Sunday, July 13, 2014

We Are Not Whiners or Victims, You Are GASLIGHTERS

UPDATE 1/27/16:
Yesterday Donald Trump announced that he will not be attending the next Republican Presidential Candidate debate because Megyn Kelly will be a moderator. The fall-out from this is fascinating. What I've observed is that, while Trump has behaved as an adolescent during his entire campaign, using twitter as his personal insult generator, whenever anyone responds in kind -- including the Fox News Channel -- he somehow comes out looking like the adult in the room. He is very, very thin-skinned, and any criticism is met with a full-on verbal assault by Trump. When the criticism comes even remotely in the form of Trump's brand of nastiness and snark, he somehow responds in a way that magically comes across as though he's taking the high road and need not engage such silliness.

It dawned on me just now that in so many ways Trump is the epitome of the group behavior many of today's right-wing conservatives have exhibited over the last eight years. I used to refer to them as Tea Party conservatives, but I suppose the best way to describe them now is Trump followers.

Trump and his followers are cloaked in their feelings of outrage and victimization. It frustrates me that so many white, heterosexual, conservative Christians don't seem to grasp that they have been the majority (and still are right now) in this country forever, and that our systems and institutions reflect that (history books have always taught "white" history, hence the need to shine a spotlight on neglected history: AA, Latino, etc.; until fairly recently you primarily saw only white, straight people on TV shows, in magazines, etc). 

I don't think Trump or his followers will ever be able to step back and look at the bigger picture to see how other groups have TRULY been marginalized and TRULY oppressed and exploited and continue to be in many ways. Instead, they see themselves as victims and that there is a war on their way of life. These "others" -- non-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexual --  who are simply trying to be part of the mainstream and NOT in the margins any longer are perceived as waging war against white, heterosexual, conservative Christians. 

(Even though in truth Trump supporters are not marginalized in the United States, they FEEL marginalized, and I suppose that's what really matters. Just as legitimately marginalized groups have created their own media and institutions because they were not welcome in mainstream society, if Trump and his followers were to create their own media channel, for example, that's fine. So long as they don't spend all their energy bashing and trying to tear down everyone else in their fear of "the other" and instead celebrate their white, heterosexual, conservative Christian culture, I think that's fine. Sad and unnecessary, but fine.)

This twisted, inverted, distorted victim role and denial which Trump and his followers embrace so passionately reminded me of something I write about frequently:  Gaslighting.

I think THAT is the diagnosis I was searching for to describe the behavior of Trump and his followers, so I'm sharing this post from 2014 which speaks to the phenomenon of gaslighting.  

I'll end this update section by sharing a recent Facebook post to show that this phenomenon has only intensified over the years. 

US Citizen #1: "I love that Trump and others are finally openly saying we need more white-only and Christian-only immigrants. Muslims and blacks and Hispanics -- no. They get too much attention and special treatment and handouts and that's why this country is going to hell. Screw all this PC shit. When white people have our values catered to, then America will be great again."

US Citizen #2: "When white people have our values catered to....dude, listen to yourself. That means you believe being white is superior. A lot of white people believe that, so you're not alone. But, you DO realize that is the definition of white supremacy and what fuels racism, right?"

US Citizen #1: "There you go again, being racist! I can't stand you race baiters, calling people like me racist. You're the ones being bigots against me and you don't even see it. Hypocrites."

That is SERIOUSLY the national conversation that has been going on for a while now.

*head explodes*

* * * * * * * 

PLEASE NOTE: I fully realize that any critique I share regarding others' behavior can be perceived as precisely what I'm criticizing: Lumping groups of together people in presumptuous ways. That's a rather common refrain now, that liberals are intolerant because we criticize those with racist, bigoted, narrow-minded and even bullying behavior. (These views and behaviors can be found amongst people of all belief systems, political and otherwise, but I do believe it is most embedded and apparent in today's right-wing conservative movement, in the US and abroad.)

While I definitely try to be careful not to say that every Republican or conservative is a Tea Partier or racist, etc. -- because I do not believe that's true -- I stand by my perception that today's Republican Party is chock full of extremists mirroring the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world. 
Conservatives who are not extremists and do not hold the extreme social conservative views which seek to rewrite history and deflect responsibility and are harmful to so many need to speak up more to dispel this growing national perception.

I share my views here because I feel it's important for people to be aware of the behavior known as "gaslighting," and because self-awareness and self-compassion are necessary in order to counteract gaslighting behavior which can be so very destructive.  

* * * * *

I've always longed to have honest discussions with people who, at least on the surface, seem to hold a rather apparent racist, bigoted worldview and support policies which perpetuate systemic inequality and cultural "othering."

It can only begin with acknowledging that, to some degree, we all have biases and prejudice, as very few people today are comfortable being honest about their racist views and behavior. (I do know people who were very honest about their racism prior to President Obama's election; they now deny it...likely because Rush Limbaugh et. al. have encouraged them to deny, deny, deny and to deflect, deflect, deflect.)

I usually get stuck right off the bat in trying to initiate a real discussion when I'm met with comments like these:  "I'm not racist" (even when I know this is patently untrue based on knowing this individual for decades), "You're the only one who is bringing up race," "Just because I don't like Obama doesn't mean I'm racist" (even when Obama nor politics have been mentioned at all) and, the proverbial, "Your side (liberals) are the real racists. You want to hold people down and make them victims."

I never delved into the mindset behind the last comment -- "You want to hold people down and make them victims" -- until recently, trying to better understand that point of view by reading various articles, all written by conservative Republicans, which espouse this opinion about group victimhood. 

After reading several posts, I realized something very important. Their consensus opinion is that any group of people, at least up until this point in time viewed as a minority group -- non-white people, non-Christians, women, LGBT, immigrants, any homeless persons and others living in poverty, etc -- should not be afforded any special attention or consideration. We know today's Tea Party-type conservatives (who are the face of the Republican Party at this time, fair or not) loathe any and all social safety net programs (other than Social Security and Medicaid, which they don't seem to realize ARE a social program administered by the federal government), equal opportunity programs, etc. They say it's because it perpetuates victimhood and thus "keeps people down." They say liberals intentionally try to keep people down to manipulate them and, of course, to get their vote.

On the surface, their views about victimhood may make sense. I agree that perpetuating victimhood isn't a healthy, positive thing at all.

Yet it's maddening when, for example, white, male,
wealthy 1%ers  wallow in feigned victimhood, while simultaneously condemning groups of people who have historically held little power and sway in this country as whiners when we raise our voices.

Here the thing, and I'll speak for myself as a woman, which is one of the groups their message is aimed at:

It is NOT about seeing oneself as a victim, even when that label may apply in every way, shape and form. Standing up and speaking out and demanding change -- something that TERRIFIES many of today's conservatives and Republicans -- is about standing in the truth that WE ARE ALL OF EQUAL WORTH as human beings. We each deserve EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES, recognizing the outcomes will be different due to many factors. But when the system doesn't provide equal opportunities and systemically is set up for certain groups of people to excel and others to fail and suffer -- for certain groups of people to be viewed as intrinsically better than and others less than -- that must change.  (Of course there are always exceptions, and sometimes white, male, Christian, heterosexual men can be discriminated against, but that is definitely the exception, not the rule.)

Speaking out about that, including speaking out on others' behalf, is NOT seeing or presenting oneself or anyone else as a weak, powerless victim. On the contrary, it's OWNING OUR POWER and innate sense of value and worth. Speaking out and even voting with that in mind is not victimhood.

TODAY'S REPUBLICAN PARTY -- leadership, public figures, pundits -- IS FULL OF GASLIGHTERS. (Edit to add: Now, in 2016, this is being seen in the Democratic Party as well, though not nearly as much as in the GOP. Gaslighting is contagious.)

Gaslighters. They. Are. Gaslighters. Read about it. It is a very real phenomenon.

This type of behavior, including in the political sphere -- the politics of gaslighting, deflecting,  dehumanization and "othering" and calling anyone who speaks to the systemic, institutionalized inequality whiners or worse -- affects everyone.

For the group of people who have experienced the most power and privilege in the United States (yes, white, heterosexual, Christians...especially men...have undeniably wielded the most power throughout this country's history) to condemn marginalized groups, who have recently been much more visible and vocal, as being whiners and waging war on "conservative values" is a fascinating thing to behold. For these same people to twist what is happening and place themselves in the role of victim and whiner and have no awareness that they are doing this is a study in some sort of collective psychosis.

I happen to believe that many of these people, especially those in leadership positions or those with a public platform, are fully aware of what they're doing.


Don't let anyone gaslight you. Not spouses, boyfriends, not girlfriends, not family members, not employers or co-workers, not politicians, not religious leaders, not media. No one.

Don't let anyone make you doubt your own experience, your own story and your own truth.

Call them out. Tell them you won't tolerate their gaslighting. Introduce them to the term. You matter in this world. I matter in this world. Don't let anyone make you doubt this by twisting and manipulating our stories for their own agenda, one usually fueled by their own fear and need to dominate and control.

To deny the stories and the history of entire groups of people and longstanding institutions and systems of inequality is large-scale gaslighting.

I believe that standing in your own truth is one of the purest forms of self-compassion. Be aware, be mindful, be introspective, then STAND STRONG in your knowing. 

~ Dena

PRACTICAL COMPASSION | Sharing thoughts, ideas, and visions of a more compassionate, collaborative, joy-filled world.

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