Monday, July 31, 2017

Welcome to Transylvania

Transylvania is a real place, even though you might initially think that it is a location invented by Bram Stoker as a setting for his famous novel, Dracula.

It is located in what today is central Romania, and it has a very long history. Prior to its conquest by the Romans in 106 AD, it was the center of power for the kingdom of Dacia.

It’s not entirely clear what inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, but invasion literature was very popular in England during the last years of the 19th century. Dracula was published in 1897, but was actually preceded by at least 3 other vampire novels in the earlier parts of the 19th century. Bram Stoker spent 7 years researching European folklore and tales of vampires, and was heavily influenced by Emily Gerard’s 1885 essay titled ”Transylvania Superstitions”. Although Bran Castle in central Romania is commonly referred to as Dracula’s castle, it bears no resemblance to the fictional one created by Stoker.

The word “trans” suddenly became a hot topic a few days ago, due to the actions of our tweeter-in-chief. Without consulting with his military leaders, Trump issued an edict (by Twitter) that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity”. Although it is difficult to know exactly how many transgender people are serving in the military, studies done by UCLA and the Rand Corporation put the number between 10,000 and 15,000.

Although the majority of Trump’s decisions appear be impulsive, with little regard for facts or consequences, it appears that he may have had a little help on his latest decision. To their credit, our military leaders do not plan to take any action until they are ordered to do so by John Mattis, our Defense Secretary.

In 2015, the National Center for Transgender Equality determined that, compared to the general population, transgender people:

Were 2.3 times more likely to serve in the military –

Were 3 times more likely to have experienced a sexual assault -

Were 3 times more likely to live in a household that had an annual income of less than $10,000 –

Were 4.8 times more likely to experience police harassment –

Were 8.7 times more likely to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives

The “man behind the curtain” on Trump’s recent decision is James Perkins, the head of Family Research Council. Early in his career, he purchased Klansman David Duke’s mailing list for use in a political campaign he was managing, and in 2001, he gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group. Perkins is a graduate of Liberty University, a right wind Christian college that was founded by the late Jerry Falwell. 

Although the Family Research Council describes itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power”, its real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called it an anti-LGBT hate group, putting it in the same category as the Westboro Baptist Church. 

The Family Research Council was founded by James Dobson in 1983. In recent years, the group has also set up a Facebook page called Faith Family America. If you review their page, you will notice that I added some background about its parent organization on April 2, but it was not an April Fools joke.

James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Resrach  Research Council, recently expressed his belief that transgender people using public bathrooms should be killed, completely ignoring the fact that “irregularities” in public bathrooms were the exclusive domain of Republican politicians. 

I’m not opposed to folks who consider themselves to be religious, but I AM opposed to the ones who hold extreme religious views. The same people who STILL believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim also believe that Donald Trump is a Christian. Both of those beliefs, of course, are pure fantasy.

Sadly, the religious extremist part of our population strongly support a man who is clearly mentally ill. In August of 2016, Michelle Bachmann (the queen of crazy) told the Christian Broadcasting Network that God picked Donald Trump to be the Republican Party’s nominee, and the “religious nuts” believed her. 81% of the white evangelicals voted for him.

To further solidity that base, Trump invited 30 religious leaders (including Bachmann) to the White House in early July, where they laid their hands on him as he bowed his head in prayer. He also recently nominated Sam Brownback, the failed governor of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. 

It’s not clear at this point how Trump’s desire to rid the military of transgender people will pan out, but I predict that it will follow the same path as the Muslim bans that he tried to implement earlier, and head straight to court. Since it is illegal in America to discriminate against people due to race, creed, color, national origin, or sexual preference, his edict is also unconstitutional, and likely to be stopped by the courts.

Although Bram Stoker’s novel was a commercial success, the character of Dracula became MUCH more popular after the motion picture industry started making movies about the character. To date, there have been more than 200 movies that have been made that either used him as a villain, or included his name in the title of the film. None of the actors who played in those films, however, will ever be as well known as Bela Lugosi, who starred in the 1931 film version.

If you carefully study a picture of Bela Lugosi, you will notice that he has a very distinctive hairline. If you also study a picture of Anthony Scaramucci, who was recently named as the White House Communication Director, you’ll notice that his hairline is a very close match to the one sported by Bela Lugosi.

Just a coincidence, you say?

Probably, but wouldn’t it be interesting to have Dracula strolling through the White House late at night?

As Donald Trump tossed and turned in his sleep, in preparation for his next 3 a.m. tweet, the sight of Dracula strolling through the halls would likely bring back memories of Ichabod Crane (from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow) rushing away in terror from the flaming pumpkin tossed his way by Brom Bones (the headless horseman).

Perhaps we would never see him again.

Now, wouldn’t that be a damn shame? 

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