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I've spent 4+ years trying to understand Trump supporters. I'm all done now.

Writer's note: I wrote a follow-up to this piece explaining some things I would change about it. You can read it here.

Many Americans had been hoping for an overwhelming Biden landslide win in this election. Not just the clear majority victory that it turned out to be, but a full-on tsunami that would thoroughly wash away the stain of Trumpism from America forever.

That didn't happen. And we really shouldn't be surprised by that.

As in 2016, there's a push in the social discourse to try to understand why 71 million Americans thought Donald Trump was a better choice than Joe BIden. (Cue the thousandth media interview with a rural, small-town American.) But Trumpism isn't that hard to understand. It's multi-faceted and multi-layered, but it's not complicated. In fact, simplicity is one of its key features, which I'll explain in a minute.

I am going to speak frankly and somewhat forcefully about my fellow Americans here, but first I want to be clear about my perspective. I am a political independent who would best be described as "leaning left," though I hate those kinds of labels. I have always voted for both Democrats and Republicans, including on my own state's ballot in this election. The only real passion I have for politics is my disgust with our two-party system, so don't take my words here as toeing some partisan or ideological line.



I also believe there is a distinct disconnect between why Trump supporters think they support him and why they actually do. I've spent four years listening to their reasoning. I've tried to make it make sense. And though entire books can and will be written about this, I've landed on what I see driving Trumpism the most.

Though partisanship certainly plays a role in his number of supporters, the support for Donald Trump isn't about political parties. Yes, there are people who will vote Republican even if they have to hold their nose or sell their soul to do so (same with some Democrats, I would assume). For some people, elections are all about one issue—usually abortion or taxes—so they vote Republican, but Trump hardly represents the traditional party identity.

I mean, let's be real here. Anyone who thinks a serial-adultering, porn star banging, pussy grabbing, charity stealing, student defrauding, non-church-going, faith-mocking, unrepenting man like Trump is a reflection of true conservative values is as delusional as he is. And anyone who thinks that a military-bashing, deficit-building, debt-ballooning grifter is a true Republican is fooling themselves. There's a reason why many lifelong Republicans rejected Trump from the beginning.

Despite appearances, Trumpism isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats. Political parties are merely weapons Trump wields in his battle for personal glory. After all, this is a man who changed his political party four times in less than three decades. He's not now and has never been about party.

No, Trump is about Trump. It's what he's always been about and will always be about. He is a textbook malignant narcissist, always and forever obsessed with what will serve his personal need for power, glory, and adulation.

The question then is, how did Trump get 70+ million voters to believe he's all about America or all about them? He did it the same way every demagogue with authoritarian tendencies throughout history has done it—by keeping the message painfully simple, appealing to people's basest human instincts, lying egregiously and relentlessly, and undermining people's faith in the real-world journalism and fact-checking that keep them from being sucked into his unreality.

Let's start with the messaging. Trump's gist is this: "The government is broken. I'm an outsider, but clearly a powerful one because I have money and fame. I alone can fix what's wrong. The problems are simple and are caused by [insert 'other' group—undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Democrats, long-time public servants, etc.] and the solutions are simple too [build the wall, ban them from the country, vote for me—I'll drain the swamp]. Yay, America!"

No matter how ridiculous that all sounds to many of us, there's a significant portion of the country who relish in such simplicity. We don't want to have to think about complicated problems or work through unclear solutions. Making things black and white, removing all the gray area and nuance and complexity from the issues, feels refreshing to a lot of people. It doesn't matter if it's based on falsehoods instead of facts. Keeping problems simple and making it seem like solutions are cut and dry makes people feel safe.

The problem is, in order to reach that simple, safe world, you have to appeal to people's prejudices and fears. People of every persuasion are easy prey for fear-mongering. Prejudices are common, fear is an easy instinct to manipulate, and Trump is shameless about combining the two. Scary caravans of immigrants. Scary Muslims coming in from scary Muslim countries. Scary gang members moving in next door. Scary poor people coming to live in your suburban neighborhood. Scary rioters. Scary ANTIFA.

I know there's some debate about exactly how racist Trump is, but we don't even have to quantify that. It's very clear that he utilizes and allows for racism when it suits his needs. Same with xenophobia. Same with partisan tribalism. Again, Trump is all about Trump. And pushing people's prejudice buttons, indicating when they should feel fear or enmity and then convincing them he'll keep them safe with his simple solution is a strategy that works.

One of the weirdest things for those of us outside of Trumpland, of course, is that it doesn't matter whether anything he says is true at all. His followers don't seem to care that he lies constantly and egregiously. I've heard some try to brush it off as "Oh, all politicians lie," but no, all politicians don't lie like Trump. Trump doesn't just stretch the truth or mislead by creative wording or omission like most politicians. Trump does the Big Lie thing, where if you say untrue things enough times and with enough conviction, people will believe you, even when what you say is verifiably false.

This part of Trumpism gets tricky, because in order for it to work, you have to also successfully discredit the people who hold politicians accountable and fact check them. Hence the outright dismissal of mainstream media. Hence the constant "Fake News!" drumbeat. Hence today's Twitter rampage against Fox News for actually reporting facts instead of constantly praising him. Hence the proliferation of right-wing news outlets that keep going further and further into conspiracy theory land.

Misinformation is Trump's engine and praise and flattery are Trump's fuel. The more he gets, the more he pushes the simple messaging and fear-mongering that give people the brain chemical releases they crave. (If you think people don't like having their fears triggered, there's an entire horror movie industry that disagrees with you.) And the more he gives people what they want, the more they give him what he wants—big crowds and rabid fandom and heaps and heaps of adulation. And so the cycle goes on, with Trump seeing himself in the thousands of faces in the crowd, which serve as narcissistic mirrors in which he sees his power and glory.

Which he then turns around and claims is all for them. And they believe him because at this point, his reality is their reality and real reality doesn't exist anymore.

Of course, not everyone has full-on fallen into the Trump cult. We can't discount the role that good old-fashioned self-interest plays in some people's decision. There are a whole lot of people who simply don't want to pay taxes, don't care who Trump's policies hurt, and think destroying the dignity of the office of the presidency is a small price to pay for filling their own pocketbook. There are also those who will put up with anything if they think it'll "own the libs."

So yeah. Trump's support is not hard to understand. Between playing on people's loyalties, prejudices and fears, and manipulating people with misinformation, Trump's demagoguery works the way it has always worked in other cultured countries throughout history. Americans are not immune to the psychological pull of a "Dear Leader" type—we're just incredibly lucky that this particular demagogue also happens to be an incompetent fool.

I know that Trump supporters will fall all over themselves trying to claim that I've gotten them all wrong here, but here's what they'll miss. If they genuinely believe that a known conman who has embarrassed the country on the world stage and whose pandemic oversight has caused countless American deaths is a truly a better choice than a man with more than four decades in government and who is personally well-liked on both sides of the aisle, then whatever they believe about either Biden or the Democrats is almost assuredly based on misinformation pushed in Trump's unreality.

At this point, you can't support Trump and be living in the same objective reality as the rest of humanity. You really can't. And if you are living in objective reality and chose him anyway? Sorry, but you've got some soul-searching to do.

There's nothing more to be understood at this point.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Isaiah Garza took a 100-year-old veteran to Disneyland for a day of joy.

Isaiah Garza knows a thing or two about struggle. Having lived in poverty and been in and out of homelessness growing up, the Los Angeles-based designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and public speaker hasn't traveled an easy road, but has always felt compelled to make life better for others and inspire future generations.

Thanks to Rihanna being photographed wearing one of his jewelry designs on the cover of a French magazine, Garza has gotten to fulfill his dream. His successful design business has enabled him to spend a chunk of his money and time making people's days a little brighter and sharing the effects of simple, kind and generous acts on social media.

For example, Garza recently invited a 100-year-old veteran he bumped into to spend a day with him at Disneyland. The man uses a walker, and most people probably wouldn't think to ask a centenarian with mobility challenges if they want to go to a theme park, but the day they had together speaks to the power of reaching out without assumptions about limitations.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.