Thursday, October 20, 2016

That feeling in my stomach

Once upon a time, maybe he wasn't so orange 
but that doesn't matter now.
A psychology professor once said to us, "If you get that feeling in your stomach that you're being manipulated, you are."
Originally, I wrote a post for this space about Melania Trump's no-win interview with Anderson Cooper, in which she stood by her orange man and said everything she should have if she wanted him to be even less likeable to the masses sixty-eight stories below. 
My impression of Melania Trump was neutral going into the interview. She'd stolen some of Michele Obama's speech which lowered her grade, but her husband had just been outed as a predatory, misogynistic frat bro and maybe she was crushed, so I raised it again.
Also, how happily do they co-exist up there in the clouds, I wondered before the interview, trying, trying to give Melania the benefit of the doubt. 
How do we know Melania hasn't been facing a true crisis of "Jesus, when did this happen??" How do we know she doesn't wake up 3:00 a.m. with monkey mind like the rest of us, look over and say, "Holy crap, WTF happened to the guy I met during fashion week?" 
But really, I wrote it to get right with my own conscience. I had been prepared to loathe Melania Trump as much as I loathe Donald because she's married to him and not for any other reason. In truth, apart from the speech excerpts she stole, she lacks a history deserving of honest contempt. 
So, I reached for my generosity, a way to sympathize with a person who might be seriously, seriously, conflicted and stop judging her solely on the basis of who she married. 
Then I watched the interview. I cringed as she defended Trump's behavior with only bland words of disapproval. I said right out loud, "Don't do that," when she victim-shamed her husband's accusers, and by the time she'd offered the boys-will-be-boys explanation for his abominable remarks, my hopes that Melania Trump was a decent but (understandably!) conflicted person were leaking air like an uncapped pool toy. 
Just the same, I wrote my devil's advocate post and put it up. 
Then I took it down.  
Because I'm not sympathetic, and I don't feel she's conflicted at all. 
The post I'd written was a clearing of conscience, because I'm not accustomed to auto-disliking anyone. I'm accustomed to considering the likable side of an unlikable person and putting it on display. Normally, I'm not ruled by my assumptions, but try to chase assumptions from my thinking.

This election season has made it harder. And now, professor, I'm getting that feeling in my stomach.  
With constant exposure to the trials and missteps of others, I have started to expect the worst of everyone. Accustomed to watching people fall in the press, on the internet, and on television, I only hope it's not one of "ours." I'm judging more than I ever have, and I'm sure I'm judged just as quickly when I post my delight over Trump's biggest blunders.
It has been a tough year for good people who want to support one candidate or the other but do not wish to treat people the way they treat each other. In myself, and in others who are normally open-minded and tolerant, I see our reluctance to express political preferences openly anymore, but for all that discretion, I hear people express themselves in language that sounds angrier, closed to reason, and isolating.

If we can't look away, is it because we've become hyper-vigilant? Conditioned to expect attack? Have we transferred our fear of what lies beyond us to what lies within? 

Recently, I texted a friend after a stretch of pivotal news days for the candidates and said, "I keep refreshing the front page of the Post, but I don't know what I'm waiting for." 
That is what an opinion looks like that has been feeding on chips and dips from the news for too long and needs to go on a serious diet that consists of reason, objectivity, distance, and possibly a spa treatment of arguing the case of a supporter from the other side.  
I'll try to post my weights as they change.


  1. Drumpf has set a new low for campaigns and has incited negative emotions that Pres. HRC (I hope) will have to contend with. He has done so much damage and I can't believe that so many do not see that. Sad sad sad.

    1. Agree. I do believe many people don't like what they've even seen in themselves. When it's over, let's hope that recovery is swift - and patient.

  2. I have wondered, too. Is this hyper-vigilance? And why the vigilance? What are we looking for? The research shows that anger is the emotion that is most contagious on the internet. I am trying to watch out for that. I discovered one day that refreshing the news brought headlines that weren't mentioning the election and I felt disappointed - I got offline the rest of the day to deal with that little epiphany about myself. Addicted to indignation? Are we all addicted to the rush of anger?

    1. What an outstanding question, "addicted to indignation/anger." Why, and when if so? We've been so conditioned for so long to work toward agreeable ways of dealing with ourselves and others, this has been an illuminating period.

  3. honest and thoughtful. i'm terrified by the prospect of the trumps in the whitehouse. honestly, i haven't given her much thought at all. just that she doesn't seem like a first lady to me, but like you i'm really trying not to be too judgy. oh who am i kidding, michele obama is a really hard act to follow. yup. i was NOT an obama fan 8 years ago, but he's really grown on me and they've both bought an unexpected new level of class and civility to the whitehouse. can't help it. i don't love hillary, but she's a workhorse and despite her flaws, i do believe she can do a decent job. IMHO

    1. Green Divas, I get that. I was skeptical of all-that-wonderful-all-the-time. But maybe what is so appalling about this election year is the shocking contrast between the mud-slinging and the ultra-elegant class of the Obamas. I have huge admiration for their relationship.They make each other look fantastic.

  4. I remember a day when opponents in a campaign weren't allowed to bad talk each other. When they used terms like 'my esteemed opponent'. And 'my political colleague'. Where they talked issues and not personalities. This year has been an eye-opener for me. And not in a good way. It has definitely brought out the worst in good people and the really bad in angry, unhappy people. I will keep watching, however . . .

    1. It's hard to not watch, as Ren mentioned above. I don't even understand it, but it really is like eating too much fried food. I do also worry that so many who are supporting their candidate don't necessarily have the confidence we should in our person. That's a problem. There's a lot of shrugging and "what choice do I have?" from people.

  5. I just wrote a post about everything I love about this election...I know, weird. But one of them is that we are all engaged, and we also see the value of accountability. And we're reflective...we're understanding what it means, to each of us, personally, what it means to be a American, a feminist, a decent human... it's going to take some time for us to sort this all out, isn't it?

    1. I love this take. The election has made us soul-search for sure.