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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Authoritarian Trump Formula: Is "Presidential" Just Too Politically Correct?


Has Donald Trump offended you yet? Give him time. Question him and chances are you will be considered nothing but a dolt. It seems that the Donald calls everyone who doesn't worship him a “dummy,” a “loser,” or a “stupid moron.” It amazes me that he has somehow “earned” the presidential candidacy of the Republican Party. It's worth a look at how this has happened.

“He’s (Trump) always talking about threatening images and threatening forces operating behind the scenes or overseas or south of the border,” Matt Motyl, political psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says. “By fostering a sense of perceived threat, people become fearful. They want someone who can alleviate that fear.” Motyl claims in times of anxiety people also seek out simple solutions instead of detailed plans.

Trump's simplicity is evident in his limited vocabulary and his repetitive off the cuff remarks that do little to reveal how he plans to accomplish his goals. Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political discourse at Texas A&M University, believes Trump's campaign employs simple rhetoric to create division – a tactic of intimidation and war.

“One of the things I found so fascinating was that so much of what he said was…’I'm winning. I’m the winner. I had the number one TV show. I had the number one book. I’m winning. I’m winning. I won. I’m great. They’re dummies. They’re dumb. They’re stupid. They’re vicious. They’re dumb,’” Mercieca says. “He divides the world that way.”

(Emily Sohn. “Why Trump's Negativity Is Working.” December 09, 2015.)

It is troubling to me that this bombastic, contemptuous man could become so popular. Donald Trump has tapped into the fears of very bitter and angry people to incite their prejudices – prejudices about politicians, immigrants, foreign leaders, and any other perceived opponent. He does not care about mutual and dignity, and he dismisses his lack of civility by claiming he's sick of being politically correct.

Dr. Robert L. Leahy, the Honorary Life-time President of the New York City Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Association and author of many books, explains the “Trump Formula” with these steps:

1. Create an Enemy

This is important in propaganda wars to incite emotionalism. “If Trump is able to convince people that the enemy lies within---including immigrants, politicians, and weak leaders— he can play on anxiety and target others for attack."

2. Play on Fear

Trump plays on the fears that America is “being invaded by dangerous people, being threatened by highly sophisticated enemies abroad, and experiencing a monumental economic collapse.”

3. Emphasize Humiliation

When people are humiliated they get angry and when they get angry they attack, so Trump stirs up people who believe “the antidote to humiliation is a strong leader who will humiliate others.”

4. Talk About Strength

Trump claims we don't have a tough leader, so acting like a bully is justified.

5. Describe Catastrophes

Trump claims present leaders have put us “at the end of days.”

6. Take Everything Personally

Trump is egocentric and “all about himself.” He personalizes views any disagreements as insults that require attacks and humiliations.

7. Don't Offer Details, Just Generalities

Trump says “he will fix everything, he promises, you have to believe him.” Details are
an after-thought, “only used by those who lack flexibility in leadership.”

(Robert L. Leahy. “Why Trump Appeals to People.” Psychology Today. August 12, 2015.)

Ask the average American why he or she supports Trump and the answer usually involves likeness for Trump's unabashed candor, his distaste for politicians, and his business negotiations. Yet, with this man as the GOP candidate, America is faced with lending leadership to a celebrity known for inflammatory tactics, emotional outbursts, and a very unproven level of competency. In short, electing Trump as president is synonymous with taking a potentially volatile risk on a very unstable business deal.

To affirm that Donald Trump is entertaining is a no-brainer. No one doubts that his shtick draws immediate attention; however, his claims of not being political and not being “all about Donald” are laughable. He enjoys disparaging others, no matter the arena. If Trump is a “truth teller” as he claims, he is honest under the guise of his own interpretation of veracity. Question the man and you too will become the victim of his maligning nature and likely be labeled a “loser.”

For those who love authoritarianism and visions of a simple, strong man at the controls of absolute power, Trump is the supreme leader. To me, that is a frightening vision.

Howard Lavine, a University of Minnesota scholar of political psychology, agrees that understanding authoritarianism must be part of understanding Trump’s appeal. 

Lavine says when you have voters who describe themselves as Evangelicals, but who prefer the non-Evangelical Trump over Evangelical candidates like Ted Cruz (who was deemed to be the hot candidate this year for Evangelical voters), you have to ask yourself what is the underlying appeal of Trump to these voters. “It has to be the authoritarianism,” Lavine said.

Here’s how Lavine defines the term:

“Authoritarianism is essentially a personality trait, partially heritable, that describes a basic way by which people differ from one another,” Lavine said. The substance of this trait “revolves around one’s propensity and ability to comfortably deal with differences and diversity of people, of ideas and of behaviors. Authoritarian voters are low in this ability….

“Authoritarians also tend to be aggressive toward groups that society has deemed outside of the mainstream on the basis of race, religion and people with unconventional ideas. So, in the presence of unconventional people, ideas or behaviors, authoritarians tend to become intolerant.”

(Eric Black. “Why Donald Trump appeals to ‘authoritarian voters.’” MinnPost. April 05, 2016.)

Adjectives that fairly describe Donald Trump – “authoritative, aggressive, intolerant, egotistical, and vindictive” – all fit the man. Perhaps in the role of business tycoon, this description is less abrasive than in the role of Leader of the Free World. Essential presidential descriptors must surely include “integrity, compassion, and patience.”

In the next several months before the election, I'm sure Trump will attempt to convince America that he is really a “nice guy” with “a pure heart” who has simply "appeared" to be abrasive and outspoken for the good of his country. And this view will come from a man who claims he is not a politician. I expect to see Donald using every dirty trick in the political book to attempt to defeat Hillary Clinton.

But ...

Now Trump has to put on a good show. And, Mr. Trump, you've got a lot of 'splainin' to do. I wonder if you will fess up and give yourself one of the unattractive labels you are accustomed to giving to your competitors -- May I suggest "Dogmatic Donald"? I think it fits you well.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Marijuana, Mexican Cartels, and Pike County Ohio: Speculation and Facts


It has been estimated that Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 and $29 billion annually from U.S. drug sales. The Sinaloa cartel is considered to be the dominant drug trafficking organization in Mexico. Other cartels include the Beltran Leyva, the Gulf, the Los Zetas.

The DEA says that the Mexican cartels now have command and control over the drug trade and are starting to show the hallmarks of organized crime, such as organizing into distinct cells with subordinate cells that operate throughout the United States. Some dispute exists as to whether the cartels are mainly suppliers or the ones trafficking drugs on the ground.

Border states from Texas to California have long grappled with a cartel presence. But cases involving cartel members have now emerged in the suburbs of Chicago and Atlanta, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, Louisville, Ky., and rural North Carolina. Suspects have also surfaced in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

Mexican cartels produce methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States. Mexican cartels have long grown marijuana in the United States, often on federal land in California, but they are now expanding production to the Pacific northwest and, to a lesser extent, the eastern United States.

These marijuana producers are increasingly linked to each other and "many of these groups maintain their affiliation with the larger groups in California and Mexico and maintain some level of coordination and cooperation among their various operating areas, moving labor and materials to the various sites – even across the country – as needed."

(U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat
Assessment 2007. October 2006.) 


In 2008, around 230 American communities reported some level of cartel presence. That number climbed to more than 1,200 in 2011, the most recent year for which information is available, though the increase is partly due to better reporting.

For years, cartels were more inclined to make deals in Mexico with American traffickers, who would then handle transportation to and distribution within major cities, said Art Bilek, a former organized crime investigator who is now executive vice president of the crime commission.

As their organizations grew more sophisticated, the cartels began scheming to keep more profits for themselves. So leaders sought to cut out middlemen and assume more direct control, pushing aside American traffickers, Bilek said.

(“Mexican drug cartels reportedly dispatching agents deep inside US.” Associated Press. April 01, 2013.)

Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office, argues that the cartels should be seen as an underlying cause of Chicago's disturbingly high murder rate. In 2012, slayings topped 500 for the first time since 2008. And, although the cartels aren't dictating the territorial wars, they are the source of drugs.

"They are the puppeteers," he said. "Maybe the shooter didn't know and maybe the victim didn't know that. But if you follow it down the line, the cartels are ultimately responsible."

As a result of their dominance of the U.S. illicit drug market, Mexican cartels are the leading wholesale launderers of drug money from the United States. Mexican and Colombian trafficking organizations annually smuggle an estimated $8.3 to $24.9 billion in drug proceeds into Mexico for laundering.

(Congressional Research interview with DEA officials. November 8, 2006.)

Mexican drug traffickers increasingly smuggle money back into Mexico in cars and trucks, likely due to the effectiveness of U.S. efforts at monitoring electronic money transfers.

In addition to drug trafficking, Mexican cartels have been tied to both human and arms trafficking, auto theft, and kidnaping.

(Colleen W. Cook. “Mexico's Drug Cartels.” CRS Report For Congress. October 16, 2007.)

In a 2010 report, it was noted that the American street gang, Surenos, maintains ties with the Los Zetas cartel in California and South Carolina. A more recent report from the FBI show these U.S. streets gangs growing closer with Mexican cartels.

(FBI “Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends.” 2011.)

The expansion of Los Zetas operations across the southwestern border has long been a concern of U.S. authorities. Trained as an elite band of Mexican anti-drug commandos, Los Zetas evolved into mercenaries for the infamous Gulf Cartel, unleashing a wave of brutality in Mexico’s drug wars.

The Zetas aren't just involved with drugs and narcotics. In addition to drugs, the cartel extorts businesses, kidnaps people for ransom and steals oil from Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex.

In 2012 after arresting four alleged operatives of the Zetas cartel, Richard Pearson, a lieutenant with the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, said, "This is the first time we've been seeing it - cartels who have their operatives actually sent here."

Authorities seized more than 2,400 pounds of marijuana and more than $1 million in cash in a Louisville neighborhood that was shocked to discover some of their low-key neighbors were accused of working for one of Mexico's most violent drug syndicates.

At the end of February 2013 outside Columbus, Ohio, authorities arrested 34-year-old Isaac Eli Perez Neri, who allegedly told investigators he was a debt collector for the Sinaloa cartel.

Because cartels accumulate houses full of cash, they run the constant risk associates will skim off the top. That points to the main reason cartels prefer their own people: Trust is hard to come by in their cutthroat world. There's also a fear factor. Cartels can exert more control on their operatives than on middlemen, often by threatening to torture or kill loved ones back home.

Danny Porter, chief prosecutor in Gwinnett County, Ga., said he has tried to entice dozens of suspected cartel members to cooperate with American authorities. Nearly all declined. Some laughed in his face.

"They say, `We are more scared of them (the cartels) than we are of you. We talk and they'll boil our family in acid,'" Porter said. "Their families are essentially hostages."

(Staff Report. “Mexican cartels dispatch agents deep inside US – spread into non-border states. New York Post. April 01, 2013.)


In a very disturbing development, Mexican drug syndicates reportedly have been offering cash to American military members to act as contract killers in murder-for-hire plots in the United States. Experts worry this line of work will only become more enticing for vets who struggle to find civilian jobs after serving in combat zones and wary military recruits look for gang connections to potentially use their skills unlawfully.

Fred Burton, former deputy chief of the counterterrorism division of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, said there is extensive chatter among intelligence officials about military servicemen being recruited by Mexican cartels, often through gang connections, but there are no hard numbers.

"I've seen lots of security reports saying this is a trending issue," Burton told the Daily News. "But it's based on intelligence that we don't see and only hear about … This issue is really hard to pin down. The military struggles with this on many levels."

(Deborah Hastings. “U.S. soldiers accepting cash, drugs for Mexican drug cartel contract hits.” New York Daily News. September 13, 2013.)

The Sinaloa Cartel

The United States Intelligence Community considers the Sinaloa cartel the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world” and in 2011, the Los Angeles Times called it "Mexico's most powerful organized crime group." The Sinaloa Cartel is associated with the label “Golden Triangle,” which refers to the states of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua. The region is a major producer of Mexican opium and marijuana.

The Sinaloa cartel was headed by the now incarcerated Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and it operates in every region of the U.S., according to statistics compiled by the National Drug Intelligence Center.

Mexico is one of the world's biggest marijuana supplier countries, with North America as a whole accounting for 69 percent of global marijuana seizures in 2011 -- the majority in the United States and Mexico, according to the United Nations' 2013 World Drug Report.

The extent of the Sinaloa cartel's control over Mexican marijuana routes and production is not surprising, given various operations that have pointed to Sinaloa involvement in the past two years.

In November 2011, U.S. authorities took down a smuggling operation believed to have trafficked $2 billion in drugs from Mexico to Arizona, including 1,300 tons of marijuana, with the Sinaloa cartel thought to be the source of the drugs. The largest marijuana farm ever found in Mexico as of 2011 -- 120 hectares -- was located in Baja California, a Sinaloa cartel operational center.

(Marguerite Cawley. “Sinaloa cartel controls over 40 marijuana trafficking route. August 12, 2013.)


Is There a Cartel Connection With the Rhoden Slayings?

The execution-style slayings of eight members of the Rhoden family in April 2016 have people wondering whether a cartel was responsible for the heinous crime. Of course, the remoteness of the wooded countryside in Pike County, Ohio, makes it a perfect place for Mexican cartels trying to grow marijuana stateside. Authorities allegedly found commercial marijuana operations at three of the four murder scenes.

According to USA Today, Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said two prior marijuana operations in Pike County, Ohio, are the only cases being related to some kind of organized crime. The value of those operations was an estimated $23 million.

In 2010, an estimated 22,000-plant crop was found about 4 miles into the woods near Grassy Fork and Green Ridge roads. It was one of the biggest pot busts since Ohio's marijuana-eradication unit started 20 years ago. Five or six campsites were discovered on the premises. Officials said items left behind at camp sites used to guard the crops linked the operations to cartels.

Two years later, an additional 1,200 plants were found on the other side of the county. No one was arrested either time said Junk.

"Everybody who was working those things took off before law enforcement could catch them," said Junk.

“I don’t think they actually know who the other group (from 2010) was except that they were using Hispanic workers to grow it,” Junk said, adding it takes “some serious organized crime” to conduct such an operation.

It may be pertinent to understand that the Ohio-grown marijuana had levels of THC, the plant's active ingredient, as high as 18.9 percent (tested previously in 2009), compared with the 3 percent or 4 percent found in marijuana shipped from across the border.

(“1,200 Marijuana Plants Found in Pike County Might be Linked to Drug Cartel. August 17, 2012.)

Cartels have been tied to similar operations elsewhere in the state, including another in 2010 where hunters tipped off officials to a camp and grow site at the Coshocton/Muskingum county line. Officials found 6,000 plants and 11 men were taken into custody. In addition, in August 2011, eradication efforts in Vinton County led to the discovery of about 17,000 plants -- 400 pounds -- of marijuana growing along Ohio 328 near New Plymouth.

But, investigators also have a new criminal drug venture showing up. In late January 2016, a package at the Piketon post office arrived smelling of marijuana, leading law enforcement eventually to a "shatter" lab, where a large amount of oil was being extracted from marijuana, Junk said. Like meth labs, shatter labs are volatile and prone to exploding.

The extracted oil can be added to food products or a cigarette, with just a few drops being as potent as a full joint, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

And yet …

Chris Melink, the resident agent-in-charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dayton office said that it would be unusual for the Mexican cartel to be connected to the Rhoden grows.

“Historically, those types of domestic grows are separate from the Mexican cartel supply chain," said Melink in an interview with the Springfield News-Sun.

A majority of the marijuana under control of cartels crosses the border from Mexico in southwestern states such as California and Nevada in multi-ton shipments, he said.

Melink would not speculate on whether the deaths in Pike County were retribution over drug-selling turf, but he said those kinds of killings do occur domestically.

“There are on occasions when acts of violence are carried out, particularly as it relates to markets,” he said.

(Chris Stewart and Josh Sweigart. “DEA agent: Cartel presence in rural Ohio would be unusual.” Springfield News-Sun. April 28, 2016.)

The investigation into the Rhoden murders continues. Public speculation is high about cartel involvement; however, very little evidence has been released. Until the work by authorities is completed, a worried public wonders how such a tragedy could occur. This unspeakable violence has shocked rural Ohio.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ignoring Contradictions and Choosing Prejudice: "The Fear and Loathing of 'Outgroups'"


These days it seems that hateful remarks spew from those who are disgruntled about their lives. Feeling the need to cast blame, these angry, discontented people attack any adversary without regard for civility. A recent backlash against any and everything deemed “politically correct” has emboldened a new wave of people to speak their minds and relish opportunities to belittle and to humiliate those who oppose their views.

Does a particular way of thinking encourage prejudice? New research found that the real stimulus for prejudice is something else. In a fairly recent article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Arne Roets and Alain Van Hiel of Ghent University in Belgium looked at what psychological scientists have learned about prejudice since the 1954 publication of an influential book, The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon Allport.

Roets and Van Hiel found people who are prejudiced aren’t comfortable with ambiguity and feel a much stronger need to make quick and firm judgments and decisions in order to reduce ambiguity. These conclusions suggest that the fundamental source of prejudice is not ideology, but rather a basic human need and way of thinking. 
“Of course, everyone has to make decisions, but some people really hate uncertainty and therefore quickly rely on the most obvious information, often the first information they come across, to reduce it,” Roets says.

That’s also why these people favor authorities and social norms which make it easier to make decisions. Then, once they’ve made up their mind, they stick to it. Roets claims, “If you provide information that contradicts their decision, they just ignore it.”

Roets argues that this way of thinking is linked to people’s need to categorize the world, often unconsciously. “When we meet someone, we immediately see that person as being male or female, young or old, black or white, without really being aware of this categorization,” he says. “Social categories are useful to reduce complexity, but the problem is that we also assign some properties to these categories. This can lead to prejudice and stereotyping.”

People who need to make quick judgments will judge a new person based on what they already believe about their category. “The easiest and fastest way to judge is to say, for example, ok, this person is a black man. If you just use your ideas about what black men are generally like, that’s an easy way to have an opinion of that person,” Roets says. “You say, ‘he’s part of this group, so he’s probably like this.’”

(Arne Roets and Alain Van Hiel. “Allport’s Prejudiced Personality Today.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20. The Association for Psychological Science. December 2011.)

Princeton University's Susan Fiske, PhD, indicates that emotions such as pity, envy, disgust and pride appear tied not only to people's prejudicial ideas about social, cultural and religious "outgroups" they don't belong to but also to discriminatory behavior.

"It's not illegal to have a bad thought or feeling in your head," said Fiske. "What really matters is the behavior."

And the types discriminatory behavior prejudice can spur include excluding and harming others, Fiske said.

For example, people rate groups such as homeless people, drug addicts and poor people low on both warmth and competence, prompting them to feel disgust. In contrast, they rate elderly people, along with the disabled and developmentally challenged, high on warmth but low on competence, prompting them to feel pity. 
People tend to rate middle-class people, whites and Americans high on both warmth and competence, prompting them to feel "pride," or what Fiske calls feelings of "ingroup" or "reference group" warmth and affiliation. And, finally, people tend to rate those who are rich, Jewish or Asian low on warmth and high on competence, prompting them to feel envy.

They found that those in the disgust category prompted feelings of both active and passive "harm," while pride-inducing groups receive both "cooperate" and "protect," but no feelings of harm. The pity groups get "helped and protected," but also socially excluded and neglected, Fiske noted, while the envy groups prompt a disturbing mix of "harm" and "affiliation."

"They get cooperated with and associated with, because they are high status and they have resources that other people have to have," she explained. "But when the chips are down, they get attacked."

"I personally think that this is a model of genocide," she added. "Many of the groups who have been subject to mass killings or genocide are groups who were once seen as entrepreneurs but perceived as outsiders."

(Susan Fiske, Amy Cuddy and Peter Glick. “A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 82, No. 6. June 2002.)

Researchers have also found that while when it comes to categorizing information about people, humans tend to minimize the differences between people within groups and exaggerate the differences between groups.

(Linville, Salovey, & Fischer, 1986; Ostrom & Sedikides, 1992; Meissner & Brigham, 2001.)

Some of the most well-known types of prejudice include:
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Classicism
  • Homophobia
  • Nationalism
  • Religious prejudice
  • Ageism

My View

Is is human nature to feel uncomfortable with ambiguity. Uncertainty causes doubt and even fear when people are faced with more than one view of a situation. Some ambiguity is simply due to insufficient language skills. Consider the two meanings in the classic ambiguous sentence “I rode a black horse in red pajamas.” Yet, in many cases, ambiguity occurs when people simply misinterpret or misunderstand something because of sufficient knowledge. This may be when they slip into prejudiced behaviors.

The need to make quick judgments is evident in everyday life. Yet, people may use prejudice as a coping mechanism to make decisions when they refuse to consider anything in opposition to their past beliefs. In this manner, they quickly join a bandwagon and blame a convenient “outgroup” for their own feelings of confusion. They do so knowing they will receive support from those who traditionally blame these people – scapegoats like homosexuals or minorities.

To me, the most disturbing new prejudice now is politically motivated. John Chamber of the University of Florida found both liberals and conservatives were both prejudiced against groups with opposing values. Even though this prejudice stems from political ideals, it most definitely negatively affect specific outgroups. One cannot help but wonder if prejudice in the name of politics is not a smokescreen hiding deeper, ill-intentioned goals.

For example, conservatives expressed more prejudice than liberals against groups that were identified as liberal (e.g., African-Americans, homosexuals), but less prejudice against groups identified as conservative (e.g., Christian fundamentalists, business people).

In Chambers' second and third studies, participants were presented with 6 divisive political issues and descriptions of racially diverse target persons for each issue. Neither liberals’ nor conservatives’ impressions of the target persons were affected by the race of the target, but both were strongly influenced by the target’s political attitudes.

From these findings the researcher concluded that prejudices commonly linked with ideology are most likely derived from perceived ideological differences and not from other characteristics like racial tolerance or intolerance. Yet, I think prejudice involving an ideology is born of ambiguity and results in the same dangerous rush to judgment by people who perpetuate stubborn ignorance.

(John Chambers.“Ideology and Prejudice: The Role of Value Conflicts.” Forthcoming in Psychological Science.)

The abstract value of fairness is an essential part of the American character, and yet bias and discrimination are still very much a part of everyday life in the United States. Abstract thinking is the most complex stage in the development of cognitive thinking. It is characterized by adaptability, flexibility, and the use of concepts and generalizations.

Abstract thinking involves problem solving. Problem solving is accomplished by drawing logical conclusions from a set of observations, for example, making hypotheses and testing them. This type of thinking is developed by 12 to 15 years of age, usually after some degree of education. It has a tendency to allow people to think “outside of the box.”

Jamie Luguri and her colleagues investigated whether encouraging people to use an abstract thinking approach would reduce prejudice toward three groups that are often perceived as outside the norm: homosexuals, atheists, and Muslims.

In three different studies, volunteers were primed to think in either an abstract or concrete manner and were then asked to rate their feelings toward different groups of people. While liberal participants reported positive feelings toward non-normative groups regardless of their mode of thinking, the abstract/concrete distinction made a difference for conservative participants: conservatives were significantly more positive toward non-normative groups when they were primed to think abstractly.
These findings suggest that encouraging an abstract mindset could be a useful intervention – albeit a temporary one – for improving attitudes toward highly stigmatized groups.

(Jamie B. Luguri. “Reconstruing Intolerance: Abstract Thinking Reduces Conservatives' Prejudice Against Nonnormative Groups.” Psychological Science. July 2012)

No one wants to admit their prejudiced beliefs and behaviors because they can easily find subjective reasons for supporting their positions of dislike for someone or something. It is common for people to fear change and to dislike that which is foreign to their experience and to their upbringing. Yet, prejudice as a way of thinking demeans both the purveyors of these unfair judgments and the subjects of their attack. When people affirm their own prejudice, they purposely hurt themselves and others.

Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

--Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre


Monday, April 25, 2016

Vicious Local Online Comments About Michelle Obama -- Indications of a Deep Sickness

As part of the U.S. government's commitment to “Let Girls Learn,” First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps have formed a powerful collaboration to expand access to education for adolescent girls around the world. This collaboration believes that educating girls is essential to healthy and thriving communities.

Globally, 62 million girls are not in school, and barriers to adolescent girls completing school are particularly significant. In some countries, fewer than 10% of teenage girls complete secondary school.

The new program will address that challenge by empowering local leaders to put lasting solutions in place. Peace Corps Volunteers who live and work at the grassroots level will serve as catalysts of community-led change, and every American can get involved and make a difference.

In March, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about her own experiences with sexism during a speech on the power of education and her “Let Girls Learn” initiative in Argentina.

At one point, Obama candidly said, “As I got older, I found that men would whistle at me as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own. I began to realize that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me.”
Obama continued to say that these messages from others were telling her how she looked as a girl was more important than how her mind worked, and “that being strong, powerful and outspoken just wasn't appropriate or attractive for a girl.”

Just recently someone put the quote on their local Facebook page. I was simply shocked at the comments about the First Lady that came because of the post. So many comments were full of aggressive, harmful language. It made me wonder what our nation has become as it struggles with polar opinions and political correctness.

Let me share.
  1. “Hey idiot tranny, that's a compliment where I come from.”
  2. “Fuckin' monkey.”
  3. “Men whistled at her? I have never heard a 'Monkey' whistle!”
  4. “Who would do that? Must have escaped from a mental hospital.”
  5. “Was that when she was a man or after her transgendering?”
  6. “Everyone knows that she was born a he. I wonder why they are still trying to hide it? Other countries laughing at us maybe its hard to tell.”
  7. “Maybe those terrible whistles gave her brain damage.”
  8. “But they weren't whistling at her they were whistling for her.”
  9. “It was only whistling like calling a dog.”
  10. “A tranny dog.”
  11. “Did they think she was a hound?”
  12. “Tiny Tim.”
  13. “'It' is probably referring to when 'it' was a 'man.'”
  14. “Uh, that was the tea kettle... I don't know any men that are that hard up... or blind!”
  15. “It must have been Ray Charles.”
  16. “Dream on, who in the Sam Hill would whistle at her. Yuck spit & Puke.”
  17. “Whine..... this is coming from one who has made it to the top!! She will never want for anything the rest of her life and we will take care of her and her family..... get over it.... we all have been through something in our life... join the club to real life.”
  18. “Since they were seeing you from a distance, they thought you were a female.”
I am so amazed that people spew hatred and vile comments about the First Lady on public media for all to see. No matter your political views or your dislike for Michelle Obama, you spawn vicious discrimination by posting such bigotry. Name-calling is a sport practiced by ignorant children who do not know better. When immature adults engage in this behavior, they feed the frenzy of mindlessness so prevalent in our society.


Who is Michelle Obama?

I doubt if few who judge so harshly know anything about Ms. Obama. Perhaps a short biography is in order. For all with an open mind, here is some background about Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois. She was raised in a small bungalow on Chicago's South Side. Her father, Fraser Robinson, was a city-pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain. Her mother, Marian, was a secretary at Spiegel's but later stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother, Craig. They were a close-knit family, typically sharing meals, reading and playing games together.

Craig and Michelle, 21 months apart in age, were often mistaken for twins. The siblings also shared close quarters, sleeping in the living room with a sheet serving as a makeshift room divider. They were raised with an emphasis on education and had learned to read at home by age four. Both skipped the second grade.

By the sixth grade, Michelle was taking classes in her school's gifted program, where she learned French and completed accelerated courses in biology. She went on to attend Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, the city's first magnet high school for gifted children, where, among other activities, she served as the student government treasurer. In 1981, Michelle graduated from the school as class salutatorian.

Following in her older brother's footsteps, Michelle attended Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985, and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. At Harvard, she took part in demonstrations demanding for more minority students and professors. She was awarded her J.D. in 1988.

Following her graduation from Harvard, Obama became a member of a Chicago law firm, where she met her husband, future U.S. President Barack Obama. She also worked as a Chicago city administrator and community-outreach worker.

The couple married on October 3, 1992.

In 1996, Michelle joined the University of Chicago as associate dean of student services, developing the school’s first community-service program. Beginning in 2002, she worked for the University of Chicago Hospitals, as executive director of community relations and external affairs.

In May 2005, Obama was appointed vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she continued to work part-time until shortly before her husband's inauguration as president. She also served as a board member for the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, and on January 20, 2009, Michelle Obama became the 44th first lady of the United States.

As the 44th first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has focused her attention on issues such as poverty, education, the support of military families, helping working women balance career and family, and encouraging national service. During the first year of the Obama presidency, Michelle and her husband volunteered at homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the Washington D.C. area. Michelle also has made appearances at public schools, stressing the importance of education and volunteer work.

Michelle Obama remains committed to her health-and-wellness causes. Since 2010, Michelle has put efforts to fight childhood obesity near the top of her agenda. In 2012, she announced a new fitness program for kids, as part of her Let's Move initiative. Along with the U.S. Olympic team and other sports organizations, she has worked to get young people to try out a new sport or activity.


Recent Distinctions 

In May 2006, Michelle was featured in Essence magazine as one of "25 of the World's Most Inspiring Women." In September 2007, Michelle was included in 02138 magazine as number 58 in "The Harvard 100," a yearly list of the school's most influential alumni. She has also made the Vanity Fair best-dressed list two years in a row, as well as People magazine's 2008 best-dressed list and was praised by the magazine for her "classic and confident" look.

Obama has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy due to her sense of style and also to Barbara Bush for her discipline and decorum. Obama's style has been described as "fashion populist." In 2010, she wore clothes, many high end, from more than 50 design companies with less expensive pieces from J. Crew and Target and the same year a study found that her patronage was worth an average of $14 million to a company.

In August 2011, she became the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. During the 2013 Academy Awards, she became the first First Lady to announce the winner of an Oscar (Best Picture which went to Argo).

Both Michelle and Barack Obama have stated that their personal priority is their two daughters, Malia and Sasha. The parents realized that the move from Chicago to Washington D.C. would be a major adjustment for any family. Residing in the White House, having Secret Service protection and always being in the wake of their parents' public obligations has dramatically transformed their lives. Both parents try to make their daughters' world as "normal" as possible, with set times for studying, going to bed and getting up. "My first priority will always be to make sure that our girls are healthy and grounded," Michelle said. "Then I want to help other families get the support they need, not just to survive, but to thrive."

I post this blog entry in hopes of “letting girls learn” what tremendous sexism and disgusting judgments they face as they grow up. I didn't make up any comment shared. They are all real posts (without names to identify the perpetrators). I am merely holding a mirror to the prejudice in order to warn you about some very hateful people.

Evidently some still engage in wolf-whistling and other base activities because they feel superior to women, and they feel they have the right to treat girls as animals. Witness how one person called Michelle "it." Then, of course, the worst -- calling a black woman -- anyone, for that matter -- a “monkey” or a “dog” is racist, sexist, and bigoted behavior that is intolerable. I think of my own granddaughters suffering such perverted injustice, and it makes me furious. In truth, it makes me sick.

Is it humorous to name call? Calling Obama a “tranny” is an attempt to discredit her as the wife of an American president. This may have begun because of a sick online report of “documented proof that Michelle has the hands of a man, the shoulders of a man, the overall body proportions of a man, male genitalia, and an Adam’s apple.” This transsexual rumor is very offensive and obviously a hateful hoax. Remember when the President was accused of being born in Kenya, and he had to release publicly his original long-form birth certificate that proved he was born at Honolulu's Kapiolani Hospital on August 4, 1961? Some evidently don't care about the effects of vicious stories posed to spread animosity.

It is ironic that such terrible posts stemmed from Michelle Obama's comments while she was representing the Peace Corps and the United States government at the conference about female education. Reading the vile words gives us all an education about what is wrong with human relations in America.

Ladies, people may hate you for your opinion, for your looks, for your position, for your gender, or for merely breathing. Beware of those who may prey upon you because of envy and jealousy in the disguise of opposing political correctness. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Obligation To Save Addicts

“As the former head of state of Switzerland, where innovations in drug policy have been front and center for years, I have learned much about how to prevent heroin overdoses, improve the lives of people who use drugs and create a safer environment for their communities. It is a complex puzzle, but there are key pieces that, when used together, create a public health approach with long-lasting positive effects...
“The United States could take some important lessons from Switzerland's success.

“In the past 20 years, Switzerland and other countries, such as Portugal and Uruguay, have implemented policies that are people-centered, focused on health and most importantly, keeping people alive -- all while respecting human rights.

“Switzerland's federal government focused on reducing the harms of drug use among people who inject drugs, creating supervised injection sites and offering substance analysis services and access to opiate substitution therapy, mainly through methadone and even medical heroin...

“I have learned that the single goal of the puzzle I mentioned earlier is keeping people alive, and that can be attained when governments provide comprehensive services.”

--Ruth Dreifuss, Swiss politician and member of Swiss Federal Council from 1993-2002

(Ruth Dreifuss. “The secret to fighting U.S. heroin epidemic.” CNN. April 19, 2016.)

To me, the first question for any American interested in ending drug abuse – dependency, addiction, overdose – is simple and brutally straightforward. The question is: “Do you want to save the life of every individual who endangers himself/herself with drugs?”

If you qualify your answer with a myriad of judgments about who deserves to live and who deserves to die, you may as well withdraw from the fight and watch the course of the epidemic as it sweeps the nation. You, like me, hate addiction. But you, unlike me, feel some people deserve to die.

I mean you can argue all day about whether the dangerous drug is legal or illegal, about whether addiction is caused by weak wills or environmental and genetic factors, about whether maintaining sobriety is morally or immorally responsible, or about whether addicts deserve a second, third, or fourth chance BUT a life threatened by substance abuse – any life – is worthy of existence.

In fact, we have the obligation as a member of a caring society to save those who may die because of their own drug abuse. I will say this once more: We have the obligation to save drug addicts.

I believe this because I know that the substances taken by drug abusers are not the sources of their addiction. As people often point out to me, even potentially deadly substances like heroin or prescription opioids are merely harmless objects and do not become deadly vehicles until a human uses them.

But, there is the problem for those who judge. Why do people use substances that might take their lives? We have the answer in our own experiences, but are we willing to recall our own lives and to accept our lack of reasoning and attraction to risky behaviors. Until we do, we remain callous to those who “can't even exercise sufficient self-control.” I used to be a poster-child for reckless, dangerous behaviors. My usual substance of choice was a boatload of alcohol.

So, perhaps a better question than “Do you want to save the life of every individual who endangers himself/herself with drugs?” might be “Why would anyone take a risk that threatens life, limb, and happiness?” Would you judge all of these people before administering life-saving attempts – the drunk driver bleeding on the highway, the teen gang member shot in a drug deal gone wrong, the suicide victim who still breathes?

Environmental factors, social factors, and genetic factors certainly contribute to dependency and addiction. Some of these pressures become so severe that people use drugs and eventually become addicted. If you have ever wanted to escape, to relax, to relieve boredom, to seem grown up, to rebel, or to experiment, then you also understand the belief that taking great risks is acceptable.

To me, the sacred value of one human life is beyond calculation. To deny lifesaving redemption to a person, even to a person who has destroyed his or her own good health, is judgment that increases our own collective inhumanity to man. We must aid in saving life at every opportunity. We are responsible for solving our own health epidemic even when stigma runs high. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Man? Woman? Transgender Bathroom Bills Discriminate -- Do You Care?


South Carolina State Senator Lee Bright had proposed a transgender bathroom bill that would prevent people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. Bright said in a recent Greenville News report that “I want to stand with North Carolina … for showing some decency and common sense.” I doubt very seriously if Bright has the same connotations of either “decency” or “common sense” I have been taught.

The senator expounded when asked about the economic fallout from North Carolina’s law that caused PayPal to pull out of a project that would have created 400 jobs in Charlotte:

“Apparently PayPal has shown its support for pedophiles by wanting them to go into bathrooms,” Bright said, according to a recent report in The Greenville News.

Bright viciously stereotyped transgender individuals as pedophiles. This warped judgment is so common of homophobes who worry about sexual organs and their “correct” views of the gay community.

How would such bills make public bathrooms any safer? Are sexual predators likely to look like friendly people or what he likely considers to be “freaks of nature”? I am appalled that many are calling for sexual identification for restrooms and picking up the mantle for blatant discrimination.
Some common knowledge needs to be understood to approach the subject.

Transgender Defined

Psychiatrist John F. Oliven of Columbia University coined the term transgender in his 1965 reference work Sexual Hygiene and Pathology, writing that the term which had previously been used, transsexualism "is misleading; actually, "transgenderism" is meant, because sexuality is not a major factor in primary transvestism."

(John F. Oliven. Sexual Hygiene and Pathology. 1965.)

The term transgender was then popularized with varying definitions by various transgender, transsexual and transvestite people, By the mid-1970s both trans-gender and trans people were in use as umbrella terms and 'transgenderist' was used to describe people who wanted to live cross-gender without sex reassignment surgery. 
(S. Stryker, Transgender. 2004.) 
By 1984, the concept of a "transgender community" had developed, in which transgender was used as an umbrella term. By 1992, the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy defined transgender as an expansive umbrella term including "transsexuals, transgenderists, cross dressers" and anyone transitioning.

Health-practitioner manuals, professional journalistic style guides, and LGBT advocacy groups advise the adoption by others of the name and pronouns identified by the person in question, including present references to the transgender person's past; many also note that transgender should be used as an adjective, not a noun (for example, "Max is transgender" or "Max is a transgender man", not "Max is a transgender").


So, What Does the Umbrella “Transgender” Label Mean?

Are you looking for a definition that fits the discussion of who should enter whose bathroom? You may find knowing the players is not as easy as you think. Outward appearance, which many assume to reveal sexual identity, can be deceiving. And, in truth, we all know this to be true. But, it's not only judgment based on visual impressions that fail those who judge: Many do not understand gender in its diversity.

People who identify as transgender or transsexual are usually people who are born with typical male or female anatomies but feel as though they’ve been born into the “wrong body.” The American Psychological Association confirms that transgender is an umbrella term for “persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.”

“Gender identity” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else while “gender expression” refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

In contrast, people who are transgendered have an internal experience of gender identity that is different from most people.

Then, of course, there are those have “intersex conditions” and anatomies not considered typically male or female. Most people with intersex conditions come to medical attention because “doctors or parents notice something unusual about their bodies.” Today the whole family of children born with a DSD are involved from the beginning, and urology, endocrinology, genetics, social work and psychology experts also work together.

For a child born of indeterminate sex they will undergo number of tests including those involving chromosomes, hormones and internal organs. To further complicate things the test results are not just either male or female, they can be on a sliding scale between the two.
Ultimately the sex chosen for an intersex baby is the one doctors and their family believe they will grow up to identify with best.

Some forms of a Disorder of Sexual Development (DSD) are not obvious at birth because they affect the internal organs and can go undiagnosed for years. That is right – not obvious at birth. One such person with androgen insensitivity syndrome discovered her DSD when she had a hernia operation at age six.

Katie, the girl with the DSD, said, "I look female on the outside, I have a normal female body but instead of having XX chromosomes like a typical female I have XY chromosomes like a typical male."

During her hernia operation, surgeons were surprised to find a partially descended testicle. She also had no ovaries and no womb. Her mother and father, who are both doctors, had been trained at medical school not to tell women if they had this condition "because it would be so devastating to them that they would commit suicide.”

(“Male or female? Babies born on the sliding sex scale.” BBC News October 11, 2011.)

Many people confuse transgender and transsexual people with people with intersex conditions because they see two groups of people who would like to choose their own gender identity and sometimes those choices require hormonal treatments and/or surgery. These are similarities.
It’s also true, albeit rare, that some people who have intersex conditions also decide to change genders at some point in their life, so some people with intersex conditions might also identify themselves as transgender or transsexual.

In spite of these similarities, these two groups should not be and cannot be thought of as one.

(“What's the difference between being transgender or transsexual and having an intersex condition?” Intersex Society of North America. 2016.)

How Does Anyone Determine Sex?
  • To determine the sex of an intersex child doctors try to work out what happened during the baby's development.
  • They check the body's DNA containers, the chromosomes, to see whether the child is genetically female or male.
  • They see if the baby has ovaries or testes, and whether they have a womb or not.
  • They also test the hormones the body is producing and try to determine how the baby's genitals may develop.
  • Test results can be on a scale between male or female.
  • The sex is chosen as the one the doctors and the family believe that they will grow up to identify with best.
  • As children grow through puberty they can develop characteristics of one sex more than another, different to the sex they have been assigned as a baby.
(“Male or female? Babies born on the sliding sex scale.” BBC News October 11, 2011.)

Do you see that determining the sex of a person is much more complicated than simply assigning the identity “male” or “female”? Doctors know this. The public must be aware of it, too. We must educate ourselves and our lawmakers because it is the right thing to do.

So, to me, when Lee Bright, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina, and Representative Susan Lynn of Tennessee propose and sign laws banning cities from passing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances, bar transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity, and allow mental health professionals to refuse to treat LGBT patients the nation's crazed lobbyists have run amuck and are falsely defending their actions in the name of Christianity.

There are more than 100 active bills like this right now, across 22 states. They fall into a handful of categories — some are bathroom bills, some let judges refuse to marry same-sex couples, some let businesses deny services to LGBT people — but they all have the same goal: legalizing discrimination against queer people.

Nine states have active bills relating to this: Illinois (HB 4474), Kansas (SB 513, HB 2737), Kentucky (HB 364), Minnesota (HF 3395, HF 3396, SF 3002), Missouri (HB 1624, SB 720), Mississippi (HB 1258), Oklahoma (HB 2215, HB 3049, SB 1014), South Carolina (SC 1203) and Tennessee (HB 2414, SB 2387, HB 2600, SB 2275).

Jennifer Bendery, White House correspondent and congressional reporter, says that religious conservatives have been working toward this kind of full-blown assault for years. They’ve been test-driving various anti-LGBT bills at local levels, anticipating the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on marriage equality and preparing ways to weaken it.

“Specific laws like this that seek to target and marginalize one small segment of the population is nothing less than mean-spirited,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “President Obama has talked on a number of occasions about the important progress our country has made with regard to civil rights. This is a good illustration that the fight for civil rights is not over.”

(Jennifer Bendery and Michelangelo Signorile. “Everything You Need To Know About The Wave Of 100+ Anti-LGBT Bills Pending In States.” The Huffington Post. April 17, 2016.)

Enforceable Bathrooms?

Leon Lott, the sheriff of Richland County in South Carolina told state lawmakers that the law in his state would be unenforceable because his officers could not be in the business of inspecting people’s genitals.

“In the 41 years I have been in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom,” Sheriff Lott wrote in a letter to the committee studying the state’s bathroom bill. “This is a non-issue.”

And, already, federal agencies are considering steps they might be required to take because of the discriminatory law. For example, the Department of Education, which gives North Carolina more than $4 billion annually, may withhold some funding because the law violates Title IX, a civil rights law.

The federal government has taken the position in individual cases that barring students from using restrooms based on their gender identity is a violation of their right to equal treatment. The Department of Education has drafted guidance for schools that would give administrators a clear national standard. 

(Editorial Board. “Transgender Bathroom Hysteria, Cont'd. The New York Times. April 18, 2016.)

My Take

I believe this entry clearly shows how supporters of “bathroom laws” do nothing to make restrooms safer. Human rights and equality demand our utmost attention. The First Amendment New signs of bigotry continue to raise their ugly heads in the name of society-saving religions and Donald Trump phony virtues.

How will those charged with enforcing the law determine if someone is legally using a restroom? Consider caregivers who need to help opposite-gender spouses use the restroom when they’re in public. Besides, distinguishing sex is far more complicated and ambiguous than simple thinkers believe.

Recently, the International Association of Athletic Federations encountered Caster Semenya, a South African female runner whose body naturally produced male levels of the hormone testosterone while she trained for a gold medal 800 meters in last summer's world championships. The organization consulted gynecologists, geneticists, endocrinologists and psychologists and could not come up with a single definitive standard for who should qualify to compete as a woman. They are still looking.

(Greg Kesich. “Bathrooms a big deal in transgender rules debate.”Portland Press Herald.      March 10, 2010.)

And, I'm sure a lot of conservatives are going to pound the point that the Constitution doesn't prohibit such discrimination.

In fact, the National Review reported in 2011 that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gave an interview to the California Lawyer in which he said that the Constitution does not prohibit sex discrimination against women and gays. That’s up to the legislatures, he said.

The question posed to Scalia was this: “In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?”

Here is Judge Scalia's answer:

“Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.

“You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.”

Well, Judge Scalia makes fine points, but how does that answer address the national problem of facing the reality that discrimination against gays is simply wrong? Are some states to be left alone to discriminate simply because they wish to impose standards that do not serve our national conscience?

There is no rational basis for such inequality. Even the fabric of the law-- and that includes the vaulted Constitution -- can become weak and dangerously unstable over time. A Constitutional Amendment should guarantee freedom from sexual discrimination. We know that all citizens in a democracy must be equal or none of us are free. America must live up to changing realizations of righteous liberty. I shudder to think of the alternative.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday Night Live and Irresponsible Heroin Parody

 In an apparent attempt to use parody to make an absurd travesty of both heroin use and corporate drug advertising, Saturday Night Live pushed the limits of taste and responsible content.

On the SNL episode which aired April 16, 2016, a “comedic commercial” first showed a chart that illustrated the rapid pace of America's heroin epidemic.

In the skit, which was a fake ad for a product to help people remain productive while using heroin, the announcer said, "Heroin use in America is steadily on the rise."

Then came the punch line.

"But productivity among heroin users has remained stagnant."

"That's why 'Heroin A.M.' combines heroin with five milligrams of caffeine and a small pile of cocaine," said Kate McKinnon, playing a mom who just sent her kids to school.

"And now available in gummy bears! Which you can melt down and inject," chimes in Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the episode's host.

The skit employed boxes for the product that looked similar to those containing Vicks DayQuil.
Of course, SNL has created commercial parodies about everything from Chia pets to Spanx for babies, and sometimes the show ignites angry debates over the content and presentation of its comedy as it makes light of serious news. But, with "Heroin A.M.," SNL recklessly crossed the line of decency.

The main premise of the sketch was that the happy people taking "Heroin A.M." aren't your "typical" drug users, but instead like two moms and a mini van-driving boys' soccer coach. While it is true that comedy, in this case, mimics reality, making light of an epidemic is irresponsible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. The majority of those drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involved an opioid. And since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Jessica Contrera of the Washington Post says one Twitter user said ...

"It's ironic how SNL does a skit on what is killing so many -- heroin. A substance that took so many [of] SNL's comedians.”

SNL legends Chris Farley and John Belushi both died after combining heroin and cocaine -- the same formula for "Heroin A.M."

(Jessica Contrera. “Viewers not amused by SNL's joke about the heroin epidemic.” Washington Post April 17, 2016.)


I wonder if SNL would consider parody to find laughs in terrorist activity that kills 78 Americans each day? The opioid drug epidemic is domestic terrorism that should be immediately addressed with all seriousness and commitment. As the health community takes steps to stop the carnage caused by prescription pain killers and heroin, the nation is faced with adopting a new, sober philosophy about taking dangerous drugs and combating pain. Failure to do so will continue to increase the horrible toll.

Saturday Night Live is not the sole conveyer of “Pill-popping” humor. I have seen other media productions that poke fun at the subject. Yet, this particular production had no redeeming social or political point. Maybe hyperbole – gross exaggeration – that does not trivialize the use of opioids might have redeeming value, but this skit proved mindless.

A silver lining? The SNL commercial did facilitate a dialogue that needs to take place. Still, what a shame most of viewing public will simply react to the production without taking action to help fight drug abuse. No one wants high rates of overdose deaths and rampant addiction, yet stigmas prevent lawmakers and citizens from demanding massive resources to change the current state of drug abuse.

Oh, it is true that all feel the pain of the fates of Chris Farley and John Belushi, but few find empathy for the thousands of dead and dying whom the sober consider “should know better.” SNL should know better than to humanize poison that has taken the lifeblood of its own.