Friday, November 18, 2016
Am I Being Paranoid?
(Paranoia: A psychological disorder characterized by delusions of persecution or grandeur)
All of my adult life I've struggled to understand the paranoia expressed by conservative Christians toward Democratic candidates, particularly Presidential Candidates. Since the time of Harry Truman I've heard, during every Presidential election, that the Democratic candidate is a very evil person with plans, if elected, to do awful things to Christians. At the least he/she would take away everyone's guns and would very likely shut down all religious broadcasting, round up Christians and herd them off to concentration camps. And when a Democrat won the election I've endure four or eight years being assured that it was only a matter of time before he turned on Christians and swept away their rights to worship as they wished. I wish I had exercised the foresight to keep the hundreds of brochures and e-mails promoting such fears. They could form the basis for a very interesting (and important) study of the conservative Christian psyche.
The interesting thing to me was that nothing I could uncover – beyond the spurious brochures and e-mails – would give a reasonable person cause to believe the accused presidents had such sinister objectives in mind. None of them ever proposed anything remotely resembling the things they were accused of promoting.
Now, with the election of Donald Trump, and as I watch him put together his governing team, I'm experiencing some of the same fears my conservative Christian friends and acquaintances expressed over the years. Am I becoming paranoid?
I've labeled my friends fears "paranoia" because it does not seem to me that there was any rational reason to believe the things they did. Time has proven their fears to be, if not irrational, at the very least, unfounded. No Democratic President ever proposed to do the things they suggested or attempted to do them.
But what about President-elect Trump? Is one paranoid if they believe that he would single out Muslims and other minorities for "special treatment?" He has said that he would. Is it paranoid to hear in his harsh denunciations of those who oppose him a tendency to "get even" when he has the power to do so? Should I fear that, once in office he might decide to do what no other president has ever done and seek to criminalize and imprison his political opponents? He has suggested that he would do so. When he proposes to limit the right of the press to print unfavorable stories about him is that reason for me to believe he might institute a regime of repression of our free press? (Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogen, president of Turkey has recently arrested 200,000 Turkish citizens, closed down 120 news outlets and has complete control over those that remain.) Am I paranoid when I am apprehensive about the repressive people he is putting into places of great power and authority; people whose racist speech is a matter of public record? Is it paranoia that causes me to fear his apparent attempts to override past law and precedent by bringing members of his immediate family into the government?
The President-elect could help to allay some of my apprehension by being more open during this time of transition, allowing the public to know his thinking and his plans. Of course there is some suspicion that he doesn't have clear plans in mind and is struggling to formulate them on the fly. But we have heard little from him personally since his rather amorphous acceptance speech the night of the election.
So I am fearful! I am fearful that Donald Trump will be the president he told us he would be. I don't think I'm being paranoid, I have his word for it. I'm willing to allow his future words and actions to allay my fears. But right now I'm extremely anxious for the future of our democracy and for the safety and freedom of those Americans to whom he has threatened (or promised) to do ill.
Someone recently said that the press failed to take Mr. Trump seriously but did take his statements literally. His followers took him seriously but did not take him literally. I am taking him both seriously and literally. And the rest of America had better do so too.
I'm wearing a safety pin to show my solidarity with all others who are feeling vulnerable in the face of Donald Trump's rise to power.