Reagan, Trump and the Cruelty of Indifference

There may be triggers in this post.

How do we trust our government when the President is a pathological liar?

For people over 60, every interaction is fraught with death.

When the #COVID-19 shutdown began five months ago, my partner was with his elderly Mother in San Bruno, where he remains.

A few weeks ago, I started meeting with my therapist in Dolores Park. On my walks to the park, I noticed more homeless people in new tents.

Yesterday I saw a collection of freshly laundered business suits draped in plastic over a bright blue tent.

Blue Pup Tent
A Memory of Market Street

The sight of It broke my heart.

When I can’t take any more Trumpian abuse, I switch and log into VR, where my alternates recreated the homeless encampments of the 1980s.

Trump’s intentional mismanagement of COVID-19 is reminiscent of Reagan’s indifference to mental illness and the outbreak of AIDS.

The consequences of Reagan’s policies were as traumatic as the treacheries of my childhood.

A Memory of market Street
A Memory of Market Street

I spent most of the 1980s preparing to die from AIDS. 

I asked myself what I wanted to do with the last days of the rest of my life and chose writing.

I had wanted to be a poet as a youth, but I took my Grandmother’s advice to make poetry an avocation, something to do in old age, which was suddenly 29.

In August of 1984, I befriended a poet best known in the gay community for his homoerotic poetry. I was ballsy enough to ask him to teach me to write poetry, and he said yes.

He offered me a room in his rented cottage on Albion Street in San Francisco’s Mission District.

I took the room and began the painful work of becoming literate.

By day I absorbed centuries of writing and literary criticism.

By night, I wrote as much as possible,  desperate to leave a legacy as my community sickened and died.

I also worked full time as a fitness trainer at the local YMCA.

Four years of Reagan’s budget cuts culminated in a permanent population of  disabled people living on and in the gutters.

It started with the mentally ill.

The mentally ill were soon joined by gay teens who came from all over the country, many from abusive communities and families.

Some of these kids formed an alliance with AIDS activists and built a sprawling encampment at San Francisco’s Civic Center.

I wonder where they're going with that Bat-2
I wonder where they’re going with those Bats

As AIDS took my friends, I began to compulsively check my arms and legs for KS lesions and had a crisis over every blemish.

In 1985, an alternate, inspired by the Nathaniel West short story, ‘Miss Lonelyhearts’ emerged.

Like Miss Lonelyhearts, the alternate had a Christ complex.

He took dangerous all-night walks into the homeless encampments at Civic Center and around the adult cinemas and arcades on Market Street and in the Tenderloin.

He returned to the cottage at 6 AM to write a paragraph and sleep.

He called himself Loleeta Morales of Los Portales.

The name, Loleeta, is a regrettable pun.  Morales was the name of one of my many shrinks, and Los Portales was the name of a popular gay dance bar in San Francisco’s Mission District.

‘Loleeta’ became more emotionally unstable with every walk, and I sometimes ‘woke up’ in a crisis clinic or on a locked psychiatric unit with no memory of why I was there.  Still, I always found a story in Loleeta’s notebook.

““A locked psychiatric unit stinks.

A janitor arrives in the morning to stir the floor with his mop.

A Nurse patrols the day room with a can of Lysol spritzing above
her head.

Dr. Christopher Morales is a German from Brazil.

He is like a frog becoming a prince, frozen in transition.

Dr. Morales watches me eat breakfast with a look of calculated concern.

“You like your breakfast?” He asks.

I nod and nibble the tip of a sausage.

“You are feeling suicidal today?”

I nod and swallow.

“How long do you do you intend to feel this way?”

“Until the day I die!” I say sweetly,  so Doctor Morales hops
off in pursuit of a fly.””

Excerpt from Los Portales, 1987

Psychiatrists thought Xanax was a treatment for depression, so mine had me on eight milligrams a day.

Loleeta frightened me because I didn’t know why ‘he’ existed, and I worried he would get us killed.

When I expressed these concerns to my psychiatrist, he upped the Xanax.

By 1986,  I was sick enough to meet Reagan’s definition of total disability.

“The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security

My psychiatrist said I had a potentially lethal mood disorder so the government reluctantly gave me a grant of 700 dollars a month.

By 1987 I was on the brink of homelessness and wondered why I was still alive

I was sickened by Reagan’s government and felt betrayed by my thirtysomething peers, whose political activism became an empty rebellion of style.

“Loleeta Morales reclines to read her favorite leftish magazine.

She offers this excerpt from an Utne article entitled, ‘The Place of the Poor in our Cities:

Poor people have taught us so much about how to move rhythmically and melodically down the street, about how to use color and ornamentation to say new things about ourselves, about how to bring out the rhetorical and theatrical powers of the English language in our every day talk.”

Loleeta writes: “I can teach them how to walk, talk, and dress.”

She decides to prepare herself for the task. First, she needs a hit of speed to kill the hunger. Next, she needs an especially well-swept section of The City: where is the color and ornamentation of her poverty needed most? Does the Castro want some rhetoric? And what shall she wear? Her wardrobe expands with possibilities. She settles on an avant-garde pair of shit-stained chinos topped with fading looks and tie.

Loleeta writes:

I never thought I would have a special place in the life of a city. For this, I am grateful.”

She crosses herself and enters traffic.

Lights change on her command.

Loleeta Morales looms over San Francisco like a Godzilla in search of King Kong. Her jaw flops open, and she roars: “How many bores wanna be like Loleeta Morales!”

Dozens she decides.

As if the hills are alive with the theatrical joy of Loleeta, she storms 18th Street like a mob with convictions. There was money in her mailbox today, her payday for going crazy

With that thought in mind, she clamors into the Bank of America.

“Cash my check!” she demands.

“Gladly!” the teller answers.

And Loleeta takes her place in the scheme of things.”

Excerpt from Los Portales, 1987

In late 1987 I tested negative for AIDS, and Loleeta and my bi-polar illness went away.

“Loleeta Morales” ran my life for over two years.

In the end, Loleeta committed suicide and left me with 200 pages of a story that frightened and confused me.

“Loleeta  Morales decides to die from compassion instead of lust and self-loathing.

She is the New Puritan who brings a message of cleanliness: yesterday’s stud is today’s carrier, so Loleeta gets carried away.

She writes: “Now is the time when I, Loleeta Morales, will deliver my eulogy — because no one else can possibly know how nice I am.

I was a good girl. I respected science. I felt the Constitution of the United States was worth reading. I also felt that food was something I had a right to because the anguish of hunger us cruel.

Let it be said at my funeral that I was always one of the others.”

Excerpt from Los Portales, 1987

It is 2020.

Our president is a racist who persecutes migrant children. He extorts our allies and invites tyrants to help him rig our elections.

He is using a deadly virus to kill off the poor and disabled as he spreads enemy propaganda designed to distract and confuse our people.

Reagan’s 80s proved that average Americans will not only normalize a disgusting abuse of political power, they will also happily condescend to and blame the victims, if the consequences don’t directly affect them.

Can we undo the mistakes in collective judgment that got us here?  Can we face up to and atone for over 40 years of our complicit abuse of the poor and disabled?

During the shutdown, I built a virtual replica of the homeless encampments on Market Street in the 1980s.

I log in to remember and bear witness.

“Young girls are coming to the Canyon.

They make their way up Polk Street; hustle the arcade on
Turk and Ellis.

Young girls are coming: in the all-night cinema on Jones Street.

Where the homeless sleep in the aisles.

Where the pushers hustle the john.

Loleeta sees them and loves them.

She is the queer Jesus, come in the true spirit of Christianity.

She witnesses to the sick and needy,

She does it with the patience of a god.”

Excerpt from Loleeta, 1987

A Memory of Market Street
Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon

“The homeless are “homeless, you might say, by choice,” Ronald Reagan, 1984

The Mattress
The Mattress

All Images by Rob Goldstein 2020
(c) Rob Goldstein 2020

the silence

House of Heart

Wiping a tear from our eye
a sympathetic smile
no need to apologize
no time for  paperwork.
Scribbled notes mark the
time and day.
The dead are silent.
Mourners grieve behind closed doors.
It is not my demise nor yours.
We shake our heads and snuff our cigarettes
dig through our closets for the flag.

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Trump’s Torture Monkeys

‘Torture Monkeys’ prey on pain.

The U.N. defines torture as follows:

“Torture is any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Trump and his enablers torture us with corruption, disease and economic calamity.

Becoming numb to it is normal, but it prevents us from acting to defend ourselves.

The narcissist wants us to normalize abuse and suffering, to accept it as a
‘new normal’ but that only leads to more suffering and pain.

In cases of domestic violence, the first step in ending the torture of abuse is saying no.

The news clips below date to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic starting with the news of today.

100 days in isolation because your President chose to let his people die is torture.

Watching a parent or a child die because our President is morally deranged is torture.

Watching your President ridicule the government’s best people because they are not corrupt is torture.

Yesterday,  Trump and his Republican Torture Monkeys succeeded in their weeks-long crusade to spread Covid-19 to kill more people and drive us into more calamity and isolation.

Friday saw the highest single-day total for coronavirus cases in the U.S., with more than 43,000 new infections. Those numbers are worse than the pandemic’s previous daily peaks. And that’s leading to fears that hospitals in Texas and Florida could soon resemble New York’s during the worst days of its outbreak.

The New York Times reports that U.S. intelligence told Donald Trump in March that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban fighters to kill coalition troops, including U.S. troops. Trump has done nothing about it and instead advocated for Russia’s return to the G8

 

This is what American carnage looks like.

President Trump’s reluctance to endorse wearing masks to prevent Covid spread has inspired a nation of maskless culture warriors who are putting everyone’s health at risk, including the President’s own Secret Service detail.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says the system of checks and balances in the US government is only effective if other leaders speak out and act when they see blatant abuses of power.

Chaos is Trump’s plan and chaos will worsen between now and the election. Expect Trump to cower in the chaos, delight in the discord and prey on your pain.

There is no real plan coming from the White House. Instead every night, carried on this network and others, there’s a two-hour pathological, narcissistic propaganda show in which the president feels some fleeting sense of satisfaction because people are watching.

“America is acting like a failed state”

“So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it. Then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you could do, either through the skin or some other way and I think you said you were going to test that, too. Sounds interesting. Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside, or almost a cleaning because you see it gets on the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it will be interesting to check that. That you’re gonna have to use medical doctors. But it sounds interesting to me.”

Former Health and Human Services secretary and Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius discusses the White House’s “very troubling” suppression of the Center for Disease Control’s 68-page reopening guide.»

Donald Trump has lashed out at Democrats who have questioned his handling of the coronavirus threat, calling it their new “hoax”.

Donald Trump is the President of the United States.

His decision to politicize wearing a mask to prevent the spread of disease, and his sabotage of successful measures adopted by states like California and New York, wasted months of isolation and the expense of living in isolation and caused the deaths of over 128,089 Americans.

128,108 Americans dead from neglect.

Now we find out that Trump knew months ago that Russia is offering bounties to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, and he did nothing to protect them.

The Trump Administration is torture.

 

Updated July 1, 2020, to add these two videos:

Charlie Savage joins Andrea Mitchell to discuss his new reporting in the New York Times that American officials intercepted data showing large financial transfers between Russian intelligence and Taliban-linked accounts.

It now appears that Trump received written intelligence about this in early 2019 – but did not act on it. The White House claims that Trump knew nothing about it until stories about the alleged Russian plot made the news.

Header image,  ‘Torture Monkeys’ (c) Rob Goldstein 2014-2020

This was originally posted in 2015 as an image only post, ‘Torture Monkeys’. I
was going to delete it but wrote this instead.

This relationship is killing us

When we elect a President, we expect him to treat his power with humility and respect.

We expect him to be an American President.

What we have is a selfish gaslighting narcissist whose only obsession is staying in power.

Perhaps Trump saw the demographic of who was dying and decided to use Covid19 to purge voter rolls.

April 7, 2020, According to new data about the scope of the Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., COVID-19 is hitting Americans of color especially hard. The CDC has not published racial breakdowns of deaths, but some states are — and they show that patients dying of the disease are disproportionately Blacks and Latinos.

We know Trump got a heads up about a spreading pandemic in November 2019.

April 8, 2020, ABC reports the National Center for Medical Intelligence warned the military and White House about the spread of the virus in China in November 2019.

The dire warning about an out-of-control disease sweeping through China was detailed in November in a report by the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

The oddest sight of the Trump Pandemic was that of an American President inciting an armed rebellion against doctors and nurses and Governors who were doing their jobs.

April 17, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump tells protestors to ‘liberate’ three Democratic-run states with stay-at-home orders.

The Death toll from Trump’s neglect was 34,614 on the day of this tweet:

Liberate Minnesota
Liberate Minnesota

The President had not only declined to use his power and resources to stop the spread of a lethal virus; he sabotaged the efforts of State and Local governments by politicizing a matter of science.

So here we are, Monday, June 22, 2020, day 90 or more of quarantine.

June 22, 2020, day 90 or more of quarantine.
On June 22, 2020, day 90 or more of quarantine.

Our President just told us he’s killing us on purpose.


“In a shocking admission during his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on Saturday night, President Donald Trump said he had told officials in his administration to slow down coronavirus testing because of the rising number of cases in America.” CNN

It’s not a joke.

The President of the United States intentionally slowed down testing to reduce the numbers to create a false argument to reopen the economy.

We still don’t know who or where the sick are or how many people have died.

The idea that the strong protect the weak is the defining moral premise of who we are as Americans.

If you have a gift, a power, and you can use it to save just one life, you have a moral obligation to use it.

It is a code of honor at the core of our identity as a people.

Photograph of a sign at the 2019 Women's March in San Francisco
The American Mission Statement

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Emma Lazarus.

Or

“When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.” Peter Parker

What does it mean to have an American President who has no sense of common decency?

If I were married to the guy, I’d leave and get a restraining order, but it’s worse: the guy is the President. So I’m more like a hostage of a sadistically abusive Father I didn’t choose and can’t leave. There is nowhere to go to; he’s here, every day, with his racist lies and his threats to incite violence, every day, day, after day, after day.

May 31, 2020

June 22, 2020

Update: from The Lincoln Project

Updated August 28 to include the most recent #Covid19 Statistics from the CoronaScanner:

Photo of “The American Mission Statement” (c) Rob Goldstein 2020
Photo of ‘You’re on my toe” by Eclaire Banderstatch (c) Rob Goldstein 2020