I’m Not Buying It

Rather than confront those in our community who are gaslighted, sometimes it is more productive to just walk away and save our voice for more important battles. Photo of author by Georgette Pierson.

With each snip of the hair stylist’s scissors, I yearn for the weight of the world to be lifted from my shoulders, but instead the burden just seems to get heavier and heavier, until finally I seem to have no choice left other than to shrug. By the time my haircut is done, I am forced to conclude that the gal who has been cutting my hair every two months or so for the past two-and-a-half years will no longer be getting my business. And that there are lessons to be learned from this experience that can help all of us take positive action to fight the darkness that pervades America today.

My hair stylist is a nice lady, probably in her early 70s, and I believe that she moved to America from Germany many years ago and became a US citizen. Her salon, which she owns, is quite convenient to me… within walking distance from my house. And I think that she does a pretty good job of cutting my hair.

From our past conversations, it has long been clear that her knowledge and awareness of political happenings in America is, like so many of our fellow citizens, extremely shallow and superficial. She is, for example, aware someone named Mueller is investigating Trump, and that Trump calls it a WITCH HUNT, but her insight into what all that involves, and what the issues are, does not go too much deeper than that.

Her opinions and lack of awareness seems to stem more from voluntary ignorance than from personal deplorableness. Kind of like what one would expect of a nice lady in her 70s who spends at best a few minutes a day watching “state television” via FOX News.

She knows I write about politics, and she knows I’m critical of Trump. So I was a bit surprised last week when, while she was cutting my hair, and without my bringing up politics at all, she blurts out “I really like Trump” in a manner far more definitive and self-assured than I have ever heard her express in the past.

To put this in context, it is important to remember that this is a woman who grew up in the shadow of the horror that Hitler unleashed on the German people and the world at large. And that in the two months since she had previously cut my hair, Trump has decried the American free press as “the enemy of the state,” he has torn children from their asylum seeking parents and put them into cages and cells with no intention of ever reuniting them, and he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladamir Putin in a press conference of utterly treasonous nature.

So, instead of getting angry or trying to argue with her or expressing wonder about exactly what universe she is living in… I decide to turn the situation into a learning moment for myself, and I ask her “Why?” without giving her any overt negative reaction.

And she tells me there are two reasons.

Reason #1:

He speaks what is on his mind, and really tells you what he is thinking, in an unvarnished way that is so much better and more refreshing than what the usual “politicians” do.

As she says this, I think silently to myself:

Yes, being candid and genuine can be refreshing and admirable in a politician, when they operate from a core base of honesty and integrity. Look, for example, at Congressman Adam Schiff. But Trump embraces neither honesty nor integrity. His statements seem to fall primarily into two basic categories… 1) expressions of his true nature, which show him to be a vile, racist, misogynistic, malignant narcissist whose priorities revolve strictly around enriching himself and his family; and 2) lies and more lies, aimed at conning and gaslighting the ignorant and unintelligent. These are not traits that any sane reasonable person would admire.

But she’s not finished. It gets even more bizarre… Here comes Reason #2:

Better the devil that we know. Who knows how much worse someone else could be?

As she says this, I think silently to myself:

How would you possibly find someone worse? What, like if Adolf Hitler should be suddenly resurrected from the grave and made President of the United States? Or if Kim Jong Un became President? How do you possibly find someone more odious and mentally disturbed than the person we presently have occupying the Oval Office?

I believe that Sam Harris once noted that any eligible person picked at random in the United States to serve as President would likely be a far better President than Trump, because most people are at least capable of realizing what they are ignorant about and engaging in an effort to find those more knowledgeable to rely upon to assist them. Trump, who is the ultimate poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect, self-labels himself as a “stable genius” and seems completely oblivious to his lack of knowledge about the world and how it works. That trait, along with his malignant narcissism, makes him a clear and present danger to the world. Add on to that the fact that he acts as if he is under undue influence from one of our greatest political adversaries, and you have a combination of horrific that seems just about impossible to beat.

And besides… if Trump is removed from office, we know exactly who would become President… his name is Mike Pence. And while Mike Pence has demonstrated that he is also a profoundly vile, ignorant and hypocritical man as well, and that he additionally sees himself as being on some kind of a personal mission from a terribly pernicious deity (See: Mike Pence, Holy Terror), there is no evidence that Pence is either beholden to Vladamir Putin or that he suffers from malignant narcissism or any other kind of severe psychopathy. There is also no evidence in the public domain so far that Pence has committed the kind of acts that would warrant his impeachment.

As dreadful a President as Pence would undoubtedly be, it is a false equivalence to say that the dangers he would present to America and the world at large are similar to the dangers posed by our current traitorous and mentally unstable President.

Elections have consequences. If Trump is removed from office, it is likely that Mike Pence would serve out the rest of the term until 2021 . The only way to really limit Pence’s power, should he become President, would be by voting in Democratic majorities for the House and Senate this November.

So instead of debating with her, this time I just nodded and let her finish my hair cut, and paid my bill and said goodbye… for the last time. If she still thinks this way after everything that has happened over the past 18 months, she is beyond hope for redemption anytime in the near future. There is no point in arguing with her. She has at some subconscious level decided that she wants to be conned and live in an alternative reality. She is, at present, a loss to humanity.

Gaslighting from One to Millions

Consider the situation of a woman who is in a personal relationship with a partner who gaslights her through engaging in psychologically manipulative behaviors… things like projection, stalking, lying, distortion, diversion, belittling, reality denial, blame-shifting and rewriting history. We know from experience that narcissists who express these traits are largely incapable of making significant lasting changes in their behavior.

While those around the victim might look at her situation and wonder “WHY WHY WHY does she stay?,” the fact is that she has every right to stay in such a relationship if she chooses to do so. And she has a right to pretend that the relationship she is in is not psychologically manipulative if she chooses to do so, regardless of the overt evidence to the contrary. History shows she may stay a fairly long time, until she gets to a point where she becomes motivated to see through the manipulation and have the courage to leave. Or she might not ever reach that point. It is her life, and if that is how she chooses to spend it, then  it is ultimately her choice to make. Perhaps the best anyone can do for her is to let her know that they refuse to see the manipulator’s actions as being normalized, and that she will have an environment of support if she ever decides to leave that life behind and seek a better future.

Take that situation, multiply it by about 30 million, and you have the nightmare that exists in America today, with Donald Trump acting in the role of the psychologically abusive leader of a cult of followers who are living in his alternative reality. “Just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” Trump astoundingly told his followers in recent days, going full Orwell. (See also: What It Means When a Narcissist Says “I Love You”; and Is Donald Trump a cult leader? Expert says he “fits the stereotypical profile”;  and my earlier column, Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency.)

Our Choices Can Make a Difference

Rather than try to convince those who live in Trump’s alternative reality cult to leave, it seems that our efforts are much better focused by working with the people who are living in the real world with us to overcome this time of darkness. And to withdraw our support of those living in alternative realities until such time as they choose to join humanity again.

Stop using their services.

Stop buying their products.

Stop giving them the time of day when you can avoid it.

On a national level, we can support the #grabyourwallet campaign at https://grabyourwallet.org. This site encourages boycott of 34 companies that raise or donate money to Trump; sell products that financially benefit the Trump family; partner with the NRA; or distribute NRATV.

But more importantly, look at your Facebook and Twitter networks along with your offline social, theological and business communities to identify those who act as enablers of Trump’s madness. Then remove them from your lives.

When you see an entrepreneur or business owner who still admires Trump today, remember that they are praising a man whose entire business life has been defined by dishonesty, fraudulent businesses, multiple bankruptcies, and a failure to pay his contractors and partners. They might as well be holding up a sign declaring that they also do business using unethical business practices as well.

I know a psychologist and book author, a man whom I once respected, who remains passionate in his praise for Trump. Over the past year and a half, he has repeatedly posted gaslighting distortions and falsehoods on his Facebook profile while trying to make it seem like he is just being a “reasonable guy.” Over this period, I’ve watched with great sadness as this fellow has pretty much completely destroyed his professional reputation among all but the most uneducated and ignorant. When the worst and most dangerous and prominent  example of malignant narcissism in American history is front and center in our body politic, and he not only fails to call it out but acts as a supporting enabler for such extremely sociopathic behaviors, he shows the world that his current psychological state renders him grossly unqualified to perform his professional responsibilities.

Domino Principle #2: Determined Proactivism tells us that we each have the power to shape the future into something better than the present.  One way we can each make a difference is by refusing to financially support those whose words and actions tell us that they have made a decision to live in an alternative reality and betray the values that have historically defined America.

Join me now in doing exactly that.

Note added August 2, 2018, based on feedback from a caring reader: It was not my intention to imply that all people who stay in abusive relationships do so because of gaslighting and denial. Many are self-aware of their situation and stay out of fear of harm if they should try to leave; because of an inability to see how they will maintain their life without the support of their abusive partner; or even because of pressure from family and friends who don’t understand the need of a victim to leave an abusive situation. See my earlier column, The Destructive Dominoes of Domestic Abuse. Nor do all of Trump’s followers support him because of gaslighting and denial. See my earlier column, The 10 Reasons People Still Support Donald Trump.

🎶’Cause baby now we got bad blood
You know it used to be mad love
So take a look at what you’ve done
‘Cause baby now we got bad blood

Bad Blood by Taylor Swift featuring Jessica Alba as “Domino.”

Cliff Kurtzman
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20 thoughts on “I’m Not Buying It”

  1. I agree we can choose to not patronuze those whose views we detest, but I believe they should know we are no longer willing to use their services because of their views and the fact that they support someone who is vile, immoral, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic and dishonest means that I do not want to associate with them or support them

    1. Ugh. I fantasize about that too. But I’m afraid it might cause a break out fight! Remember they are no longer logical and reasonable. They have been brainwashed by Fox News n Trump. I truly am afraid that they will turn on me.

  2. Tax resisters aren’t buying it. If you want to cut off financial support for the monster, go straight for the jugular… don’t waste your time trimming its toenails.

    1. Unfortunately my otherwise intelligent mother supports him. She gets it from her daily dose of FoxNews 😔🤮

  3. Nicely written tale about your hair stylist. And I’m with you as far as not subsidizing any of these ‘deplorables’… either financially or in conversation. However, to follow through on your analogy of an abusive relationship (“…..and that she will have an environment of support if she ever decides to leave that life behind and seek a better future.), maybe words to that effect could be one last politeness we could extend just in the unlikely event of a future light-bulb going on.

    Now one more random….and I mean really random thought… and that is, I have no German immigrant acquaintances. But I was curious just how other German immigrants feel about Trump. And if perhaps there was some common affinity for him….similar to your haircutter, well then, I’d at least have a question or two to ask about elder German’s attraction to authoritarian, white, racist heads of state. Right? OK, I told you it was random. 🙂 Thanks again for the thought-provoking piece and your support of ‘Resist’.

    1. My mother-in-law is German, and a staunch supporter of Trump. I also know of another couple, about the same age as she (and Cliff’s former hairdresser) who also support Trump. All lived through at least part of Nazi Germany, and all are reasonably intelligent. How they could possibly fall for Trump is beyond my comprehesion.
      I wish I had some insight into this, but, despite being conversational in German, I haven’t a clue how they could be so clueless. After all, they’ve been through it before. Of course, they wouldn’t have understood the early stages of the Nazis’ rise to power, but surely they were taught about it later. Maybe not. It’s a scary trend that seems to be happening amoung the German expatriates here. At least the current Germans don’t seem to have the same wool over their eyes. Well, not the young ones, at least. Also certainly not Angela Merkel.

  4. I agree with everything you said. I have had to make changes in friendships because of this. Politics never seemed to be as much of an issue before … but this is so different. I cannot align myself with people that think what’s happening is okay … it says a lot about them … and if they are unaware at this point than I don’t know what to say … there is too much to say and evidently they didn’t care enough to know … so I don’t want to waist my time and energy … I don’t have hate in my heart but the love I have for my country …our democracy… and our fellow Americans and immigrants is far more.

  5. “He says what’s on his mind” ??? If what he says is a (easily verified in most cases) lie, then is he really saying what’s on his mind? I think he’s saying what’s on their minds. So why do they think that? What makes some people think those things and others not? My brother whose less than a year older is one of them. He once told me Elizabeth Warren was responsible for the recession! SHE WASN’T EVEN IN CONGRESS! Of course, I rarely venture into politics when speaking with him.

  6. I don’t think I can “win the battle” and convince a person of my view in such a short conversation and I would also not spend much time on it. But I would do my utmost to plant a seed of doubt in her mind that can find a crack and erode her stuck-in-concrete views. I would tell her (after the haircut!) that it is immoral to get news from one place only and that her news channel constantly spews out lies which she then repeats. Mention CNN or another trustworthy source. You boycott her because you don’t want to pay to be lied to (by her). Being lied to is a service that you are not willing to pay for. Enjoy the look on her face!

  7. This is like people that boycott but don’t tell anyone what they are doing and why. No, I don’t think you will change the mind of this lady, but we all have an obligation to be candid and transparent about our political actions. What does she take away? That you had no answer.

    1. Patricia, you and others make a very good point. But this was not my first conversation with her about Trump… I knew from the fact that she was bringing the subject up again with such vigor that there would be no getting through to her no matter what I said. Still, perhaps it would have been better for me to have explicitly told her that she was losing business as a direct result of her spewing sick nonsense and supporting a man who wants to destroy democracy… yet, if I had done that, it would surely not have changed her viewpoint… the only likely change in her behavior would have been that she might have stopped expressing her viewpoint to her clients. It would have prevented others from the opportunity to learn what I had learned. My guess is that when I don’t show up again, she will perhaps figure it out.

  8. I am not entirely sure that we should boycott ordinary citizens who have these hallowed ideas about Trump. I agree completely with boycotting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. If we don’t engage in dialogue with these Trump supporters, how will we ever change public opinion? I agree having a dialogue like these while having a haircut could be dangerous 🙂 However, maybe in social settings maybe we can by discussing specific points.

  9. I think Cliff might have had more luck planting a seed of doubt if he had asked provocative questions (after finishing the haircut) like a teacher. Such as calmly asking her: Are you not afraid that people will boycott you? You are from Germany, why are you repeating the propaganda from Fox and not warching CNN or other more trustworthy channels? Why do you not want to be well-informed? Did your family help Hitler during WWII, what side were they on? People are sitting in cages, would you have liked to be placed in a cage when you first came over? Would you have liked to be all alone and separated from your parents?

    The woman is in la la land and needs to wake up. By going along with the politeness game, Cliff was effectively moonlighted. Not tipping and explaining why could have been a way to put her on notice, you refuse to pay for her lies. It takes extra energy to react in the moment, and I can totally understand if Cliff does not want to listen to any more of her crap. But there will be another Trumpian and practising dialogue can be empowering when it works.

      1. Vile, immoral, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic and dishonest, really. None of that slanderous propaganda worked for Clinton and at this point it really is getting stupid. The media is lying to you, taking statements out of context, or just flat out making up crap. The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Nazi Joseph Goebbels, would be proud of this misinformation campaign. Trump has decades of public history of anti-racist and socially liberal behavior. He attended Elton Johns marriage to his boyfriend in England back before homosexual marriage was socially excepted. The state run, military (C.I.A.) controlled media is making fools of you. Once you accept and understand the truth to continue on with this absurd tirade says more about yourself personally than anything else.

  10. You are a remarkable writer. Keep up the good work and Thank you for the # grabyourwallet link. It has been shared!

  11. It’s a hard to know what to do. I was the recipient of unsolicited political bile from a retail clerk a short time ago. I briefly told her that I didn’t agree with her and said “I don’t like Trump at all” and left.
    I don’t get how people think “telling it like it is” equates to being disrespectful, bigoted and an embarrassment.

  12. I actually don’t find it hard what to do, but maybe that’s because I spent my first 30 years in Denmark where debate is a folk sport. Americans seem to feel conflicted about debating. Pretty much, the only people who feel free to debate face to face are the kids in high schools, who have debate clubs, and the pundits on TV. Very strange. Our Founding father Ben Franklin only went to school for 2 years, but somehow he got a hold of a book on Socrates, dialogue and debate and he taught the method to his friends. We should be proud of debating, not ashamed. It is a sign of respect for the person we talk with to give a constructive response. If we leave it to the politicians, we get the polarized society that we have

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