From Personal to Political: some thoughts

I rarely post political; so it only seems fair that I warn you up front that this is aiming there, for better or worse.

Over many relationships with many people, some family, and some not, I have noticed that most people have a few “hot-button” issues. In some relationships, I think the term “land-mine” is more appropriate. I expect you have noticed the same. I have a few myself


These places may have been acquired in many ways, some more honorable than others. It may be that they are scars earned in battle over the very same issue, places where we have been wounded and not fully healed – to threaten those wounded places invites a fast and violent emotional (one hopes only emotional) response.  One does not make jokes about airplanes and skyscrapers to the family members of a New York firefighter.


Or times the cause is not so honorable. One can develop a hot-button response because one fears to calmly examine the points involved, and has learned that going off like a land-mine causes most folks to back off. Right of wrong, one’s own perspective is effectively protected, and by a means much more comfortable than actual conversation.


By good reasons or bad, we all develop these hot-button issues. Some times, we react with unwarranted emotional heat; some issues -at some times- in some people- the response is an angry and perhaps total explosion.


An issue perhaps recognizable, will be representations of Mohammed, (On whom, in the mercy of God, I actually do wish peace beyond his deservedness -which is my desire for all of us). Mocking representations of him certainly present a hot-button issue for many in Muslims, some reactions more fierce than others. My point here is not to evaluate those reactions, just to suggest that we all have them to varying degrees.


And that they are all unhelpful.


I suggested that these points are, probably unconsciously, adopted as a defense mechanism, to head off a real or imagined attack on that front. And they can explode when no attack is real. I once was involved in a rather intimate relationship that was full of these things. I have a few of my own.


And as “the other party” there are a number of ways we tend to behave. One is to tiptoe around the landmines for fear of making a mis-step and having the thing blow up in our face.


Another is to just barge ahead, letting what explosions happen as may be -after-all, they are not OUR fault! – and letting the consequences in deepened wounds and shattered relationships be whatever they are. Again, it wouldn’t be right to blame ME! -as if properly assigning blame was the point of anything.


A third way is to try and create a safe place to both accept and treat the wound: “It looks like x is a really important issue for you. Can you help me understand it better?” There are of course much, much better words for that effect, but you get the idea. We have all been there. And most of us have had our own issues addressed in one or more of those ways. You know what I am talking about.


There is a forth way, and that is in the midst of argument the button gets pushed, the issue gets prodded BEACAUSE it is a land-mine, because one wishes the explosion to happen. Sometimes this is just to cause pain, it is an offensive weapon, and one of the most powerful weapons (and most offensive) in all our interpersonal armory. It can cause massive destruction to the relationship.


But it can also be used tactically, when one wishes to behave badly, or is afraid of being seen in a bad light, one can try to subtly push the button, to invoke the irrational, over-the-top, bad response, so that one can plausibly position oneself as “I’m the victim here”


I’ve seen children do this to parents, I’ve seen spouses do this to one another, and sadly, I have done this myself, even without recognizing it at the time. “I was ONLY speaking the truth!” is a phrase I remember.


And I have seen political candidates do it. (This is where I shift gears, to my real point)


In the issue over the growing hostilities surrounding Trump events, I see exactly this pattern emerging. I hear Trump making statements designed to both energize and infuriate. And to justify retribution. I won’t attempt to catalogue them, but I think folks will recognize them.


I will not even attempt to justify the reactions of the protesters. I do not think they are justifiable. They are over-the-top inappropriate reactions, guaranteed to make the situation worse, not better.  But for Mr. Trump, they serve the purpose of letting him say(as I have heard), “We are the victims here – these people are attacking US. We are justified in putting a stop to it.”


They may be so justified. I don’t know who these protesters are, or even where they are from, or who encouraged them. Almost ANY source would be plausible to me, even Trump himself. But I strictly do not know.


My point is that whatever the source, Trump is playing them, manipulating their bad reasons for his own goals -that being to make himself look like a victim, “poor oppressed me” which fits his narrative of “poor oppressed America -we will put a stop to it and become great again”  He is enacting on a local stage what he is claiming on a national and global stage.


Whether his approach is helpful or not, I will let the readers and voters judge. But I think that a Trump presidency would act the same way – adopt incendiary policies BECAUSE they are incendiary -and when other countries or societies explode in an irrational manner, he can claim to be justified in saying “We are the victim, but we will put a STOP TO IT!”  And things will get worse. What “worse” means, I will leave to your imagination.

I don’t think it is the way to handle such things, in person or in politics. I do not think it wise

I think it is destructive

And I think it is exactly what Trump is doing, and is intending to do.


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