Yep, it’s true. I did. This is the most important thing I learned in this election. It’s going to be a bit painful to admit this to you, but I do have to confess. President Drumpf is my fault.
See, I laughed at him. Assumed he was an idiot. Racist. Xenophobic. Totalitarian. Immoral. Someone who embodies the worst qualities of the classic asshat douchebag rich white male, steeped in patriarchy, motivated by wealth, a fragile ego, and not much else. I assumed he was violent, unhinged, immature, emotionally terrifying, narcissistic, misogynistic — you know all the words. Right?
(All the best words!)
And I assumed his supporters were….well, pretty much the same, for the most part. (Not generally rich though, but lots of the rich ones too.)
So, when John Oliver ridiculed Drumpf, I revelled in it. SNL skits? Loved them.
But hey, he deserved it! Right? I mean
– derogating John McCain, a war hero, because Trump, the winner, likes war heroes who DON’T get captured….
– derogating a family whose son was killed serving the US military because of their cultural background
– grab ’em by the pussy
– climate change is “bullshit”
– not showing up for debates because of Megyn Kelley
– Megyn Kelley, Rosie ODonnell
– Melania’s stolen speech
– the lies, lies, lies, lies and lies. All fact-checked and exposed
– “I’d like to punch him in the face”
– “you have to go after their families”
– ridiculing a disabled person
– banning Muslims, stacking courts to eventually roll back Roe v Wade
– absurd corporate tax cuts
– almost no actual policies
– “knowing more about ISIS” than the Generals and security experts ….”Trust me,” he said.
So I revelled in it. And Hilary’s SLAUGHTER of Trump during the debates, despite his juvenile intimidation tactics, interruptions and utter inability to speak to virtually any issue being ‘debated’ seemed to clinch that Pantsuit Nation was about to happen.
But I forgot about some of the most basic lessons that psychology has to teach us. Namely, 3:
– reasoning is way less important than FEELINGS
– people generally defend their self-concepts, identities and meaning frameworks, with as much energy as they can
– ingroup/outgoup dynamics serve the needs of the self, using social perceptions & identifications to make a person feel good
Simply put, people
A) don’t like to feel badly about themselves
B) reject any reasoning that makes them feel badly about themselves and instead, justify the shit out of their own beliefs
C) use in-group identification & enhancement + out group rejection & derogation, to make sure (A) & (B) are maintained.
So, as the ‘elites’ — the progressives, the highly educated, the celebs, the newspapers, the cultural genius-figures like Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky, etc. — increasingly came out against Trump, disagreeing with his ideas but also emphasizing his seemingly awful and indeed, terrifying nature as a human being, what they/we were doing was building our own WALL, a wall between “us” (the enlightened, smart progressives) and “them” (the bigoted deplorables). And all of the people on the Trump side of that wall — how do you think they reacted to being told they were idiots and assholes?
Well, like anyone else would do, they rallied, circled their wagons, and pointed their guns (their many, many guns….) outwards. Mess with us, we will destroy you. And you think we’re bumpkins and rednecks? Well, we think you’re citiots and libtards. And many of us are suffering, and you, the elites, don’t give a damn.
(I also forgot about another big psychological process — the ‘outgroup homogeneity effect’. Simply put, we see “us” as diverse individuals, but “them?” They’re all the same, “those people”…..Hmmmm….Then again, 2 out of every 5 women voted for Trump. And I assume these women don’t agree that it’s okay to “grab ’em by the pussy.” Clearly, people are nuanced and complex. And it’s dangerous, literally, to forget that, like so many of us did.)
Just look at these two quotes:
Hillary Clinton — To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
Mike Pence fired back — “The truth of the matter is that the men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hard-working Americans, farmers, coal miners, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community, members of every class of this country, who know that we can make America great again.”
And the reaction of many Trump supporters?
So then what did we do? Made more fun, acted more clever, lobbed more verbal-intellectual bombs and hurled more insults.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO HAS A TON OF SWEARING. IF SWEARING OFFENDS YOU, DON’T WATCH IT. There…..now it’s your problem what you do…
And yes, I participated in this. I admit, I loved this video and thought it was hilarious, and deeply poignant. But it’s also hate-filled and derogatory.
So, I’m sorry, Trump-supporters and Hillary-resisters. I’m sorry I succumbed to my own simplistic reasoning, my own Us vs. Them mentality, and my own need to feel superior to those I disagree with. I understand that you are people too, people who care, who want a good world to live in, who have legitimate perspectives, and who should be part of the collective conversation that IS our Society.
Step 1 to recovering from what I surely believe will be a deeply traumatizing and heartbreakingly violent time to come, is to acknowledge the ugliness that comes from ourselves, that contributed to this.
We, the Trump ridiculers, got caught in the trap of hating the haters, Psychologists are very familiar with this trap. Jung called it the Shadow Archetype. We pretty much always reject and derogate the parts of ourselves that we don’t like. But, the problem is, they don’t go away. They just get shoved into the basement of our psyche, and they push back, wanting to bust out and express themselves. Because nobody likes to be ignored and marginalized. Sticking your crazy aunt in the basement and locking the door doesn’t make her any less crazy. And man, when she gets out? Whoa boy, you’re in trouble….And this is what happens when we reject the Shadow. It lashes out, in whatever way it can.
It’s not quite as simple as this, of course. But the ‘deplorables’ backlash, the pushback against the smug, educated ‘we know better’ progressives, definitely put Trump in the White House. The vote difference was very, very small, and a few key Rust Belt states of disgruntled non-elites who feel screwed over, made all the difference. And while Hillary’s Pantsuit Nation meme definitely motivated some people to get out and vote for her, her Deplorables meme motivated many more to get out and vote Trump.
Thus, I apologize to the world for my errors. I succumbed to hating those I perceived to be the haters, to painting Trump supporters with the same brush, to being prejudiced and closed to the people I view as prejudiced and closed, dismissing whatever concerns they might have as irrelevant compared to the horrendous values being promoted by their figurehead.
There is a better way to approach hate, to heal from division and to establish dialogue instead of just lobbing bombs from our trenches. This is something to think deeply about and feel sensitively into. We need Wisdom. Now more than ever.
Now it’s time to stop laughing at the people we disagree with, and instead, start searching our souls for our own intolerance, and understand the fear that underlies it. When we do that, maybe we can start to approach the “other” with compassion and basic respect. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll lower their guns, and be willing to listen to us as well.
And at the same time, we have to work together. We HAVE to get involved, and resist the shit out of whatever destructive policies seem likely to come out of the Trump presidency. Stand up for civil society, for justice and a clean environment and all the rest. Don’t give up.
But let’s unclench our fists.