Step 14: Mock Awards / Psychological Profiles of the World’s Dictators

Margaret Atwood famously said: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Herein lies the power of Step 14 from the blueprint to take down a dictator: mock awards.

As is the case of the psychological profile of many dictators, Trump’s narcissism, while dangerous, is also a point of weakness. The US Government has been conducting psychological profiles of the world’s dictators for 75 years or more, and Trump has been a point of interest for psychologists since before he was elected to the office of President.

Baby in the crib

Getty/AP (Salon)

In 1943, the CIA’s World War II-era predecessor, commissioned Henry A. Murray of the Harvard Psychological Clinic to evaluate Hitler’s personality based on remote observations. In an unsparing 240-page assessment, Murray and his colleagues concluded that Adolph Hitler was an “insecure, impotent, masochistic, and suicidal neurotic narcissist.”

Nikita Khrushchev: “Immoderately sensitive to slights.”

Fidel Castro: “So highly neurotic and unstable a personality as to be quite vulnerable to certain kinds of psychological pressure. The outstanding neurotic elements in his personality are his hunger for power and his need for the recognition and adulation of the masses…”

Joseph Stalin: narcissism and paranoia

Kim Jong-il: a North Korean psychologist who had “advanced psychological research training and intimate and established knowledge of Kim Jong-il (and wished to remain anonymous,  for obvious reasons) believed that the dictator possessed all of the “the big six” personality disorders:

  • Paranoid
  • Antisocial
  • Narcissistic
  • Sadistic
  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal

Saddam Hussein: paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, and sadistic. Like Hitler, the Hussein study revealed probable schizophrenic symptoms as well. (source: “The Scientific American”)

And Trump?

For psychologists, it is almost impossible to talk about Donald Trump without using the word narcissism. Asked to sum up Trump’s personality for an article in Vanity Fair, Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, responded, “Remarkably narcissistic.” George Simon, a clinical psychologist who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, says Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example” of narcissism. “Otherwise I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.” – The Atlantic, June 2016 Issue

Truly “vulnerable,” or more “neurotic” narcissistic types have relatively fragile egos and are both anxious and hypersensitive when it comes to their social image. They tend to be constantly comparing themselves to others and “have something to prove” about themselves. It’s hard for them to experience joy in someone else’s success, especially if they think it makes them look bad or inferior by comparison ( Dr. George Simon).

Which is why Gene Sharp’s research shows that mock awards are ranked #14 on the list of effective nonviolent actions. When dictators are shown to be vulnerable, the resulting effect is a continued weakening of power in the eyes of those who continue to keep them in power. (Yes you, GOP.)

Trump is infamous for mocking his opponents, so “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” put together a list of bogus titles that Trump has given himself over the last few years. “The least racist person you have ever interviewed” is, of course, among them.

Your Turn

I polled friends to see what awards they’d give Trump – find their comments on Instagram, and feel free to add your own.

3.5% Project



Step 13: Deputations / protests, sex strikes

In less than 24 hours after the midterm elections:

  • Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with a man who wrote a 2017 op-ed that said Mueller’s investigation was “going too far.”
  • Trump revoked CNN Reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass for questioning the president’s characterization of a migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 Central American immigrants who are walking through Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S.
  • 13 people are dead after a mass shooting at a bar in California.

I went to bed worried and woke up crying. Today, this feels insurmountable, but we cannot give up. Trump’s actions yesterday were a diversion from the positive gains made during the midterms, and I won’t give him airtime because I want to focus on what we can do to address gun violence in America. This may be the most important post I’ve written about nonviolent action, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share it with people who might work with us to make change.

Step 13: Deputations

Method 13 in the Methods of Nonviolent Action is called “Deputations,” a critical step to making widespread change. Similar to a delegation, a deputation is a group of people organized around a social concern who engage in specific actions to make change.

A brilliant example of this comes from the year 2000, when a group of Christian and Muslim Liberian women joined together to protest against the outbreak of Liberia’s second civil war. In reaction to the conflict, social worker Leymah Gbowee brought the women from her church together to protest the war. Within the first week, 2,500 women staged protests on the lawn of the local fish market. Every day, President Charles Taylor’s motorcade passed the women as they joined hands, sang and danced for peace.

Like the Greek play Lysistrata, the women decided to hold a sex strike, denying their partners intimacy until the war had ended.

Seeing that men were the perpetrators of the violence, the Liberian women felt that if they were to withhold sex, their partners would also pray for peace and support an end to the war.

The women named themselves the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and issued a position statement on the crisis. The women stayed outside the political realm for fear of persecution, stating that their goal was simply that of peace. (Read a brief case study here.)

Over the next two years, the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace group worked with the government to bring about democratic elections. They registered voters and set up polling stations, and on November 23, 2005, the Liberian people elected their country’s first female president, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Immediate Action

It is estimated that between 3,300,000 – 4,600,000 of us participated in the Women’s March, and up to 5 million worldwide.

Imagine what could happen if 1.1 million of us3.5% of the U.S. population – worked together until the gun laws are changed to protect our children and friends from being killed in schools, in places of worship, in places of celebration? What would it take?

There are delegations working to enforce stricter gun control in every state. Support them in whatever way you can. Share, donate, join.

Don’t give up the fight.


3.5% Project




photo credit: Greg MacVean 


The New Faces of Congress (+ a closer look at the numbers)

After five days of textbanking-icing-heating-bedrest, I woke up today and my back pain was gone. POOF! People keep asking me what I did to hurt it in the first place, and maybe it’s all the texts sent from the couch, at the kitchen counter, crunched up in bed. Maybe it’s gone because I can breathe again.

Or maybe it’s this. Yesterday I posted a sample of the return texts I received from registered voters around the country, and I left out the worst stuff because it felt like an assault. After a lifetime of trauma, sugar-coating has been my default survival strategy. I’m working on giving that up.

Out of 12,000 texts:

  • 80+ times I was told “f**k you” or *f**k off” or “go the f**k away” or “shut the f**k up.”
  • 40+ times I was called a b*tch.
  • 20+ times I was called a c***t or a f***ing c**t or a stupid f***ing c***t . (One guy even took the time to record it in a screaming voice memo.)
  • 10+ people called me an assh*le.
  • 4 women sent me Schwarzenegger-like six pack memes with Donald’s head attached. One woman added “I’m voting for this handsome guy.” (I politely reminded her that the GOP-in-Chief isn’t up for reelection for another 2 years, and suggested some Congressional candidates instead.)
  • 3 people called me a “demtard.”
  • 2 people called me an asshat.
  • 1 guy offered to p**s in my mouth and sh*t down my throat “like all you Democrats deserve.”

I am recording it because this is what people say when they don’t have to look you in the eye. Some people say it when they do. This is why people vote the way they do. This why I kept texting.

Last night’s victories are incredible: according to most reports, there will now be more than 100 women in the House in 2019 for the first time in history. In fact, women made up 52% of the overall electorate. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest person ever to be elected to Congress at 29, won easily in NY. Sharice Davids and Lauren Haaland, both Native American women, were elected to Congress. Somali-American Ilhan Omar is the first Muslim woman elected to the House of Representatives – she came to the US twenty years ago as a refugee. My local hero, first-time candidate Katie Muth, won a State Senate seat! Former registered nurse Lauren Underwood is now Congresswoman Underwood.

No, it’s not all good news. Beto.McGrath. Gillum. Heitcamp. Cordray. I swear, after I hit publish on this post I’m going to build an altar for Stacey Abrams, Andy Kim, Antonio Delgado and the other “too close to call” races. To understand more about what it means that Stacey Abrams is requesting a recount, this piece in The Atlantic is a must-read.

Last night, as the crowd in Illinois cheered “Lauren! Lauren! Lauren,” Congresswoman Underwood waved and smiled and said:

“Look at what we have done…you stood up and declared that this community deserves better.”

So how should we feel today? A little while ago George Takei summed it up: “If you’re wondering about how to feel this morning about the election, my friends are reporting that their Trump-voting relatives are unhappy.”




Short game: 1) laugh when you can. 2) feel all the feels.

Long game: get back to work.

3.5% Project






Text banking and kitten rescue

So far today I voted and rescued a lost kitten, so I’m living up to my “irritating liberal” reputation. After text banking about 7,000 people in CA, NJ, AZ and NV, I’ve learned that’s what I am – one of those annoying liberals.

I’ve also come across people who are excited and grateful for the voting information. Some people needed rides to the polls – a state away. One woman responded that this was her brother’s phone and he’s actually been disowned by the family for drinking “endless amounts of beer” and smoking meat all day on his Traeger grill, but she voted and doesn’t drink beer or smoke meat. A woman in NJ asked if I’d report voter fraud after being sent to two different polling places. Some people said they’re not voting. Another guy sees dead people and asked if I could help. A lot of people are sick of getting texts, and the way they let me know told me a lot about where they are. I put a random sample of the responses I’ve received on Instagram.

It’s been pouring all day in Philly and across the country, but voters are still turning up in huge numbers, so I’ve got to get back to text banking before the polls close. Whatever happens tomorrow, you can count on me for somewhat balanced, consistently positive content and another 186 steps from the blueprint to fix this.

The only way is forward.


If you haven’t voted yet, there’s still plenty of time. Find your polling place at or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to talk to a real live human.

Text Banking Party

If you’re around today, join my virtual text-banking party! I planned on doing door-to-door canvassing, but I threw out my back, so this is couch-based activism. NextGen America makes it incredibly easy – I just texted 500 people in PA about where to find their polling place on Tuesday. There’s a script and a one-click solution for people who asked to be removed from the list, and it was a fun and easy way to help to get out the vote!

Join the party here.

My Slack handle is LH, so feel free to say hi.

Text the Vote

Text the Vote reaches unregistered Millennial voters, and in the states below, the deadline is November 6. Contacting people so close to the deadline increases the effectiveness, as data shows most unregistered voters don’t get registered until the last minute.

Maine ◆ Wisconsin ◆ Nebraska ◆ Wyoming ◆ Colorado ◆ Montana ◆ Washington ◆ Vermont ◆ New Hampshire ◆ South Dakota

Who needs us now (Today’s 6-click action)

Three more days, and here’s the latest:

  • The good news: if there’s a strong Democrat turnout on Tuesday, we’ll win the House 238 to 197 and the Senate will be 50/50.
  • The urgent news: in some critical battleground races, Democratic candidates are losing ground – and in some places, are even in danger of losing their incumbency.

We updated this spreadsheet of the “toss-up” races, along with the link to each candidate’s website and a link to donate. In some of these races, the Republican candidate is ahead by a margin of less than 0.5%. Click the images below to send some green their way, or tweet/share your support.

Have you previewed your ballot? makes it easy. You can even print your ballot out and take it to the polls.

Just 6 clicks

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More to know

Delgado has narrow lead over Faso in poll: Margin grows if ‘Blue Wave’ materializes

Time for a change in Maine’s Second District: Jared Golden for Congress

“If #TheResistance Is Going to Mean Anything, It Has to Include Folks Like Amy McGrath”

“Registered nurse Lauren Underwood wants to become the first black woman to represent her district” (watch the video)

Andy Kim Is A South Jersey Boy. The GOP Calls Him ‘Not One Of Us.’

Ballotpedia is an important source for updates on the 2018 Midterms.

#3moredays #vote #bluewave #midterms2018

Step 12: Skywriting / Why young people probably aren’t voting

Before I get to today’s post, a quick reminder that the new course I’m co-facilitating at Corporeal Writing begins on Sunday. I’ve posted my thoughts on how my first online class with Lidia Yuknavitch revolutionized my writing career on Instagram.

Register for Epistemologies.


Step 12: Skywriting and Earthwriting

On Tuesday, The Intelligencer published the article “12 Young People on Why They Probably Won’t Vote,” and it stirred up frustration on social media when I posted it. Some of the reasons given by the 21-29 year olds interviewed were:

  • “I feel like the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for the things I believe in anymore. Why should I vote for a party that doesn’t really do anything for me as a voter?”
  • “I’m trying to register in my hometown of Austin, Texas. It’s such a tedious process to even get registered in Texas, let alone vote as an absentee. There’s no notification service about the status of my voter registration.”
  • “It was easier to get my medical-marijuana card — not a right, or even federally legal — than it was to register to vote.”
  • “I vote when I feel like I have to. But I mostly consider it something that sucks a lot of people’s time and energy away from actually building power with the people around them.”

Don’t blame them – blame us. This country is in desperate need of voter reform. If I could afford to hire a skywriter to fly across the country to tell everyone to vote on November 6, I’d do it. Skywriting is Step 12 in how to destroy a dictatorship, and although it’s a rare art in the U.S. today, it’s still used in nonviolent movements around the world.

For the love of everything, talk to every under 30 eligible voter in your life and encourage them to vote in this election. No vote means a vote FOR this. Click on the “I WILL VOTE” image below to find out where your poll place is, and please share the link – liberally.