We have made a deal with the devil. In exchange for superficial contact with anyone we have ever known – wherein photos, experiences, and opinions are shared – we have relinquished the intimate details of our lives, which are used to manipulate our every thought and action. We have sold our souls to social media.
The assault has been incremental.
It has been years since we first realized that our internet searches were being tracked by the search engine we were using. As unsettling as it was, we eagerly leaped to engage with the ads and actions that were presented to us. Google knows I am concerned about eczema, vegan banana bread, and Bernie Sanders. If I search for flights to Dublin today, tomorrow I will see ads for hotel rooms in the Temple Bar district. Similarly, I was somewhat relieved to know that Chase VISA pays enough attention to my purchasing habits to hypothetically question a charge for cowboy boots in Austin while ignoring an expensive meal in Seattle. Welcome to the world of big data.
The steady advance into the Orwellian future goes largely unnoticed. The secrets of our souls were not stolen from us; rather, we gave them away. We reveal our innermost thoughts via our clickbait selections. We eagerly participate in quizzes concerning which state or nation we most closely identify, take IQ tests, and offer up photos of ourselves to be morphed into a celebrity image. Recently, people have been sharing their family names: my dad is a Clark, his mother was a Smith, my mother was a Weaver, and her mother was a Grant. Perfect, with our Social Security numbers, which are all over the internet – thank you Experian – and our Happy Birthday posts on Facebook, identity thieves have EVERYTHING they need to ruin our lives.
Facebook jumped the shark when they invited Russian operatives to access our private information and allowed them to micro-target propaganda in order to skew the 2016 election. Really Facebook, you didn’t question political ads paid for in rubles. You installed employees into the Trump campaign to assist in their propaganda efforts. You sold out our nation for financial gain.
This is treason!
Users beware, Facebook is not your friend. In the beginning, it was a great place to communicate with friends and family. I enjoyed seeing photos of grandkids, nieces and nephews, and vacation adventures. However, more and more, my Facebook page became inundated with commercial ads and political memes from entities I did not invite. And sadly, I do not get to chose what ads I see or what friends’ posts I see – Facebook chooses for me!
Our world is like an episode of Black Mirror.
We are a generation addicted to social media. Constantly checking. Do we have enough “followers?” Do we have enough “likes?” Is everyone paying attention? Is anyone paying attention? How does my life, my child, my car, my vacation compare to that of my peers? We have forsaken meaningful relationships and experiences and replaced them with virtual relationships and experiences. There is little to no truth in this virtual reality. We can digitally create our reality or allow Facebook to create it for us.
Chose REAL LIFE!
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.