Do You Think They’d Let Me Pet Their Unicorns If I Asked?

Many Trump supporters literally voted for a person who exists only in their head.

I first realized that there was something strange going on with Trump and his supporters during the primaries when a seemingly normal man I’m connected to on Facebook shared a Trump ad saying, “this is amazing! Wow. If everyone saw this, Trump would win in a landslide. Finally, someone who gets it.” (Or something like that, I’m working from memory.) So I watched the ad. All it was was Trump making declarative statements like “I’m going to make America great again. I’m going to create so many great jobs. Defeat terrorism. Stop crime. Balance the budget. Etc, etc, etc”. And that was it. Just Trump listing things that would happen if he was elected. No explanation, no context, no nothing.

Normally I have quite a knack for seeing things through other people’s eyes, but I was at a complete loss. What in the world did this guy think he was looking at? Was he under the impression that other politicians were campaigning on making America terrible, handing it over to terrorists, destroying the economy and increasing crime?

My suspicion is that Trump has triggered deep, deep authoritarian programming in people who are susceptible to it. Some of this comes from his strange manner of speech. But my sense is that once this authoritarian programming is triggered, it pretty well puts people into a child-like trusting state of the sort that they experienced as children growing up in an authoritarian setting. (Researchers have found that Trump supporters tend to have strong authoritarian impulses which typically result from growing up with authoritarian parents.)

But whatever is going on here, it’s just bizarre. Maybe the zombie apocalypse is real. Because these people are not in their right minds.

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To All the Good, Decent People Supporting Donald Trump

16143192_1277634628970695_4412907211557642267_nTo all the Trump supporters who feel that the negative, nasty reaction you’re on the receiving end of from the left is unfair, here’s the thing that I don’t think some of y’all understand. There are bad people in this world. Really, really bad people. There are people who are just hateful. There are people who believe terrible things about innocent people merely on the basis of appearance, religion, opinion or whatever and would do those people harm if they could.

Not everyone means the best. Not everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. It’s not a majority of people who are terrible people. Not even close. But it’s not an insignificant number of people either. Those people are dangerous. They can and have destroyed individuals, families, organizations, communities and, when given enough power, entire countries. They do not care if they are an unpopular minority, if they can get their hands on some power, they are going to use it in ways that harm people.

Even if Trump’s not one of those people (and based on the evidence, I find that assertion doubtful), the fact still remains that he – and you – have shown a willingness to play alongside and empower really terrible people. And that’s scary for a lot of us. That’s what we are reacting to. And of course we’re going to fight tooth and nail against anything that further emboldens or empowers such people.

I am 100% confident that most people who voted for Trump are not terrible people and I’m sure it feels uncomfortable and unfair to be receiving so much blowback, especially given the options we had to choose from. But if y’all don’t take some responsibility for the fact that you and Trump have shown a willingness to play alongside and empower really terrible people who do not play by rules and do not have any real regard for the rest of us, you don’t get to be upset that you’re being caught in the crossfire. It’s what happens when you’re a corn snake in a copperhead den.

At this point it really is up to y’all to reach out to bridge the gap. You’re going to have to make the effort to see what things look like to those of us who are scared shitless to have a white nationalist as the president’s closest adviser. To see things from the perspective of those of us who worry about the consequences of decades of pure, raw hatred being directed towards so-called libraturds, feminazis, sjw’s, intellectuals and others who the rest of us know as neighbors and fellow countrymen.

During and after the election, at least a bajillion think pieces were written saying that we need to understand the concerns of Trump supporters, but I have seen zero, zip, nada, nunka, zilch talk of Trump supporters trying to understand the concerns of those of us who believe that Trump is going to destroy our country, take our way of life with it and potentially cost a lot of people their lives in the process. Relationships are a two way street. And from what I can see, the effort to make peace, empathize and understand is running one way and has been for quite some time. I’m done with it. Either the subjects of all those think pieces are going to take some responsibility for mending the divide or we are going to be in conflict. And I’m going to be belligerent about it. And I’m going to be relentless. And so are millions of other people.

If you don’t like the conflict, if it makes you uncomfortable and bewildered, then do something about it. Instead of dismissing people out of hand, denying their concerns and ridiculing them, how about you actually try to understand? Resist the urge to respond with a stock answer, to fall back on “s/he did it first/worst/to” or an attempt to find hypocrisy. Learn to absorb the blow from time to time when something you feel is unfair is said or you don’t like our tone or language rather than melting down and withdrawing – you’re an adult too, you can do that. Give those you disagree with some credit rather than assuming the worst about them. How about you assume that our concerns are genuine and not just attempts to dominate over you?  Maybe assume that there are really valid reasons that things look so different to those who disagree with you instead of writing off as media, ideology and what-not. Instead of just standing on your belief that you are right and those who disagree with you are wrong, how about you make the effort to actually engage in order to understand? We deserve it just as much as you do.

Why Discussion and Reasoning Have Failed

Want to know why communicating with people on the other side has become so difficult? Well, everyone focuses on the outrageous things Rush Limbaugh says, but if you listen to his show, you can see that underneath all the nonsense, what he’s doing is teaching people the dirty tricks of rhetoric and debate. He’s been showing his listeners how to trip people up with manufactured double binds, sentences crafted to allow you to believe something other than what is being communicated, gaslighting, diversion, red flags and other tactics which are used to turn communication into a weapon for dominance.

Which leads us to the core conflict that many people seem to have missed. The issue is that Trump supporters and the radical right are playing a power game, pure and simple. The rest of us are out here talking about issues, right and wrong, what’s best for the country, etc and can’t figure out why things like facts, morality and reality don’t mean anything to these people. Well, that’s because they are concerned with dominance, period, amen, end of story. Their dominance has been threatened by the rest of us and they want it back. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

Obviously, this is a big problem that we’re going to be working to change for a while, but in the meantime I for one am done playing this game where I try to reason with people whose only real concern is maintaining the dominant position. Aren’t you tired of playing the game? What’s going on in the world is not a game. We aren’t moving chess pieces on a board to determine who gets to be dominant. It’s bullshit.

If you’re tired too, just stop playing. Stop explaining every freaking thing you say, answering every objection and taking the bait for every diversionary red flag. Refuse to engage unless they are willing to do in a genuine way and not just with an eye towards domination. Because ultimately, this is how we beat their stupid, pathetic, childish game: you stop playing it with them.