Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Branching Path"

This poem came out of the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] librarygeek and Shirley Barrette. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroic.

Warning: This poem features an alternate-dimension version of a public figure, so if Real Person Fanfic squicks you, this may not be your thing. Also it doesn't directly mock an unpopular person, so if you're looking for rude political humor, that's in other poems.

"A Branching Path"

Donald's troubled nature
showed early, when he punched
his second-grade music teacher,
giving the man a black eye.

He was young enough to get
more help than punishment, and
the Sankofa Club was suggested
as a route to more tolerance.

Unfortunately that also
got him involved with some
of the rougher boys in Eastbord.

At 13, Donald and a friend
snuck into Manhattan to
buy switchblades.

Donald's parents found out
when he cut himself practicing.

They sent him a military school,
which Donald later recounted as
having assorted practices that
were questionable at best
and abusive at worse.

The tight camaraderie,
however, only encouraged
his already extroverted bent.
The yearbook captioned
his photo Ladies' Man.

From the 1970s onward,
he made free with women,
amidst accusation that not all
of that activity was consensual.

Donald had a fast-and-loose
relationship with the truth in general,
which was well known among his friends.

Once, at a drunken bachelor party,
he claimed to have had his hand broken
by an outraged supervillain, but the groom
insisted it had been a yachting accident
of a particularly embarrassing nature.

The accusation of a Mafia connection
was almost entirely false. That is to say,
Donald made overtures involving the control
of the concrete business in Eastbord, all of
which were promptly and firmly rebuffed, and
unlike his dealings with women, he knew
to take no for an answer. His attempts
at politics fared even worse.

Then there were the businesses.

Donald believed in taking risks and
making mistakes and getting up
to try again, which worked fine
because he was rich enough
to weather the bankruptcies.

There were four of them,
and he still hadn't really learned
that tribal councils were better at
running casinos than he was.

He wasn't exactly the best
at interracial relations, either,
despite his Sankofa years.

He did get counseling after that,
though, which taught him to gauge
his risk-benefit assessments better,
and reminded him that his goal of
being popular would be easy if he
were a bit more compassionate.

So when the Rumpus Tower deal
came together for apartments housing
traumatized children and their families,
Donald recalled a poster he had seen at
the counseling office about the challenges
facing Polish immigrants in Eastbord.

He used his old Sankofa connections
to find a translator and put out ads in
the Polish neighborhoods, then hired
mostly immigrant construction workers.

When he heard some of them talking
about why they had immigrated to America,
he sighed and gave all the employees
applications for the apartments.

Thirteen families qualified.

It didn't really make Donald
any more money, but it did
make him feel helpful.

He still had a shaky grasp
on the truth, and wasn't always
respectful of women or people of color,
but he was getting better over time.

His life had taken a branching path,
and sometimes Donald wondered
how it could have gone differently,
like that poem he'd had to read
about roads in a yellow wood.

He would've liked to be really rich,
instead of only sort of rich, so that
everyone would have to suck up to him
even if they hated him, like they did with
Oliver Tyndall (whose gold-plated wheelchair
Donald secretly envied) over in Britannia.

He would've liked to be more powerful,
like President Latheef of the Maldives,
whom everyone listened to these days
whether they agreed with him or not.

Donald wished for more out of life,
but didn't everyone feel that way? The life
he had might not be perfect, but it was okay.

His therapist insisted "okay" was a good thing.

* * *


Scrunch (Oliver Tyndall) -- He has milky skin, ginger hair, and blue eyes. His body is shriveled and crumpled. He rides in a gold-plated wheelchair with red velvet cushions, customarily pushed by one of his bodyguards. He hates having to propel himself, and wears heavy rings on both hands to advertise the fact that he doesn't have to do the pushing. Unlike many disabled people who seek independence, he expects servants to do everything for him. Two of his bodyguards have superpowers: the fat one has Average (0) Super-Strength and Average (0) Toughness. The thin one has Good (+2) Teleportation. Oliver is a stamp collector, which he calls by its nickname "the hobby of kings." He lives in Britannia.
Scrunch is a ruthless and troublesome supervillain. He enjoys building ever larger amounts of money and power, but of the two, he loves power more. The money he just kind of takes for granted, and he takes conspicuous consumption to whole new levels of creepiness. He enjoys manipulating people and forcing them to do things. He also meddles in politics, directing matters for his own personal aggrandizement. Scrunch just generally makes a bother of himself because he can. Due to his disability, it's difficult to find superheroes willing to deal with him. The task usually falls to Jack Union, who is perfectly willing to hit a man in a wheelchair.
Qualities: Master (+6) Influential, Good (+2) Businessman, Good (+2) Philatelist, Good (+2) Strategist, Good (+2) Thorough
Poor (-2) Arrogant
Powers: Expert (+4) Wealth, Good (+2) Telekinesis
Motivation: Power.

Mamadou Latheef, President of the Maldives -- Elected after recent upheavals, President Latheef won on a progressive platform to stabilize Maldivian culture and ensure the survival of the nation in the face of climate change. He supports green energy, social programs, religious tolerance, and working with foreign interests for mutual benefit. While his people are wary about the religious tolerance, they recognize the urgent need to make allies if they are to survive. Mamadou has wavy black hair, black eyes, and brown skin. He is short, slim, soft-spoken, and overall unimposing. It's easy to underestimate him. He does not even realize that his exceptional way of understanding the future and influencing people are superpowers rather than ordinary skills.
Origin: Mamadou was born with the ability to influence people, which has grown stronger with age and experience. The extrapolative gift grew in later, probably around puberty.
Uniform: Business suit.
Qualities: Master (+6) Politician, Expert (+4) Environmentalist, Expert (+4) Family Man, Expert (+4) Seaside Skills, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Muslim, Good (+2) Tolerant, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Respect from Other Nations
Powers: Average (0) Super-Extrapolation, Average (0) Super-diplomacy
Motivation: Preserve the Republic of the Maldives.

* * *

Alternate Self is a TV trope often employed in alternate history. It explores how changes in historic events, environment, and/or life choices can impact a developing personality.

"Trump’s tendencies toward social ambition and aggressiveness were evident very early in his life, as we will see later. (By his own account, he once punched his second-grade music teacher, giving him a black eye.)"
-- "The Mind of Donald Trump"

Aggression in children can be challenging to treat. Psychosocial interventions are preferred over drugs or punishment. Compared to local-America, Terramagne-America performs much better in this regard, although as you can see from Shiv's case, nowhere is perfect. Here are some ways to reduce aggression in children.

Sankofa Club is a multicultural club, named for an African symbol that means "If you forgot it, go back and get it." Sankofa grew out of the Civil Rights Movement and is a key source of T-America's better race relations. Many schools and community centers have a Sankofa Club, where members can present interesting bits of their own culture and explore those of their friends.

"His decision to send his 13-year-old son off to military school, so as to alloy aggression with discipline, followed Donald’s trip on the subway into Manhattan, with a friend, to purchase switchblades. As Trump tells it decades later, New York Military Academy was “a tough, tough place. There were ex–drill sergeants all over the place.” The instructors “used to beat the shit out of you; those guys were rough.”
-- "The Mind of Donald Trump"

A loss leader may refer to items sold cheaply, or cheap items put in reach so thieves won't steal more expensive ones. It can also refer to minor misbehavior that is overlooked to provide a safety valve, thus reducing major misbehavior. In T-America, knives are considered a loss leader because a knife fight is more survivable than a gun fight, or worse, a cape fight. So you see a lot more people carrying knives, and occasionally getting into trouble with them.

"Donald Trump, on the "popularity poll" page of the 1964 New York Military Academy yearbook. The caption below his photo reads "Ladies' man: Trump."
-- "Young Donald Trump Pictures"

"The breadth of Trump’s controversies is truly yuge, ranging from allegations of mafia ties to unscrupulous business dealings, and from racial discrimination to alleged marital rape. They stretch over more than four decades, from the mid-1970s to the present day. To catalogue the full sweep of allegations would require thousands of words and lump together the trivial with the truly scandalous. Including business deals that have simply failed, without any hint of impropriety, would require thousands more. This is a snapshot of some of the most interesting and largest of those scandals."
-- "Donald Trump Scandals"

"Sexual-Assault Allegations
Where and when: Various, 1970s-2005
Even before the release of a 2005 video in which he boasted about sexually assaulting women—“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” he said, as well as “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything”—there’s a long line of allegations against Trump. Jill Harth says Trump assaulted her in the 1990s. Trump’s ex-wife Ivana Trump once suggested he had raped her, though she has since recanted her story. Former Miss Utah Temple Taggart said he kissed her on the lips inappropriately. But since the release, more women have come forward."
-- "Donald Trump Scandals"

"Mafia Ties
Where and when: New York and Atlantic City, 1970s- ?
Many of the connections seem to be the sorts of interactions with mobsters that were inevitable for a guy in the construction and casino businesses at the time. For example, organized crime controlled the 1980s New York City concrete business, so that anyone building in the city likely brushed up against it."
-- "Donald Trump Scandals"

"Risky decisions have also resulted in four Chapter 11 business bankruptcies involving some of his casinos and resorts."
-- "The Mind of Donald Trump"

"The Four Bankruptcies
Where and when: 1991, 1992, 2004, 2009
The dirt: Four times in his career, Trump’s companies have entered bankruptcy.
• In the late 1980s, after insisting that his major qualification to build a new casino in Atlantic City was that he wouldn’t need to use junk bonds, Trump used junk bonds to build Trump Taj Mahal. He built the casino, but couldn’t keep up with interest payments, so his company declared bankruptcy in 1991. He had to sell his yacht, his airline, and half his ownership in the casino.
• A year later, another of Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Plaza, went bust after losing more than $550 million. Trump gave up his stake but otherwise insulated himself personally from losses, and managed to keep his CEO title, even though he surrendered any salary or role in day-to-day operations. By the time all was said and done, he had some $900 million in personal debt.
• Trump bounced back over the following decade, but by 2004, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts was $1.8 billion in debt. The company filed for bankruptcy and emerged as Trump Entertainment Resorts. Trump himself was the chairman of the new company, but he no longer had a controlling stake in it.
• Five years later, after the real-estate collapse, Trump Entertainment Resorts once again went bankrupt. Trump resigned from the board, but the company retained his name. In 2014, he successfully sued to take his name off the company and its casinos—one of which had already closed, and the other of which was near closing.
-- "Donald Trump Scandals"

Reservation gaming is big business in L-America, and even bigger in T-America. Note that the nature of the bankruptcies remains similar across dimensions but the details vary, such as location of casinos and type of competition.

Counseling can have many benefits. It may help people improve their decision-making skills and compassion.

"The Undocumented Polish Workers
Where and when: New York City, 1980
The dirt: In order to construct his signature Trump Tower, the builder first had to demolish the Bonwit Teller store, an architecturally beloved Art Deco edifice. The work had to be done fast, and so managers hired 200 undocumented Polish workers to tear it down, paying them substandard wages for backbreaking work—$5 per hour, when they were paid at all. The workers didn’t wear hard hats and often slept at the site. When the workers complained about their back pay, they were allegedly threatened with deportation. Trump said he was unaware that illegal immigrants were working at the site."
-- "Donald Trump Scandals"

"Assessing the truthfulness of the 2016 candidates’ campaign statements, PolitiFact recently calculated that only 2 percent of the claims made by Trump are true, 7 percent are mostly true, 15 percent are half true, 15 percent are mostly false, 42 percent are false, and 18 percent are “pants on fire.” Adding up the last three numbers (from mostly false to flagrantly so), Trump scores 75 percent. The corresponding figures for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, respectively, are 66, 32, 31, and 29 percent."
-- "The Mind of Donald Trump"

Public housing and sheltered housing are fraught topics in L-America, usually looked down upon. They are intimately connected with poverty, trauma, and the risk of homelessness. Therefore, trauma-informed housing is an essential foundation to provide residence security to vulnerable people so that they can concentrate on healing. T-America has much more housing in these categories, and it is better quality, so it's not rare to see a big construction project in this field. Notice that it also tends to be integrated into diverse neighborhoods, hence the location of Rumpus Tower.

While some immigrants simply seek a better life, many have survived great trauma. They often have trouble finding jobs, even though businesses benefit from hiring them. There are tips for helping immigrant families to start new lives which account for the trauma. Here are some ideas on how you can help immigrants and resources for employers hiring them.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, politics, reading, weblit, writing
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