The B-Rate Used Car Salesman Who Tricked a Gullible, Hateful Nation

Been thinking a lot about the way Trump communicates (if you can even call it that), how his messaging fooled his marks, and where we’ve seen it before. To me, he has always sounded very B-rate used car salesman. He’s a 4 AM infomercial host. Or a sleazy influencer peddling bunk supplements. He’s a more charismatic (in a carnival barker kind of way) and much more shameless version of Fargo‘s Jerry Lundegaard trying to sell the country TruCoat sealant it didn’t need. Except what he is peddling isn’t TruCoat — it’s bigotry.

*Trump’s lips form a sphincter-like shape and world salad spills out*

“This is a tremendous sealant. We looked into it very strongly. It gets the job done like nothing you’ve ever seen. Our competitors wanted it very badly. Oh did they want it. Everybody in the in-DUST-ry did. Yuuuge battle over this stuff. In the end, I won because I have the best words. My pitch was magnificently brilliant.”

*Trump frantically moves his hands like he’s playing an imaginary accordion*

“Anybody who doesn’t have it isn’t going to make it, OK. You’re gone. Out of here. See ya. People are saying that if you don’t have it you’re as good as dead. If you don’t have it, your car is all over the place. It won’t hold up. It’s a disaster. Nobody knew we needed a sealant like this, and that’s OK, but now we know we need it.”

*Trump gives two thumps up and a cheesy grin*

“So you have to buy this beautiful TruCoat. Believe me, I’m the least dishonest car salesman you’ve ever met. Don’t buy from Crazy Suzie or Low-Energy Dan across the street. I’m the only one who can sell you this terrific TruCoat and it will sell out so fast your head will spin. Let’s sign the paperwork.”

*Stands up from behind his mahogany desk, dwarfed by his baggy clown suit and leaning forward like a centaur. Extends his small mitt for a handshake*

Sigh. This is what happened in 2015-16, and 63 million suckers got duped into buying what Trump was hawking. Of course, they wanted to believe. They wanted to buy it. They had been primed for this con (thanks, Fox News and Co.) All they needed was a convincing grifter to give them a push and help them go further with this impulse.

They were angry about having a black president and a woman candidate. It made them feel small (and they are small) because their whole identity hinges on a discriminatory system that picks them as winners and others as losers. They were indoctrinated by right-wing propaganda and blamed poor people, immigrants and minorities for their problems, not the true culprits — Wall Street, lobbyists, billionaires, megamillionaires, corporations and, yes, the Republican Party. Democrats aren’t perfect but compared to the deadly pandemic that is the GOP (now, literally), Democrats are a common cold. They clung to their guns, greed, religion, jingoism and “heritage,” convinced that’s what America stands for, when what America should be is the world’s most successful melting pot. Benghazi and some emails made them forgot all about the Great Recession — losing homes, jobs, retirement.

This charlatan convinced them that his special sealant could take them back to the good old days of the status quo. When white men almost couldn’t fail, the patriarchy was untouchable, trickle-down economics was still a grift that worked and nobody dared to say a critical word about the good old U-S-of-A. America was made perfect from the start and we should get rid of all this progress nonsense.

This purchase was obviously a huge, and in some instances fatal, mistake. Trump has gotten absolutely nothing positive done for working-class people.

His idiotic border wall flushed billions down the toilet. His tax scam hooked up the 1% while worsening wealth inequality by leaps and bounds. His sabotaging of the Affordable Care Act looks particularly egregious during the Covid era. He had a plan for Space Force but not for the deadly disease that has wiped out the equivalent of the population of Des Moines. His abuse of our environment has set us back decades. Hopefully, we still have time to win the fight against climate change but time is ticking. He hired the worst people possible to lead on education and housing. He hollowed out the State Dept. and ruined our global reputation. Nepotism, cronyism and white supremacist domestic terrorism are on the upswing. Trust in the Fourth Estate is on the downswing. This could be a neverending paragraph but I will stop there.

What’s amazing is that probably at least 80% of Trumpers still have no remorse but do have an unshakable conviction they made the correct choice. Thanks to the toxic conservative echo chamber which has become an impenetrable bubble, a fact- and guilt-free zone. Be as selfish and delusional as you want to be and whenever anybody calls you on it scream “socialism,” “personal responsibility” or, if you are really desperate, “Hunter Biden” in their face. Could even whip out “ANTIFA”, “Tom Hanks is a blood-drinking pedophile” or “tHeY wAnT tO bAn HaMbUrGeRs.” Loudly play the hits and avoid dissent. Might as well use those lungs now while you can, I suppose. If Republicans win again they might be permanently damaged due to this never-ending plague.

Anybody else have a family member back in the day who would drink too much, buy something stupid from a TV infomercial during the wee hours of the morning, and then instead of just admitting it was a piece of shit they should trash they cling to it in cult-like fashion and try to convince the rest of their loved ones that it is the end-all, be-all? Annoyed as hell, you’d be like, “get that god damn ShamWow out of my face.”

It’s so much worse now that Trump is the Home Shopping Channel. The products he sells to gullible customers are racism, xenophobia, sexism, paranoia, conspiracy theories and a complete lack of accountability. And even if we cancel this programming here in 10 days, his customer won’t give up on the product he sold them. They’ve believed in it for years, decades in many cases, and were primed to believe they were correct in their conviction.

Where do we go from here? Unfortunately, I believeTrumpers are a lost cause. The goal should be for progressives, liberals and leftists to improve our framing and messaging to keep current and future voters from succumbing to this hateful confidence scam that benefits the megadonor class. Let’s win big and make hate so passé that white nationalists go into hiding and see their numbers dwindle. But even more importantly than that, good progressive policy sells itself. If everyday folks are satisfied with, say, Medicare for All or universal childcare and believe Washington is looking out for them, they are less likely to turn to madness out of desperation. If normie voters finally see a wealth tax slapped on fortunes over $50 million, maybe the takeaway will no longer be that the game is rigged for the uber-rich.

And, yes — A THOUSAND FREAKIN’ TIMES YES — hate and ignorance will always exist and be radicalizing forces. “Economic anxiety” is not an excuse to explain away toxic behavior that hurts vulnerable communities. Bigotry was a pandemic in this country long, long before coronavirus. But if the product (policy) you are pitching speaks for itself, it makes it easier to get voters on board and harder for grifters to make their pitch. Hey, Dems. Look at how popular progressive policy is in polls, get rid of 90s brain and stop being afraid of your own shadows. We could all also benefit from Democrats no longer obsessing over norms and civility, fighting “the right way,” and finally bringing a gun to the gunfight. As someone recently said (wish I remembered who), “when they go low, we drop a grand piano on them from above.” Republican ruthlessness has worked and further convinced gullible voters they picked the winning side.

TL;DR – Lots of people got tricked by a carnival-barking con man because their hate made them blind, we’re hopefully about to end this chapter, but its effects will be felt for a long time and we need to be bold in figuring out how to prevent history from repeating itself again. Also, for my own personal wellness, I needed to vent.

Music that Has Helped Me Survive the Pandemic

“Blue Skies” – Willie Nelson

A number one hit way back in the day. Willie is a fellow Austinite so I have to show some love.

“Crimson Tide” – Destroyer

Six minutes of perfection. Destroyer might be the most underrated person in all of music. That’s quite the claim, but I’ve felt like that for a minute now.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple

Fiona has long been one of my favorite artists. She never ever ever disappoints. How many artists in any medium or industry can you really say that about? And what a blessing to see her drop a classic album right when the world needed it. The track I jam out to the most is “Cosmonauts.”

WHOLE WORLD” – Earl Sweatshirt

Huge Earl fan. I have my old-school favorite rappers, but he definitely cracks my new-school top five.

“One More Year” – Tame Impala

This one didn’t really stick at first, but post-pandemic, at least for me, it’s very sticky. “We’re on a roller coaster stuck on its loop-de-loop” has a whole new meaning now.

“Boku Wa Chotto” – Haruomi Hosono

Just discovered this song but it is effing wonderful. The Japanese pop singer doing a folk number.

“Easy Rider” – Action Bronson

Now that I’m screenwriting again after almost a decade hiatus, I’m back to a practice I adopted in film school: creating a soundtrack for the movie I envision in my head. This song is unlike any rap song I’ve ever heard and was perfect for the twisted Texas thriller I’ve been working on.

“People, I’ve been sad” – Christine and the Queens

It’s true that I have been sad during coronavirus, but this song makes me happy. Soothing as hell. I have a thing for songs that oscillate between English and French (hello, Arcade Fire).

“Violence” – Grimes

Ugh. I cannot stand Elon Musk but I won’t let that stop me from enjoying strong work from his talented wife.

“You and I” – Caribou

Another one of my favorite artists. This song continues to grow on me (as his stuff tends to do). Sometimes you have to be in the right space or place for music to connect. And this finally did.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5)” – Pink Floyd

As far as songs that are great to write to go, this is near the top of my list.

O Superman” – Laurie Anderson

Words can’t really do this song justice, now can they? Every few years I go through a phase where I play it often.

“Laura” – Bat For Lashes

This ballad is somber but I can’t get enough of it. Was obsessed with it when it came out and lately it’s been a constant in my rotation.

“BEST INTEREST” – Tyler, The Creator

A short bop but a bop nonetheless. Love tracks that leave you wanting more.

“She’s A Rainbow” – The Rolling Stones

This is a pretty Stones tune and right now we need to listen to pretty tunes as much as we can. A sonic antidepressant.

My Favorite 30 Films of the 2010s

My favorite 30 films of the 2010s, off the top of my head in no particular order. Apologies to the movies I loved that didn’t make the list (there are plenty!).

Sorry to Bother You (2018) – Boots Riley is one of a kind. Just a genius film. Reminded me of old stuff I cherish like Brazil, How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Eating Raoul.

The Wailing (2016) – Sad not to get more foreign film on here, but there was no way I was leaving this one off. Seriously might be the best movie of the decade. Up there for sure.

Parasite (2019) – I’ve only seen it twice, but I’m not sure any movie hit me harder. Both overtly and with its symbolism, it is the most scathing critique of wealth inequality of the decade along with…

The Big Short (2015) – How in the hell is a movie about the financial crash so fun and rewatchable, yet informative, without pulling any punches?

Bad Genuis (2017) – A Thai film about a heist over school exams. It’s like Oceans Eleven for kids under pressure to academically excel, but with the intensity of a Christopher Nolan movie. Please hunt this down and watch it.

The Social Network (2010) – This is up there for the best movie of the decade. I know it’s trendy to hate on Aaron Sorkin, and I totally get it, but this is both him and Fincher at the peak of their powers.

Lady Bird (2017) – Greta Gerwig is a national treasure and must be protected.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Only room for one MCU movie on this list, and this gets the nod to rep them all because this movie is kind of the one that turned it up a notch for Marvel. They started allowing filmmakers to put their personality in their flicks.

Ex Machina (2014) – There aren’t a lot of movies that leave my mouth hanging wide open, but this one did that.

Frances Ha (2013) – This was in the midst of when I was traveling to NYC a lot for work, and I instantly fell in love with this movie. Big Noah Baumbach fan.

Whiplash (2014) – You will not find a film with better editing and sound editing. My dear god what an effing rush this film is. Edge of your seat for most of it.

Moonlight (2016) – Really glad this one Best Picture. Such a poignant, illuminating film.

Gone Girl (2014) – Fincher is on his own level, and he and Gillian Flynn turned a bit of a guilty pleasure into a cinematic masterpiece. Ben Affleck is perfect in the Scott Peterson role.

Get Out (2017) – This one changed American cinema forever. Jordan Peele is a god damn genius.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Arguably, both the best superhero and animated movie of the decade. Maybe the best Spidey movie ever. I’ve seen it at least 5-6 times.

Headhunters (2011) – Nordic Noir is an addiction of mine, so since Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out in 2009, this underrated gem of a Norweigan crime thriller gets to rep the genre.

Coco (2017) – When I got done watching this at the theater with my wife and future inlaws, we were all crying. What. A. Movie. Favorite Pixar joint since Wall-E.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – The set pieces alone! I didn’t love the other Wes Anderson films this decade nearly this much, so it was a natural selection.

Green Room (2015) – The perfect intersection of horror and thriller. RIP Anton Yelchin. Patrick Stewart as a villain is a god damn treat.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) – Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant had unstoppable chemistry. Haven’t seen A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood yet, but Marielle Stiles Heller is an impressive storyteller.

The Favourite (2018) – Yorgos Lanthimos was the filmmaker of the decade. Was close to picking The Killing of a Sacred Deer and did pick…

The Lobster (2015) – Don’t think there’s been something quite like this made at this level since Eternal Sunshine.

Inception (2010) – This almost feels like cheating, and it seems some have soured on the film a lot, but my favorite Nolan isn’t the Kubrick Nolan of Dunkirk and Interstellar — it’s when he shows his Spielbergian side and leans into being entertaining.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2012) – The best-acted scene of the decade was Leo ODing on ludes and crawling his ass into a Lambo to drive home. Love how this film pulls you into the appeal of greed and then pulls the rug out from under you Goodfellas style.

The Shape of Water (2017) – Always felt Pan’s Labyrinth should’ve won Best Picture. Anyway, long live Guillermo.

Sing Street (2016) – Who knew New Wave music and a coming-of-age plot where the perfect match? I heart this movie so fucking much, especially since my wife turned me onto it. Sometimes that can make a picture more special.

The Square (2017) – Not even sure how to explain this nutty Swedish movie about the art world, but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and really stuck with me.

 Moneyball (2011) – I love sports, data and underdogs, plus Phillip Seymour Hoffman forever. *sheds a tear*

Blindspotting (2018) – This buddy movie about friendship and gentrification is heartfelt, funny, and one of a kind. Felt like I had to squeeze it onto the list.

Arrival (2016) – My wife’s favorite of the decade (and she has excellent taste). I’m just as partial to his earlier film, Prisoners, but this one is more unique, so it gets the spot.

Why I Became an Ape Advocate

When I was a little boy, two of my favorite things were animals and drawing. At my mom’s house, one of the walls in my bedroom was entirely corkboard. I filled it with my drawings of animals. My grandmother and mom would take us to this little toy store in Ward Parkway Mall in Kansas City where they had these amazingly crafted animal miniatures. Every animal you could think of. Before Sim City or Zoo Tycoon were even thought of, we were building imaginary zoos using these miniatures, cardboard paper, crayons, scissors and old-fashioned ingenuity.

Those days were pure. Which is how I feel about animals — they are pure.

Animals aren’t judgmental bundles of stress like we humans. You don’t see animals hold their breathe like we do. Well, except the ones who need to go underwater. Humans hold our breath because we aren’t in the moment, occupying the space in our heads instead of the space we physically occupy. Animals don’t do that. They aren’t thinking about dinner reservations for Saturday, picking up dry-cleaning or what they need to do to get a promotion. Animals just live! They are out there in nature doing this thing called life without overcomplicating it. That’s partially why they inspire such happiness in us. They bring us back to the present, whether we are playing with our dog or marveling at an eagle soaring overhead.

Again, I’ve always loved animals, but in the hustle and bustle of life (it’s been years since I had a dog), I lost much of my connection to that passion. Until recently.

It was a strange combination of events. A period in my life calling me back to positivity, activism that was more universal and less polarizing than just 24/7 politics. Robin Williams died, and I remembered his beautiful meeting with Koko. She had humanity and a sense of humor! I watched War for the Planet of the Apes at the theaters and was blown away. I read the New York Times investigative report: “Smuggled, Beaten and Drugged: The Illicit Global Ape Trade.” I became reacquainted with the work of Dian Fossey through a National Geographic miniseries. After seeing Gorillas in the Mist at the age of 11 or 12, I’ve always looked up to Fossey. Next, I was reading about Jane Goodall again (excited to see the new doc on her, Jane).

My interest level started as a baby silverback rolling down a jungle mountain. By the time it reached the foot of that mountain, it had become a full-grown gorilla. It was an awakening; with my heart beating its figurative chest, King Kong style, refusing to back down from the challenge.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention journalist Yashar Ali and his elephant advocacy as a social media influencer. That really inspired me. After reconnecting with the world of our primate cousins — chimps, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans, really our closest non-human relatives — I wanted to try to have a similar effect on people advocating for apes via tweets and other means. My girlfriend’s parents also steered me in this direction with advice (they are wise). These animals are bright, playful, emotive and capable. In some ways, they are more humane than us humans. Reading about them being slaughtered and trafficked during this time of rediscovery felt like a call to action.

Now I am trying to take that action. What does that look like? I really don’t know. Right now, I share inspiring and uplifting footage and stories about the great apes, while also amplifying conservation causes aimed at helping these species. I adopted a silverback gorilla named Iyambere from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (pictured above). Not all that pricey for getting to support a 400-pound hulk. I plan on taking Jane Goodall’s Masterclass on Animal Behavior and Activism. I’ve even talked about going to Rwanda or Uganda to see gorillas in their environment. Or helping former US lab chimps find sanctuary here in the States. Lots of possibilities.

Thank you all for following and supporting me on this new-ish journey. If you have any advice on how I can help I would love to hear it.