I don’t hate anyone in my real life (versus my political life) except the asshole to which I lost my virginity.
He taught me about gaslighting, and he is probably one of the only people in this world around which I would consistently lose my shit–if I ever allowed his ass around me.
I even skipped my cousin’s last birthday party because I saw on Facebook, in a comment, he planned to come, and I refuse to be closed up in the same room with him. I will do any- and everything I can so I don’t have to speak to him.
He didn’t assault me when we hooked up, but he was a significantly older boy with much more confidence, aggression, emotional dexterity, and sexual experience. He was able to perceive and assess the power differential between us much more quickly and intelligently than I was and exploit it easily and slickly because I was so inexperienced and intimidated by him.
And I hate him for being willing to do that. To ignore all the signs that I wasn’t ready for what was happening or sure I wanted it to happen. To look at my confusion as an advantage of the situation. To be so deeply lacking in empathy or decency.
But I also take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t use my own agency to get out of what I perceived pretty early on as a bad situation.
When I say that this asshole has gaslighted me, I’m not talking about what he did that one afternoon; I’m talking about what he’s done to me ever since that afternoon, every time I have the misfortune of talking to him.
He pretends like I cared for him. Like I invited him into the room and initiated intercourse with him. Like the fact that I didn’t want to be around him in the aftermath is because I am so terribly attracted to him, it makes me afraid and/or embarrassed of myself.
He pretends like we had a relationship. Like I told him that I wanted to be with him. Like I “refuse” to be with him because I am intimidated by his virility and all this other imaginary “good” shit he doesn’t have going for himself.
When he contacts me on Facebook, which he’s done more than a few times, he talks like he knows my desires and understands my preferences and habits. He tells me what I want and what I feel and what I would like to happen between us.
When I tell him to fuck off, he tells me I don’t really mean it. I’m being coy. I need to stop pretending. The reality is, though, of all the wrongheaded shit I’ve done in my entire life–and, mind you, I lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 39 years–having sex with him is what I regret most deeply.
I really do consider him to be the most reprehensible human being I know, namely because he is willing to play such sick games with people’s minds.
In my political or civic life, there is, unfortunately, an equivalent to this asshole, and he is Donald Trump.
(And you might as well resign yourselves–those of you hung up on formality or custom or whatever–because I am not going to call him “President.” Ever.
I’m not going to dignify him because he refuses, much like The Asshole, to acknowledge what he did to the American electorate and deal from a place of accountability.)
Trump is the nation’s bad boyfriend, and he’s gaslighting the shit out of us.
Gaslighting is the deliberate attempt to make a person believe that his or her perceptions of an occurrence are not only incorrect, but that the perceptions are the result of that person’s own mental or emotional instability.
When I say Trump is gaslighting us, I’m not talking about the way he is enacting his electoral agenda. In that area, he’s actually demonstrating some integrity, even though his actions are still damaging as hell.
He said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, and he signed an executive order yesterday that most experts view as the first significant step in rolling it back– have mercy.
The order makes it possible for the Secretary of Health and other officials to interpret ACA regulations as loosely as possible–to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay implementation of any provision or requirement . . . to the maximum extent permitted by law” and ostensibly interfere with the administration of healthcare to 20 million needful Americans.
This is horrible, but it may actually be the only transparent thing he’s done since winning the election last November.
It begs the question why so many people that are dependent on the provisions of the ACA voted for Trump, but that’s a question for those people to ponder. I voted for HRC, and my conscience, in that respect, is clear.
When I say Trump is gaslighting the American people–and he is–don’t doubt it–I’m talking about his responses to two situations in particular–Russia’s interference in his election and yesterday’s Women’s March on Washington.
If we look really closely at the things Trump has said and done to control the way we–the American public–perceive and process both of these occurrences–we will see that he is employing numerous toxic diversion tactics to persuade us there is nothing wrong with the way he conducted his campaign, or has proceeded since his win to ignore the rising concerns of the electorate–and, if there is any “problem,” it is us.
An article on Thought Catalog lists 20 different diversion tactics that sociopaths and psychopaths use to–and I think it’s particularly germane to this post that the writer uses this term–“silence” the rest of us.
“Toxic people . . .” Shahida Arabi writes, “engage in maladaptive behaviors [and] use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility.”
Apropos of Trump, Arabi writes, “[A]busive narcissists use these [diversionary tactics] to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.”
And in the last few weeks, Trump has not only used gaslighting, but projection, blanket statements, nitpicking, moving the goalpost, changing the subject, threats, name-calling, smear campaigning, shaming, and controlling (so a total of 11 out of 20 tactics) to prevent the American public at large from critiquing his words, condemning his actions, and/or opposing his inauguration.
This is not an exaggeration.
The U.S. intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a declassified assessment of the Russian “hacking” of the Presidential election on January 6 that stated “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign” with the goals of “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process, denigrat[ing] Secretary Clinton, and harm[ing] her electability . . .”
The media by and large used the vague term “cyberattack” to reference Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton, but the intelligence report is much more detailed in its explanation of what Russia did:
We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.
We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.
Putin publicly pointed to the Panama Papers disclosure and the Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia, suggesting he sought to use disclosures to discredit the image of the United States and cast it as hypocritical.
Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.
Too, Putin wants–note the shift to the present tense here–to “befriend” America for economic reasons. Of course. Is there anything any of these leaders do that isn’t motivated first and foremost by money? (It’s called imperialism.)
According to a CNBC article on Putin, Russia is a “petrostate”–it makes the bulk of its money from oil and gas exports, so, when oil prices drop, or other countries place sanctions on Russia, its economy suffers terribly.
After taking over part of Ukraine in 2014, and being sanctioned by the US and a number of our Western European allies, Russia’s gross domestic product has dropped over 40 percent, but its massive population hasn’t.
So Putin is seeking to lessen the economic pressure the US is putting on Russia. He wants Trump to lift the old and new sanctions against Russia that were ordered by Obama.
According to former Russian ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, he is also seeking “some sort of get-out-jail free card” that will keep the US and Europe from interfering in Russia’s affairs if and when it makes more aggressive moves against other countries.
The Economist says:
Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters.
And Russia will keep making moves like this because the country’s economic problems have created unrest between the government and the middle classes in Russia’s largest cities.
Economist staff writes, “Mr Putin has sought [also] to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad.”
With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.
This explains why Putin worked to sabotage the Presidential election on two fronts; he wanted to win favor with Trump so Trump will lift the sanctions, and he wanted to make democracy look less attractive to his own dissatisfied citizens.
Yet another reason Putin sabotaged the election, according to experts, is he hopes that by helping Trump win, he has convinced Trump to do business in Russia.
Trump has a history of doing business with Russians. When Trump’s professional failures lost him credibility among US investors back in the 1980s, he traveled to Moscow to gain new investors for his real estate ventures.
Consequently, many of his high-end condo buyers in New York and Florida over the past few decades have been Russians; many Russians have developed their own American properties and paid royalties to put the Trump name on these buildings.
In 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., reportedly told investors in Moscow that Trump had trademarked his name in Russia and planned to build real estate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Sochi, as well as sell more licenses to other Russian developers.
“We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr. apparently said at the time.
It’s not implausible that Putin wants to work with Trump to somehow make good on those old, abandoned promises, and perhaps placate the middle class with new opportunities, since Russia’s current economic landscape is so bleak, and so many Russians are so angry about it.
It’s even more plausible that Trump knows this, right? It’s likely that he knows all of this.
He knows about Russia’s failing economy; he knows about Putin’s fascist military tactics; he knows that Putin wants to do business with him; and he knows the “cyberattacks” on the election helped him to win it.
Yet, what has he said and done in response to these “cyberattacks”?
He called the government effort to get to the bottom of the hacking a “witch hunt.”
He asked, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”
He ignored the fact the White House announced in October that it believed Russia had hacked the DNC and leaked its emails.
He conjectured that “unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”
He tweeted, about the CIA, “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction[,] so why trust them?”
He goaded the intelligence community at large: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
And when he was called to task for saying and doing these things, he accused the media of being “dishonest” and spreading “lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
He blamed the proliferation of computer technology in our everyday lives for the hacking and not Putin and his government: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”
Then, after he attended an intelligence briefing on the hacking, in the last week of December, and his inauguration was sparsely attended and deliberately skipped by many members of Congress, he went to the CIA yesterday–during the Women’s March no less–and told the same people he’d spent weeks attacking: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”
See what I’m saying?
He acted as if he didn’t attack the intelligence community, just like he acted as if the intelligence community had wrongly or unfairly attacked Russia and him.
And there’s all the rest of it, too.
Projection: “The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.”
Blanket statements: “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.”
Nitpicking: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
Changing the subject: “They were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction so why trust them?”
Shaming: “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?”
Love-bombing: “Very, very few people could do the job you people do and I want you to know I am so behind you.”
Trump is trying his hardest to control the way that we perceive him. He is setting up to abuse his office and its power but at the same time conditioning us to think negatively about institutions that could help us to stay truthfully informed of his actions.
He is also conditioning us to question our impulse to question him.
You can see this attempt to exert malignant control in his inaugural address, too.
“Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another,” he said, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth . . . The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.”
“That all changes — starting right here, and right now,” he vowed, “because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.”
In his conclusion, he reiterated that “[we] will never be ignored again.”
“Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams,” he said, “will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.”
Yet, Trump lost the popular vote by 3,000,000.
Yet, there is, again, evidence that the election was fixed, even if to a minimal extent, by the Russian government.
Even his so-called fellow Republicans acknowledge the veracity of the intelligence community investigation into the Russian interference in the election.
Since it occurred last November, hundreds of thousands of Americans have expressed misgivings about Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the ACA, yet he hasn’t addressed our concerns in any real way.
Trump’s inauguration had the smallest attendance of a Presidential inauguration in 12 years, according to estimates. Dozens of entertainers reportedly refused to perform as part of the celebration, and many members of Congress refused to attend. And almost immediately after it, the Women’s March organized in opposition to Trump brought over a million protesters to the main march in DC and “sister” marches all around the US and rest of the world.
To be sure, Reuters confirms that “[t]he demonstrations . . . highlighted strong discontent over Trump’s comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.”
Trump should’ve had a direct response to this, but, instead, he hid somewhere in the White House and sent his Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, to deal with the issue of the protesters before the media cameras.
This was a very deliberate and clear devaluation of their opposition and yet another of those diversionary tactics that malignant narcissists regularly employ.
Spicer held a televised media briefing yesterday evening, but, instead of addressing the protesters’ grievances, he spent his time and energy lashing out at the media for its coverage of the inauguration on Friday.
He acted as if the march wasn’t still happening, and it hadn’t received staunch support from people in France, England, Australia, and South Africa.
“[Friday’s] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”
“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” he also said. “The American people deserve better.”
There it is again. Gaslighting. Lying. Threatening.
Spicer bitched about a reporter that tweeted on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office even though the reporter had already said he was wrong and apologized.
Changing the subject. Nitpicking.
And Spicer talked about Trump’s meeting with the CIA rather, which really came off then like a diversion from the march. He criticized the Democrats in the Senate for “playing politics” and refusing to let Mike Pompeo lead the CIA.
“It’s a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with [Trump} today when he visited,” Spicer said.
Blanket statement. Moving the goal post. Sarcasm.
All of this–destructive conditioning.
I didn’t write anything about the inauguration on the blog on Friday because I needed to get my thoughts together before I wrote something long form. However, I posted quite a few things on my Facebook about the events of the day, and I read dozens of posts about them, too.
Most of my friends on Facebook were upset and just as adamant as I was about letting everyone else know they were upset, but a lot of them were urging the rest of us to just “accept” that Trump won the election and get back to living our lives.
My response to that was “If you put your head in the sand, all they have to do then is bury the rest of you.”
If my research about the Cabinet taught me nothing else, it’s that government affects just about every aspect of your life, right down to how much you pay for your tampons (it’s called the Pink Tax).
If you ignore what the government is doing, it doesn’t stop the government from affecting you. You are still subject to every decision made under its auspices, whether you know the decision has been made or understand the ramifications of the decision.
That said, I think it’s better to know, and I think it’s better to fight whatever inequities get passed down.
Despite himself, Trump is now in control of our government. Many people–myself included–believe he is a sociopath. But, even if he isn’t, he is clannish, delusional, opportunistic, indulgent, unstable, dishonest, and greedy.
He is a danger to the American people and system of government, and I don’t care what the fuck he says.
His verbal behaviors speak much louder than his actual words.
And, sadly, we Americans that do not want him or trust him to lead us cannot shut him out of our lives like I have shut The Asshole out of mine.
We are forced to reckon with him for at least the next four years, or until he gets impeached, whichever one comes first (I’m praying for the impeachment).
But, in the meantime, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent–to be lulled into some “honeymoon” with him that will inevitably blow up in our faces.
Anyone that has ever had an Asshole like mine, or a bad boyfriend, knows the routine. You know how hard these men try to get you to surrender to them.
They keep hammering at you, and, even though you know it’s craziness, you weaken. You start believing the things they say and do to you. You do it to reconcile the dissonance between your rose-colored ideas of human decency and compassion and the black-hearted truth of human nature and intentions.
He must be telling the truth–you say to yourself–because it’s easier to believe that you are wrong than to believe someone could target you for victimization at the most intimate level without you deserving it.
That’s our problem, as I see it: We act like kids when it comes to causal reasoning. We want the things that happen to be neat, clean, and accountable, but they’re more than often not.
Yet, no matter how many times life teaches us this lesson, we never assimilate it because it makes life seem harder and uglier when it’s really the same old life, teaching us the same old lesson.
There are reasons Trump got elected–some we know and some we don’t–and even though it’s scary–the thought that invisible powers put him in office–the reality that he is in office–we can’t cave to the impulse to normalize it.
It won’t make his time in office any easier on us.
Trump is gaslighting us into believing it will, but we need to stay vigilant against his efforts.
He is not the benevolent or capable leader he is pretending to be; he is the same cloddish fuck he’s always been.
We cannot let him destroy our country, if we can help it, and we cannot allow him to be re-elected in 2020. Nor can we gift him another super majority in 2018.
My husband said, rather flippantly, as we watched the Women’s March on MSNBC earlier, “Marching is more fun than voting.”
Yet, I believe voting is ultimately more meaningful because it allows for policy changes.
So we have to vote Trump out when it’s time. Simple as that. We have to stay motivated to do what’s right, even if that means bumping up against all of Trump’s convoluted bullshit on the long way back to the Presidential polls.
We can’t let his destructive conditioning stick. We can’t let him convince us that we are in the wrong for refusing to accept his so-called presidency. We can’t get accustomed to him, fuck around, and forget how bad he is.
In all the years since The Asshole, I am proud to say I have never let him pressure me. I have never changed my story about what happened to make it “prettier” or “sexier” and my decision seem less toxic than it was.
Holding to the truth of that experience has helped me to never replicate it. It has made me smarter, stronger, and more strategic about what I do with my body and with whom I share it.
I think the same principle can hold with Trump’s election.
We can learn the lessons of this experience, and let them make us–Americans, Democrats, liberals, women, whoever, whatever–more strategic when it comes to picking our next President.