First blog post

It was absolutely not my plan to retire at age 56. I mostly loved my job as a high school world history teacher, but neck and back problems overruled my work intentions. In the beginning, retirement was like the first week of summer vacation: staying up late, catching up on all the little details that get overlooked during the frenzy of the school year, and getting my medical and financial details in order. In time, the days and weeks and months degenerated into bordom. When you are accustomed to working 70 hours a week, it is a shock to the system to have so much time on your hands. In giving up my job, I also gave up the comraderry of my colleagues and a sense of purpose in my life. It was clearly time to embrace the opportunities of retirement. Despite the physical limitations that killed my career, there are a world of opportunities to explore. The goal of this blog is to share my adventures, make sense out of this crazy world in which we live, and inspire others to do the same.

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America’s Correlation to Nazi Germany

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You can’t win by comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.

President Obama took some serious heat from the morning news commentators last Sunday. On CNN’s State of the Union show with Jake Tapper, Obama’s statements at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, December 5, drew some negative reactions. Amanda Carpenter accused President Obama of “intellectual laziness,” while other guests attempted to backpedal the message. Van Jones sounded out later in the day, noting that this is not just an American problem, and he clarified that Obama was calling out global right-wing populist movements to “sound a global alarm.”

So what outrageous statements did our former president make? Discussing our fragile “garden of democracy,” President Obama warned against taking for granted the institutions we have built. He noted that the combination of globalization, technological innovation, and economic uncertainty has culminated in a collision of cultures, and our quest for security has resulted in tribalism and assertion of our superiority. Ultimately, Obama referenced the high culture present in 1920s/1930s Vienna. He stated that people believed democracy “would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. And an entire world was plunged into chaos. So you’ve got to pay attention – and vote!” Noting that democracy is reversible, Obama warned against complacency and advocated “being engaged, paying attention, and speaking out.”

Is there a legitimate risk of the Trump presidency degenerating into a totalitarian dictatorship? Are correlations to Nazi Germany valid? Republicans claim blasphemy at any comparison between Trump and Hitler, and Democrats do not want to appear too extreme or diminish their integrity by acknowledging any connection. Nevertheless, parallels are undeniable.

Aside from their shared narcissism, penchant for revenge, and mastery of communication and branding, Hitler and Trump have widely different personal styles. Hitler married late, and Trump married often. Hitler was a vegetarian, and Trump is a fast food fiend. Hitler served in the military, and Trump dodged service. Hitler rose through the ranks, and Trump parlayed a million dollar loan from his father into a multimillion/billion dollar empire. While Hitler wanted to take over the world, Trump’s modest goal is for American (and Russian) oligarchs to secure global wealth at the expense of the proletariat. Despite some significant differences between these men, the similarities between the Trump and Hitler regimes are markedly similar and should not be ignored or dismissed.

Ten Similarities Between the Trump and Hitler Regimes

1. Amount of Staunch Support

In both Nazi Germany and contemporary America, about 35% of the population demonstrated loyal support for Hitler and Trump. In 1932, at the peak of their popularity, 37% of Germans voted for the NSDAP aka the Nazi party. According to the most recent Gallup pole (12/3/17), President Trump’s approval rate is at 35%. Many people are surprised to learn that the majority of Germans did not support Adolf Hitler. Despite the prominent optics and disproportionate media coverage, the majority of Americans do not support Donald Trump.

2. Demographics of Support

Both Hitler and Trump drew their support from working class and rural individuals. The polarization of Weimar Germany followed urban versus rural demographic lines. In Germany’s multiparty political system, the urban population generally supported the socialist and communist parties, while rural voters got behind the NSDAP aka the National Socialist German Workers’ Party aka the Nazi Party. Similarly, the United States is divided between the so-called “coastal elites” and residents of the more conservative heartland.

3. Racist Ideology

Targeting minority groups elicits support from both Hitler and Trump’s traditionally-minded core of supporters. In Germany, Jews were an easy and visible target. In the United States, every decade our population becomes more diverse, and each new group becomes the target of xenophobic rage. The Irish, Southern Europeans, Eastern European Jews, and Asians have all taken big hits. Native Americans and African Americans have faced perpetual discrimination. Since the 1980s, Latinos – particularly Mexicans and Salvadorans – have been heavily targeted, and since 9/11, Muslim-Americans have been demonized. The plan is to prevent social class awareness by elevating the core supporters above a manufactured underclass.

There is also a connection between racist ideology and demographic support. Immigrants generally settle in urban areas. Thus, urban populations have more exposure to people from diverse cultures. Jews are generally urban dwellers. In Germany, many people in rural areas had little to no exposure to Jewish Germans; this predisposed them to believe the negative propaganda disseminated by the Nazi regime. Similarly, many Americans in rural communities have never met a Muslim, and thus, they are more apt to believe manufactured threats such as the imposition of Sharia law in American society. Lacking interaction with Americans of diverse cultures, many small-town Americans are fearful of the change that comes with new ideas and differing cultural traditions.

4. Dependence on Big Lies

Hitler notoriously advocated the telling of big lies, which, as he proclaimed, are much more believable than the little white lies all people are capable of spreading. Donald Trump has taken dishonesty to an epic level. From the size of his inauguration crowd to the millions of people he claimed illegally voted in the 2016 election to his current mega-lie that the Republican tax plan was devised to benefit the middle class. In his book, The Art of the Deal, Trump extols the virtue of “truthful hyperbole,”stating that “it’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.” According to PolitiFact, 70% of Trump’s statements during the campaign were false. Sadly, Americans have become numb to his lies; it is the new normal.

5. Attack on the Press

Upon coming to power in 1933, the Nazis seized printing presses and controlled the message entirely. Trump’s attack on the press is shocking and disturbing. He seems determined to destroy our First Amendment freedom of the press. However, Trump is not our first president to attack the press; John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 expanded treason to include any writing that was deemed to be false, scandalous, and malicious. In modern times, Donald Trump has taken his anti-press dialog to a frightening place. Allegations of “fake news” and references to “the failing New York Times,” are near-daily utterances from Trump and company. Although direct suppression of the press has not yet occurred, it is surely not beyond the range of possibilities under Trump.

6. Militarization

Hitler drew popular support from his violation of the Treaty of Versailles, including his building up of the military and his remilitarization of the Rhineland, not the mention the Anschluss, the Sudetenland, the invasion of Poland, and WWII in general. Donald Trump has surrounded himself with military advisors at the highest level. Hell-bent on provoking our enemies (and friends), Trump insults world leaders, seemingly baiting them into making a first strike. As a candidate, Trump advocated expanding the use of torture and dropping nukes on adversaries, and he claims to know more than our generals. He campaigned against American involvement in foreign wars, but during his brief tenure as president, Trump has pushed us closer to conflict with Iran, Syria, Niger, and North Korea. Finally, under the leadership of Trump appointee Rex Tillerson, the State Department has been displaced by the Department of Defense. Ultimately, the world is a much less secure place with Donald Trump in charge.

7. Inciting Violence

Nazi Party violence is infamous. In his rise to power, Hitler depended on the SA aka the Brown Shirts aka the Storm Troopers to terrorize civilians. Hitler’s arrest after the Beer Hall Putsch bought him time to author Mein Kampf – his manifesto. The elite force known as the SS notoriously carried out the Holocaust, which remains the quintessential example of genocide. During the campaign, Donald Trump encouraged supporters to beat up protesters, exclaiming “get ‘em out of here.” He promised to pay the legal fees for supporters who roughed up the opposition and “joked” about encouraging police brutality. Trump’s tacit support of neo-Nazis at the march in Charlottesville demonstrates where his heart truly is.

8. Authoritarian Ambition Coupled with a Cult of Personality

Fascism is not built in a day. When Hitler combined the offices of Chancellor and President following the death of Paul von Hindenburg, he became a full-fledged dictator. Hitler then suspended elections and political parties. One step at a time, Hitler nicked away at democratic institutions while on his mission to install his fascist state apparatus. According to the December 9, 2017, New York Times article “Trump’s Way: Inside Trump’s Hour-By-Hour Battle for Self Preservation,” Donald Trump had an “unrealistic expectation” of the power that came with the office of the presidency. It seems that Mr. Trump anticipated that he would be “ruling by fiat, exacting tribute and cutting back-room deals.” The article revealed that Trump is frequently in a state of rage concerning his impotence as president, yelling out orders to aides and members of Congress. Clearly, Trump is beyond frustrated with the limitations placed on the office of the presidency as defined by the Constitution. In addition to Joseph Stalin, Hitler and Trump are the best examples of the Cult of Personality. Others might want to lump FDR and Bernie Sanders into the mix, thanks to their loyal followers and astute messaging, and If Beyoncé was politically motivated, she would potentially be a great candidate.

9. Outreach to the Masses

Both men depended on rallies and propaganda to gin up the masses. Hitler’s rallies were infamous. The movie Triumph of the Will documents the fervor and mania present in both the Fuhrer and his supporters. Unlike any politician in modern times, Donald Trump holds regular rallies to invigorate his followers and further alienate his opponents. Joseph Goebbels – Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda – controlled the message of demonizing the Jews and elevating the Nazi doctrine to the point of Total War. Everyone in Trump’s White House is on the propaganda bandwagon. From “alternative facts” Kellyanne Conway to Press Secretaries extraordinaire Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Grim Reaper Steve Bannon, there appears to be no limits on political lies and spin. Of course the worst offender is Trump himself. In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, it would be remiss to not acknowledge Trump’s oratory skills and marketing acumen. Although his detractors cannot fathom his populist attraction, dissertations are being written on the appeal of Donald Trump. As he boasted, Trump could shoot people on 5th Avenue and still not lose support. No matter how outrageously he speaks, tweets, or behaves, his followers either applaud or rationalize his deplorable actions.

10. Support from Establishment Politicians

Adolf Hitler was invited to join the Weimar government by president and military hero Paul von Hindenburg and other members of the German National People’s Party who thought they could control him. Similarly, rather than utilizing the electoral collage the way our forefathers intended in the Constitution, the Republican Party handed over the nuclear codes. In an effort to push forward their economic and social agenda, this band of sellouts has disgraced our nation and placed our democracy in jeopardy.

According to Godwin’s Law – a term coined in 1990 by American lawyer Mike Godwin – given time, every argument will eventually degenerate to the point of one member of the opposing party calling out his nemesis as a Nazi. Although conventional wisdom warns against making this dicey comparison, it is equally foolish to ignore the correlations between the Hitler and Trump regimes.

Are we set to experience a repeat of the 1930s? Not exactly. Trump has obviously not silenced the press, eliminated (read killed) his opposition, or initiated genocide. His atrocities to date include promoting environmental degradation, encouraging manipulation of the economy to further advance the 1%, weakening our democratic institutions by installing secretaries like Betsy De Vos, Rick Perry, and Ryan Zinke (individuals determined to destroy the agencies they oversee), race-baiting to create an atmosphere of ethnic hostility, and installing ultra-right-wing justices like Neil Gorsuch to ensure conservative policies for decades to come.

We are still in the early day of Trump, and the future is uncertain. Thus, it is prudent to heed President Obama’s advise by “being engaged, paying attention, and speaking out.” History will only repeat itself if we allow it. We must never let our guard down, and we must not normalize the reckless behaviors of Donald Trump.

 

Trump’s Short Game

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So much to destroy, so little time. It is the end of our world as we know it.

A myopic vision yields devastating consequences at every level. Donald Trump’s impulsiveness and lack of foresight in controlling his verbal vomit messages will culminate in his political demise. However, the consequences of his tax policies and his abdication of global leadership will have long-lasting and potentially irreversible negative repercussions.

Twitter-Talk

Oh yeah, this will be the death of Trump. No time to proof read? Sloppy errors! Covfefe. Slow down, Donny Boy. Take your time.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

Oops! You said it. No, your lawyer said it. No, I think it was really you, and your lawyer, John Dowd, is looking at disbarment at the very least. While not the first Trump associate to be thrown under the bus, Dowd will certainly not be the last. Jared’s future looks dim, and unlike Flynn, I doubt that Trump will fall on his sword to protect Donald Jr. While I am happy to witness Trump’s self-destruction, I am heavy-hearted contemplating the inevitable consequences of his tax policies, which were designed to enrich the elites by bankrupting the masses, and his brazen determination to abandon our role of global leadership – both of which will lead to our demise as a nation.

Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!

Gimme my money. Gimme your money. Bankrupt the nation!

So let me get this straight, let’s give give the poor and middle class short-term and nominal tax relief, while the very wealthy get record-breaking tax cuts. We will trick the plebeians with the promise of a side-dish of trickle-down bullshit.

Wait, it will be okay, it will be great. The wealthy are going to reinvest their extra cash to create jobs. Right? I seriously can’t believe that the same Republic leaders who decried the deficit threat under Obama are now ready to increase it exponentially. Can you say hypocrites? Who needs taxes anyway. The private sector will repair infrastructure, and help the poor, and educate the young, and fight the wars. Trump’s plan is intent on bankrupting our nation of financial and environmental resources in an effort to line the pockets of the oligarchs. A special thanks to Rex Tillerson; no one knows the business of exploiting nature for financial gains like this oil man. Short-term economic gain for the chosen few = long-term financial devastation for the 99%.

Relinquishment of Global Dominance

I willingly confess to having a critical view of the United States’ imperialist practices in the 20th century and our disastrous wars in recent decades. However, like all Americans, I want the United States to be the world leader. I just want us to behave our best and earn our place at top the fair way, instead of rising up by sabotaging and manipulating smaller nations. We all want to be winners, after all. Donald Trump ran his campaign with the promise of winning so much that we would get sick of winning. That hasn’t happened. Instead, under President Trump, we are losing our position of global leadership to the Russians and the Chinese.

Trump’s time at the helm will hopefully be a limited affair. Even if Mueller does not do him in, his fast food habit most certainly will. However, the effects of his presidency will have long-term consequences. Russia and China are poised to overtake our position. The Donald has been eager to acquiesce to Vladimir Putin – for whatever reason. Rather than maintain American hegemony, Trump has given Putin the keys to the kingdom. The United States under Trump has willingly relinquished our global leadership role. We literally gave it away. As if being Putin’s bitch is not enough, we have opened the door for a stronger China.

The Long Game

Both Russia and China are masters of the long game. Once Ivan the Great finally drove out the Mongols in 1480, the czars kept a stranglehold on the Russian people and their subjugated neighbors. The communist revolution certainly shook things up, even marginally raising the living conditions for the proletariat. However, basic freedoms never materialized. The fall of communism in 1991 did not bring long-lasting liberty, and older Russians longed for a return to communism rather than face the deprivation of the post-communist era. The kleptocracy of the Putin regime has solidified the master class of Russian oligarchs. This arrangement seems to be the model for Trump.

As the longest-lasting civilization in world history, China plays the long game even better than Russia. This nation has survived changing dynasties and a communist revolution whose integrity was predicated on eliminating Western influence. The rebound came with Deng Xiaoping who revolutionized the economy by embracing capitalism. In the 40 years since the death of Mao Zedong, China has clawed their way to the top of the global economic pile, and they are poised to economically overtake us. Trump’s dereliction of duty has cleared the path for these powerful and skilled adversaries to dominate the 21st century.

With centuries of totalitarian control under their belts, Russian and Chinese dictators have mastered the art of exploiting the masses for the good of the state. The critical difference is that Russia and China did not sell out their nations the way Trump is selling out the United States. Our adversaries are strong, determined, and committed to the long game, while Trump is determined to reap short-term economic gain for his family and other wealthy patrons.

Donald: What is the master plan? Do you have one?

As State Department positions go unfilled, you have placed your loyal supporters – despite their incompetency – in Cabinet positions. These people were selected explicitly to destroy the very agencies they were appointed to. Hello Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, and friends. Our government is rotting from the inside out and from the head – Trump. I get that the people who elected you (some are members of my own family) supported your promise to drain the swamp. Fed up with politics as usual, they wanted change. However, instead of draining out government corruption, special interest groups, and Wall Street, Trump and company are draining every last dime and natural resource from the nation.

Rome did not last forever, but 800+ years is a good run. The British Empire dominated the world from the 17th century until WWII. I knew United States’ hegemony would not last forever, I just did not think our demise would occur in the dawn of the 21st century and a reality TV host would literally sell out and give away our power and position.

Ageism: The Equal Opportunity Discriminator

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For the first time in a long time, I was the youngest person in the room. At age 56, this is an increasingly rare occurrence. The event that placed me in this odd situation was the first meeting I attended for the Retired Public Employees of Nevada (RPEN). This is my new retirement union, so it was no surprise that at 56 I was the youngest attendee.

Most of us have been guilty of undervaluing, disrespecting, and marginalizing the elder members of our community at sometime in our lives via rude and hurtful comments, outright discrimination, and/or deliberate marginalization. I grew up in the 1970s by the retirement community Leisure World in southern Orange County, which my high school peers nicknamed “Seizure World.” Randomly, my cousin and his wife moved to Leisure World within a year of meeting the minimum age requirement of 55. They jokingly rationalized the move, citing that it would prevent their adult children from moving back home with them. Even now, I am guilty of savagely profiling that ever-decreasing population of people older than myself. Currently, I live less than a mile from the retirement community of Sun City in Las Vegas. When a slow or otherwise poor driver is in my neighborhood, as a reaction I assume that they will be turning off on Del Webb Boulevard, the entrance to Sun City, when in reality it is usually a young or middle age driver illegally engaged with their cell phone.

I recently read the November 20, 2017, article in the New Yorker by Tad Friend, “Why Ageism Never Gets Old.” Friend notes that ageism – especially toward women – has been an ongoing drama in Hollywood, but as the article points out, Silicon Valley is an even worse offender, where the old adage – “don’t trust anyone over 30” – painfully holds true. The article references Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who stated, “people over forty-five basically die in terms of new ideas,” to which I say, “Bullshit.” But this is what we are up against. What ever happened to respecting our elders or at least valuing their contribution?

Devaluation in the workplace is a huge issue, especially in a time when people are expected to delay retirement by working through their sixties. While some of us have jobs and careers that support this new normal, for most of us it is unreasonable and frankly impossible. People with physically demanding jobs have often destroyed their bodies by their mid-forties. In other occupations, management is eager to ditch older, higher paid employees for those who are just starting out. I have seen this situation in my previous workplace, where older teachers – whose salaries are double that of newer teachers – get reassigned to less desirable positions in an effort to encourage them to take an earlier retirement than they had planned. BAM!

Even when you don’t feel particularly old, you have been profiled. My first ageism slap came when I changed teaching positions – leaving a tech-based magnet school for an inner city high school. I went from a position where I had garnered respect from both students and colleagues to a place where I was just an old white lady. It hurt, and it was hard to reestablish myself. Months later, I found myself back on stable ground, but it took patience and perseverance. I had to prove my professional competence and my commitment to my new community of learners. The experience left its mark. I was battle-scarred, but not broken.

On a daily basis, countless individuals are subjected to racism. I have personally experienced antisemitism and sexism. And many of us currently feel like we are living in an era of anti-intellectualism. What we all have in common is a current or impending battle against ageism. It is a guaranteed experience for all of us who pass their 50th birthday, and in some professions it reveals itself even earlier. In the end, it is a status we must all endure.

 

Thanksgiving: A New Tradition

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Cherished holiday traditions should always hold a place in our hearts, but even greater joy is found in opening ourselves to new customs and practices.

As a classroom teacher, Thanksgiving was the hardest holiday to host. It was mad work to get everything done in the 24 hours between 3:00 Wednesday and 3:00 Thursday, even when side dishes were in part supplied by guests. When my adult children started hosting at their homes a few years ago, I was beyond relieved.

This year, my son and his wife volunteered to host the holiday at their new house. Counting kids, there were over 40 people in a 1500 square foot home. Everyone was welcome: family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm for Las Vegas – a record-breaking 80 degrees – so tables were set up on the patio outside. The adults feasted, while the kids played on two bouncy houses in the backyard. At the end of the evening, after everyone made up their to-go plates, I looked at all the leftovers before I departed and felt sorry for my son and his wife. What will they do with all that food? Around 9:30 PM, I saw the following group text message.

“I wanted to say happy thanksgiving and thank you for coming over earlier. The L…s were very happy to host such a great group. This message won’t find all my guests so thank someone I missed for me please. I wanted to inform everyone that after feeding our whole group and packing out as much to go with everyone as possible, Steve and I took the leftovers and some plates and went and fed 30+ more people down off Washington and D. You know the spot under the 15. It was very nice to get to take an hour and serve some people that certainly didn’t wake up today with a feast on the schedule. I’ll tell you what- I’ll never worry about the over cooking this family does again. So easy to find people that are hungry. Sleep well family and friends. Blessed as we are. And know you just helped make a couple dozen people feel a lot better on their Thanksgiving.”

I responded back to him, saying how proud and impressed his father (my ex-husband) – who passed away about two years ago – would have been. To which my son responded, “Things are easier when you’re familiar. He did show us how to be charitable.” Indeed, one of my daughter’s earliest memories is of her dad directing her to take off her winter coat and give it to a little girl on the street. She resisted initially, but her dad reassured her that she would get a new one. The experience made an indelible impact on her.

This morning, I spoke to my son about this gracious act. He mentioned his surprise that the average age of the homeless people he met last night were his age: mid-thirties. Some had mental health issues, others had drug problems, and some just had a large measure of bad luck coupled with the lack of an adequate support system. We discussed the impact that a few bad decisions could have on an individual’s life.

Holidays are a time when we remember and mourn for all the loved ones who are no longer present in our lives. While it is important to reflect back upon our happy memories, it is equally important to always look forward. My son is anxious to host Christmas at his house this year and again share the leftovers with his neighbors who live under the I-15 bridge. His new holiday tradition will certainly have an impact on how his children chose to interact with the world around them.

Manning Up to the Truth

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Lech. Pervert. Creep. Women of a certain age are all too familiar with men of this ilk. Growing up in the 60s and the 70s, we came across them on a regular basis. They grabbed our asses, groped our breasts, and verbally harassed us. It was the normal state of affairs, and they largely got away with it.

To be clear, not all men behaved in this deplorable manner. In fact, most men have always acted like gentlemen, most of the time. Still, fathers warned their daughters. Mothers provided advice on what to do when you found yourself in “that” situation. And friends warned friends – the whisper network.

As women, we grew older, and the assaults subsided as attention was directed at younger, more vulnerable targets. In addition, the times changed. The women’s movement had an impact. Gender roles softened. Mothers raised their sons with different expectations. We had hope that our daughters would live in a better world.

Back in the day, women who reported rape or sexual misconduct risked it all. They were accused of inciting men’s bad behavior because of the way they dressed and the places they went. Victims were blamed and shamed.

Like many others, I shared my “me too” experience of sexual harassment at my workplace when my thirty-something boss kept insisting that I have sexual intercourse with him when I was 16 and working at the pizza restaurant in my local mall. I did not share my many stories of being groped, having men expose their junk, and surviving date rape. I had frank discussions with my daughters about owning their sexuality. I warned them to protect themselves when they wanted to engage in sexual activities and how to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances. I lectured my son on how to treat women with respect. I reinforced to my students the mantra that “no means no.”

What disappointed me and actually pained me to the core were the “me too” posts on Facebook by younger women. While I fully anticipated that most women my age had experienced sexual harassment and abuse, I mistakenly thought it was a generational problem and that younger men were more evolved. Sadly, it was not the case.

The names keep rolling in: Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Louis CK. And on, and on, and on. Each with their own particular fetish: Anesthetize with pills, grab their pussy and forcibly kiss, don a bathrobe and demand a massage, intoxicate with alcohol, target teens, expose themselves and masturbate.

This story is far from over. I imagine that many men are living in fear that their past and present behavior will soon be exposed. The knot in their stomach is violently pulsing. They are experiencing the dread that women have known forever. Careers will be ruined and relationships will be destroyed. Some daughters will never look at their fathers the same way.

Is Melania Trump a Russian Agent?

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In the wake of “Mueller Monday” – with the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates coupled with the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos – we are left wondering who may be indicted next: General Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Donald Jr., or maybe even Melania Trump?

Why Melania?

Is it possible that she was recruited by the Russians as an agent while she was modeling in Italy or later when she moved to the United States? Russia – knowing Donald Trump’s penchant for Eastern European women – could have targeted her in either location and lured her in. Once on board with the Russians, Melania could have been planted to attract the attention of Donald Trump. Imagine that Melania – the woman who many people actually feel sorry for in that family – is actually the mastermind (or sinister link) in the Trump/Russia connection. After all, in the context of clandestine affairs, the least obvious player should be the most obvious suspect.

Kim Jong Un is not the only Smart Cookie

Many people underestimate the intelligence of Melania Trump – in part for marrying a man like Donald Trump (wealth aside). I believe she is smarter than people give her credit. Many publicly doubt her fluency in five/six languages. Aside from Slovenian (her native tongue), Melania has demonstrated her fluency in English (a language she may have studied in school and later mastered in the United States). Melania also speaks Serbo-Croatian, which she learned as a consequence of growing up in Slovenia, and German, which perhaps she learned in school or picked up from her parents who reportedly worked in Germany occasionally. French and Italian were learned while working as a model in Paris and Milan. While not necessarily fluent, Melania is at least conversational in the above mentioned languages. Russian is not on the list – of course not. The White House would definitely not want to put that on her resume, even if it was true. However, in the Newsweek article, “Melania Trump Had A Terrible Day in Germany, And Putin And Her Husband Are To Blame,” Cristina Silva claims that Melania does indeed speak Russian. Clearly, Melania is comfortable and proficient in many worlds.

If Melania is so smart, why did she claim on her website to have a degree from the University of Ljubljana when she actually dropped out after a year, and why in the world did she plagiarize elements of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention in her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention? These were too obvious and public of gaffes to expect to go unnoticed. Were they rather just well-planned ploys to have the media and the American people grossly underestimate her? It is not unreasonable to postulate that Melania is the smartest person in a room among Trumps.

Ambition Trumps All

Ultimately, very little is publicly known about Melania Knauss Trump. What we do know is that she comes from a motivated and ambitious family. In communist Yugoslavia, the Knavs/Knauss family lived quite well. During her young life, the family resided in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a Soviet-style complex, but in the early 1980s, the family moved into a spacious two-story home in a suburb of Sevnica called Beverly Hills. Most Slovenians did not have this luxury. Melania’s father Viktor began as a chauffeur and elevated himself to manager of a state-run car and motorcycle dealership. His career rise was a product of his membership in the communist party – note: only 5% of the Slovene population were party members. By all accounts, Viktor Knavs was more of an opportunist than a true believer. Nevertheless, the rewards were huge.

Accounts of young Melania portray her as thoughtful, reserved, and an avid reader. At a young age, she set her sights high and acted on them. Modeling was Melania’s ticket out of Slovenia. Her career began in grade school. Melania’s mother Amalija worked as a pattern-maker for children’s clothing, and Melania and her elder sister Ines modeled the clothing. For their high school years, the family rented an apartment in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana so the daughters could have access to a better education than in their hometown of Sevnica. After graduation, Melania left for better opportunities in Western Europe.

Follow the Money

How would the Russians have recruited Melania as an asset? Internet gossip indicates that Melania’s modeling career was stagnating while in Europe and she continued to struggle following her move to New York. It appears that her career really took off after hooking up with Donald Trump. Melania had limits on what she was willing to do. For example, as the notorious nude art photos demonstrate, Melania was willing to bare it all, but not in any pornographic manner. Similarly, she engaged in consensual sex with Donald Trump, but won a lawsuit against The Daily Mail for $150 million when they falsely accused her of working as an escort. So although money was an issue, Melania was not willing to sell out cheap. Was she expected to send remittances back home to Slovenia to help out her family? Did her father’s connections to the Yugoslavian Communist Party smooth the way for later contact between the Kremlin and his daughter? Or did Melania simply marry Trump for his money?

Disclaimer:

To be clear, I am not the only person proposing that Melania is potentially a Russian asset, but at the time I first conceived it, I had not seen it posted or published anywhere. When I started googling aspects of this crazy concept, Google “auto-fill” seemed to anticipate my search ideas, which led me to realize that others have entertained similar theories. A couple of very sketchy sites claimed she had already outed herself as a Russian agent last Spring, because going to jail as a traitor is preferable to living with “The Donald.” Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Manchurian’ President?” on May 31, 2017, which referenced “the mounting evidence linking Melania Trump to Kremlin handlers.” In addition, Lev Raphael wrote a satiric piece for HUFFPOST dated August 7, 2016 – updated August 7, 2017, “The Name is Trump, Melania Trump,” which follows a similar trajectory as my supposition. Finally, there appears to be discussion threads devoted to Melania Trump being a Russian agent, but since these sites required registration to view and participate in the discussion, I backed away.

A Deeper Throat

My favorite conspiracy theory turned out not to be true. A former student suggested that attorney, writer, and TV/movie personality Ben Stein was Deep Throat. Infamous for his plain looks and monotone voice – “Bueller, Bueller” – Stein was the neighbor and classmate of Carl Bernstein. That alone means nothing, but Yale Law School Valedictorian Stein was also a speech writer for President Nixon. That knowledge certainly got my attention. When Mark Felt outed himself as Deep Throat, I was truly disappointed.

So is she or isn’t she? Is this a thing or just the crazy fantasy of a retired world history teacher? Time will hopefully tell.