On being … incredulous, nervous, and sad

By Ingrid Sapona

There are a few reasons this is a tough topic for me to write about. But, it’s the elephant in the room – the subject that has kept me up at night for some time – so I must write about it. The column is about Donald Trump.

To be honest, one of the main reasons I hesitate to write about Trump is because when I write On being… I try to present coherent arguments and thoughts. But, when the topic of Trump as president comes up, I often end up ranting. On that front, all I can do is promise that I’ll try to be coherent and that I’ll be heavy-handed in my editing.

I know that the fact the Trump candidacy has gotten this far is certainly a surprise to many. But that’s not the incredulity that the title alludes to. What I’m referring to is the way the media has covered his campaign. Going as far back as the Iowa Caucus, the media has turned cartwheels to find neutral ways of describing Trump and his campaign.

Fact: Ted Cruz won the Iowa Caucus. I know, it doesn’t matter at this point. But what does matter is that Trump lost – but no media outlet said that. Instead, they said things like: Trump came in second and Trump suffered a defeat. Now, no one can fault the media for putting it in those terms – they’re correct and true. But it’s equally true that Trump was the loser. Why would they not say that? Perhaps because it sounds unnecessarily mean or hurtful…

I know, I know, back in the early days of the primaries, Trump’s penchant for simple, straightforward words hadn’t quite made their mark. Of course, if Trump were a reporter covering that story and talking about anyone who hadn’t actually won, I’m sure he’d have had no problem calling them a loser.

But, what really bothers me is how many different acronyms the press uses to describe Trumps lying. He gets away with nicknaming Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and referring to Clinton as “Crooked Hilary”, but when discussing his penchant for lying, the press speaks of him as making “false statements”, or that he makes claims that are “not the truth”, “provably false”, and that he “mishandles facts”. Again – all reasonable synonyms – but they are also very benign and easy to gloss over. As Trump knows, nothing drives home to people the truth than simple, short words. So, the bottom line is Trump lies – a lot.

I should say that I’ve noticed that over the past couple weeks or so, the press has finally come around and that various media outlets (the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, for example) have finally begun to label his lies as “lies”. Bravo!

Another thing I’ve found unbelievable is that almost nothing has been said about conflicts of interest between Trump’s business empire and his running of the country. I’ve been wondering about that since the day he entered the race. This issue came up here in Canada years ago when businessman Paul Martin, who owned a huge shipping company, became the federal Finance Minister. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, Martin signed an obligatory blind management agreement under which he handed over autonomous operational control of his companies to the manager. And, when he was running for Prime Minister, he transferred his company outright to his sons. What would Trump do? Would he continue to run his empire from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Why doesn’t anyone at least ask? Doesn’t anyone care?

In mid-September, Newsweek finally ran a long story about the potential conflicts of interest that could arise from a security point-of-view. I was relieved when the article hit the newsstand, as I was SURE that the topic would become the focus of attention and questions. But, the issue has kind of gone nowhere. (Mind you, it’s not because the press can’t wrap its head around the issue of potential conflicts of interest – they certainly seem to think it’s an issue for Clinton and the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a non-profit corporation that carries out humanitarian programs.)

Another thing about the press coverage that has bothered me is the propensity of folks in the US to use game analogies – things like Trump “doubled down”. For heaven sake – that just means he told a bigger lie or he refused to back down off a lie. Again, I understand the writer’s desire to be clever, or to find new ways to describe (crazy) behaviour, but it doesn’t help. The thing about such analogies is they make it acceptable to use other game analogies. Think of the folks who, claiming they’re tired of the current crop of elected officials, say they’re willing to “roll the dice” with Trump. But the election isn’t a game!

So, to my American readers, all I can say is that you should know that much of the rest of the world is nervous – very nervous about the idea of Donald Trump as president. In a post-debate editorial, the Toronto Star put it this way, “If Trump was seeking to run almost any other country, it would be a tragedy just for his own people. But the prospect of Trump in the White House presents a danger not only to Americans but to the entire world.” 

And finally, the other reason I initially hesitated to write about Trump is that the column isn’t meant to be about politics – it’s about behaviour. But here’s the thing – this column isn’t about politics. Regardless of whether Trump wins or loses, I feel sad seeing that his way of behaving – of bullying, belittling, bragging, lying, being nasty, aggressive, hurtful, and hateful seems to have become acceptable in the U.S. That doesn’t bode well for society, I think…

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


On being … unimaginable

By Ingrid Sapona

I sometimes buy on-line vouchers/coupons from Groupon and other such sites. Though many of you probably know what a Groupon is, for those who don’t (like my Mom), here’s a brief explanation. Groupon’s an on-line service where merchants offer special deals on their products or services. To get the deal, you buy the Groupon voucher, which you then redeem with the merchant. WagJag is another voucher/coupon service we have here in Canada and it works the same way.  

I tend to buy Groupon and WagJag vouchers for restaurants I like or that I’m interested in trying, and for things like oil changes and sometimes tickets to shows. I don’t buy many vouchers, but they send out emails to entice you, and I will confess to breezing through the e-mails frequently, to see what’s on offer.

Last week an email from WagJag advertised tickets to see Trevor Noah’s stand-up act. Out of curiosity, I clicked through to the website to find out about the deal. As I was scrolling around, I noticed they were also offering tickets to see comedian Amy Schumer, so I clicked on that first.

A number of things about the deal surprised me. Besides finding it odd that she’s playing a huge sports arena, I was surprised when I saw the price. The tickets ranged from $70 to over $600. (Actually, the highest price was over $950, but that wasn’t for just the show – it included a limo and dinner, though there was no indication that Amy would be at the dinner, which you’d hope at that price!) Oh, and for some reason, though the shows are here in Toronto, all the prices are in US dollars, which means we can add an exchange premium of at least 25%.

Out of curiosity, I then checked the price on Trevor Noah’s show. He’s playing a smaller venue (nicer, I think, for a stand-up act), but tickets to see him aren’t exactly cheap either. They range from US $84 to US $613. Now, I like Trevor Noah quite a lot, but at those prices, I’ll have to settle for enjoying him four nights a week on the Daily Show.

You know, WagJag claims to be “an online deal community where Canadians and their families can find great savings on things they need and love…”. So those ticket prices are supposedly a savings! I guess I had NO idea comedians command such prices. Clearly I’m woefully out-of-touch.

A few days later, another ticket offer caught my eye on WagJag – tickets to Adele in October. I know Adele is hugely popular – so popular, in fact, that she’s playing four nights here. Naturally, I was quite curious to see what her tickets are going for, and so I clicked on the deal.

Well, my first reaction was that there was a misprint. There had to be. There was no way the high price was over $8,800. Thinking I was misreading a comma for a period, I clicked to make the font bigger. To my shock, it really was a comma. Oh – and in case you’re wondering – no dinner or limo included – just the show. In fact, $8,800 isn’t even the all-in price – there’s an additional $1,100 in fees on top of that. Did I mention that all those amounts are in US dollars and they are PER TICKET!

There was also a disclaimer-like notice for each of these offers to let buyers know that the offeror is a “resale marketplace, not the ticket seller”. For what it’s worth, apparently you also get a “200% worry-free guarantee”… I guess that’s the difference between the WagJag tickets on offer and those you buy from a common scalper.

Normally when I hear about something I can’t afford, I may think about it for a couple minutes – maybe dream about buying it when I win the lottery – and then I move on. But not this time. I can’t tell you how many times the past few days I’ve thought about the idea of spending $8,800 for a concert ticket. For the longest time, I just couldn’t get my head around why anyone would pay that kind of money for a concert.

Eventually, however, I figured out what’s really bothering me. It’s not about Adele at all. It’s not even about wondering who has the kind of disposable income that allows them to spend thousands of dollars for two hours of entertainment. What I’ve really been hung up on is that I lack the imagination to think of anything I’d find so entertaining that I’d be willing to spend $8,800 on for two hours.

What would you spend $8,800 on?

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona