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The Trump Effect

I haven’t been writing about politics much in here, for a while, partly because I know that I have bloggy friends with very different views from mine and I don’t want to make them feel unwelcome, and partly because I need a place to escape from politics. But I realized recently that I’ve been leaving out a big part of why I feel the way I feel every day. I tell you about school, and religion, and dogs, and grief, all of which are huge parts of my life, but I also watch the news every day, and I am deeply affected by what I see and hear there.

grumpy cricket

“I never watch the news.”

My brother once said to me that, of everyone he knows, I am the least tolerant of liars, as if I have a block against it (which makes the whole writing novels thing pretty hysterical!). So watching a president who is this comfortable with lying really gets to me. The fact is, my father was a liar. He lied so well that he wasn’t sure, eventually, what was true and what was false. He lied to me about me. He used the “lie three times and they’ll believe the lie” rule. He made it so that I could tell the truth a hundred times, and no one would believe me, because his lie sounded better.

Having a president who triggers so many memories of my childhood has been difficult for me, separate from all of the actual, real world consequences of having this man as the president of my country. I grew up living in a reality war, where what I saw in front of me was regularly denied, muted, minimized, or altered completely. It’s hard to hold on to the truth when you feel like you’re the only one seeing it and believing it.

 

I know that there are good people who think that this president is worth the trouble, maybe because they see his overall goals as worth the methods he uses to reach them, or because they feel that he is laying bare the underbelly of politics, and showing us the real calculations involved, or maybe it’s all about the Supreme Court. I don’t know.

I appreciate the people on TV who try to make it all more bearable and understandable, explaining each time the norms, that I assumed were laws, are being trampled. But they have their limits too. I get very frustrated when people I usually like think it’s funny to laugh at Eric Trump, and his presumed status as the unloved son. If true, it’s nothing to laugh at, and if it’s not true, it’s cruel to suggest such a thing. Criticize him for what he says and does, not for something that is out of his control. The worst thing, recently, was hidden by the hullabaloo around Sam Bee using the C word about Ivanka Trump. When I watched her show, the night before, I was very angry because she said that Ivanka should dress up in her sexiest outfit, and go to her father, to convince him to change his policies. There have been many signs that Ivanka’s father has sexualized his relationship with her: in modeling photos, in interviews, and in how he touches her in public. I don’t know if there’s more to it than that, but all of that is what HE has done to HER. Implying that she is complicit in his abuse of her, and should actively take advantage of it, is cruel, and, fundamentally, unnecessary. Criticize Ivanka for her own moral lapses, and for excusing so much of her father’s behavior in public venues, but don’t use her possible status as a child sexual abuse victim against her. That’s the line that Sam Bee crossed in my mind. I don’t care about an epithet.

Given all of that, I still watch Sam Bee, and John Oliver, and Trevor Noah, and Steven Colbert. I watch Rachel Maddow regularly, because she lets me breathe for a few minutes every night. She’s a storyteller and a historian, and she’s able to put things in context for me in a way that headlines and screaming panels of experts generally can’t do. Though I wish she would stop telling me to “hold that thought” before commercial breaks, because usually it’s a thought I really don’t want to hold onto.

And then I watch Steven Colbert, and he lets me know that I’m not the only one who sees what I’m seeing and knows what I know, and he goes a step further and makes fun of it, making it just a little bit less overwhelming. I live for those moments. I could have used a Steven Colbert narrating my childhood, summarizing the crazy of each day with sympathy and understanding. It wouldn’t have changed the reality, but it could have made it more bearable.

butterfly front feet on floor copy

Company always makes things more bearable.

I believe that there is great power in holding people responsible for their actions, and making the truth visible, so that we can reckon with it. And humor is a great tool for pointing these truths out, and poking holes in the nonsense, and giving people a release valve for all of the anger and fear and stress that has been created. But, please, make fun of people for the things they do, and the things they can control, or choose not to control; don’t make fun of them for things they can’t change. And really, Trump provides plenty of material to choose from.

Cricket, thank god, has no idea what the people on the TV are saying. As long as she has her safe home and good food, she’s pretty sure everything’s going to be okay. I try hard to believe her.

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“If you hold a stick in your mouth it makes a smile, Mommy. You should try it.”

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

141 responses »

  1. I love trying to figure out how to fix things in the world so politics interests me but I do hate when anyone sinks to personal, crass attacks. It’s intellectually lazy and pathetic. Sadly I think the media has lost a lot of credibility. I consume a lot of news and often see people in the public eye misquoted and made to seem completely different than they are in order to support a certain story being told. So I try to align not with a particular person’s personality but with their policies–understanding that in politics there’s always a certain level of corruption (as there is even in those of us who like to believe we understand and know truth).

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  2. I’ve been thinking about your post since I read it over the weekend, and I can’t thank you enough for bringing attention to the fact that many people who suffered at the hands of dysfunctional adults when they were children are especially traumatized by today’s mean-spirited political climate spearheaded by this administration. I used to work in child welfare and know first-hand how adverse childhood experiences have a negative lifelong impact. I’m especially heartbroken at what is happening with the migrant children today and can only imagine what they are suffering now and what will become of them in the future. The cruelty makes me cry on a regular basis. It’s nice to be part of a community that is (for the most part) united in its compassion.

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  3. I, also, spent my childhood being gaslighted. Your writing helped me get past my knee-jerk reactions and realize that I do not what anyone in a position of power that can do that kind of damage to anyone. Never mind a nation!

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  4. So articulate and thought out. Thanks for your blog!

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  5. Hi Rachel. This comment has nothing to do with this post but I didn’t know where else to put it. Today, I was reading NextdoorNorwalk, a site for people in Norwalk, CT, to seek/give advice, etc. There’s a debate about the benefits of acupuncture and one guy has been adamant about acupuncture being useless. He linked to a blog post he wrote about it and one of the people who “liked” it was you! Small world! Anyway, what I want to know is, do you have experience with acupuncture? I’m at my wits’ end with headaches and was going to try it. Thanks.
    https://foodscienceinstitute.com/2016/08/30/the-new-york-times-endorses-acupuncture/

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  6. Oh Rachel, thank you for writing and posting this. I can relate to just about everything you’ve written and it makes me feel less alone. Someone above commented this was a brave post, I agree! Thank you again, and thanks, too. For sharing Crickett with us. What a sweetie ❤️

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  7. Yes, to all of this. Thank for you writing this!

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  8. Rachel, many thanks. I am in the same boat. The man is on record as lying more than 2/3 of the time. That means for every three things he tweets or says, two of them are false. He is the biggest purveyor of fake news in America and that is a sad thing to say about one’s President.

    But, it goes further in that he makes policies off his lies. He is a terrific salesperson as he oversimplifies problems and sells off fear. But, if we don’t base what we do off facts, then we do not stand a good chance of solving any problems.

    The examples are numerous, but here is an easy one. He correctly reached out to disenfranchised Americans who are feeling left behind. He said immigration and trade are the reasons. Maybe in small part, but the much bigger reasons are CEOs chasing cheaper labor and technology improvements.

    Yet, because of his sales schtick, he has focused on immigration and trade, both of which require thoughtful data driven discussion. Placing tariffs on our allies and then bullying and lying to and about them could not be a worse decision, e.g. And, while both parties have failed to address immigration, it is accretive to the economy and the President has made a smaller problem bigger with his fear and bullying.

    Thanks again, Keith

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  9. Great post. Your description of Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert’s service was spot on. I too get uncomfortable when the jokesters attack family members victimized by Trump.

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  10. I feel for you, Rachel. Even if Trump’s policies aren’t impacting us directly, his character and the stress he creates affects us all. He is extremely triggering. Be sure to turn off the news regularly and take care of yourself. And Vote. 🙂

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  11. Hi Rachel,
    I really appreciate your awareness and honesty.
    The Trump effect make some of us want to put a stick in our mouths like Cricket and look like we’re smiling.
    Very smart dog.
    Great job.

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  12. I spent most of my life going behind my older sister saying, “well, that’s REALLY not the way it happened, ” so I understand some of what you’re saying. I’m old, and I’m old enough to remember when comedians were funny, because they poked fun at everyone, and you didn’t know what their political stance was, and you didn’t care. I don’t think Colbert is funny – I think he’s mean, he’s so full of hatred that he stopped being funny a long time ago. I don’t think it’s okay when people attack an 11 year old child. I’m tired, tired of being told I have to accept certain things or I’m a racist, or worse. I’m just tired.

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    • I’m sorry. I think a lot of people are exhausted by the way things are for now. I hope it gets better soon.

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      • Sadly, I don’t see that happening. When people think it’s okay to mock the President daily and see absolutely no good in anything he does, when people like Mad Maxine incite violence and get applauded for it, I don’t see things getting better soon.

  13. Wearing down the public is their strategy to make it easier for us to overlook the worst evils that they are doing to our great nation.

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  14. Hi Rachel, I so appreciate your post. I, too, have tried to avoid posts about the current political environment characterized by a total disregard for truth and even more damaging disregard for the value of a human life. The news is a source of so much sadness that I have almost given up watching. Steven Colbert and Rachel Maddow are, of course, exceptions. I miss John Daly more than I can believe possible. Pretty refuses to watch any news with me so I have to sneak in my MSNBC tidbits.
    Thank you for speaking truth to power, and ain’t it wonderful we have our fur babies to keep us sane.
    Bless your heart…no, truly.

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  15. I adore Trevor Noah. He has a childlike attributes that I find highly appealing.

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    • He’s on vacation right now, and I really don’t think any of them should take time off until the world improves.

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      • Agreed. Especially when they take a lot of time off already. Example: every time I tune in to Colbert, it’s a rerun. I don’t recall David Letterman taking vacations as often as late night hosts take this day in age.

  16. I started out as a political blogger here but later switched to food. I am glad I did. That is why I don’t have a cute food blog title. I deleted all my political stuff. I have wrote on many political blogs for the last 2 decades. I wish I could write something to make you feel better. Much is going to come to light in the coming months. It is not what appears to be on the surface that is being reported on TV. There is a lot going on behind the curtain. I will leave it at that. You are my internet friend and will keep in touch to lend support. When the time comes I will try to help you my sense out of all this. Give your fur babies a hug from me.

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  17. And after having read this…. Now I KNOW why I feel a connection to you. I just lost my best friend to suicide, having been laid off at 65 with little savings, no family, and a total despair concerning Trump and his lies and the people that follow him sent her over the edge. I am so saddened by what has happened to our country and to see the Hispanics treated like the Jews in Germany gives me pause. I can only hold on to hope that history doesn’t repeat itself!

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  18. I did write 2 articles really exposing Trump and not to many people know what I wrote in my articles, they are called “Trump is the swamp, part 1” and “trump is the swamp, part 2” if you are interested

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  19. Hi Rachel. I too rarely, well actually NEVER comment on politics, I appreciated your post. I find myself terrified as to what our country is going through, and the fact that other countries detest our president is scary. I pray that some good will come from this and we can get straightened out before it’s too late.
    P.S. I love seeing the pups. Hang in there.

    Reply

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