Laughing in the Face of Denial

TOPSHOT – Trump supporters engaging in healing the country at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. –  (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Not this again.

From Trump lawyer David Schoen on day one of the second Trump impeachment trial:

[The House impeachment managers] tell us that we have to have this impeachment trial, such as it is, to bring about unity. But they don’t want unity, and they know this so-called trial will tear this country in half, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling left out of the nation’s agenda as dictated by one political party that now holds the power in the White House and our national legislature. But they are proud Americans, who never quit getting back up when they are down and they don’t take dictates from another party based on partisan force-feeding. This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have seen only once before in our history.


Long ago, as a young pastor, a couple came to me about concerns with their marriage. The husband had slept with someone else, and when his wife threatened to file for divorce, they came to me together for advice. After some pleasantries at the beginning of the conversation, the tone quickly shifted. Filled with righteous indignation, the husband said “She’s going to file for divorce and break up our family! Whatever happened to forgiveness? Tell her she can’t do that!”

I laughed out loud.

Not a chuckle, not a single snort, but a good 15 seconds of laughter. (I said I was young.) They both looked at me in absolute shock. When I quelled my laughter, I said “*She* is going to break up your family? Please. *You* broke up the relationship when you slept around. That relationship is dead. You have to decide if you are willing to take responsibility for that and make the effort to repair it, or if you want to live in denial that breaking your marriage vows wasn’t that big a deal and sleeping around really didn’t hurt anyone.”

This was met with silence, so I plunged on.

Still speaking to the husband (but with the wife listening closely), I said “You don’t get to decide the terms of how she forgives anyone. Forgiveness doesn’t mean everything goes back to the way it was. It means that she quits seeing you as a monster, and quits letting the pain you caused her continue to govern her life. If she forgives you, it doesn’t automatically mean that you two will stay married. It just means she is done with letting what you did continue to hurt her. If you want this relationship to be healed and this marriage to be rebuilt, that starts with honesty, not denial. Honesty about what happened, honesty about how damaging and painful it was, and honesty about what you are or are not willing to do going forward.”

No, that husband was not David Schoen — but in listening to Schoen yesterday, the two of them sure sound a lot alike. The more Schoen and the defenders of Trump talk about unity and moving on without acknowledging anything about Trump’s role in the insurrection, the more they show they have no interest in unity or healing.

But we already knew that.

In one of my former congregations, I had a parishioner who was a psychologist who worked with men who had been convicted of child abuse, and the two of us had a number of long conversations around abuse and denial. When someone is accused of child abuse, my parishioner told me, he would see the same dynamic play out with each one. First, they deny that the abuse happened. “I didn’t do it!” When presented with evidence that they did indeed do it, the denial shifts to avoiding judgment: “OK, but it’s no big deal. No one got hurt. She/he came on to me. He/she had it coming. You have no right to judge me for that.” When that doesn’t work, denial pulls out the big trump card to avoid any consequences: “You have to forgive me!”

Perpetrators of abuse turn to denial because if there are consequences to their actions, something will have to die – their image of themselves, their relationships with others, and more. Denial is how they hope that nothing in their lives will have to change, with no consequences for their damaging actions.

Honesty, on the other hand, is where perpetrators of abuse turn if they are truly interested in healing and moving on. From everything I heard yesterday, the abusers and their enablers have no interest in healing. Power? Absolutely. Healing? Not so much.

This trial will not tear this country apart. Trump has already torn it apart.

The question now is whether the Senate wants to honestly acknowledge that reality and begin to deal with it by holding Trump accountable, or if they want to remain in denial and encourage the tear in our country to continue growing.


110 replies
    • TimH says:

      I see all the senators deciding which way to vote depending on how it will affect their own next election.

      It’s actually easier for the Democrat senators.

      For the Republican ones, it’s similar to a who-to-layoff meeting when a manager volunteers for layoff to protect underlings who produce more value.

    • Zinsky says:

      Exactly – well put. Also, remember that Lucius Pontius Pilate is reputed to have posed the three word question to Jesus of Nazareth that has lingered, unanswered, down through the ages – “What is truth?”.

  1. Non Sequitur II says:

    I know this shouldn’t matter and I’m not going to like the answer regardless of what it is, but what happened to the couple?

    • Peterr says:

      I left that congregation for a new one shortly thereafter, so I don’t know much about what happened afterwards, except that they did eventually end up divorced.

  2. Jenny says:

    Thank you Peterr.

    “Take accountability … Blame is the water in which dreams and relationships drown.”
    Steve Maraboli

  3. BobCon says:

    This reminds me of possibly the best scene in The Soprano showing the flip side, which helps get at the mindset of part of the GOP.

    Carmela goes to see Dr. Krakower, an elderly therapist, to try to deal with Tony’s monstrous behavior. After starting to describe Tony, Krakower interrupts her and tells her she is an accomplice taking blood money, there is nothing he can he can say to make her feel better, and the only option is to take “what’s left” of the children and leave Tony immediately.

    She angrily complains that she’s Catholic and couldn’t do that, and Krakower replies now she can never say she was never told.

    Some of the GOP is like Tony Soprano, or Trump, and are pure amoral monsters. But they also have a lot of accomplices like Carmela who use clan identity and the window dressing of faith as an excuse for complicity.

    They are enabled by hangers on described by Krakower as the types who absolve patients for their misdeeds — the pundit class who lean over backwards for the sake of “balance.”

    The trial is the best we can do to at least make sure no accomplices can ever say they weren’t told.

    • dannyboy says:

      “Some of the GOP is like Tony Soprano, or Trump, and are pure amoral monsters.” – YES.

      “The trial is the best we can do to at least make sure no accomplices can ever say they weren’t told.” Why do so many well-intentioned people believe that monsters can just go ahead and change.

      I, personally believe that monsters are irredeemable.

      • BobCon says:

        The episode at large touches on part of the dynamic. Cynical belief in the irredeemable nature of monsters can lead to just as much rationalization as Carmela’s denial.

        Carmela is wined and dined by a dean at Columbia (where daughter Meadow is a student). He is obviously angling for a donation.

        It is clear that Columbia accepted Meadow in large part because she was Tony’s daughter, not in spite of it. Krakower is clear he won’t charge her because he knows it is blood money. Columbia knows it is blood money, but decides they can try to use the dirty side of it to their advantage — they offer themselves as a reputation laundering service by playing on Carmela’s neediness for some kind of absolution.

        Columbia doesn’t even get that much money from the Sopranos — it’s a $50K donation. But the cynicism is so baked into their worldview that they don’t think twice.

        Media outlets like NBC and NPR have so much cynicism baked into their reporting model that they don’t even think twice about falling into both sides and fake balance reporting.

        It isn’t really about the ratings — it’s about the false comfort of reductionism.Throwing up their hands about Trump actually makes it easier to do the same thing about everyone.

        Settling for terms and ideas like Drumpf, Congresscritters, it’s all about the money, it’s Kompromat — reductionism is the gateway drug to fake absolution.

    • joel fisher says:

      “Monsters”, accomplices”, and “Hangers on”; the three categories of GOP membership. Perfect. No place for an “Eisenhower Republican” in today’s GOP

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Followers who, “never quit getting back up,” after Donald Trump and his party’s neoliberal priorities kept kicking and shoving them to the ground. There, fixed it for Mr. Schoen.

  5. NickinNJ says:

    Thanks so much Peterr! Your words have really crystalized the bad faith and cynical ploy of disingenuously calling for “unity”. I greatly appreciate your take. I hope to read more of your work soon.

  6. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I’m not a pastor, but I spent four years in a divorce recovery group, including two years as co-facilitator.

    There are many excellent posts on this blog, but yours still stands out. This is EXACTLY like infidelity from an abuser.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      I’ve dealt with some extremely abusive individuals, and that was one bit of behavior that always astonished me… how the mere fact that you’re confronting them w/ their own behavior some how makes you guilty of something, simply for making them aware of how abusive their behavior is.

      That confused me for a long,long time…

      You end up going, “Waitaminite… this is MY fault? how did that happen?”

  7. dude says:

    Your paragraph : ” First, they deny that the abuse happened. “I didn’t do it!” ….“You have to forgive me!”

    I live in the Bible Belt and am surrounded by evangelicals. This arc of argument you describe is almost exactly what is preached in tent revivals and street corners. It is the ritual of witnessing and confession, not private counseling. It is drama. The twist is in the last line. There is a very explicit follow-up to it which adds, “–and even if you don’t forgive me, Jesus does.” To many, that addition lets them feel free to go about their business as usual, somehow exonerated by greater authority.

    I know that is not the real point of your commentary, but I think it is related. A large portion of the Trump base finds this whole dramatic reading appealing because they hear it so often in the form I have described.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        In other words, it’s a terrific drug…

        Until it wears off and the next day, you have to deal w/ the hangover.

        Btw… what you said above?

        Very well said, Peterr.

        As I watch this spectacular sh*t show run its course on the teevee machine, I constantly have to refrain from throwing a brick thru the screen every time I hear some Republican solemnly opine about how divisive the trial is for the country.

        “What a sad day it is for our republic, that we’re down to this.”

        Blah… blah… blah…

    • PeterS says:

      Does the base hear anything in the Trump drama that sounds like confession? They seem not to care much about that.

      • dude says:

        I think they are beginning to hear confessionals issued by defendants who are being charged. “I believed wrongly. I was misled. I have sinned.” (I may be a fool but I am not a bad person, don’t hate me, at least I am owning up to it on the record or on Twitter–you know where I am coming from, right? Too bad about the cop who lost his fingers.)

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          I have to wonder…

          How much of this ‘confessing’ has to do / them realizing how wrong their behavior was, and how much of it has to do w/ them starting to recognize the fact that they’re now facing serious charges and the very real possibility of prison time, and all in the service of a lying orange buffoon who cares not a whit about them and the trouble he goaded them into.

          I, for one, am completely out of f*cks to give for these clowns.

        • P J Evans says:

          This is also part of the revival thing: you have to confess your sins, and the worse they are, the better you look when you talk about how you’ve been save. As Slacktivist says, you need the blackest past to become white enough for people to see.

          (Things I’ve learned by reading Slacktivist. This post would fit in there perfectly.)

      • dude says:

        The thing I am getting at is these denials have the familiar shape and the sound of a dramatic reading of a confession. It is a performance of a confession. And that is what I find so strikingly similar to the drama of a revival service. The denial is hidden in the artifice of confessional drama. I think most of the Trump base will recognize this familiar thing , take refuge in it, but never question their true thoughts or feelings ( or future actions) one iota.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          I think you’re probably very right about what you said here…

          The word ‘performative’, which I’ve been hearing a lot of late, seems appropriate here…

          And hopefully, whether, or not, the confessions are sincere, or merely dramatic renditions, more than a few of these buffoons will see some serious prison time… I hope.

        • P J Evans says:

          from Slacktivist: the revival thing is you confess your sins, you get saved, and you don’t change, you just continue with whatever you were doing before. Performative salvation.

          • dude says:

            Yes. And before a live audience. Like watching a movie, the audience suspends disbelief so they can temporarily make an emotional investment in the character (confessor) and his situation, and root for him. It is a story of denial and redemption they are invested in. The drama comes to the climax. Everyone gets high from it. Everyone goes home satisfied, affirmed in their declared beliefs. But most of them resume lives unchanged.

            • PeterS says:

              I still don’t get how a movie about a confessor is a story of denial. But I’m happy to agree that the evangelical base will accept any old bullshit.

      • cavenewt says:

        Does the base hear anything in the Trump drama that sounds like confession? They seem not to care much about that.

        For the loyalists, Trump can do no wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised that even if a smoking-gun recording comes out or Trump himself confesses all on national television, they will explain it away in some crazy fashion.

  8. Terry Mroczek says:

    “The House impeachment managers] tell us that we have to have this impeachment trial, such as it is, to bring about unity. But they don’t want unity, and they know this so-called trial will tear this country in half, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling left out of the nation’s agenda as dictated by one political party that now holds the power in the White House and our national legislature.”

    More lies from the right and Trump allies.

    They clearly do not understand there can be no UNITY without TRUST and no TRUST without TRUTH. That’s how it works.

  9. P J Evans says:

    I’ve seen this pointed out at Kos and a few other places elseweb: the behavior of the Republicans, with few exceptions, is that of abusers. And even the few Republicans who don’t do this are still refusing to recognize that they themselves are abusers. (Yeah, so Romney voted to impeach last time. On one charge, the lesser of the two. He doesn’t get to feel good for that.)

  10. Epicurus says:

    “…This trial will not tear this country apart. Trump has already torn it apart.

    The question now is whether the Senate wants to honestly acknowledge that reality and begin to deal with it by holding Trump accountable, or if they want to remain in denial and encourage the tear in our country to continue growing.”

    As an observation, the country was already torn apart. Still is. Trump was just a loud messenger. I also think you meant to say “whether Republican Senators want to honestly acknowledge..”. Those Republican Senators are Senators because some large portion of the 74MM or so that voted for Trump also voted for them. There is no way they are going to deny that greater existential reality.

    • P J Evans says:

      The Republicans are busy pretending that the ballots they were elected on didn’t include the President. That was a whole different set of ballots, with *just* the presidential candidates. That way they can continue pretending that they aren’t really in debt to Trmp.

    • dannyboy says:

      Personally, I have always believed this country to be torn apart. Experiences with race-hating, as a child, and other sickening acts that I saw as a teen and young man convinced me of that. I have seen it my whole life.

      I don’t feel threatened by ‘THIS will tear the country apart”.

      That’s what the country is.

    • BobCon says:

      Remember that this story wasn’t just about the man. The perspective of the woman matters too.

      It also wasn’t just about that particular counselling session on that particular day.

      It’s critical to think about how both parties were going to act in the long term, and to a significant extent the man’s actions would be determined by whether or not the woman was empowered and made her own decisions.

      I would caution anyone against falling into the same mindset as the typical DC pundit who sees this as a self contained incident, and asks what it means in terms of the longterm relationship between the parties.

      I don’t think this is a slam dunk victory for the Democrats, but it is hard for me to see this fitting the tired narrative of “Dems in Disarray” or “What About Bipartisanship?” or “GOP 100% Behind Trump” that the pundit class has been filing for years.

      People need to think harder and more comprehensively about all of the moving parts.

      • dannyboy says:

        Yes. These Republicans in government are dangeous people. Their supporters are delusional and violent.

        It is best to be clear-eyed about these things.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Useful in follow-up sessions would be to ask what happened to lead the guy to have an affair. Was he a shit, and needed no prodding to cheat, or had things gone pear-shaped in the relationship because of her as well as his behavior? Context and causation matter.

        • Peterr says:

          Yes, they absolutely matter, and there was much more to the sessions we had. But the level of denial of responsibility on his part at this initial session was stunning — and revelatory.

      • Stacey says:

        The easiest way for our media to understand this dynamic is to shut themselves up and stick microphones in front of AOC, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and some of these brilliant women of color who know how to speak the truth of these dynamics in compelling and compassionate ways.

        Every time I hear any of them discuss the abuser dynamics of race or any other power-down social position, they just get right at the bone.

  11. observiter says:

    As I watch the proceedings, the following comes to mind. I’m no fool regarding the Republicans and the realities, but if ALL Senate Republicans vote to convict wouldn’t Trump’s abilities to harm them selectively be essentially neutered?

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:


        That’s what I’m afraid of too…

        If Trump doesn’t get convicted here, which seems a done deal (no conviction), and faces no criminal penalties after that, he’s getting a green light to do whatever he wants going forward…

        And in no time flat, it’ll be…

        ‘TRUMP 2024! This time, he’s out for BLOOD!’

  12. Bobby Gladd says:

    Beyond any reasonable doubt: The lethally violent Jan 6th insurrectionist mass mob attack on the U.S. Capitol would NOT have happened without Donald Trump’s relentless, willful incitement. Do your duty, Senators. Convict & disqualify.

  13. observiter says:

    The state GOPs seem to be applying pressure regarding legislators voting to convict. However, they may find the tables have turned in regard to how the majority of their previously-dependable voters now feel about this.

  14. Traveller007 says:

    The Senate Trial of Mr Trump is electrifying! I hope and pray that All Americans are taking the time to watch the excellent presentation being made by the House Managers…Ms Stacey Plaskett was particularly effective.

    I had no intention of watching the trial but turned it on by accident and…was amazed. Further, as an attorney, I find it hard to believe how well the presentation of evidence is constructed…it is hard to organize exhibits for a simple trial, yet here video after video is played perfectly, excerpts from police dispatches, etc are seamlessly woven into a compelling narrative…The staff did a masterful job constructing this case.

    I don’t know how ANY Senator could not vote to impeach Mr. Trump.

    I hope that Mr. Trump is watching this and suffering. (Best Wishes, Traveller)

    • timbo says:

      First of all, this isn’t a classic type of trial, it’s political. The “evidence”, particularly where there are statements about how Trump was behaving in the White House, what he was doing in planning this rally in December, etc, etc, are almost entirely based on hearsay, not actual first person testimony. This is political theater so far, and is not as yet holding anyone’s feet to the fire when it comes to first person testimony by those who might shed considerable light on Trump’s thinking on and before Jan 6th, etc. Why the DP is failing to start dragging GOP operatives and former White House officials, etc, down to the Senate to testify is mystifying if the intent of this trial is to actually get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened like it did. And to get on to the record, under oath, all the principles in the White House and Trump’s various political organizations about why this rally was held and how the emphasis shifted to the last ditch effort to stop the Congress like appears to have occurred on Jan 6. The case has been laid out really well by the House Managers but there is no meat on the bone here. Already GOP Senators are claiming that this does and will not meet the legal certainty of a criminal trial… and therefore it would be “unfair” to convict Trump without “due process” and “proof”. So, it sounds good, and it looks good, but it ain’t good when it comes to actually getting 17 GOP Senators to vote to convict Twitler of insurrection and remove his ability to get a job in the Federal government ever again.

  15. observiter says:

    I’ve thought several times about Trump’s visit to Putin (Helsinki?), along with the Moscow visit several weeks previous to that (July 4 holiday) by House Freedom Caucus Republicans and Russian legislators. I think they discussed how to retain political/financial power of the presidency and legislature. I wonder if what we’ve been seeing comes from that.

  16. jerryy says:


    Okay, who would have thought, even a short time ago that:

    1.) The Confederate Battle Flag would be triumphantly carried through the US Capitol Building during an uprising seeking to overthrow Congress?
    2.) An attorney defending the US President during said President’s second impeachment trial would wave Mao’s Little Red Book while making a speech about due process?

    Mmmm, nope, i would not have thought either of those.

  17. darms says:

    My gast is totally flabbered yet again. I know what I saw, heard & read about with regard to events of January 6, 2021. I read Trump’s words. I saw the signs & flags. And I also saw & read about the events in D.C. on June 1, 2020, what a contrast! Instead of people running & hiding, being tear-gassed & kettled as they were on June 1, the Jan 6 rioters entered the senate building & trashed offices! Is it finally time at long last to declare that the R’s, the RNC & others, when denying that Trump was inciting a rebellion against the United States that day, are acting in bad faith. And have been doing so since the first right-wing mob stormed a Democratic Town Hall meeting in 2009 (or the ‘Brooks Brothers riot’ of 2000). How do we deal with others when we know in advance that they are acting in bad faith?

        • cavenewt says:

          I only just, the day after, saw the video of Lee’s objection (sadly, he’s one of my senators). I have not figured out what exactly it is he’s factually objecting to. It seems like it could be confirmed with phone records if he is claiming the call never happened.

          The NBC commentator mentioned that Lee is a stickler for procedure. So I will not be surprised if I learn that he objected to make it sound like it was made out of whole cloth when actually only one little aspect was inaccurate.

          As an aside, Patrick Leahy’s performance during that procedure did not impress me. He seemed very confused. I don’t blame him—in our local planning commission meetings I’m often confused by procedure—but he’s a senator with long experience and in a position of great responsibility, even if it is largely ceremonial. It reminded me of Robert Mueller’s disappointing testimony before Congress…was it last year? Year before? My time sense’s all screwed up by the Covid year.

          • timbo says:

            He appeared tired and inept for sure. Alas, not a good look for the DP at all in this charged political environment. I think it was reported that he was sick the week leading up to the start of the trial so he may be recovering from that. Not good timing consider the gravity of the moment.

  18. observiter says:

    Impeachment managers hit something Lee appears sensitive about. But wasn’t the phone call mistake also mentioned yesterday? I suppose the managers could have attributed the info to a news source. (Heresay allowable at impeachment hearings?)

      • timbo says:

        It’s hearsay and Lee said as much today by insisting that it be withdrawn as inaccurate. Just another reason why witnesses, including Senators, need to testify about what actually happened under oath.

  19. e.a.f. says:

    Really good article. Like the comparison. It fits.
    The U.S.A. is divided. All countries are divided either by money, class, politics, etc. But what has happened in the past 4/5 years in the U.S.A. tore it apart. Then there was 6 Jan. Having this trial isn’t going to tear the country apart any further. It is a chance to actually have every one see what happened. Have it explained. Only then can any healing begin.

    I watched 6 Jan. on t.v. live. then today I watched the Senate. It was riveting. We have all seen great movies, stage plays, t.v. with riveting court scenes, but what I watched today, was real. To see the V.P. of the U.S.A. being taken out to safety, to see the police officer re direct Mitt Romney, to watch it all was in a way mind boggling. The citizens of the U.S.A. need to not only have this trial but to have a discussion regarding how and why this happened and what needs to be done about it. A country which goes through such an immense event needs to deal with it so they can move on. To let people know this is not what the country stands for. It is a democracy.

    This isn’t just an event for the U.S.A., but an event for all democracies as a warning of what can happen and how fragile our democracies are unless we all have a set of principles and a line in the sand we will not cross.

    The Republican senators who think this will further divide their country are just carrying on with the b.s. Trump has been pushing for all these years. They may want to stick to their story, but given its all out there on t.v., not every one is going to buy into it. It maybe that voters will see the real truth and leave the Republican party behind them. That won’t be good for democracy either. For a democracy to work you need at least 2 viable parties so people can make decisions about which one will represent them best. Perhaps what the U.S.A. is 3 or 4 viable parties so democracy can really flourish. In my opinion, the two current parties can not hold the various positions, priorities of a country of approx. 340M people.

    To actually see the mob calling to hang the V.P. of their own country, elected just 4 years previously was difficult to comprehend. You may not like Mike Pence’s politics, but hang him? I still can’t get my head around it all.

    • timbo says:

      It’s not as hard to comprehend when you look at how large the US is and consider that it has a piss-poor social policies when it comes to yahooism and gun-rights out-and-out nuttery.

      • e.a.f. says:

        I live in Canada and we don’t have the death penalty, we have guns, but under game rules and only specific types are permitted.\

        These people calling to hang Mike Pence were from the same Party I would think. Some thing is very wrong when they want to lynch the V.P. of their own country. We of course saw it in Iraq and Libya but omg,

        I’ve always understood political assignations, but then some where in the 1980s decided where would it stop, so we ought never to start. As to the death penalty, never believed in it, even as a kid. Never brought the victim back It stopped in 1963 and although left on the books for some until 1999 concerning treason, etc.

        Certainly Trump knew they were calling to hang Pence, yet Trump said nothing. What would he have gained if Pence had been murdered by the rioters. Is Trump’s sense of vengence so deep? It would surprise me if he felt anything at all except his own needs.

        • timbo says:

          Your country must not have the quality gaslighters and fake patriots as ours. And I’m sure it is a good thing not to have based on my own experience, experience of being forced to consider these dangerous folks day in and day out; the descent into yahoo-ism and extremism is palpable here.

  20. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    This was a compelling read, thanks for the write-up.

    Do you have a site or blog or book with other interesting accounts from your time as a pastor/things you observed or learned working with your congregation? I think you have made some posts about your activity in the 60’s era of the civil rights movement and that would be good reading too.

  21. Chris.EL says:

    Thank you for your thought-provoking and well-told story! Thinking about other aspects of life is helpful now.
    Read this on Dan Abrams’
    “FEC Filings Show Trump Campaign and Allies Paid Jan. 6 Rally Organizers Millions of Dollars: Report
    JERRY LAMBE FEB 10, 2021 1:10 PM”
    I’m really starting to *hate* the term “so-called.” It is so lame!

  22. Bobster33 says:

    The author Ken Wilber like to refer to this as the difference between idiot compassion and real compassion. If you tell a friend that everything is going to be o.k. and everything can go back to normal, it’s idiot compassion. Real compassion requires the truth even if brutal.

  23. Eureka says:

    I enjoyed today’s photo caption, Peterr (as well as your message, of course).

    It and things like it cause me to wonder about 187 times per day how anyone in the future will be able to understand our artifacts from the Era of High Sarcasm. (And with the escalated pace of communications, “time” moves more quickly and stuff gets rapidly decontexted accordingly. Sometimes within days, certainly by weeks and months.) It’s also a humbling reminder of how much about the past we may have ourselves misinterpreted, why points of view matter and shift insight.

    Oh, the places you’ll go meanings you’ll have to unpack —

    • Eureka says:

      Future folks stumbling upon Peterr’s captioned photo in isolation would have to locate and learn more about Peterr to know that he (definitely) is (was) not a maga, and that the word “healing” was a giant commentary on the behavior of others. Et-cet-er-a.


      I suppose we’d have to add Gaslighting* to that ‘Era’ label to accommodate remnants of wtf they are doing at places like Fox

      *And Marcy does call a certain CBS reporter the High Gaslighter…

      • Peterr says:

        As someone who’s day job has him parsing texts more than two millennia old, originally written in Hebrew and Greek, and existing in oral tradition before that, I understand your point intimately — and in those texts, there’s a decent amount of humor that most readers don’t catch for precisely the kind of contextual reasons to which you refer.

        (I was an exchange student in Germany when I was in high school, and I realized my German was getting good when I laughed at the same time as my German friends when someone told a joke.)

        • punaise says:

          I’m often half a beat late in Francophone settings, but I get back at my sisters-in-law by punning (with limited success) in French.

        • Eureka says:

          I’ll bet that horn player they recruited to try it out it was awestruck from putting lips and breath to something shared by fellows many millennia ago, and will feel those echoes from time to time for the rest of days…

          Also, SL, I have been enjoying your inspirational comments for 2021!

  24. Chris.EL says:

    Something so distasteful about Trump is his cruel, insulting remarks that really serve *no purpose*!! Right?

    I came across this article recently; was very interesting, a partial quote:

    “Learning How to (and How Not to) Kill
    On being a reporter and following the Jewish law against gossip.

    Nellie Bowles
    Feb 4”

    … “This is a quote I think about a lot:

    “Tradition is a set of solutions for which we have forgotten the problems. Throw away the solution and you get the problem back.”

    It comes from, of all places, a 1982 science fiction novel called “Courtship Rite” by a writer named Donald Kingsbury.

    I was wrestling with something for which there is already a solution, tucked away in tradition: the law of Lashon Hara.

    Converting involves realizing that I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. It’s about the humility of knowing the limits of my mind and my lifetime. I cannot think up better rituals around birth or death than Judaism has carved out over these thousands of years. I cannot invent a better mode of welcoming a teenager into adulthood. There are moments when I knowingly and happily buck tradition — I’m a lesbian, after all, but I know that when I do buck traditions, I bring new challenges into my life, new questions I’ll have to answer and work through. Ideally, I can hew close to tradition in other parts of my life, if nothing else than to save myself the time and energy.

    And so we come back to Lashon Hara. Judaism already worked out what I was spending years feeling fraught about. It is simple. You just ask:

    Is it true? Is is kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful?” …


    This sentiment from Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, “Jennifer ‘America is Back’ Rubin
    “I will say the case for criminal prosecution against Trump is stronger than I thought.”
    6:04 PM · Feb 10, 2021·Twitter Web App”

  25. greengiant says:

    Most of the GOP is setting a bad example in regards to integrity. Thinking stealing black and minority votes is a good idea? How is that going to work out? How will people learn not to make bad decisions? I know someone who caught 9 of 30 students cheating last term. Seems like the university is taking this activity seriously.
    The stupid are saying if Trump did it then they will also.

  26. Stacey says:

    “Not a chuckle, not a single snort, but a good 15 seconds of laughter. (I said I was young.)”

    Ha! I like you, Peterr!

    I was married to a preacher in my younger days and we had a church secretary that used to say someone ‘was willing to be forgiven if they’d done anything to offend’. I’ve thought of that expression MANY times in listening to these cats with all of their BS about how accountability is the thing that will tear the country apart. Really??? Tell me more. :-/

    The most constant impression I have of our country is one of a dysfunctional family. Sometimes we act like the spoiled teenager in the basement, sometimes more the incestuous stepdad, occasionally the abused wife. In moments like this, we seem to be all three piled into a counselor’s office on the first visit in an ill-conceived reality TV show.

    I love how folks think that the half of the country that is on Trump’s side will be harmed by the other half of the country (more than half, but who’s counting) if we hold him/them accountable, but can’t imagine any harm to us or the whole if they wrest that accountability away from us. The lack of self-awareness is stunning.

  27. Solo says:

    Thank you so much Peterr for this great story, lived in life and remembered for another time when it would shine some instructive light. Like now. A story about the quicksand of denial. Sounds like you were a blessing to many.

    One of the most brutally honest observations I ever heard, much like your deep laughter and refusal to allow the husband to flood the room with his sugary notion of forgiveness, was when a therapist my children’s mother and I were seeing just stopped us in a session once and said, “You know. I don’t feel any love here.” Those words just hung in the air around us like frozen tears. And he was right. It was gone. But it took someone to stop and say it. To face it. And it took the two of us to gradually begin to hear the truth of what he saw. You have to tell the true story, call things by their right names. Death. Betrayal. Loyalty. Fear. Dishonesty. Bravery. Sedition.


  28. Zinsky says:

    I’m a little late to the party so forgive me if I repeat anything that was said upthread, because I didn’t have time to read every comment – First, excellent post by Peterr! I just wanted to amplify the overall message. My wife works with the local domestic violence advocacy group in our town and she has said exactly what Peterr is implying – the modern Republican Party acts just like a domestic abuser acts. In particular, abusers try to reverse the roles and make themselves the victim and make the abused the abuser. Trump’s attorneys did nothing but that in their opening arguments: ‘Trump was the victim’. ‘He has been picked on relentlessly’. ‘The Democrat Party has been out to get him from Day One’. And on and on and on. Phony victimhood all the way down. One of the hallmarks of abusers….

    Not to suggest correlation implies causality, but it is interesting and consistent with this thesis, that a number of the January 6th Insurrectionists have histories of domestic abuse:

  29. Peacerme says:

    Yes! Minimize, deny and blame. I have tried to make the point though that those three words are insidious to our culture of power and control and that research shows this denial is directly related to perceptions of violence. It’s physiological. It’s why no amount of reasoning can free it.

    Yes it goes back to our culture of violence that WE -all of us deny today. Minimize deny and blame when experienced as a child causes an inability to know truth.

    From my life. My dad had a temper. There was love but he also yelled, said mean things and occasionally hit me if I said anything that caused him to feel shame.

    He could not tolerate or be accountable for his own guilt. When we feel guilt or shame we try to hide it from ourselves. Minimize, deny and blame is a coping for extreme shame. If my dad hit me he also would say to the 5 year old, “you are fine I didn’t hit you that hard”. In a 5 year old’s brain this causes self doubt. Invalidation. It begins the process of not trusting our own perception. Deny. “We did not hit you, we don’t believe in that.” This causes again, a child, to doubt what was experienced. The more it happens, the more mangled the sense of trust in our own perception. And finally the use of blame. Blame says, “I would not have done it, if you didn’t disobey”. Again, this causes a child to feel responsible for their parents feelings. I caused my parent to be angry which is a cognitive distortion. Emotions are created in the mind and body of the person who experiences them and certainly we all see that blaming a child for our feelings is a distortion of responsibility.

    What happens to the brain during years of this is that it breaks down our ability to discern facts from opinions because the more authoritarian the environment the less likely we are to trust our own perceptions. Instead we replace “seeking truth” with the truth fed us by the authority.

    In fact it becomes dangerous to rely on our own perceptions. It creates an “other” focus. This is part of why Trump supporters are so solid. They do not trust their own eyes and ears over the authority. They trust the authority. And this is very similar to brainwashing and part of why slavery will take several hundred years to truly heal. Authoritarianism at the extreme and in varying levels in between causes a “soul death” and mental illness. It creates a dependency on someone else to tell us what is real. It works somewhat if surrounded by non violent people. But literally makes us vulnerable to brain washing if surrounded by a sociopath that knows the inside patterns of power and control and knows as a coping how to manipulate others instead of being manipulated. (Narcissists, sociopaths, addiction, domestic violence abusers, child abusers, sexual predators, and perhaps psychopathy). These are people so wounded that they become the powerful instead of the powerless.

    And to break its hold on the USA we need truth. Accountability and the shaming of violent behavior that includes a path for redemption and a way out of the denial and shame. Much the way AA provides for the alcoholic.

    My whole practice is based on teaching the damage of power and control to the individual brain as well as to the macro environment. All mental illness is caused by the inability to know truth and the inability to regulate emotions as a result. Power and control is one of the most pervasive ways this damage is done. And it is very complicated to change.

    We replace power and control with teaching of emotional intelligence that includes a disciplined practice of non-judgment, dialectical thinking, and emotion regulation skills.

    Democrats are also too focused on how they will perceived instead of letting the truth speak in an unbridled and free way. Call pence to the stand. Seek the truth with full force. Use subpoena’s. We need the truth to be exposed like we need oxygen and we need Dems to stop acting codependently. Truth sets us free.

    Excellent article!!

    • Chris.EL says:

      So again, we return to the authoritarian theme, from above comment …”vulnerable to brain washing if surrounded by a sociopath that knows the inside patterns of power and control and knows as a coping how to manipulate others instead of being manipulated. (Narcissists, sociopaths, …”

      Trump patterned his political rhetoric after Hitler; Trump mirrored Hitler’s pounding speeches — and on and on and on.

      If the Republican party has any sense of “self-preservation” they must seize this opportunity to cut out the cancer that is Trump — nothing he has to offer you is worth your soul.
      This morning, in California, thought I could process a “big” movie; put on Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” of all things. In opening riot scenes, I thought, it’s a really good thing no one brought a giant meat cleaver to the January 6 event!

      Later as Daniel Day-Lewis’ character is walking down streets, celebrations of abolishment of slavery are all about, Day-Lewis makes an off-hand, nasty comment to another White man (who had exhibited non-combative demeanor). Said White man then turned and picked a fight with a nearby well-dressed Black New Yorker…

      Bad behavior begets bad behavior.

      Hmmm — Five Points.

      Then the nasty rhetoric turned to the Irish immigrants.

      OMG — it’s no wonder for centuries our ancestors dealt with the aggressive nature of fellow humans by building castles on hills and great walls.

  30. observiter says:

    McConnell knows that soon he will have to make a choice, one that others would likely follow. And I believe he knows it will be the most important moment in his career. Just look at how he’s been acting.

  31. observiter says:

    I think one of the most compelling moments yesterday was the story told by Rep. Stacey Plaskett regarding working inside the Congress building on 9/11. That if it weren’t for heroes standing up against the terrorists inside an airplane headed towards the Congress buildings, she and many others wouldn’t be alive today. That those heroes died to protect them. Only to be breached January 6 by the mob driven by Trump and his lies, intent on harming or even killing those inside.

  32. OldTulsaDude says:

    In my experience forgiveness is not about assigning blame and then absolving but about acknowledging our part – no matter how small we believe it to be – and then admitting how human are we all.

  33. observiter says:

    I think “forgiveness” and “compassion” are honorable pursuits. But some humans appear to have a dark part of their brain activated. Trump and those like him have enough intelligence to recognize their abberant psychologies and do something about it, if they wanted to. Some might respond that I’m dreaming by even thinking this, but I don’t give a damn and I don’t give “these people” any excuses or rationale.

    Forgiveness is supposed to help victims/observers move forward from the traumas witnessed, experienced. But let’s be clear. “We” are the keepers of our Earth and communities. Do we sit idly by, twiddle our thumbs, and evade the responsibilities that come with our births. Said, by the way, by an aetheist whose father survived the Nazi concentration camps.

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