Increasingly, many Americans are living double lives when it comes to politics, family and friends. I know I am, and to be honest, I’d rather live a double life than the alternative – jettisoning folks whom I like and respect.
You see, I have a bad case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, though I would challenge the idea that this affliction is without reasonable basis in fact or that the word “derangement” describes the person who suffers from the syndrome, as opposed to the person who provokes it.
Nonetheless, I have a long-standing antipathy toward President Trump that dates back to the winter of 2016 when he was careening through the GOP primary debates like a rabid elephant.
Not to blow my own horn, but I did a pretty good job of predicting the future in this column two and a half years ago, in the March 17, 2016 edition of The Athens NEWS:
“What a terrifying prospect for the leader of the free world – a vulgar, bellicose, lying bully who thinks nothing of slandering, threatening and scapegoating his critics and enemies, who interprets the law and Constitution any way he wants, who isn’t likely to listen to anybody, and who is only consistent in his unpredictability. His ego is so massive that he never stops to think before saying anything, and so far, incredibly, that has worked for him.”
Incredible then, a depressing miracle now. My only error was using the adjective “unpredictable.” Trump has turned out to be frighteningly predictable.
Granted, in interacting on social media (for me, it’s mainly Facebook) the echo chamber of anger and anxiety with like-minded friends and “friends” can tune out other points of view.
More and more, otherwise level-headed people – folks who used to tolerate diversity in political opinion among friends, family and acquaintances – are crossing an important line. They’re saying they no longer can communicate, interact, understand or tolerate supporters of Trump and his allies in Congress and the media. (The other side is likely saying the same thing, though they have a crucial disability – they’re backing a bad horse.)
The bridge too far often comes in the form of an apocalyptic post or tweet, announcing that anyone who supports our president can no longer be a social-media friend, and implicitly, any sort of friend. In other words, to hell with them if they support Trump.
I read this post Monday morning in a Facebook thread about the president’s latest Twitter screed at that time (threatening war against Iran):
“I’m starting to see the people who defend him as sick, possibly mentally ill. It’s a weird mass hysteria where 2+2 doesn’t add up to 4. These people are unreachable and don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, anymore. They don’t deserve a seat at the table. At this point they just need to be defeated and marginalized. It’s scary and disheartening to know they live amongst us.”
Remember, the charge that Trump supporters are crazy, stupid and/or evil – widely accepted in anti-Trump circles – applies to 38-45 percent of American registered voters. That’s the range of how many said they support the president in two different polls from earlier this week.
So where does my and others’ aforementioned double lives enter the picture?
Well, it’s funny how life works. Believe it or not, many people experience life outside of social media. They interact with all sorts of people in real time, in real places, and most of the time they have an easy enough time finding topics of conversation apart from politics. Most of us are polite and/or conflict-averse enough to dread having an intense argument with somebody. If both parties are even dimly aware of the other’s different point of view, they're likely as not happy to talk about other things.
In most cases, these people who back the other side are not crazy, stupid or evil, even though I remain totally perplexed as to how they arrive at their choices. In the abstract, my contempt is boundless; in person, not so much.
Recently, my wife and I traveled to a retirement resort south of Knoxville, Tennessee, for my uncle’s 85th birthday celebration. Several other older relatives were also attending, most from the Deep South. We had good reason to assume they were all deeply conservative and very likely Trump supporters.
But we never found out!
Nobody brought up politics except very peripherally all weekend. We talked about family history mainly, along with a variety of other topics, and we left liking and appreciating one another more than when we arrived.
No matter how bad things get with the human disaster in the White House – and I have a hard time imagining it getting any worse (knock on wood) – I won’t let it come between family, friends, and other people whom I admire and respect. I kind of feel like that would be a win for the sorry bastard.