declare you to be the best man in the universe, than I am perfectly fine being weak.
If winning in Donny's United States is demonizing others to make yourself feel better, I'm happy to be called a loser.
If being great, means having an ego so frail that it can be shattered with a single question, than I earnestly embrace being small.
Donald Trump is a clown, but he is a dangerous clown. And if the people of America lose themselves in his world we deserve everything that comes next.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Syrian princess, Egyptian singer, British spy and Nazi double-agent - Asmahan was an alluring figure in the Middle East during the 1930s and 40s.
Born Amal al-Atrash into a prominent Syrian family, Asmahan's father was an Ottoman official in Turkey during WWI.
Her parents, both members of the Druze religion, fled Turkey in 1918 after the French and British invaded and occupied the Ottoman Empire's territories.
Supposedly, Asmahan was born on the ship that carried the family to Beirut from Turkey.
When they returned to Syria, Asmahan's father moved the family to his ancestral homeland in the south of the country.
Tensions between the Al-Atrash clan and the French government turned violent in 1921 after a man who tried to assassinate the French governor of Syria was aided in his escape attempt by the Al-Atrash patriarch.
Asmahan's mother, Alia, who felt her marriage was also on the rocks, decided to separate from her husband and move with her children to the relative safety of Egypt.
Despite her husband's objections, Alia left as the French stepped up their violent campaign against the Al-Atrash.
|Asmahan (far right) with her mother and two brothers shortly |
after arriving in Egypt.
When they arrived in Egypt, Asmahan's mother was forced to moveher children into a humble Cairo apartment.
Well to do relatives in Egypt avoided contact with Alia because they felt she had disgraced the family by leaving her husband.
Though she was of upper class origins, Asmahan's mother supported her children by working as a seamstress and by singing at parties.
However, her aristocratic background allowed Alia to send her children to a prestigious French Catholic school. Eventually, the family made enough money to live comfortably again. Their fortunes improved dramatically after Asmahan's older brother, Farid, began to succeed as a musician.
|Asmahan as a teenager.|
Inspired by their mother's singing, Asmahan's older brother helped to pave the way for his own sister's rapid rise to fame.
At fourteen Asmahan began performing in concerts. By sixteen she had recorded her first album. Gaining notoriety on Egyptian radio, many of her songs were written by Farid who she would remain close to throughout her life.
Asmahan also transitioned well into the Egyptian film scene. She became one of the country's most prominent movie stars, gaining fame and notoriety across the Middle East for her beauty, charm and singing talent.
Despite or perhaps because of her great success, Asmahan received resentment and criticism from her extended family in Syria who pressured her into marrying her cousin, an powerful amir, in 1933.
Returning with her new husband to Syria for the first time since her childhood, the Egyptian star's liberal, more Western lifestyle clashed with her husband's conservative worldview.
She refused to change and fit the role of a traditional Druze wife and began to spend more and more time away from her husband's mountain palace.
Her rocky marriage to her cousin ended in divorce in 1938 (they would marry and divorce one more time) and Asmahan decided to move on.
Free from her marriage, Asmahan made a new home for herself at the luxurious King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
|The King David Hotel in Jerusalem.|
It was here, at what was regarded as the headquarters of British rule in the Middle East, that Asmahan developed a reputation as a fem-fatale.
Using her singing, charm and extraordinary good looks, 'The Lady of the Lobbies' was able to beguile prominent British and Arab officials alike who stayed at or worked out of the hotel.
The life of many parties, she was regarded as an 'agent of influence' who could win and trade favors from a variety of power players. Many important men were smitten with her .
General Edward Spears, a British official, once described Asmahan as: '...one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Her eyes were immense, green as the sea you cross to paradise. She bowled over British officers with the speed and accuracy of a machine gun.'
There was also a popular joke at the hotel that it was impossible to be alone in her room as you were likely to find one general in her bed, another under her bed and one more dangling from the chandelier.
Asmahan was also bisexual and had numerous affairs with prominent Jerusalem women. Her female lovers were mainly the wives of her male lovers.
It was this ability to charm and influence important men which would change her life once again in 1939 when war broke out in Europe between Britain and Nazi Germany.
|Hitler in Paris after the Fall of France|