Parabellum by Greg Hickey: A Book Review by Christina Knowles

After finishing Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey, which I very much enjoyed, I was excited to receive his new book, Parabellum, in exchange for an honest review. Parabellum (the title is brilliant) starts off with a massacre on a beach in Chicago, then flashes back one year, introducing us to four characters, one of whom we presume to be the mass shooter. This idea was very intriguing and had me instantly interested in these characters. What follows in the majority of the novel are the in-depth psychological studies of four potentially dangerous people and what might cause them to become a murderer. Unfortunately, a too-blatant clue eliminates one of the four right away, which I found immediately disappointing.

The characters are unnamed, which probably serves as a trope to present them as a kind of everyman, but for readability, I found it a bit more difficult to immerse myself in their stories because of this. We know them only as the student, the ex-athlete, the veteran, and the programmer, and their personalities and problems are given to us in detailed and poignant vignettes that are realistic and recognizable. I was able to empathize with all except the programmer, whom I found repugnant. As the lives of the four progress and come full circle back to the present, we are introduced to the victims of the beach massacre in what seems to be an attempt to humanize them and dramatize the event in greater depth. However, it’s too little, too late, and what we get is equivalent to a list of victims’ names and occupations we will not remember in five minutes’ time. While Hickey seems to have a strong understanding of the psyche and is clearly a talented writer, in this case, the end result is a somewhat engaging novel that starts out with a primal scream and suddenly peters out and ends with a disappointing and anti-climactic whimper. An original idea ends all too predictably, never doing justice to the incredible psychological insight of the previous chapters.

And though I was disappointed in the end, I still rather enjoyed the journey through the minds of these all too real characters. I definitely look forward to reading future novels by Greg Hickey. Three out of five stars for this one. —Christina Knowles

Trump’s Taxes Are a Legitimate Concern by Christina Knowles

We all know that Donald Trump lacks the basic qualifications to be president—intelligence, thoughtfulness, reflection, kindness, compassion, empathy, humility, morality, and human decency. We know he is a racist, a misogynist, an alleged rapist, a coward, and a liar. We also know that he is a business failure and a criminal, but now we have the documents that could prove it. The IRS has bought down many powerful men who committed tax fraud, so it shouldn’t be hard to bring down a petty and unintelligent character like Trump.

But, it seems, Trump supporters believe that although he is a repugnant human being, he is a rich and successful businessman. They seem to be misled. Trump’s tax avoidance (which I’m sure will be upgraded to tax evasion) is something every American should find appalling and unacceptable. For those supporters who think Trump is just being a good businessman by taking advantage of tax loopholes, I don’t believe you are seeing the whole picture. First, if his golf courses and hotels are losing millions every year, they would not exist. It is more likely that he is embezzling funds from these businesses and pretending that they are losing money to avoid paying taxes. This is tax fraud and is definitely illegal.

Here’s what I know about claiming a loss from personal experience. I have a freelance writing business, and I am an independent author. My husband is a musician and receives royalties for his music. We have to be very careful taking any deductions related to our businesses because if we claim a loss more than a couple of times, the IRS considers the business a “hobby.” It sounds like Donald Trump has several expensive “hobbies.” Either that or he’s the worst businessman in history. Again, it’s obvious that he’s syphoning the money out of these businesses to support his lifestyle, and in addition, relying on debt to support the illusion of success.

The second thing you may be missing as a defender of Trump is that it’s immoral and unethical to be so privileged while relying on the poor and middle class to pay for your needs. These needs are the roads Trump drives on, the police he thinks he owns, the military he claims he’s expanded, and the Secret Service keeping him alive. We are paying for that. He pays for none of it. And don’t even mention the pittance he donates that is his salary. That doesn’t cover a fraction of the taxes he should be paying—it barely covers his and Melania’s haircuts.

The third thing you are possibly overlooking, Trump-excusers, is the fact that people who carry debt are national security risks. If Trump was a civilian employee on an army base, he would not be granted a security clearance because his debt makes him vulnerable to blackmail and bribery and temptations of illegal activities to relieve the debt. Hmmm, that might explain a few things about his relationship with several undesirable foreign leaders.

Look, I know you may not want to face these difficult facts, but it’s time to do the hard work and look at yourselves and your motivations. Do you care that your president is a criminal? Do you care that people who make $18000 a year pay more taxes than this spoiled, bloated wind bag who has never done an actual day of work in his life? You may think liberals want a free ride from the government. No, that would be Donald Trump. The real freeloader sits in the White House with a blank check.–Christina Knowles

The Four Types of Trump Supporters and Their Political Motivations by Christina Knowles

Fed Up with Tribalism

I think every American is fed up with the political chaos we are enduring in America. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such division and contention. It’s exhausting and leaves us wondering if tribalism is so bad. Maybe it would be better to stay in our own little tribe, so we don’t have to believe that there are people who passionately believe the exact opposite of what we believe. I face this question every time a new scandal in the Trump presidency hits the news. Every time Donald Trump is caught doing or saying something illegal, immoral, or just plain stupid, I wonder how his supporters, some of whom seem like nice people otherwise, are able to so easily brush it aside and dismiss it, even excuse and defend it. There is a level of cognitive dissonance that is not easily explained by the “They’re all racists” justification. It seems like there is a daily influx of new evidence of Trump’s inadequacies in the area of basic human decency, but the support from his base does not waver, even from those who would not normally condone this behavior themselves. This led me to consider Trump supporters and their motivations, and I discovered that I could identify four different kinds of people who seem to think Trump is a good choice to run our country despite how terrible he’s doing at it and in spite of how repugnant of a person he is.

The Four Types of Trump Supporters

I believe there are at least four distinct types of Trump supporters, and this is why we scratch our heads in dismay when we find out someone we really like is a Trumper. Let me explain my theory. 

  1. The Power-Hungry Bandwagon Follower: These people attach themselves to anybody who seems to have power, popularity, and influence; an example would be Michael Cohen. They are seduced by the ability of Trump to get his way and command seemingly irrational things, openly lying and committing ethically questionable acts without losing favor or suffering consequences. They too want to have this power and think they will get it by their association with Trump. We’ve seen many of these people cast aside by Trump after they have served their purpose.
  2. Racists and Misogynists: The second type of supporters are ignorant racists who admire an old white guy who can get away with voicing openly prejudiced and misogynistic rhetoric. They seem to think he’s their ticket to stomping down anyone getting in their way of being the dominant race. They see Trump as the great white savior who will defend their privilege and give them a platform for their hate. Clearly, extremists and white supremacists like the Boogaloos, the Proud Boys, and the KKK all seem to find Trump appealing; perhaps, because he calls them “very fine people.” The scientifically illiterate and gun-toting militia wannabes often fall into this category as well. 
  3. The Conservative and/or Religious Right: The third type of Trump supporters are the conservative and/or religious right who swallow their innate disgust at his racism, at his crude remarks about women, at his clear disdain for the handicapped, at his stupidity regarding pretty much everything—in order to advance what they see as the greater good. Many of them fool themselves into believing that God chose Trump, however ungodly he is, to accomplish his work of stacking the Supreme Court with conservatives who will outlaw abortion, protect religious freedom (which is not in danger, by the way), overturn the Affordable Health Care Act, slow immigration, and ensure a minimum of gun restrictions. Several previously ethical and principled people have locked away their morals and swallowed their objections in order to ensure a generation of protections for these conservative goals. (Read Bob Woodward’s Rage for several firsthand confessions of this type of Trump follower). These supporters need to ask themselves to revisit the question, “Do the ends justify the means?”
  4. The Victim of Conservative Pundits: The fourth type of Trump follower is the heavily brainwashed Fox News viewer, or perhaps, a victim of other conservative media. These Trump supporters are always in an indignant rage about the evils of the Democratic party and are indoctrinated by a variety of conspiracy theories, such as Pizzagate, which is on par with flat earth conspiracy theories. They live in fear of losing the America they have always idealized. Many of these victims are elderly or otherwise cutoff from diverse views in the community. Because they are only getting information by heavily biased sources designed to manipulate them, they live in fear and disgust of anyone on the “radical left.” Even though they may know a few Democrats that are “good,” they believe there is a conspiracy by Democrats to destroy the foundations of American exceptionalism, and even worse. They fear riots destroying the suburbs, the abolition of the police, losing their economic viability, and their American way of life. They, in fact, seem to believe that there are no moderates or right leaning Democrats or left leaning Republicans at all. They are sheltered and have a skewed view of the other side.

Lies Trump Supporters Believe about Democrats

The average Trump supporter never hears that many Democrats own guns and only support moderate gun restrictions like background checks. They never hear that many Democrats abhor abortion and want to have as few as possible, but think that banning abortion isn’t the way to solve this problem. They never realize that many Democrats believe in capitalism and hard work and paying taxes, and getting something for their money like the Social Security and Medicare they paid into their entire lives. They don’t know that many Democrats are Christians and believe in protecting religious freedom and that they believe the best way to do that is to honor the separation of church and state. They never hear that many Democrats don’t believe in getting something for nothing. Many Democrats want humane immigration laws, they want a social safety net that lifts people up and doesn’t encourage a freeloading society, they want affordable college so that the entire country can rise economically, and so that they can all realize the American dream regardless of the circumstances of their births. They never hear that some Democrats don’t believe that these things should just be free and are perfectly willing to attach conditions, such as work requirements and/or giving back to the community that helped them. They never hear that while Democrats want a system of justice that is fair and equal to all, they still want law and order. They still want violence stopped and criminals prosecuted. 

But they won’t be hearing that on Fox News, Glen Beck, or the 700 Club. It’s not in their interests to let them see the nuances and the similarities we all share. It’s not in their interests to let them see Democrats as good Americans or even human beings. We are all guilty of our tribal associations and our preference for confirmation bias. If you want to understand how you are being manipulated, please watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It’s time to look beyond all that and talk to our neighbors, our family members with different views, and the people we’ve avoided because we think we know who they are. I just stereotyped four types of Trump supporters. Prove me wrong. Let me know who you really are and why you really support Trump. Let’s have a conversation, and maybe we will learn a little about who we really are beyond what we are told to believe.

The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

      Numerous political scientists and historians have identified Trump and his obvious dictatorial tendencies as an existential threat to our system of government and our very freedom. I get why some Republicans put away their objections and followed Trump through that door, but by now, you should be realizing that some doors shouldn’t be used. It’s time to get back to governing. We need a government that represents all of us, a government that knows how to compromise and work together and create unity. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Democratic Socialists, Libertarians, and every other political group need to compromise. Living in a pluralistic society means none of us gets everything we want. We all should get something we can live with. That’s what it means to live in a country like ours—Out of many, one. We need to stop justifying bad methods of achieving our important goals. Instead, let’s talk, negotiate, and find something we can all accept, and in the process, we can accept each other, rather than accepting more and more bad behavior from our leaders.—Christina Knowles

Afterthought: If you are really interested in practical ways in which all of our political parties can work together, cooperate, compromise, and have a fair voice, please read Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein. The first half of the book is an explanation of how we got here, but the second half is full of intelligent ideas of how we could all have a more fair and productive relationship with those of opposing views and how our government could get back to effective governing.

Photo via intercept.com

My Brother’s Keeper

Disturbing the Universe

As a high school English teacher, I have my students write essays on controversial topics to teach persuasive argument.  It has come to my attention throughout discussions regarding various issues on which they are writing, that many of the next generation of voters are startlingly selfish, uncaring, and downright hostile to the idea of helping others. Of course, it is not true of all of them, but many of them express this hostility openly, and it scares me. Is this a result of the current political climate, in light of such hot-button topics as the Affordable Health Care Act, the increasing deficit, or the bleak outlook of the economic situation in America? Are they simply regurgitating frustrations voiced by discouraged and over-stressed parents?

Apparently, these students do not believe in helping the poor, the elderly, or the disadvantaged in any way. This lack of compassion made me curious as to…

View original post 1,557 more words

The Ezekiel Project by Christina Knowles

Final Book CoverShe knows a secret; he knows the future. Together they will expose the truth.

The Ezekiel Project by debut author, Christina Knowles–Wow, this was a ride and a half! A fast-paced, interesting, thought provoking, edge-of-your-seat story about clandestine military medical experimentation, telekinesis, mind control, abuse, and love. Knowles is a master of pacing… Impossible to put down … highly recommend … This just-released suspense novel is a sleep-robbing page-turner!” –Lee Fullbright, award winning author of The Angry Woman Suite.

A young mother risks everything to expose a top-secret government project with the help of its most important test subject, a dying Gulf War veteran with paranormal abilities .  .  .

Eleven years after the bombing of his battalion in Iraq, Joel’s nightmares continue. But when a beautiful young mother enters those dreams, he knows he must do everything in his power to save her from those who want to silence her, including stopping the man responsible for his nightmares, her husband and the man who has been keeping him prisoner in a top-secret government facility in charge of The Ezekiel Project.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Ezekiel-Project-Christina-Knowles-ebook/dp/B00E5TLHPE

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