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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Forgiveness Is an Important Trait, and Trump Supporters Get to Practice It a Lot

I have detected a common theme in the writings of Trump supporters, one that is also present in his campaign advertising.  It goes something like this: “Yes, the man is crude, rude, and even obscene, but he gets things done.” As good Christians, which most of his supporters are, they forgive him his flaws and, after all, Jesus died for his sins, too. You’ll recall that one reader whom I referred to as “Mary” compared him to Einstein, noting that all geniuses (even stable ones like Trump) have flaws.
Donald Trump certainly does exercise his innate flaws, giving his supporters plenty of opportunity to practice forgiveness.
They forgive him — if not praise him — for saying that there were “many fine people” among the alt-right demonstrators in Charlottesville who marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” even though one of them killed a young woman by driving his car into a crowd of people protesting those “fine people.”
They obviously have forgiven him for the Access Hollywood tape and for getting his fixer, Michael Cohen, to pay off a porn star — and then forgave him for lying about it.
They forgive him — or perhaps believe him — for saying that he knows more than the generals about military matters and more than all 17 intelligence agencies about Vladimir Putin.  They also forgive him for having Michael Cohen negotiate a Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 campaign, which probably explains why Trump never criticizes Putin.  And, oh yes, they forgive him for attacking many of our allies while praising many dictators.
They forgive him, I guess, for having a one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki with only an interpreter present and then confiscating the interpreter's notes. What did they discuss?  Real estate?  And why haven't the Democrats made more of an issue of this?
They forgive him for being a compulsive liar — or, worse, think he always tells the truth. All politicians lie, they say, so you have to forgive him for misstatements. They say that Obama lied too, but, coincidentally, every one of them cites the very same lie from Obama that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  Find some new ones!
They forgive him — even like him — for using  “locker-room language” to describe those who don’t like his policies. If he were a U.S. Senator and spoke like that in a chamber where Senators still address each other as “the gentleman from Texas” or “the gentle lady from Minnesota,” he’d be censured or even expelled, but his Senate enablers instead praise Trump, lest he endorse a primary challenger.
They forgive him for his constant and ongoing bullying on Twitter.  I wonder whether Melania Trump, who has made online bullying her issue, forgives him. We'll probably only know after Trump leaves office. 
After writing several “Talking Turkey” columns about the unwavering support President Trump enjoys and concluding that members of his base are “unreachable” through logic, reason or the recitation of facts, I have received many emails from Trump supporters who resent that conclusion and contend that we who oppose Trump are the unreachable ones who ignore facts and believe lies.
All of this has taken me back to school, it seems. I have been reading about “confirmation bias,” an academic term which Wikipedia defines as “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports one's prior personal beliefs or values.” Everyone, it seems, suffers from confirmation bias, so the question is what are one’s “personal beliefs and values.”  Fox News and talk radio feed the confirmation bias of Trump supporters. 
Currently I’m reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, a 2012 social psychology textbook by Jonathan Haidt.  It is very enlightening but also very discouraging, in that I’m learning exactly how easy it has been to divide America and how hard it will be to bring us back together. The first part of the book is filled with academic details which I found difficult to follow at times, but his explanation of confirmation bias made sense. Wikipedia’s entry is much more readable!


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