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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Losers and suckers

I'm not going to belabor what so many others have said so well about the president's appalling – and repeated -- descriptions of soldiers who sacrificed for our nation.  It was good to see the Times bring back their Pulitzer-winning Dan Ruth to write about his father, a "sucker" who volunteered for additional dangerous flights during World War II.  And I can't imagine any sane person standing next to a bereaved family and wondering aloud "what was in it for him."  The Current Occupant truly meets the definition of a psychopath, incapable of empathy.


But I want to muse on this further, in terms of Trump supporters.  The Wall Street Journal, certainly a conservative source, says that while Biden's numbers rose, "Mr. Trump's remained virtually unchanged at 43%."  Moreover, his approval rating never has risen beyond 46% during the last four years.  No incumbent has had numbers that low and prevailed in the general election – except when third-party candidates siphoned off votes.  This year, however, there is no Ralph Nader or Ross Perot, and it's too late for Kanye West to get on ballots.


Yet Democrats are justifiably nervous, as the polls in 2016 similarly predicted a Democratic victory.  (And Hillary did win by some three million votes; they just weren't in the right geographic areas.  Changing the Electoral College to make every vote equal should be the first order of business next year.)  Meanwhile, political scientists are busy creating scenarios that compare 2020 to 1876, when Washington insiders ended up electing Republican Rutherford B. Hayes by one vote.  I don't think that sort of situation will happen again – and if it does, Nancy Pelosi is the best possible person to handle it.


Finally, to the point.  Like Trump, his supporters abhor losers.  I'm thinking that we Democrats should start claiming victory right now.  The kind of personality who cares about winning more than anything – aka Donald Trump – will be discouraged from coming out to vote if he thinks he's going to lose.  I've known many people – mostly men – for whom the possibility of appearing to be a winner or a loser is THE most important factor in any decision.  Principles and platforms be damned; for these folks, all that matters is being on the side of the victor. 


So, Democrats, let's get over our angst and start implanting the notion with Trump supporters that he's going to lose.  Along with Bloomberg's ads about what a failed businessman he is, I think we'll see rats running to desert this sinking ship.




Speaking of winning and losing, have you noticed how the Red Rascal in "Doonesbury" is switching sides?  Ever since his incarnation many years ago, his sword-wielding has been on behalf of the world's worst -- profit mongers and thuggish dictators.  Recently, though, after shouting "Disperse, leftist scum," he rethinks.  In the last panel, he has dropped his Arabian dress and when his roommate says, "Slick pivot, Dude," he replies:  "Thanks.  The Right Side of History is a better look for me."


Which leads me to cynicism and gullibility, another topic I've been pondering for a long time.  It will take a better sociologist than I to explain this phenomenon, but we should at least ask the question:  Why do these two seemingly opposite attitudes so frequently appear in the same person?  It's particularly common in politics.  The same person who is cynical enough to believe that all government and most people are evil, nonetheless is gullible enough to believe any ridiculous thing on the internet.  It never occurs to him that the strangers who flatter him may be Russians or Chinese who actually are laughing at him.  I've seen such self-deception over and over, and you have, too.  How is it explained?  And why does cynicism usually prevail in their self-image and interaction with others?


Along those lines, I've been thinking, too, about platitudes.  Jesus said (Matthew 6:7) that the key to prayer is not "much repetition" -- yet many people and most preachers seem to think that the best remedy for problems is repeating the same platitudes over and over again.  It's even true of secular organizations that intend to be supportive, as they offer repetitions of the same advice.  After Hubby's death, I got lots of mailed and e-mailed advice from professional grief counselors, none of whom were brave enough to amend their platitudes to deal with our new reality. 


The pandemic already was in full swing, yet they told me to join clubs, go to the gym, etc.  It was not at all comforting to have this level of denial from people whose first principle was that I not deny death.  And speaking of comfort, where is the Pope?  I had such hopes for Francis at the beginning of his tenure, and I still listen every day for some word of wisdom in a world that is traumatized.  I am so sorry to say this, but I can't think of a single spiritual leader in any religion anywhere who has had something worthwhile to say.


So while I'm writing about depressing things, I guess I'll cross off "On the Beach" from my list of possible topics.  It was published a long time ago, and I'll not fault you if you never heard of the novel or subsequent movie.  It was set in Australia, where those few people who could do so fled from nuclear radiation after World War III.  The book left an indelible impression on a young me, and I have to confess that, as COVID fatalities rose, I thought of this scenario and possible human extinction.  What if everyone was contagious?  What if this is another Black Plague? I don't really believe that will happen and remain hopeful about humanity, but it wouldn't hurt to read the book and think about these big questions.




My cat is not a good conversationalist, and she's the only one in my house most days.  I can't read all the time, and it rains too much for gardening, so I've taken to playing a lot of online bridge.  Bridgebase.com is fascinating.  It offers several forms of play, including partners and opponents from all over the world.  I tend to go online late at night, when there is a better chance of playing with/against mild-mannered people in Australia and New Zealand.  Four people play at a virtual table, and I've even had a partner in tiny Andorra. 


I've met people from everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa --which probably says something about the status of the internet there.  One night, the table's other three players were from Chile, Canada, and China, about as far apart as possible.  But I recently stopped playing with real people, as I learn more by playing against robots who never make mistakes.  I also was encouraged to do so by a partner who bid seven clubs doubled and redoubled – and he had four low clubs.  If you know bridge, this is about as bad as it gets.


The site also has profiles of players; that's how I know where they live.  Although many people disguise their names, there is enough information that often I can discern gender – and the crazy person above definitely was a man.  I learned a long time ago that -- as with many things in life -- men are much more inclined than women to do stubbornly stupid things, and being online enables them to disappear from the consequences. The system also rates players for compatibility, a ranking I still don't understand.  My mentor, Dr. Susan Dellinger, said it probably results from how many complaints the webmasters get about someone – and if so, I'm happy to say that I am the only player I've ever seen who has five stars.  Isn't that nice?


Finally, as I think about online entertainment and about how vital computers are to everything now, including business and education, I want to send a shoutout to Al Gore.  He was indeed a visionary in foreseeing how the internet was going to transform life, but – like many visionaries – he was ridiculed.  He also was futuristic in warning us about climate change, a scientific reality that even most conservatives now are beginning to accept.  His reward at the time, though, was more ridicule.  The nation owes him a big apology.



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