Links and Comments: The Debate; Trump and Christians; No Back to Normal

So much to keep up with!

The debate last Tuesday.

NYT Editorial: A Debate That Can’t Be Ignored. Subtitle: “Americans need to face the man who is their president.”

The debate was excruciating to watch for anyone who loves this country, because of the mirror it held up to the United States in 2020: a nation unmoored from whatever was left of its civil political traditions, awash in conspiratorial disinformation, incapable of agreeing on what is true and what are lies, paralyzed by the horror of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and beholden to a political system that doesn’t reflect the majority of the country.

After five years of conditioning, the president’s ceaseless lies, insults and abuse were no less breathtaking to behold. Mr. Trump doesn’t care if you think he’s corrupt, incompetent and self-centered. He just wants you to think everyone else is just as bad, and that he’s the only one brave enough to tell it to you straight. It is an effort to dull Americans’ sense of right and wrong, making them question reality itself and, eventually, driving them to tune out.


And there was this: The Atlantic: Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters. Subtitle: Former aides say that in private, the president has spoken with cynicism and contempt about believers.

Why is this a surprise? My impression is that evangelicals sign on to Trump not because they admire him, or think he admires them, but to use him to get what they want, primarily Supreme Court justices who will rule against abortion rights and Gay rights. (I’ll comment soon about why even the complete reversal of Roe v. Wade will not actually matter very much. And when it doesn’t, evangelicals will have to find some new cause to unite themselves against the world, as they did with abortion (previously a non-issue among Christians, even Catholics) when the lost the civil rights battle in the 1960s.)

One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of sh*t.”

“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.


…the president has felt a certain kinship with prosperity preachers — who often tell their followers to make donations they can’t afford, confident that they’ll receive divine rewards in exchange…

In other words, Trump saw these preachers as con artists, and if the reporting is correct, he recognized their skills as familiar because of his own expertise in the area.


Finally, for now: CNN, There is no getting ‘back to normal,’ experts say. The sooner we accept that, the better.

We are slowly learning if this year’s changes are permanent. If work — for the lucky among us — will remain from home. If we will visit the grocery store less but spend more. If we will find wearing a mask on the metro to be just part of life. If shaking hands and embracing will become less common. If most of your daily interactions will occur via video conference (rather than in person).


The brain’s circuitry does prefer to survive, however: While part of our minds may be inclined to resist change as we feel disasters are a passing event, another stronger part of our brains embraces the new swiftly.

“Hedonic adaptation” is the elaborate name for why we survive: It’s the mind’s ability to accept quickly something in your environment that weeks earlier would have stopped you in your tracks. Originally intended to protect humans from predators, it’s hardwired — so we do not constantly see all relatively new things as threats and miss the newer, bigger ones.

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