Give Trump A Chance
It has been exactly a week since Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and became the 45th President Of The United States.
One week. And what a week it was.
Since he was “elected” president I have been hearing from a lot of people who are upset that their Conservative friends and family (CFAF, for short) are insisting that we just “give him a chance”.
The prevailing logic goes something like this: “Hey, we had to suffer through eight years of your guy, now you have to suffer through ours!”
Like it’s just a big schoolyard game. “We played hopscotch for, like, eight years! It’s time to play dodgeball!”
It is no use trying to convince your CFAF that they were seduced by a multi-billion dollar industry of manufactured falsehoods that played into their confirmation bias and convincing them that the country was sinking into the toilet, when, in fact, by nearly every metric, things were getting better. You’ve been trying for eight years. You won’t win that argument. It’s almost impossible to convince someone else that they are wrong or misguided. The ego is too strong. Our brains are simply not designed that way. Chances are, your CFAF know that they were wrong at some level, but they’re too proud to admit it. Or they’re afraid that they will be ridiculed. Anyway…the point is…it’s a losing battle.
And forget about even bringing up the term “false equivalency”. If they lacked the perspective and critical thinking skills to objectively analyze 20 years of lies about Hillary Clinton, and weigh her candidacy against that of a man who said, in very small words, he would destroy many aspects of our Republic, there’s really nothing you can do now! They aren’t going to change their minds. They’re going to double down on their beliefs. That’s something the brain is really good at.
Maria Konnikova, writing in the New Yorker in 2014, had this to say: “False beliefs, it turns out, have little to do with one’s stated political affiliations and far more to do with self-identity: What kind of person am I, and what kind of person do I want to be? All ideologies are similarly affected.” So, your crazy uncle may not actually believe that climate change is a hoax, but he just doesn’t like the thought of being someone who believes in that stuff. Maybe he’ll go to his grave insisting climate change is a hoax just because it’s too much for him to admit that maybe some of those hippies and liberals were right about something. Remember, our brains are wired to convince us that we’re doing the right thing. It is extremely hard for us to admit being wrong.
Like Kenny Rogers said, “you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away…and know when to run.” And it’s time to walk away. Specifically, to walk away from your need to tell your CFAF that you’re freaking out.
But first, let’s take a look at what’s really going on. When someone tells you to “give him a chance” they are really saying two things:
The first is “stop being different from me”. It’s a simple call for harmony. Most people are terrible at managing conflict. Arguments, disagreements, interpersonal conflict…these things threaten our very sense of safety. It strikes a chord in us at a primal level. The tribe is going to die unless we all get along.
Most people prefer to unite around a shared illusion than be divided by the messy search for truth.
But what they are also saying, at some level, is this:
“I don’t care about your concerns or fears, so I would like you to adopt my perspective, because it makes me feel better.” It’s a shitty thing to feel towards someone, which is why they don’t have the courage to actually say it. It’s painful to realize that your friends and family care more about their pride than your feelings, especially when it’s your father or mother. Most people enter adulthood with the visceral understanding of how little their parents care about their true happiness and well-being (unless they are one of the tiny handful of people raised by genuinely good people) but it’s never fun to be reminded.
So, understand that they are making it clear that they care more about your compliance than your concern. They aren’t even willing to simply say, “hey, I know you’re freaked out. I’m sorry. I have more faith in the future than you do right now, but I’m willing to not only entertain the possibility that my faith is misguided, but am also here for you, and even though we may look at things differently, I am never going to blindly adhere to my political beliefs at the expense of my relationships. And as soon as I smell smoke, as it were, as soon as I get a sense that things are going badly, I will be right there with you shouting ‘fire’, OK?”
You’re not going to get that. You’re going to get “give him a chance”.
They are too busy gloating and enjoying a fleeting sense of power to be bothered with your silly, irrelevant concerns like whether your husband is going to get deported back to England because he’s on an H1-B, or whether you will lose your health care coverage, or whether your disabled child might be denied services at school. And if all that sounds awful, the price of tequila is probably going to go up, so it’ll be harder to drown your sorrows.
All of those are valid fears, because just in one week all of these things became genuine, actual, tangible THINGS that could happen. Not just theoretical things…but official actions taken by the US government. Our government! I don’t have to tell you this, of course. You’re reading the news obsessively, because all of your worst fears are coming true. It seems like things are going to get very bad.
But your wise, patient, thoughtful CFAF don’t think things are going to be as bad as you think. Besides…you shouldn’t be drinking tequila anyway. Remember your New Year’s resolution diet?
They may be right. Or you may be right. Whose to say what tomorrow will bring?
So this is what you should do.
Give him a chance!
Give Trump a chance.
Tell your friends and family, “you’re right. I’ve been sooooo selfish by prioritizing my own fear over your overwhelming need to celebrate the victory of a sociopathic tyrant who now controls our government! So I’m going to do what you say and give him a chance. I’m going to LET HIM LEAD.”
Then they will smile and nod and think to themselves, “See? I knew she would see reason! I’m so glad that she is going to do this, because then it means I won’t have to face the uncomfortable reality that I traded in my humanity for the illusion of temporary safety in a chaotic, terrifying world. Man, that is exhausting!”
“But…” you say.
“There’s always a ‘but’…” they will think, as they roll their eyes and steel themselves for whatever idiotic liberal drivel is about to come out of your mouth. Their shoulders may even droop.
Wait for the droop. Then say something like this…
“I will give him a chance…but…I want YOU to tell me, every single time it happens, when he does something that YOU don’t like. I will keep my mouth shut, and willingly silence my fears and concerns, but in return YOU have to tell me every time he does something you think is wrong, misguided, illegal, un-Constitutional, morally reprehensible, ethically bereft, or just plain mean.”
“But…” they will say.
“No no…these are my conditions.” you will say. “you want me to keep my stupid liberal mouth shut? You want your fucking glorious leader to bask in the light of Heaven and lead us to the promised land? Fine. But now YOU bear the burden of keeping him in check. YOU are the watcher at the gates. I’m not asking you to say you’re wrong. And I promise I won’t yell ‘ha!’ in your face. This isn’t some gotcha game. I know exactly where my boundaries are, and what I am willing to tolerate. I have drawn a line and know when it is crossed. It has been crossed so many times this week I feel like I can’t even see straight, and you’re lucky I am not just screaming all the time, like this…”
So, to be clear…my line has been crossed. What I want to know is this…where is your line and when is it crossed?”
Where is your line, and when is it crossed?
Why would you do this? Why would you ask this?
Because this is when we need to see what people are made of. You’ve got your liberal bubble on Facebook, all your hand-picked friends and websites telling you that the sky is falling.
But your CFAF don’t see things the same way. And, what’s more important here…they are the ones in power now. They aren’t very powerful, in reality, because the truly powerful have zero need to tell you they are powerful, in the same manner that extremely rich people don’t bother trying to show the world they are rich. Like Trump, who is pathologically obsessed with his own popularity, status, and wealth, who talks endlessly about how popular, well-regarded, and wealthy he is, even though he is none of those things, your CFAF will talk endlessly about how confident and assured they are in Trump’s presidency. Even though they probably aren’t.
So, it’s time to call their bluff. Because here’s the thing — if you’re right…if he is a tyrant, if he is a fascist, if he flings our amazing, beautiful country into a hellish tailspin of oppression, greed, and hatred…it won’t matter what you think. It matters what they think. They elected him, even the ones who voted for Gary Johnson. He’s theirs. And if your CFAF are also Republicans, it is their party that are taking these actions. No one is stopping Trump. He is not an emperor. There are considerable mechanisms that exist to restrain executive power, and no one is using them.
It will be their lines, not yours, that need to be crossed before we can do something about it. And they will be complicit in his crimes not until their lines are crossed, but until they do something tangible about it. You don’t need to remind them of this. They know.
So, be the bigger person and do what they ask of you.
“Give him a chance.” And by that, I mean, do not interrupt their bubble with your own doomsday narrative. You won’t change their minds. Ask yourself this…when was the last time they changed yours?
I’m not saying don’t fight. I’m not saying just lay down. You can still obsessively read the news, just don’t annoy your CFAF with your concerns about our economy, public safety, the Constitution, civil rights, equality, climate change. They have made it clear that they don’t share your views on this stuff. You’re better off spending your energy elsewhere.
Keep writing your Congresspeople. Keep marching. Keep donating whatever money you can to all those organizations that are fighting against the rapacious greed of the oil oligarchy that is set to take over our country for the foreseeable future. Complain and collude and organize and don’t give up the fight.
But give your CFAF the benefit of your silence if they ask for it. You can set privacy settings on Facebook to create custom lists that exclude certain people from your posts. I did it for years, actually, because I had family members specifically ask me to keep my “liberal bullshit” off of their Facebook.
Consider the words of 19th century humorist and journalist Josh Billings: “the best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way.”
Make a deal with any member of your CFAF that is willing to accept your silence for the promise of their outrage…if and when that outrage manifests. And then sit back and let them tell you when Trump, or the Republicans cross their line. Let them be the guide by which we judge how bad things are.
You give someone what they want, and they in turn give you what you need.
Because you need to know where these people stand, what they’re willing to tolerate, and how much atrocity they are willing to allow, because knowing these things may become a matter of life and death.