I got my gripe session about the travails of 2019 out of the way yesterday. Now it’s time to look ahead to 2020. Let’s spare each other the obvious cliches about “vision” and “seeing clearly.” I’m sure we’ll find plenty of that on Linkedin feeds by clickbaiters eager to prove their business acumen.
In the meantime, I made some comment on a Twitter brag about Trump and this is what the Tweeter named The Modern Marilyn (@glamgabber) wrote back. “Aren’t you late for your meeting of runners who sit around and talk about the glory days of high school cross country? Donald J. Trump has accomplished more than you could ever dream. And you feel righteous in dragging him down? Yap on jealous running blogger.”
Of course I should now better than to troll another troll. But at least she was curious enough to visit my profile to learn that I’m a runner. And that’s what she chooses to mock?
I’ll admit that I haven’t enjoyed the same success as Donald J. Trump. I’m not a wealthy man. My running blog isn’t even a profit-maker, per se. It has been helpful in getting content work from people that read my blog and like the writing. So it’s not a total loss.
It is also a form of writing practice, an important tool of the craft. That’s a good thing for writers to do, practice. It is also a form of therapy, and that is also good. I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of interesting people about their lives past and present, and pushed their stories out to other publications and media outlets where they’ve gotten even more recognition. I don’t think that’s a failure in purpose, do you?
Taking an interest
Because taking an interest in other people and writing about your own life can in some small ways change the world. At times, it can have even greater effect.
As for the accusation that runners “sit around and talk about the glory days of high school cross country,” of that I am at least partially guilty. But so are about five hundred other former runners on the Facebook group Glenn’s, a closed group consisting of many of Illinois’ best runners, many of whom went on to success in college and beyond. We all raced each other on the roads. Some are still winning national championships or running and riding for health and fitness well into our fifties, sixties and seventies.
There is no doubt that many of us still likely think about our racing days when we were much faster than we are today. Yet running at the rate we can now still feels much like it did forty years ago. That’s not living in the past. That’s dealing with the present. And if it keeps us mobile, vital and healthy to the best of our ability, then the glory days live on within us. That’s called motivation.
Many Americans are approaching their senior years with a more active countenance. Contrast that with the lifestyle of President Donald J. Trump, who claims exercise will shorten your life. He also drives a golf cart on the course no matter what, even pulling his wheeled chariot onto the greens in order to avoid having to walk anywhere, even to make a putt. By many accounts, he also cheats at golf.
Most of us don’t have the money or the fame or own country clubs like Donald Trump. So Modern Marilyn is right about that. And it is also true that no one in the world holds the political status of the American President. But our modest successes are still worth noting. When called upon to care for others, we do our best. When pressed to act with conscience, we try to make the right choices. When faced with decisions about whether to be honest or not, we seek to tell the truth.
I believe those character traits evolve from having done something really hard in life. running as fast as you can for as far as you can cleans out the spirit. That brand of pursuit forces one to be honest. It’s true with cycling and swimming as well. There is no faking it in any of those worlds.
Granted, there are people who cheat to win, but none of us really admires them. That steals genuine honor from those who deserve it.
Do cheaters prosper?
None of us trusts a cheater. That is why suspicions about the actions of Donald Trump are so profound in this world. When he pardons a Navy Seal whose peers characterize their fellow soldier as “freaking evil” and lacking conscience, Trump undermines codes of the military that govern how war should be conducted. When our President rewards a cheater like that, the cheating feels like the right thing to do.
That’s also how our military in Iraq came to believe that torture was an acceptable practice. It was “okay to cheat” on the rules of conduct according to the Bush-Cheney administration because any method that extracted information from so-called “enemy combatants” was claimed to be justified in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. So our nation conducted torture in the same facilities where Saddam Hussein once tortured and murdered his own people. In those moments, we became one with the despotism of a deeply conflicted nation.
Who can be sure that we’ve ever fully recovered from that compromise in principles? Our country became so deeply entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan we have still not vacated those nations. Even Obama’s withdrawal of thousands of troops did not eradicate the American stain on the region. We’re still mucking about in the Afghan debacle. All because our nation’s leaders tried to cheat reality by invading a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Cheaters never really do prosper in the long term.
More cheating afoot
That sense of suspicion about cheating is what made millions more Americans vote against Trump than for him. Yet his supporters feverishly welcomed the torrent of rash insults, misogynistic threats, racist taunts, insensitive mocking, praise for white supremacists and bigotry and outright lies used by Trump to win favor while inviting “Wikileaks, I love wikileaks…” to release potentially damaging information about his political rivals. On many fronts, Trump cheated the American political process and claimed that he was “winning.” But America as a whole was all the time losing something important that it once owned. Integrity.
Breaking the pattern
There is clear evidence that Trump actually received help from Russian in getting elected in 2016. Trump is loathe to admit that fact. He cannot stand the idea that he is in any way an illegitimate POTUS or a legitimate POS. That all contributes to why the House of Representatives impeached the man, and new evidence keeps turning up that Trump was trying to cheat to win the presidency a second time around.
I have running and triathlon friends that are conservatives. Some support Donald Trump and some do not. As this blog has consistently indicated, I am not afraid to call the man a cheater and a liar because it’s true. His fraudulent university, shady dealings with his own foundation, refusal to pay contractors and even stiffing the cities that host his rallies all point to a man so self-serving and dishonest he lets nothing stop his greed or his vicious desire for dominance over others. It is the opinion of many experts that Donald Trump exhibits all the traits associated with being a sociopath.
The Trigger Game
So the lady on Twitter who thinks Trump is a success, and who muses that people like me are failures that live in the past, surely know how to pay the trigger game pretty well. Still, I wished her condolences on the loss of her dog. That sucks for anyone to go through. Which makes me wonder how someone can love a dog so much yet gladly suffer the inhumanity of a mean-spirited man like Donald Trump? There must be something else going on.
It appears the leap in faith required to worship a man like Trump has nothing to do with present reality and genuine human suffering. It is instead the need to embrace and promote the perception of winning in the face of life’s challenges that motivates so many to worship Donald Trump. It is also a need to claim persecution and seek vindication that motivates so many to support his vengeful nature. That’s the explanation for the evangelical support for a man with so many un-Christian attitudes and actions. They view him as a portal to the aims of their religion, a “necessary evil” to accomplish God’s work. So there’s a huge segment of the Christian community that believes it is fine to cheat in a thousand ways if one can claim that it achieves God’s work in the end.
I don’t buy that argument, and never will. Nor do others. We’re supposed to learn from the flaws of those servants of God, not emulate them while perpetually expecting forgiveness without any sign of repentance or contrition. Then demanding political favors while we go about the business of abusing others for power. Those things are wrong. And as a result, some are beginning to question that undying support for Trump will lead to ultimate triumph of the spirit.
I’ll take the “glory days” attitude that celebrating the accomplishments it took hard and honest work to achieve, be those moments past or present, as the right values for America. We should all choose those best examples of human spirit, and not giving up, over the sick notion that God chooses corrupt people on purpose to prove some strange point that all of us are flawed. I maintain that small and honest victories, no matter how insignificant they may seem, are the real accomplishments worth celebrating in any age. I believe Jesus would tell us the same thing, and scripture bears that out in manifold ways.
The glory days, which are so often maligned as evidence of lost hopes and fallen dreams, are actually quite beneficial in recalling how to do things well. It is also true that those who forget the past are often condemned to repeat it. And you would be surprised how often our group of “glory days” runners share experiences that are far from glorious, but instead share the challenges of trying hard, and sometimes failing due to ego or other causes. That turns the notions of “glory days” on its head, but it’s true. We also laugh at our mistakes, openly lament or ridicule our crushing collapses from exhaustion or mental mistakes and confess: “I wasn’t perfect. But I tried my hardest.”
And those are virtues of both soul and mind.
Those glory days are proactive in a sense that they are always ours to experience and promulgate in positive ways if we embrace those values and hold ourselves accountable to legitimate standards in the present. There’s a lack of that virtue in America right now, and it’s all encapsulated in the profane choice to glorify a man that has cheated to win his whole life.