Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

January 26, 2024


Life in ‘God’s Country’ is Promising


The Hague, The Netherlands 26 January 2024 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.




Editor’s Note | Our granddaughters’ favorite program. Mine too! What a wonderful world. Is it make-believe? Is it from our past? It’s like ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best.’ If it’s make-believe, let's make it to believe it.

Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!

A still from the Bluey episode, Cricket, shows Bluey holding a cricket ball next to her dad, Bandit. (ABC)


By Max Jeganathan
ABC News Australia Religion and Ethics
18 January 2024


“You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.” Actor Warren Beatty would hardly have envisaged his words being lived out by a world-famous cartoon family of dogs.


Bluey — Australia’s blockbuster television show about a suburban Brisbane family of blue heelers — recently became the most streamed television show in the world. In Australia, Bluey’s viewership has smashed any other series to air, including Married at First Sight, Lego Masters, the State of Origin, and even the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.


The Chase’s Brydon Cloverdale wrote: in seven minutes, Bluey can pack a bigger punch, more heartfelt moments, greater laughs, and deliver far more depth, time after time. It is simply perfect storytelling.


Kids love it. Grown-ups love it. As behavioral scientists put it, Bluey is super “sticky.” But why? When you think about it, this children’s show pushes against several strong cultural currents.


Utilitarianism’s untrammeled march


Modernity’s intellectual mid-wives — Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and David Hume, among others — set a stage of progress with mastery and utility as its backdrop. Human flourishing was deemed to be about the greatest good for the most significant number through the most outstanding achievement. It was a call for society to prioritize things that have material benefits for people — things that make us healthier and wealthier. Propelled by repeated explosions in computing power, mainstreamed Artificial Intelligence, and a steady stream of scientific breakthroughs, the march toward utilitarian utopia continues.


In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, Charles Dickens wrote: “In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.” Dickens’s warning was as prophetic as Bluey's percipient.


They recently released scientific studies from data from 140 countries that considered how people spend their time. It showed that most waking hours are spent chasing “outcomes.” On the other hand, research from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission found that between 39 and 50 percent of Australians are too financially stressed, physically exhausted, or time-poor to have fun.


“That’s what cricket’s about, kid!”


Bluey marches to a different drumbeat. In every episode, Bluey and her family have fun for its own sake. Not to kill time. Not so other dog families will think well of them. Not to create Instagrammable moments. It's just fun, for its own sake. There is always fun, but that’s never the end of the story.


The widely acclaimed and wildly popular Bluey episode tells the story of Rusty, a red-kelpie friend of Bluey’s who is unstoppable in a game of neighborhood cricket. Sprinkled with flashbacks, the episode reveals that Rusty’s batting prowess is due to countless hours of perfecting his technique and overcoming adversity in the face of varying conditions. He worked hard, but his mastery is underpinned by fun. As the narrator declares,


“Rusty just loved cricket.”


The penultimate scene is the last ball of the day, and Rusty has proved that no one can get him out. Then, he unexpectedly sacrifices himself, deliberately hitting a catch to his little sister and celebrating with her. Bluey’s father, Bandit, leans over to Bluey and declares, “That’s what cricket’s about, kid!”


Seven minutes sustained by fun, seasoned with mastery, and perfected with kindness. One U.S. viewer tweeted that the “Cricket” episode of Bluey is “quite possibly the best seven (7) minutes of children’s T.V. ever created.” I don’t think he is wrong.





DIRECT FROM THE HAGUE, click on the link: The International Court of Justice Charged Israel with Genocide.

South Africa charged Israel with genocide in the International Court of Justice. Will the court demand an immediate cease-fire in Gaza? Will Israeli officials be punished for incitement? How would any ruling be enforced?



What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.




Life in God’s country, around the Dead Sea, is promising. Photo credit: Abraham A. van Kempen. I can see Jerusalem’s skylights from my living room window at night.


By Yossi Klein, Israeli Journalist
Haaretz Israel
25 January 2018


We have created a new creature.


We've forgotten how to be Jewish. We are Israeli first and only slightly Jewish.


Our Israeliness is arrogant, impatient, and violent,9a blend of the fanaticism of Bezalel Smotrich (Member of the Knesset [M.K.]) and the aggressiveness of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.


As Jews, we wrote, studied, and taught; as Israelis, we conquered, expelled, and abused.


I'm proud of Judaism. I'm ashamed of Israeliness.


Why are we like this?


Our Holocaust lesson is that cruelty pays off and that racism is rewarded.


That's fake [and false eds.] Judaism.


That is not the Judaism from which we came … After the Holocaust, Jews helped the Blacks in South Africa and fought racism in the United States.


Here [in modern-day Israel eds.] we deport people [refugees from Africa eds.]. Power went to our heads. Sovereignty and independence saved the body and destroyed the spirit.


We are the new Jews.


Brawn replaced brain. After 70 years of planning and building, we can say we succeeded. We have created a new creature. We are the creature that pushed aside Frankenstein, smashed the gate, and left the laboratory to wreak havoc in the neighborhood.


When you destroy, you forget. We've forgotten what it is to be Jewish, but no matter what, we made sure we had.


Our God sits before the camera.


God. Our God is a hostage.


In His name, we expropriate land and deport [dispossess, displace and incarcerate eds.] refugees [native Palestinians eds.].


In His name, the land is ours, forever.


What kind of Jews are we?


Have we not eyes, hands, senses, affections, passions? Do we not cry at movies? Does the immigration police officer not have a heart? Does the pilot who bombs Gaza not have children? Does the cry of a small child not pierce their hearts? Of course, it does; still, we deport, bomb, and imprison. How do we do this with such a big heart?


Judaism would not do this, but Israeli Judaism does.


Israeliness is an insular religion that flaunts being "a people that stands alone" like a badge of honor.


It’s not Jews who expel, oppress, and abuse. It’s Israelis.


Judaism is not to blame; Israeli Judaism is10.


We are the Israelis, and this is our Judaism.


What will we tell our children and grandchildren that it wasn't in our name? We are partners. So long as we obey undemocratic laws that were passed democratically, we are partners.


It won't help to turn our backs. It's all in our name and how."




U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Israel's Knesset in January 2018 (Photo: ALL ISRAEL NEWS)


Against this backdrop, Vice President Michael R. Pence's words, delivered in Washington DC on March 26, 2017, at the annual gathering of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC Conference,11 seem disingenuous, if not out of touch, excerpted as follows:


"While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning evil in all its hideous forms.


               … under President Donald Trump, … the world will know this: America stands with Israel.


President Trump and I stand with Israel for the same reason every freedom-loving American stands with Israel: Her cause is ours. Her values are our values. And her fight is our fight.


For my part, my Christian upbringing compels me to cherish Israel. The songs of the land and the people of Israel were the anthems of my youth.


Let me say from my heart, as for me and my house, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all who call her home. Since its founding, the Israeli people have awed the world with their strength of will and character, and at all times, in war and peace, the Jewish people have held their heads high.


Israel thrives because of their valor and vitality, a beacon of freedom and prosperity for the world to see. Every day in every week, the Jewish people's dignity rebukes all who would condemn them, not for what they do wrong, but for what they do right. President Trump has made it clear that America stands alongside Israel as friends and allies; we will confront enemies who threaten our people and all we hold dear.


We stand with Israel today and every day because our bond was knit millennia ago in the finery of faith. They should give us – all – renewed hope that even in these troubled times of widening challenges and unknowable threats, our bond is unbreakable, and our future is bright.


Our nations and our peoples will remain forever friends, and we will go forth together to meet the glorious future that awaits …"12




"Such a schmuck," grumbled my friend Shimone who caught me on FaceTime while I was talking with two medical students, both taking breaks at the local McCafé at the University of Szeged in Szeged, Hungary.


"Hey, cool it, Shimone! It's the United States Vice President, and I'm here with two students from Israel. Let me introduce you to Ariel, an Israeli Jew living in Tel Aviv, and Yusuf, an Israeli citizen from Haifa who is Palestinian. Gentlemen, meet Shimone. I don't know where he's calling from, most likely from New York, but he also lives near Tel Aviv."


"Shimone, why the tantrum?"


"Pence doesn't care about us. He doesn't even know us and understands what it means to be an Israeli. I read his speech twice – thanks for e-mailing it to me – but he's not talking to or about us. It's about Pence. It's about Trump. It's about their support base. It's about 'get out the vote.' The Evangelical Christian Right – and they don't know a thing about us – slid Trump and Pence into the White House. Eighty percent of the Evangelicals have voted for Trump. Pence's speech is precisely what the Evangelicals want to hear. They're being bamboozled by their leadership."


"But why the temper tantrum? Isn't it 'politics as usual?'


Shimone: Abraham, you want to know why I'm so pissed?


Abraham: You mean uncontrollably upset?


Shimone: Call it what you want! We Israelis and Jews are not the masters of our fate, contrary to Israeli Hasbara [propaganda]. We are totally and utterly dependent on American money ... and the world's people think it's Jewish money. Can a mere 15 or so million Jews -- all the Jews alive today -- finance the insatiable Israeli thirst for weapons of mass destruction? No! Look at the numbers! There are 70 million Evangelicals in the United States with 640 million followers worldwide, compared to only 15 million, with less than half residing full-time in Israel. I'm an Israeli citizen and resident of Israel, but I live mainly in the United States. I cannot imagine that more than 3 million Jews worldwide support the far-right ultra-nationalism ruling Israel. I can assure you, according to Google, more than 50 million Christian Zionists in the United States support the ilk of Netanyahu and his henchmen, and they carry a big stick in Washington, DC.


Abraham: What you're saying, Shimone, is so true. And it's not just the United States that tells Israel what to do. What about Europe? Let me be specific: The Netherlands and Great Britain, my two 'mother countries'... yes, I am a national of both. The Netherlands is an oil-rich country without a drop of oil. We own Shell, the largest corporation on earth. We have a saying: 'Whatever is good for Shell is good for the world.' I'm sure they've got their fingers into the Middle East pie of gold to protect their interests. Shell has never given up on the idea that the world's oil isn't ours. And I don't even want to talk about the United Kingdom and all its blood still freshly dripping from all ten of its fingers.


Shimone: What you're saying and what I'm saying is true, BUT we can't let Israel get away with getting something for nothing and getting away with murder. Sooner than later, we will have to pay the Piper. We cannot disavow our responsibilities; I mean, liabilities. We cannot and should not blame the United States and Europe. Monsters like Netanyahu are just playing a game, but if you look at it logically, their argument is an argumentum ad absurdum [argument to absurdity]. Their modus operandi will inevitably lead to a ridiculous, absurd, and impractical conclusion, ultimately at the expense of the Israelis and Jews because ultra-nationalism or Zionism is unsustainable from the days of Nero to Hitler to Modern Israel.


Abraham: Wow Shimone! I love conversing with you. You always bring thoughts to ponder to the table.


"What's your take on this, Ariel? What about you, Yusuf?"


Excerpted from:


van Kempen, Abraham. Christian Zionism ... Enraptured Around a Golden Calf, Stuck Between Morality and Idolatry,' and 'Evangelicals – Rediscovering New Testament Revelations, 2nd Edition, (Kindle Locations 2032-2047).

Read more: ‘Israel’s Right to Tyranny,’ by Amjad Iraqi, Israeli Journalist based in London, +972 Magazine, 17 January 2024.

Read more: ‘Christian Zionist Cowboys: American and Israeli Affinities Laid Bare,’ by Mimi Kirk, Al Jazeera, 19 January 2024.

Read more: ‘The West’s Complete Contempt for the Lives of Palestinians Will Not Be Forgotten’ by Owen Jones, The Guardian, 21 January 2024.



Faced with the charge of genocide at The Hague, Israelis are deeply defensive, pointing at the horrors committed by Hamas on Oct. 7. But the global list of victims and perpetrators of mass atrocities is long, and neither Israelis nor Palestinians are immune to the accusation


Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip outside a morgue in Rafah on Wednesday. Credit: Fatima Shbair / AP


By Dahlia Scheindlin
Haaretz Israel
10 January 2024


In that first week after Oct. 7, when Israelis stumbled around in a daze sharing half-formed thoughts of anguish, someone said to me: "Has anything like this ever happened before – anywhere?" We had been gazing at the wrenching display in what rapidly became known as Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, struggling to comprehend the slaughter. The only truthful answer was yes.

Who can forget? In the early 1990s, over 100,000 Bosnians were killed in the war there, an estimated 36,000 of them civilians – 30 times more innocent people than Oct. 7. Rape was industrialized; women were held captive in camps, raped and gang-raped, and many were forced to bear children. People were starved in concentration camps, and bodies piled up, not in black and white photos from World War II but in color, wearing jeans.

In Rwanda, over 100 days starting in April 1994, between 800,000 and 1 million people were butchered, primarily by machete, for being Tutsis or Hutus who were not sufficiently committed to slaughtering Tutsis. If they weren't murdered, their limbs were hacked off. Woman after woman after woman after woman was raped. Not dozens, but 150,000 to 200,000 women. Instead of 1,200 dead, 8,000 were killed daily. Imagine 100 days of Oct. 7.


An Israeli flag on a pile of charred vehicles burned in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, outside the town of Netivot, southern Israel. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg / AP

Kidnapping civilians, children, babies? Ask the Ukrainians – not 240, but an estimated 16,226, according to [unconfirmed reports disseminated by] Ukraine's government, have been kidnapped by Russia over the last two years. Just after our war began, Qatar negotiated the release of four of them.

How could they?

Precisely at the most wretched point in the history of this conflict, Israelis and Palestinians should confront the fact that they are not unique. No two horrors are precisely alike, and as a decades-long student of conflict, the creativity of human savagery never ceases to amaze me. But it's time to accept that we've simply joined the grim list of people embroiled in mass atrocities, with perpetrators and victims, on one side or the other, wildly mixed.

          • Israelis should want to stop the war for their own sake, if not for Gaza's
          • Two Gaza wars: Why the Gulf between Israelis and Outsiders is so Vast and Jarring
          • Hamas, Hasbara and the Holocaust: What left and right get wrong about the Israel-Gaza war

This week, an event in Tel Aviv featured four Israeli speakers giving breathlessly short lectures on other conflicts. The organizers knew the attention span of their audience – a hall packed with ruddy-cheeked young people. It was standing room only in the venue in the hipster section of south Tel Aviv. In a city often wrongly viewed as a decadent apolitical "bubble," the attendees spent their evening riveted by analyses of these other horrors and learning how they might be resolved.

It's spooky these days to watch hundreds of young people dressed in flowing clothes or overalls, bursting with energy. It's hard to stifle flash images of all of them twisted and dead on the ground or trundled off to captivity with bloodied pants or missing limbs.


Family photographs of some of those who died in the 1994 genocide on display in an exhibition at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda in 2019. Credit: Ben Curtis/A.P.

But when it was over, the young folks were still alive. They dispersed to ask or mull over questions like those of one speaker, Maya Savir (herself the second generation of a prominent diplomatic peace-oriented family), who asked, as she has in her lectures for several years: "Is our conflict harsher, more painful, bloodier … than these others, who despite it all chose to reconcile?"

If the answer is no, Israelis are not the most victimized people in the world; some people will find this tough to accept. Those people had better prepare for something worse. This week, Israelis will confront the fact that in the oldest international court of law, the International Court of Justice, Israel stands accused of being a perpetrator of nothing less than genocide. South Africa's application to the United Nations' top court places Israel alongside the world's most depraved perpetrators. Many Israelis will be asking themselves: how could they?

As a decades-long student of conflict, the creativity of human savagery never ceases to amaze me. But it's time to accept that we've simply joined the grim list of people embroiled in mass atrocities, with perpetrators and victims, on one side or the other, wildly mixed.

Here's how: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia designated the massacres at Srebrenica in 1995 to be genocide, for the deaths of 8,000 people. The war in Gaza has killed that many children alone – some 23,000 people in total [25,700 Palestinians ruthlessly massacred to date and more dying each day], with up to two-thirds reportedly civilians.

"But Hamas started it on Oct. 7 with aggression so terrible it may itself count as genocide!" This is what many Israelis now implore the world to know. Let's not forget: Russia practically announced its plan to launch a war of aggression against Ukraine by arguing in the preceding two days that Ukraine was committing atrocities and genocide against the people of Donbas.


A woman walking past damaged residential buildings as she carries a child in Uman after Russian missile strikes targeted several Ukrainian cities last April. Credit: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

In Rwanda, the Tutsi rebel force called the Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda in 1990 (basically seeking the long-term right of return from their exile in the '50s), leading to a four-year civil war. During that time, Burundi saw a Tutsi-led coup attempt, the assassination of the first Hutu leader there, and 30,000 to 50,000 deaths just in Burundi, hundreds of thousands of displaced people – and a wave of primarily Hutu refugees. Then, the Hutu leadership of Rwanda was killed in a plane crash that Hutus deemed the work of Tutsis, so existential violence against us may be actual or delusional. However, the response can still be intolerable by law and human decency.

But the insistence that our side is unique and uniquely victimized makes that hard to see. The Holocaust has led many people – Israelis, Jews, or any observer – to presume that the events were utterly unique. And while the Holocaust certainly stands out for its methods and scale, the Holocaust is still just one manifestation of genocide.

Goldhagen vs. Browning

The debate over the proprietary nature of the Jewish experience versus the universalization of causes, motives, mobilization, and implementation turned bitter in the '90s in the fiery debates between Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and Christopher Browning. Most of the fire was from Goldhagen, whose bestseller "Hitler's Willing Executioners" argued that Germany was uniquely, endemically antisemitic, and this was the primary explanation for the Holocaust. Browning's groundbreaking "Ordinary Men" had appeared several years earlier, showing how ordinary people descended to the level of genocidal killers given a war, a task, much alcohol, and some peer pressure within a few short weeks.

The debate symbolizes Israel's quandary now. Channeling the Goldhagen school today, one would conclude that Jews and Israelis could never do that since the Germans had a particularly sick strain of antisemitism deep inside.

Browning, in response, observed that Germany faced unique circumstantial and historical factors, such as its epic humiliating defeat, economic collapse, and fear that invading ideologies would cause social ruin. Goldhagen himself, Browning observes, points to overwhelming systems of "education, public conversation, law; and institutional reinforcement" instilling antisemitism well before Hitler won power. But Browning notes that when these exact mechanisms were turned in the "opposite direction," everything changed. "Given reeducation, a change in public conversation, a law banning antisemitic expression, and the lack of institutional reinforcement, a German culture dominated by antisemitism for centuries was suddenly transformed."


Palestinians were lining up for free food in Rafah during the ongoing Israeli air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Credit: Hatem Ali/AP


I'm on Christopher Browning's side.
Yes, a meticulously documented book demonstrating that any average person can be transformed into a genocidal killer is high.
Because it means that the same society (if not the individual) can also be transformed!

I'm on Browning's side, and here's why you should be, too: It's fundamentally optimistic. Yes, a meticulously documented book demonstrating that any average person can be transformed into a genocidal killer is high. Why? Because it means that the same society (if not the individual) can also be transformed. If Jewish Israelis view Palestinians as full of endemic Jew-hatred (I don't) – they should take comfort. History shows that societies as a whole can change.

This week, the world will be asking if Israel itself committed or intends to commit genocide. Israelis are deeply defensive just now. Many simply resort to demanding whether it was not, in fact, Hamas that committed genocide. Even South Africa has said Hamas should be investigated for war crimes.

And if there's a case against Hamas for war crimes or genocide at the World Court, I'll learn those arguments, too. But Israel is my country, and I do know that Israel has done terrible things to innocent people – 8,000 dead children in Gaza did not commit the slaughter of Oct. 7. Let's call it my "terrible things" theory since I'll wait for the court to decide on the accusation.

Israel has not constrained itself from terrible things, and military figures have justified these things for strategic reasons. But I also believe Israel can't constrain itself for another reason: We can't imagine ourselves like that. We Jews, many feel, are nothing at all like the genocidaires of Rwanda, the Myanmar military, or the Bosnian-Serb joint criminal enterprise. Israelis like to say that their enemies embrace death, but "we love life."

But, indeed, anyone can commit terrible things.




Editor’s Note | Shakespeare could have written Donald Trump’s script.


People love theater. Trump is a natural. He’ll bomb in front of a teleprompter. His extemporaneous seat-by-the-pants ‘honesty’ might slide him back into the White House. So dramatic! You’ll enjoy Matt Taibbi’s contribution below, and I assure you, you’ll learn a lot about Americans and their politics. Plus, it’s comical.





As lawsuits, indictments, and ballot challenges mount, a defiant Donald Trump tells America he'll be here all week.


Trump in Sioux Center


By Matt Taibbi
Substack. Com
8 January 2024

SIOUX CENTER, IA | Donald Trump feels good when he moves into Triumph the Insult Comic President mode early in a speech. On Iowa Friday, ten days before Americans officially started voting for the man, Trump was a violin short of Henny Youngman. He had everything working.

On Nikki Haley: “Birdbrain… It does not have what it takes... She’s a globalist. She loves the globe.” He contorted his mouth to an O for “globe,” pronouncing it like Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

On the former GOP House Speaker: “Remember Paul Ryan, wheelchair-off-a-cliff?” Trump asked. “Remember this guy?” He mentioned Ryan joining the board of Fox, quipping, “No wonder Fox has changed.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for a while the latest in the ignominious Jeb-Kasich-Rubio line of not-Trump Republicans falsely excited as contenders by wish-casting pundits, is no longer a severe poll threat, having been displaced by Haley in recent weeks. Trump crawled up his pipe anyway (the languorous, Wrestlemania-style gloat over an opponent’s demise has been a stump feature since Trump’s first speeches).

“I got him elected,” Trump grinned. “He went up like a rocket ship as soon as I pressed that little button.” He pantomimed, pressing a Tweet button. “Now it’s Truth. Truth is the best, right? But is everybody on Truth? I hope Truth is the one. That’s the one. But at that time, there was no Truth… I tweeted a little statement, and he went up like a rocket ship… He was dead. He would leave the race to win with just one little button press. It’s an amazing thing, isn’t it?”

Holding to tradition, Trump kept calling him “DeSanctis,” explaining academically that this was the proper abbreviated form of the full name “Governor Ron DeSanctimonious.” How insistent is he? When a fan tried to yell out, “Ron De-Snooze-fest!” Trump cut him off.

“It’s Ron DeSanctimonious, actually,” he deadpanned.

For déjà vu enthusiasts, we’re reliving a fundamental mathematical constant of the Trump experience, the last-minute flurry of articles about how somebody in the GOP slate has a shot to knock him off this time. Not that it couldn’t happen, but these articles tend to be written in the tone of children’s letters to Santa, and some of the crazier themes (“Marcomentum” is an all-time favorite) are classics of the bad-analysis genre. Mother Jones just went with “Haley Surges” (she’s within 13 points in New Hampshire, or four, according to some!). Newsweek said Haley is “Hot on Trump’s Heels,” while the New York Times asked, “Could Nikki Haley Do it?” Possible, I guess. But more likely not really:


The FiveThirtyEight view on Iowa.

Trump in Sioux Center reviewed much material I’d seen before, though I hadn’t caught the “Crooked Joe searching for the exit” impersonation live. It’s another stump staple that’s been evolving for at least the last half-year, and, look, it’s funny. It just is. This is partly because Biden is funny, a physical comedy wonder, unfortunately, not on purpose. It started with this last June 1st:

Trump was told in his speech that Biden fell in Colorado Springs. “At the Air Force Academy?” Trump asked. “Not inspiring.” When an attendee yelled that Biden fell because of “gusty winds” — a reference to White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre saying it was “pretty windy outside” after Biden’s infamous Air Force One tumble — Trump deadpanned again. “Yeah. The winds.” Before long, Trump tried out what’s become his “The guy can’t find the stairs!” routine. In September, for instance: “If I walk left, there’s a stair. If I walk right, there’s a staircase. And this guy gets up… ‘Uh, where am I?” He turned and walked toward the rear wall, pausing in front of it, holding it in place to show just his back to the audience. Trump doesn’t do voices, but this imitation of a confused Biden is Caroline’s ready. He turned around again and said, “Where the hell am I?”

The Sioux Center version: “I mean, these stages have a lot of stairs on them. Some of them have four or five stairs, and he did. He had so many stairs he couldn’t find it.”

The run time for the Sioux Center address they clocked in was one hour and forty-eight minutes, an eternity for a stump speech. Even Trump’s phalanx of expressionless, muscled-up secret Service protectors loosened their ties and broke into sweats, feeling the strain. There were four or five false endings, and when Trump plowed ahead after each, with reporters shifting in seats and anxious to escape, the length started to become funny in itself. “It’s a little hot! This room wasn’t designed exactly for this,” Trump quipped 80 minutes in, characteristically blaming the room for the tension. “It’s like 200 degrees in this damn— I’m trying to be cool.”

“You are cool!” a fan shouted out.

Eyerolls on the press riser. Trump slowly reached for a handkerchief, a nod maybe to Cleavon Little’s “Excuse me while I whip this out” routine. “I’m just going to do this a little bit,” he said, dabbing his face.

As time wore on, he took on a solid late-stage Lenny Bruce vibe (the only thing missing were fistfuls of papers from this court case) but worked in homages to Richard Pryor’s stuttering Chinese waiter bit (“He’s a threat to d-d-democracy,” he said, aping an actual stutterer in Biden), Milton Berle, Dangerfield… In a few places, he even drifted tone-wise toward Louis C.K.’s “abortion is exactly like taking a shit” routine before pulling back. As is nearly always the case, Trump peppered the Poconos delivery with observations that blow your mind when you pause to consider it’s the former President of the United States saying these things. “The army tank is a beauty. They want to be environmentally friendly as we go in and blast the crap out of some nation,” he said, in another standard. “We’re going to go in, we’re going to be environmentally friendly as we blast our way through their front lines, but we’re doing it in an environmentally friendly manner. How crazy are we?”

Listening to this is like watching a Pope throw open the Vatican door with his balls hanging out. The brain screams to laugh at the situation, but everyone pretends it’s not funny. On a related note, Trump went after the “fake news media” five or six times. “Is there anybody in this room that’s not going to vote for Trump?” he asked at one point before quickly interjecting: “Don’t raise your hand. It could be dangerous. They’re going to say, ‘He incited an insurrection!’” Pointing at us now: “These stupid bastards! ‘He incited an insurrection!’” The hall was filled with laughs again, like the set of a Don Rickles roast.

This isn’t Hitler unless we’re talking about the Mel Brooks version. Anyone who argues none of this is funny is lying. If you want to say Trump is funny and a burgeoning fascist threat to democracy, that’s an argument that can be had, maybe. But I don’t think that holds up either, considering the context:



It’s too bad we’ll be in civil war and stabbing each other for shelter before it’s appreciated, but Trump’s story is the excellent comedy of our time.

In the fifteen years before the oft-mocked real estate magnate ran for president, the U.S. introduced torture, kidnapping, warrantless arrest (back for the first time since 1861), drone assassination, Minority Report-style predictive policing, preemptive war, mass surveillance, and a long, long list of other lunacies into our culture. These weren’t small changes but sweeping rewrites of Schoolhouse Rock promises, things that, as a citizen, made you want to puke from shame.

Trump was just getting started on the campaign trail when headlines like “‘Sodomized’ Gitmo Detainee Recovering After Surgery. Prison: No Comment” hit the news, letting us know at least one terror suspect needed a unique pillow for court after years of “rectal feeding.” A little-noticed detail from the email scandal of Hillary “Love Trumps Hate” Clinton involved correspondence showing Trump’s general election opponent objected to just 1 of 294 extralegal drone strikes (causing 2,192 deaths) approved during her tenure as Secretary of State.

America’s leaders had been peeing on every Amendment in the Bill of Rights for over a decade, even going back in time to disavow pre-American traditions like habeas corpus and grand jury secrecy. Just as the population was beginning to figure out how low we’d sunk, we were told the genuine outrage against “norms” came when the DNC’s preferred candidate, Trump, got elected in the loudest record-scratch in history.

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Making a Difference – The Means, Methods, and Mechanism for Many to Move Mountains


Photo Credit: Abraham A. van Kempen, our home away from home on the Dead Sea


By Abraham A. van Kempen
Senior Editor
Updated 19 January 2024


Those who commit to 'healing our broken humanity' build intercultural bridges to learn to know and understand one another and others. Readers who thumb through the Building the Bridge (BTB) pages are not mindless sheep following other mindless sheep. They THINK. They want to be at the forefront of making a difference. They're in search of the bigger picture to expand their horizons. They don't need BTB or anyone else to confirm their biases.

Making a Difference – The Means, Methods, and Mechanism for Many to Move Mountains


Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more. Words have an extraordinary power to bring people together, divide them, forge bonds of friendship, or provoke hostility. Modern technology places unprecedented possibilities for good at our disposal, fostering harmony and reconciliation. Yet its misuse can do untold harm, leading to misunderstanding, prejudice, and conflict.


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