Last year, a lot of people told me there was Trump Derangement Syndrome in evidence at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was right after the presidential election.
If what I’m hearing from people lately is any indication, this year will be little different.
Here’s some advice on how to deal with political differences, especially if you’re a Trump supporter or find yourself feeling on the defensive at Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings.
Obviously, you have a choice. You don’t have to discuss any topic you choose not to discuss. Some opponents of Trump (I call them “Old School” or Nice Democrats) follow this rule, but people afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome cannot stand being quiet. They have to bring up politics, and their goal will be to put you on the defensive for being a Trump supporter.
So if you find yourself unable or unwilling to resist the topic altogether once it’s imposed on you, consider a few pointers.
# 1: Invite the arguer to talk about policies and ideas rather than personalities. I sometimes say, for example, “I don’t want to fight about President Trump. I am willing to talk about what the role of government ought to be. What should government be doing or not doing to its citizens interests me more than any particular candidate or person currently holding office. Are you interested in discussing that?”
It actually saddens me how quickly this shuts people up. I really don’t want to shut them up. But most people are not interested in ideas or policies such as liberty, limited government and individual rights, or even socialism or Communism. They just want to attack.
If the person begins to go off with hostilities about Donald Trump, just withdraw from the conversation. They’ve already given you their answer. They want to fight about Trump, and you don’t. So don’t.
# 2: Don’t take the bait of shaming and blaming. Hostile people — and a lot of anti-Trump people are like this, I notice — love to blame and shame dissenters. It’s a psychological tactic designed to get you into an immediate position of submission. “How in the world could you support someone like Donald Trump? What is wrong with you? He’s insane.” You’re immediately put in the position of having to defend insanity which is, quite obviously, insane. Don’t fall for it.
Instead, revert to suggestion # 1. Or simply say, “I don’t agree. What’s the evidence you have that Donald Trump is insane? And how do you define insanity?” Now there’s a show-stopper.
The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. That’s not exactly Donald Trump’s tack. It’s the fact he’s so different from previous presidents and politicians that lead some to consider him insane. He tweets, he speaks his mind, he actually tries to honor most of his campaign promises … wow, that is crazy, isn’t it!?
In psychiatry, the definition of mental health is the presence of hallucinations or self-evident, illogical or physically impossible delusions. I’d ask for the evidence that Donald Trump is schizophrenic or bipolar, and let the angry, irate person have the burden of proof.
# 3: Ask questions. If you’d rather not discuss a contentious topic, then simply ask questions. Remember that listening does not imply agreement. Listening just means listening.
You might learn something. No, you won’t be persuaded to change any of your views or attitudes, most likley. But you will get a better understanding of what causes people to be so angry and hostile.
What I’ve learned from this technique is that a lot of people have difficulty feeling comfortable with the idea that others disagree with them on abstract matters of government, culture or politics. They take it as a personal attack, and it arouses huge levels of anxiety within them. In some people, this anxiety manifests as rage and hostility.
Letting them vent will make them feel like they’re being heard. It also gives you a chance to identify their contradictions and possibly challenge them on one or two of them.
# 4: Ask for sources other than media. For example, “What did you think of President Trump’s speech on such-and-such”? What you will probably hear is, “I didn’t watch it. The man’s a hateful fascist and racist. Why would I watch a fascist and racist?”
The only logical reply is, “But how do you know what opinions to form if you don’t actually take the time to listen to what he’s saying, in full context — not with the bias of left-wing or right-wing news?”Another show-stopper.
In today’s age of YouTube, it’s easy to access just about anything a President has stated and judge for yourself. Asking this question will expose the intellectual dishonesty of the typical Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferer. It’s all you have to do, without even getting into a fight.
The main thing? Don’t take the bait and become defensive.
You have nothing to be defensive about. You voted for Donald Trump because you like many things he says and does. You detested virtually everything that went on in the last eight years under President Obama, and you also dislike a lot of what went on before Obama, too. You have nothing to prove, and nothing to apologize for.
The onus of proof is on the person claiming the President you voted for is a racist and fascist — and, by extension, that you are the same.
When people fight about politics, they’re really fighting about ethics. They’re fighting over their vision of what they believe is right and wrong. If they’re unable or unwilling to have a discussion about those topics aside from Donald Trump or Republicans, then forget about any meaningful discussion.
In short, if someone accuses you of being a fascist and racist, don’t get angry or defensive. Ask for definitions of those terms and demand proof. Rest assured you’re never going to get it, because logic and proof do not inform a derangement syndrome of any kind, political or otherwise.
Be serene in your knowledge of that fact. All you need is logic. Because those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome have nothing but emotions and prejudice to inform them.
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