Memoirs of a Superfan Volume 15.6: On Retiring Donald Trump and White Supremacy Without Losing Either Our Aloha Shirts or Our Aloha Spirit!
by Ravi Chandra
October 19, 2020
or Day 148
A perspective, ranging from concrete to symbolic, on the signs o’ the times, from a San Francisco psychiatrist.
What’s up with White Supremacy, aloha shirts and tiki torches? None of it really makes sense, but it’s caused at least a few people to clutch their pearls and declare “No More Aloha Shirts For Me!” as if we must retreat from what we love because jerks love the same things. Hawai’i is the most Asian American, the most multiracial, arguably the most beautiful state of our Union, and the aloha spirit is a Pacific wave that continues to wash away the suffering of the world. I’m not giving up on aloha or aloha shirts.
I mean, Audrea Lim wrote in the New York Times about “The Alt-Right’s Asian Fetish” (January 6, 2018), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop caring about Asian American women. There is a difference between fetishization, objectification and love, though as a psychiatrist, I know there’s overlap, even necessary overlap. Human beings often objectify, stereotype, project, and make gigantic and even traumatizing cognitive, emotional, historical and cultural errors before they get it right. Some people never seem to get it right, and some don’t seem to care about getting it right. There are broad cultural forces that direct us to objectify, fetishize and dominate, because we are told in subtle and unsubtle ways that unless we have power over others, we are powerless.
This is the great tragedy, I think, of human development since the agricultural revolution, intensified by the industrial revolution and supercapitalism, which propel our individual and collective egos to spin around houses, possessions, wealth, and status, instead of relationships, instead of brotherhood, sisterhood and relatedness. Some of us have become completely ungrounded from the reality, difficulty, beauty and even liberational quality of relationships, which can and do bring us to our best selves, take us out of the insanity and delusion of separate self, and help us cultivate our better angels of compassion and common humanity, always a work-in-progress. When people become objects, or worse, “symbols,” you start thinking of how you can use them to meet your needs, instead of thinking how you can better yourself to meet mutual needs. When you make people into tools for your ends, you simultaneously erode your own humanity.
“Relationships are the highest form of spiritual practice” – Buddhist saying
As one psychiatrist colleague, an Elder Black man, writes in his email signature, “Love people and use things, because the opposite doesn’t work.” I know a certain someone who should be seeing this psychiatrist.
Donald Trump might aim to feel like a powerful deity-to-fear-and-not-trust as he continually divides people into the useful and discard piles (“people who applaud and cheer, useful; people who disagree, though, are threats to be eliminated, and not useful”), but it is undoubtedly a temporary feeling, a braggadocio face sitting atop sheer panic and frantic unrest as he tries to force-tweet his way into relevance, and bully his staff into submission and mask-phobia (the fear of being emasculated by a mask, that piece of cloth that protects our fragile constitution) and denial-of-reality reality TV servility. He is the Emperor Without Clothes, and when he was literally without his clothes, lying (in every sense of the word) in a hospital bed, a retinue conjured itself to pretend otherwise. “If I insist on blindness to the truth, then I can convince you to be blind to it as well.” The blind lead the blind seeking to blind the nation, a cross between Equus and Exit the King.
He continues to insist on his own “truth” in blatant, repeated, and well-documented lies, and on the falsehood of President Barack Obama, who is a true Keiki O’ Ka ‘Aina, Child of the Island, and so reveals himself as a false messiah, deluder of the masses. Gog and Magog become Gag Orders and MAGA. Self-centeredness is delusional, because reality is interdependent, and 40% of the country seems to worship Trump’s self-centered vileness.
These are painful sentences to write and read, because I know in my heart that all of them, from Trump to the 40%, are human beings, prone to fear, worry and frustration, just like me. We are all fundamentally vulnerable, uncertain and living a precarious existence. For me, awareness of the vulnerability of myself and the vulnerability of all has led me to cultivate compassion as best I can, which takes the edge off so much pain and helps me understand others, at least a little, and more and more over time. For them, vulnerability seems to lead to a power complex. Fear of precarity leads them to delusional self-centered power trips, that are only temporary balm if balm at all.
To them, it’s our fault for “making” them feel unsafe, so they need to punish us and any hint of kindness, because caring only brings pain, right?
After all, President Trump is an abused child, perpetuating his abuse and trauma on the world. In his family, his father punished kindness and his mother sounds devoid of it, and he’s still trying to keep his father and anyone who reminds him of his father happy by being as cruel and self-aggrandizing as possible. Same as Jesus, perhaps, at times, fearful of the Old Testament god who seems to put on a stern game face mask, to say the least, in times when the signs of persecution, injustice, resentment and frustration reach a fever pitch, and same as perhaps 40% of us, who have grown accustomed to the basement emotions that spring from fear, hatred and jealousy, the emotions generated by inequity. We live in a nation that has never really fully helped us cultivate love of sister, brother, and fellow man, especially when they are different, in opinion, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or creed. We shadow box our rivalries, shames, fears, and frustrations instead.
In any case, equity, equality, goodwill, and common humanity are always works-in-progress, and I’d like to assume that we’re all doing the best we can under trying circumstances, but we could all do a bit better.
The fact that Trump’s medical team at Walter Reed didn’t order a psychiatric consult, particularly after treating him with dexamethasone, a known inducer of psychosis and grandiosity, seems near malpractice and endangerment of country. Perhaps they patted themselves on the back for giving him a “shot in the ass” (as he put it when deriding Joe Biden’s energy). They crossed their fingers, held them behind their backs, led their grandiose grand rounds (“crossies!”), shrugged their shoulders, and said, “well, how much trouble could he get into at this point, anyway?” Seems a little risky to this psychiatrist, but what do I know? Executive power can corrupt the weak-willed and those with contact highs into toadying servitude and cult-like devotion.
These days many look for “followers,” and get inflated by likes. Facebook, Insta and Twitter are the closest some of us are getting to relationship, especially now during COVID, and I’ve heard some complain about not getting enough there either. Maybe Trump is just demonstrating the worst possibilities of this media age. Maybe by binge-watching his ego more of us will wake up to the dangers of our own. In any event, the medium is the message, and the ultimate medium is our mind. Our mind/hearts are the medium for the messages we received in childhood, in life, from the culture, from the world, from history, from generations. And it’s up to us to tune our set-top boxes.
But back to aloha.
I think the racists’ aloha shirts are a strange acknowledgment that White Supremacy is retiring and wants a kind of Kluau Klux Klan to celebrate. I’ve read that the clothing choice actually derives from a weird punning starting with the 1984 breakdancing movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo to their hoped-for Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo to Big Igloo(like Bit Tent politics, but colder and somehow indigenous??) to Big Luau. So Kluau Klux Klan indeed.
Are they making a hubbub, a ballyhoo, over a Bali hai boogaloo? It’s really screwed.
But I think I know a kalua deluKKKssse pig they could roast…
Another thing I share with these men is that apparently we all like puns and perhaps the occasional stream-of-consciousness. Maybe we can be a brotherhood of Puns not Guns!? Listen to Puns and Roses? Maybe all of this is a pun spun by Pele, Hawai’ian goddess of volcanoes and fire, forcing us to make new land between us, while also threatening destruction. (See MOSF 15.2: Lama Rod Owens and the Emotional Body of Asian Americans for praise of Fuji-san and our deep human connection to anger, volcanoes, fire, and creativity.)
But this is how they seem to want to go out, chanting hatred, causing death and mayhem, perhaps plotting to kidnap a governor or two, but mostly being seen, feared and heard. Like disconnected lava-boys angry at their mother, angrily thinking that their mother America has forgotten them, trying to be visible and independent of all mothers and their darker lava-brothers. There are different kinds of lava, maybe 7 billion kinds, but we all come from the belly of the Earth, from the belly of time. See 36 Views of San Francisco #36: We Come From the Belly of Earth for proof. And as another song goes, we’re all hoping to “find someone to lava,” and a little shy of related. Another way they are just like me.
Visibility is everything these days, and Trump’s visibility fuels their command performance. It also demands our command performances as well, and voters in Georgia, Texas, and soon to be, everywhere, are standing in line for 11 hours or what seems like 4 years to deliver their stanzas of an epic poem, ballot by ballot, a poem to rebuild a nation, a poem that like America, is built of many unsteady foundations but ultimately one of democracy and hope, where the people will ultimately decide on the rules governing their liberation, because liberty is not assumed.
Yes, I would give my life for this poem, and have given myself over to it. Mother America has hit me like an abusive tiger mother, telling me my poetry is impossible, that I must live in her nightmare of incarceration and incarcerated emotions, of silenced traumas, nihilistic closures and the overwhelmed shrugs of acceding to defeat and the status quo, of apocalyptic endings and the death of a planet and an ecosystem built over millions of years. Good job, Tiger Mother America, good job.
But even she has lived her life a prisoner of transhistorical, intersectional trauma of power and abuse, and the struggle against it. She has so far risen to throw her chains off, again and again, triumphantly and yet only partially, and I take a knee now and bow my head that she may do so again, fully and with commitment for the liberation we seek and know is possible.
On Taking a Knee: A Special Video on Symbolism from ARAS (the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism)
A friend I rarely see recently said it was good to see me because I was so “Zen.” I replied “Zen + Pissed Off = Living.” She laughed. True Dat. Every day for the last five years, I’ve woken up to this nightmare and said some version of “aww, HELL no!” Our votes are a way to say yes, finally, to something approaching life and survival of the good, the sane, the virtuous, the real. But when our democracy has revealed such dismaying symptoms as evident in the last 5 years, we will need to level up and deepen our resolve for survival of what and who we hold dear in the years and decades to come.
We must fight for the survival of what we hold dear within ourselves, and even a Mother America who seems a bit confused, vulnerable and off her game at the moment, and prone to repeating the same patterns of behavior that got us into this mess in the first place. This is the stage of life where our mothers need help. It is the COVID time, and if we who are of age haven’t been worried about our mothers, parents and elders, we have been falling down on the job. COVID deaths are projected to double to 400,000 by the end of the year, a vast chasm in the soul of our nation that aloha shirts, tiki torches, and kidnapping plots will do nothing to change, and in fact will exacerbate.
I am voting for awakened life and survival because I am aware of the toll of death. Every day, I broaden my heart for the grief that brings us to awareness, the grief that might bring us together in compassionate resolve to fight for each other and an imperiled world.
We are on journeys of identity, belonging and wellness, and our journeys are bound up in each other’s journeys. We are who happens to us and what we make of the happening. At this point, my journey feels possibly bound for hemlock in a Supreme Court that perches on the verge of more fully devaluing people who look like me, and those who have values like my own. This is how much we’ve been subjugated by Mitch McConnell and his ilk and their drive for unrestrained power. But the future is uncertain, and our lives rest with the lives of a hundred million or more strangers, a massive collective trust fall. With every action to help our fellow man, with every vote that allows the possibility of understanding ourselves on a human level, we are saying “I got you, I got your back,” to the survival force of life itself, the power of caring and nurture, rooted in science, biology, evolution, and every faith tradition. Compassion is how we do human, and I am trusting bigly that we can true ourselves out of its nightmare opposite.
And then we will have to tend to our aloha-shirted neighbors who have forgotten or never learned the spirit of aloha itself. But first we must nurture those who can be nurtured, and protect ourselves from those who threaten our nurturing.
My next post will be about brotherhood and the grief of losing brothers, and will be published in two weeks, the day before the election. I’m aware of the possibility of violence, and aware that cronies of the president are attempting to mar the election, and will possibly drag the outcome into courts. Donald Trump has always used the legal system to harass and intimidate his business partners, rivals, critics, and ex-wives. I don’t expect different from him now. Our mothers need good lawyers on their sides, and I’m rooting for them.
And again, I am not giving up my aloha shirts. Aww, HELL no! And I am going to keep lifting my voice to sing, because my America has, between rounds of abuse witnessed by and visited on me and people who look like me or who have loved like me, taught me to sing.