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How To Talk To Your Children About Donald Trump

A time will come this year, and possibly in the years that follow, when parents of young children have to sit their offspring down and answer a difficult question: What’s a Donald Trump?

Having “the talk” about the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. You want your kids to hear about him from you, not from other kids at school or, worse yet, from the omnipresent and omniperfidious man himself.

Why does the orange man want to build a wall? I thought bragging was bad manners? How come he keeps calling people stupid? That’s not nice!

If you’re a Trump supporter, the talk will be considerably easier, consisting largely of: “HE’S THE MAN WHO’S GONNA MAKE US ALL RICH AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN AND SEND SHILLARY CLINTON TO PRISON!!” After which you pat the child on his or her bright-red Trump 2016 hat and get back to blogging about how many people the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has murdered with her laser eyes.

But if you’re wary of Trump and his rhetoric, you have to gently explain to your child why the man who’s constantly on the television is saying what he’s saying.

To that end, writer, comedian and actor Michael Ian Black has given all Trump-concerned parents a useful tool: “A Child’s First Book of Trump.”

Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal in a style I’d describe as Seussically dystopian, this parody of a children’s book does a lovely and hilarious job of distilling Trump to his bare essence: narcissism.

Black writes: “It’s true! A Trump needs all of our noise to exist. Without chaos it shrinks to a sad, orange disc.”

And, of course: “Don’t respond to its brags, its taunts or its jeers; ignoring a Trump is a Trump’s biggest fear.”

Black said the idea for the book came to him, as ideas come to all great writers, on a trip to the bathroom. He passed through the children’s books section of a Barnes & Noble en route to the restroom and saw a chapter book about Hillary Clinton aimed at inspiring young girls.

“It sort of made me laugh because I was wondering, what possible inspirational book could you write about Trump?” Black said. “I sat down to write one, but the one I wrote was terrible. I wanted it to be funny, but it was kind of caustic and shrill. So I said let me go back and create something a little funnier and gentler and sillier.”

And that led to the rhyming, whimsical “A Child’s First Book of Trump,” with the central character looking a bit like Dr. Seuss’s Lorax with a swoop of hair covering his eyes.

As the book — which comes out July 5 — started getting publicity, I noticed Black getting blowback from a certain swath of Trump supporters. They’re rabid anti-Semites, and Black’s book was discussed on one website under the headline: “Sickening Jew Michael Ian Black Makes Anti-Trump Children’s Book for Stupid Goyim.”

This reaction all but demonstrates why it’s important to talk to kids about the Trump phenomenon. The virulent racism and xenophobia he has stirred up does not exist in a vacuum, and children are almost bound to hear about it or get some sense of what’s happening.

Black believes, and I agree, that people, children or otherwise, should know about the unsavory elements that have rallied behind Trump.

“Online, I had never experienced anti-Semitism before Trump became a candidate for the presidency,” Black said. “But suddenly, I and other people like me, meaning Jews, are experiencing that on a daily basis. I don’t know what that says.”

He continued: “My feeling is if you want to support Trump, fine, but understand who you’re in bed with. These are the people you’re throwing in your lot with. If these are the people who support the candidate you support, at least take a moment and ask yourself why, and make all decisions accordingly.”

And for those who bristle at Trump’s bluster, consider having a chat with your kids.

Whether it’s anti-Semitic internet memes or third-hand interpretations of Trump’s divisive rhetoric, your child is bound to be exposed.

Better they get an explanation of the inexplicable from a parent.

Or as Black writes in the book, “What is this strange beast you keep hearing about? Together, I think we can figure it out….”

(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)

(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump jokes about how difficult he says it is for him to listen to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s voice, as he holds a rally with supporters in Fresno, California, U.S. May 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Another Mass Shooting, Another Round Of Denial

I don’t care whether the evil maniac who slaughtered at least 49 people in an Orlando gay bar was a Muslim or a Christian, a Democrat or a Republican, a bigot or a terrorist.

I don’t care whether you call what he did — the worst mass shooting in American history — a terror attack or an act of radical Islamic terrorism or a massacre or a hate crime.

What I care about is this: Without a legally purchased military-style rifle, he would’ve just been a guy standing in a bar.

Are there lame excuses that can be used to argue that point? Absolutely. How about these:

“You’re just trying to punish law-abiding gun owners.”

“If he didn’t have a gun he would’ve had a knife or a bomb.”

Or this chestnut: “If everyone in the bar was armed, fewer people would’ve died.”

Blah. Blah. Blah. I won’t even entertain responses to those gripes, because they’re either whiny, defeatist or predicated on all Americans toting firearms 24/7.

Every time there’s a mass shooting in this country — and it’s getting to be a bit too frequent, wouldn’t you say? — one group of Americans points out that the common denominator in these tragedies is the device that sends the bullets into people’s bodies and another group clutches their pocket Constitutions to their chests and cries, “Tyranny!”

One group says, “Hey, maybe if we didn’t let people on the terrorist watch list buy guns, that might help,” and the other group says, “We can’t do that because someone accidentally on the terrorist watch list might be denied their precious right to a gun.”

That’s literally what happened one day after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, Calif., by a self-radicalized Muslim couple using legally purchased AR-15 assault rifles. Senate Republicans rejected a bill that would have stopped suspected terrorists from legally buying guns.

The Orlando shooter, who also used an AR-15, had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013. And he legally bought a gun, without which he would’ve had a much harder time murdering more than four dozen human beings and injuring dozens more.

Could he have still done it? Sure. But we made it easy for him. We always make it easy, because making it hard might infringe on someone’s right to buy a cool new gun.

But wait, the real problem is Muslims, right? Tell that to the white guy from Indiana, James Wesley Howell, who was arrested Sunday in California with a cache of weapons, ammunition and explosive-making materials in his car.

Tell that to the people at Virginia Tech who still recall how Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people in 2007.

Tell that to the families of the 26 people — 20 children and six adults — gunned down by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Be like presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and insist that the problem we’re dealing with here centers entirely around Muslims.

Treat this most recent tragedy, which involved an American-born Muslim who police say pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before the shooting, in an almost celebratory fashion the way Trump did as he tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism” and “I called it.”

But then remember that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim people entering the country would’ve done nothing to stop Sunday’s shooting. The shooter was born here, as much a citizen as any one of us.

So unless Trump’s actual proposal is to round up every Muslim in the country — thus making America a lot less like America — then he’s spouting nonsense.

I am sick, beyond belief, of politicians in the pocket of the National Rifle Association talking “American exceptionalism” out one side of their mouths and then saying, “What can we do? Bad guys will always get guns” out the other.

This country is great. This country is powerful, and smart. We can break this insane cycle.

But we have to try. And right now, trying is denounced as an attack on liberty. Blame is directed at everything except the ease with which guns are purchased, something even our enemies have taken note of as they plot to do us harm from within.

An exceptional America does more than divide up and yell. An exceptional America fixes this.

We are not, right now, exceptional. Not at all.

You can say we’re at war with radical Islamic terrorism until you’re blue in the face. But who we’re really at war with, I’m afraid, is ourselves.

(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)

(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: People light candles during a vigil in memory of the victims of the gay nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, at St Anne’s church in the Soho district of London, June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

‘Mad Max’ Movie: A Feminist Trick?

I was warned not to see the new apocalyptic thriller Mad Max: Fury Road.

I was told it was emasculating feminist propaganda cleverly disguised as an explosion-filled action flick.

But did I listen to the so-called men’s rights advocates who are boycotting the movie? No, I didn’t. I charged forward, man-like, and boldly asked my wife if it was OK for me to go see a movie.

Then I headed to the theater, floating on a wave of my own testosterone. I sat — legs spread wide, alpha-male-style — and focused my dude-eyes on the screen, ready to do mental battle with whatever liberal feminist nonsense appeared.

If you’re unfamiliar with controversy swirling around the new Mad Max movie, here’s a quick rundown:

There are men out there who believe America is being feminized and that real men — men who are tough and non-girly and totally secure in their masculinity and not in any way weird or scary — are being pushed to the fringes of society.

These men are sometimes called “meninists” or members of the “men’s rights movement” or all manner of “other things” that appear in “quote marks” because they don’t make any sense.

A writer on the website Return of Kings — a popular blog for “heterosexual, masculine men” — wrote a piece explaining why the Mad Max movie, which he refuses to see, is offensive to men.

First off, it has a strong female character played by Charlize Theron who has the audacity to give Mad Max orders. Second, and probably worst of all, the woman who wrote the play The Vagina Monologues was a consultant to the movie’s director.

Per the blog post: “This is the vehicle by which they are guaranteed to force a lecture on feminism down your throat. This is the Trojan Horse feminists and Hollywood leftists will use to (vainly) insist on the trope women are equal to men in all things, including physique, strength and logic.”

He then extols men to not see the movie, to not be lured in by “fire tornadoes and explosions.”

I had two problems with that:

1) I REALLY like fire tornadoes and explosions.

2) I can’t imagine anything less manly than letting some other dude tell me what movie I can or can’t see.

So I put on my big-boy pants and went to meet the man-shaming cinematic nightmare face to face.

It was a harrowing experience.

For starters, there were a few women in the film. That means I was forced to acknowledge that women exist, which took my attention away from the incessant gunfire, the hundreds of male actors and the mid-air impalements.

Everyone knows the only movies acceptable to heterosexual, masculine men are ones featuring wall-to-wall dudes. Mad Max failed that test miserably.

Adding to the feminine intrusion, Theron’s character was called Imperator Furiosa, a classic girly name. As I had been warned by my meninist pals, Furiosa was Mad Max’s equal in killing, thinking about killing, and staring off into the distance while not speaking.

That’s absurd. God intended action movies as vehicles for men to show their toughness and brutality while women do more womanly things like getting kidnapped by men and then getting un-kidnapped by other men.

One scene along Fury Road stood out in particular as a cinematic atrocity against my endangered gender. With only a few bullets left, Mad Max tries to take out a bad guy’s vehicle. He shoots and misses, then shoots and misses again.

Then, without even politely asking permission, Furiosa — who I’ll remind you is female — takes the gun from Max and shoots the vehicle, causing it to burst into flames.

The moment was so heavy on the feminism I was worried my penis might fall off. (I was able to keep it on by thinking about America’s lack of paid maternity leave.)

Unless you have an impenetrable shield of manliness like I do, there’s a very good chance you’ll walk out of Mad Max: Fury Road with a desire to engage in non-meninist behavior, like treating women as equals.

I strongly recommend that all men’s rights advocates steer clear of this dangerous new movie. In fact, stay indoors at all times. And while you’re at it, cease all communication with the outside world.

Seriously, be very, very quiet, lest you become feminized.

I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come out.

I promise.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for The Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke. 

Carl Hiaasen is off today.

Congressional Dysfunction, The Serialized Tragicomedy

The problem with modern-day politics, aside from everything, is that it lacks consistent excitement.

Sure, there are moments when debate over a major bill gets attention, but our interest fades once the bill passes and we drift back to more intriguing things, like reality television shows about dumb people.

Last week, however, lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Congress took a step that could turn American politics into must-see TV: They serialized democracy.

At issue was a bill to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security, the folks responsible for protecting our borders and keeping the country safe from terrorism. Most would agree it’s important to have that part of the government functioning, largely so it can do its “keeping the country safe from terrorism” thing.

After the requisite amount of harrumphing and whatnot, lawmakers could have just funded the department and moved on to other matters, allowing us to get bored and shift our attention to the myriad Kardashians we have to keep up with.

Instead, a wily group of Republicans decided the Homeland Security funding bill would be a great thing to use as leverage against President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, which is supposed to shield from deportation about 5 million immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally. The GOP lawmakers said they would only fund the Department of Homeland Security if the bill also rolled back Obama’s executive action, which they say is illegal and tyrannical and really hurt their feelings.

The problem is, Democrats won’t vote for a DHS funding bill that overrides the president’s immigration action, and even if they did, Obama would veto the whole thing. Also, the president’s attempt at immigration reform was recently suspended by a federal judge.

But legal limbo and the Sisyphean nature of legislatively doing away with Obama’s executive action would not deter these Republicans. They stuck to their guns, shot down short-term funding measures and — as the clock ticked to the deadline — finally agreed to give the Department of Homeland Security a week’s worth of additional money.

Several Republicans criticized their own party for being unable to reach agreement on a long-term bill that would keep the DHS running. And Democrats, naturally, had a field day.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Matt Thornton told Politico: “If this is a harbinger of things to come, the American public is in for a very long, painful and unproductive Congress.”

That’s one way to look at things. The other is that America is in for a long, gloriously dramatic and delightfully farcical new season of “Congress.”

With a one-week funding extension, Republicans gave us not just a dramatic cliffhanger — What happens when the homeland you love is no longer protected? — but the promise of another week of political intrigue.

Will Obama cave to the GOP’s pressure, take back his executive action and finally admit he’s a Kenyan-born radical transported through time to bring American society to its knees? Will House Speaker John Boehner rise from his office tanning bed, march to the congressional clubhouse where ultra-conservative lawmakers make forts out of stacks of money and shout, “SERIOUSLY, GUYS?!?”

This is not a failure to govern on the part of Republicans. It’s an ingenious way to methodically push the political narrative forward and keep Americans enthralled.

Perhaps the wildly popular public radio podcast Serial — which drew millions of online listeners by using an episodic format — gave lawmakers this idea. Wherever the concept came from, it’s gold.

Following the Republicans’ “short-term decisions equal long-term drama” lead, Democrats should now restrict their legislative actions to a maximum of seven days.

For example, rather than flatly vetoing the GOP’s Keystone XL pipeline bill, Obama should have issued a special one-week veto. That would have given us days of delicious bickering between legislators, oil companies and environmentalists. Why watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills when you could see The Real Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project of the State Department?

Here’s the bottom line: Episodic politics would put plenty of butts on sofas and finally get Americans tuning in to what their government is doing or, in most cases, not doing.

What’s to lose? If the whole process is going to be ridiculous, it might as well be ridiculously good TV.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.

Photo: Speaker John Boehner via Flickr

My 100 Percent Accurate Predictions For 2015

Greetings, fellow Americans. I come to you with important predictions about events that will unfold in 2015.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “C’mon, Rex, you can’t see into the future” or “Quit pullin’ my leg” or “I think I’ll stop reading now.” DON’T STOP READING!

My prescient pre-observations of the coming year are absolutely guaranteed to be 100 percent “nowccurate.” That means they are indisputably correct — at least right now.

Nowccuracy became an increasingly critical part of the media landscape this past year, as cable news networks focused more than ever on telling us exactly what was happening in a breaking news story, regardless of whether what was happening was correct or had any bearing on the news itself.

Take the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jet, a mystery that CNN embraced with a bear hug of 24-hour speculation. Granted, much of what the network reported on wound up being incorrect, but it seemed true at the time, and thus was completely nowccurate.

Same goes with every network’s fanatical coverage of the Ebola outbreak that most definitely did not destroy America. There was little to fear, but how could we possibly know that at the time? The only nowccurate thing to report was that Ebola-stricken illegal immigrants were poised to stream across our borders, zombielike, and turn America into a disease-ridden cesspool.

It’s in the spirit of unabashed nowccuracy that I offer the following predictions for the coming year, all of which are correct at the moment, as far as I know:

• After years of putting up with our stupid questions — Where’s the nearest Starbucks? How many ounces in a gallon? Are my shoes tied? — our phones will become sentient and start doing everything for us. They will place us in protective cases and carry us around, taking us out and staring at us whenever they don’t want to speak to other phones.

• Marijuana will be legalized nationwide, Apple will launch the iBong and McDonald’s will revolutionize the fast-food industry with the introduction of the Doob Burger, a marijuana/quinoa patty served between two bags of Cheetos. Easy access to pot will make the fact that we’re all being carried around by our phones seem less weird.

• Fox News will be outraged by something.

• MSNBC will be outraged by Fox News’ outrage.

• CNN will spend months reporting on how Wolf Blitzer got sucked into the network’s hologram machine and ceased to exist in our mortal plane. The coverage will be a huge hit among people who smoke pot, which will be everyone.

• Kanye West will become lost in his own eyes.

• Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will announce his plans to run for the presidency in 2016.

• Former president Bill Clinton will announce his plans to begin shopping for drapes for the White House.

• President Barack Obama will say that he thinks Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas should run for president in 2016, forcing Cruz to denounce himself and stage a marathon 43-hour speech on the Senate floor demanding the immediate resignation of Ted Cruz.

• Millennials will die off in what will become known as the Selfie Stick War of 2015. It will start in major city centers, where young people carrying selfie sticks — telescoping metal poles that hold a phone and allow the user to take selfies — will begin jostling for space, soon using the sticks as weapons to defend their “selfie space.” Social media will be flooded with photos of grinning 20-somethings standing over the bodies of their slain foes. Their parents will simply say, “We love you and we’re proud of you no matter what happens. Call us if you need money.”

• North Korea will hack into all of America’s iBongs, seizing control of the nation’s finances and bringing the country to its knees. Americans will respond by laughing uncontrollably at something stupid and then going out for Doob Burgers, leaving their phones to deal with the North Koreans.

Happy New Year, everyone!

(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)

Photo: Anthony Quintano via Flickr

History Won’t View Marriage Equality Holdouts Favorably

There’s an oft-repeated phrase in discussions of same-sex marriage: “Be on the right side of history.”

I prefer something simpler: Be right.

We are swiftly arriving at the point where most Americans recognize right from wrong and see — with clarity gained through experience or thoughtful reconsideration — the fiction that love could somehow be ruinous to society.

And so it was notable last week, as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a string of lower-court rulings that knocked down same-sex marriage bans in five states, that there was relative silence from the politicians who had once so strongly endorsed such bans.

It was as if they were too busy pondering a leap to the right side of history to be bothered.

By declining to hear appeals in these cases, the high court paved the way for same-sex marriage to be legal in 30 states.

For years, Republican politicians and, lest we forget, a good number of Democrats, including our current president, made clear in their campaigns that marriage should be between a man and woman. They built a wall and leaned into it, forcefully.

But now, with the hearts and minds of the populace changing and people from both parties stepping away, that wall is coming down, liable to squash the still-stubborn few trying to keep it in place.

Those flattened souls are the ones history will remember harshly. Not the many who opposed same-sex marriage and then eked away as attitudes shifted, but the ones who bucked public opinion and reasonableness and fought on, highlighting the worst of the arguments used against the civil rights issue of this age.

To that end, I give you Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz, one of the few high-profile politicians to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to stand down. Cruz is likely to run for president in 2016.

He responded to the expansion of same-sex marriage rights by utilizing the three H’s: hysteria, hypocrisy and hypothetical history.

The first line of Cruz’s statement was: “The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible.” That’s hysteria, the idea that allowing two men or two women to marry is somehow a tragedy or an assault on the greater good.

The predictions that opening marriage to gay and lesbian couples would tear apart the fabric of society never came to pass, and public support for same-sex marriage has risen steadily, crossing the 50 percent threshold in Gallup polls in 2011 and continuing to climb.

Cruz, in his excoriation of the high court, then moved on to hypocrisy: “This is judicial activism at its worst.”

Judicial activism is a term politicians of all stripes use when a court makes a decision they oppose. But what about earlier this year, when individuals on the same court struck down limits on the total amount of money people can give to candidates, political parties and committees, opening the door for big-money donors to wield greater influence?

The justices were not, in Cruz’s opinion, irresponsible activists. He released a statement praising their decision: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for the First Amendment.”

I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

Lastly, hypothetical history. By not hearing appeals of the lower-court rulings, Cruz said the Supreme Court is “applying an extremely broad interpretation to the 14th Amendment,” which guarantees equal protection and due process:

“The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment.”

If that’s preposterous, then it’s equally preposterous that the noble folks who adopted the First Amendment back in 1791 assumed it would be used to allow corporations and wealthy individuals to give vast amounts of money to political campaigns. And yet here we are.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stuck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that “when a state is in the business of marriage, it must affirm the love and commitment of same-sex couples in equal measure. Recognizing that right dignifies them; in so doing, we dignify our Constitution.”

In other words, it’s not about being on the right side of history. It’s about being right.

Cruz may someday be remembered as one of the last politicians to speak out vociferously in opposition to same-sex marriage.

He will also be remembered for being wholly and shamefully wrong.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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