Sally Will Tell You What You Did

I did not vote for Trump, but if you did, there are a lot of people who think they know why.

The explanations vary, from the political analysis kind (“you are an angry white male”) to some more accusatory (“you endorsed misogyny”). Still others are downright patronizing, looking down their long noses at these pitiable malcontents. We will listen to Michigan next time, poor dears.

We can interpret the Trumpers any of several ways, but in the end we are all still friends, right? Well, actually, no. At least some people see the values gap as too great to be reconciled.

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-11-56-28-amTake Bob and Sally, for instance, friends despite Bob’s vote for Trump and Sally’s for Hillary Clinton. This is admittedly a sappy, feel-good cartoon, but a subsequent editor did not appreciate this sentiment and revised the cartoon in red font, showing Sally as better off without Bob in her life. Sally will not be a friend with someone who votes for a misogynist, racist, and predator. To reconcile would be a manipulation of her views, something called “gaslighting,” and being friends with Bob would “normalize Trump.”

This is just funny, some will say, intended to blow off steam for those who are too mad to willy-nilly lay down their views and be friends. But the red-font words are too visceral to be a joke. This taps a “hell yes” response from people who would rather excommunicate than do the hard work of listening. Such people, like Sally, are too pissed off to be friends. Never mind that Bob may not personally be any of the things said of Trump, he still voted for him.

This is Sally telling Bob the meaning of what he did. This is not appreciative inquiry (something we teach in corporate behaviors), whereby we learn why another person holds a view or engages in a behavior. This is skandalocracy, “rule of the offended,” where a person’s reasons are not accepted or even heard. Instead, the one who judges it offensive determines the meaning unilaterally. This tactic has been in play a long time. It is seen more recently when someone’s opposition to policy is called hate speech. Now I do not have to listen to you. You’re a hater.

It’s ingenious, actually. Tell people often enough that a view is hateful, and identity politics takes hold. No one wants to be regarded as hateful. Truly hateful views like White Supremacy are obvious, but Sally (and those like her) have decided that voting for Trump—a private act for private reasons—is just as plainly hateful. Thus spake the scandalized: Don’t give me your reasons, I am not interested, you are not my friend.

Based on my knowledge of Trump voters, Bob was probably not “fine” voting for someone like this, but truly believes Trump’s abhorrent behavior is not relevant to the job. By this, Bob invokes the “it’s just sex” reasoning as heard from Bill Clinton’s defenders in the late ‘90’s.

If Bob and Sally were around in the 90’s and held consistent views, we would expect Sally to also reject friendship with anyone who supported the presidency of Bill Clinton. We would also expect Bob to wink at Bill’s indiscretions and say “all guys do that” or something similar, like he does now with Trump. But something tells me such consistency probably did not happen: Outrage is rarely consistent, but is adjusted to serve one’s politics.

This is not about whether Sally is right or wrong about Trump, but whether she’s right about reconciliation and friendship.

Sally’s distaste for Trump’s manner has been transferred to include those who would vote for him. She regards a vote as an act of hate. Sally is not open to the possibility that Bob was disgusted with Trump’s behavior and yet “held his nose” and voted for him for other reasons. I won’t talk to you about any of those other reasons, Sally says, we’re done.

When re-made in the image preferred by the red-font editor, Sally is holding her friendship with Bob hostage to her interpretations, and is certain she knows what values were in play in her former friend. Bob is therefore shit until he repents, and even repenting may not be good enough.

Word to Sally: This kind of manipulation, my friend, is known as “gaslighting.”

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5 thoughts on “Sally Will Tell You What You Did

  1. Hmmmm. Your post made me want to look up “Gaslighting” again. I did. The label is being bandied around many this election season. Without very accurate use, seems to me.

    I don’t think the red-editor was correct in labeling Bob a “Gaslighter.” We don’t know enough about the construct. Bob could have been gaslighting, for example if he lobbied Sally strongly that her clear perceptions of Trump were incorrect, thus to manipulate her from her position on the man. But that is not in the little story.

    I don’t think that Sally was gaslighting either, by dropping Bob as a friend and moving on, based on what Bob’s Trump support revealed about the behavior he was willing to ignore. Again, if she tried to manipulate Bob (as opposed to having new opinions about him, based on his choice) Gaslighting would qualify.

    The only classical Gaslighter in the story is our new president. Dozens of examples of lying from the bully pulpit, especially to repeatedly discredit and label the mainstream media as intentionally “dishonest people.” Just this morning, yet again, about the comparative size of the crowd at the inauguration compared to 2009. I.e., Don’t believe your eyes and ears, you are being lied to by your culture’s independent providers of information; “…believe me.”

    • Re your thought, “I don’t think the red-(font) editor was correct in labeling Bob a “gaslighter,'” that’s just the point, and I don’t think you and I disagree. The fact that the red-font edits make Sally to be refusing to be gaslit show that Sally considers friendship with Bob to be a manipulation of her views. You are right to say that Bob is not gaslighting, but Sally thinks he is. She’s not right, he’s not gaslighting, but it’s clever of her to say it is so, and people will begin to regard it as such.

      You then say Sally would herself qualify as gaslighting if she tried to manipulate him. And that’s what I think she’s doing by conditioning her friendship on his vote. I don’t think she wants a new view of him, but makes the point that his vote proves his motives, i.e. she’s gaslighting him into changing his views by telling him what they are, manipulating him (if she’s successful) into re-framing his vote from a private choice to an act of hate. Once he’s gaslit into this view of why he voted for Trump, i.e. adopting her view of the meaning of his vote, then she will condescend to be friends with him.

      Trump’s behavior might be gaslighting too, but that’s not so much what I was addressing in the piece.

  2. Hmmm again. I think you are reading in manipulation by Sally, as the red-editor reads it in by Bob. The red-editor’s construct does not say that Sally manipulated Bob, just that she’s done with him as a friend. She is not asking Bob to change, in that story. Friendships dissolve over the behavior of one of the partners all the time. If Bob had drowned a puppy in a litter of purebreds because it had a breed defect, it might have also caused Sally to drop him as a friend.

    • Agree to disagree. She is predicating their friendship on the meaning of his vote. A vote is private, and motives vary. Sally says his vote means something as she defines it, and the implication is that if he really wants to be friends with her, he must adopt her view of the meaning of his vote and, presumably, repent of his hate.

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