People who know what I do for a living are usually surprised when they learn that I do not talk about controversial subjects in polite company. Whenever I’m at a party someone will say, “You’re not at all what I expected.” I try not to take it personally. Did they think I was going to hold court, interrogating everyone on their political beliefs and demanding conversions? It always leaves me confused. I was taught from a young age that politics and religion are not topics to be introduced in social situations where you aren’t sure of your audience. My parents were very political but would never have dreamed of inviting people to their home and grilling them about whom they voted for. It was simply not done by anyone with sense who wanted friends.
The rules change, of course, when you are with like-minded people who enjoy discussing politics, or even people who disagree but with whom you’re intimate enough to broach subjects of great importance or controversy. There are groups of friends I have whose conversations are always riotously political and full of the kind of intellectual banter I enjoy. But for God’s sake, if you’re going to a Christmas party or something, nobody wants to hear what you think about the travel ban.
It’s even more annoying at the grocery store or salon. On two occasions recently I was accosted in a public place by strangers with stupid opinions they wanted everyone to hear. This week it was the salon, where I was minding my own business getting my hair done. A client walked in to wait her turn and began immediately alerting everyone about how thrilled she was that Christmas was finally over. I thought that was strange to begin with — who could object to roaring fires and family and hot chocolate in front of twinkle lights and gifts of generosity and love? This thoroughly unpleasant woman then began scrolling through her phone and loudly spat that there was “another Trump story” she was disgusted with. At this point she looked right at me, a total stranger, and accused, “I hope YOU don’t love Trump!”
As she stood there waiting for my response, the only thing I could think to do to preserve some semblance of peace and holiday spirit was to stare back blankly. My face didn’t register anything — no smile, no nervous laughter, just a blank, awkward stare. The silence stretched on for an uncomfortable amount of time as I refused to acknowledge such rudeness. My stylist broke in suddenly with an exasperated, “We don’t talk about politics in the shop.” That ended that.
Imagine being so self-unaware that you have to be scolded like an untrained 8-year-old in a public place because you can’t adhere to basic social contracts where we agree not to offend one another on purpose. If you think you can launch into a Trump tirade wherever you happen to be you’d better check this map first. If you are in any of those red areas, chances are you’re surrounded by Trump voters.
— Steve Bennett (@AnalyticSteve) December 1, 2017
A few months ago I was shopping in a store when someone I know peripherally came over to say hello and then launched into an unprovoked tirade about Trump and natural disasters. She then let out a loud expletive, complete with a hand gesture (F*** TRUMP!) in front of nearby children.
If you are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) so acute that you have forgotten how to behave in public, you need to seek help. Get a grip. No one cares what you think about the president. Especially if you don’t like him! Look at that map again, please, and soak in the reality. You are outnumbered and surrounded by us. If you have to purge your bile somewhere, find some friends who agree with you and go to town denouncing the president and evil Republicans in your living room. But if you’re out to get a cup of coffee or to get your hair done, it’s best to stick to cheerful small talk about the weather or the recent harvest or piano recitals. Stop taking your anger out on everyone around you. It’s weird.
Miss Manners pretty much nailed it when asked about this same situation many years ago:
Instead of civil conversation, discussion and debate we have wholesale denunciations and personal insults. Funny thing — it turns out that a real exchange of ideas and opinions is possible only under the rule of etiquette.
Miss Manners advises you to cultivate the aura of someone who is so immersed in work — reading papers in the van pool, concentrating intensely in the office so that you have a blank look when interrupted as if you had not heard — that it is useless to attempt engaging you in what passes for conversation.
It seems my blank stare was the appropriate thing to do. So, dear Trump hater, it should concern you that a political writer —someone who lives or dies by the politics of America, who makes a living ridiculing and mocking the political left — is more polite than you at the post office. Contrary to the beliefs of many on the left that Trump supporters are loud-mouthed rubes with no concern for anyone, it would appear that we aren’t the ones embarrassing ourselves in public with rage-filled outbursts that make everyone uncomfortable. This has been confirmed by therapists. The L.A. Times reported that “some patients who support Trump say they feel isolated because they can’t share who they voted for in their workplace or home for fear of being harassed or called xenophobic or misogynistic.”
I know someone whose own mother called him a “Nazi” for supporting Trump. For real. “In many ways, the election has been more challenging for his conservative clients, who feel as though they can’t tell their spouses, family members or friends that they voted for Trump,” the L.A. Times article went on to say. “They fear being automatically labeled bigots or accused of electing a new Hitler, he said. They rely on secret Facebook groups to express their feelings.”
This is absolutely accurate. I stopped posting political things on my Facebook page, including links to my own articles, which for years I had done with no issues. I belong to one of those secret Facebook groups where we discuss issues like adults without having to put up with the unhinged comments by friends who have TDS. It began as a courtesy to our Never Trump friends so as not to upset them, and it continues now because we realize life is more pleasant without their unbalanced and raving interjections. Imagine! We cared enough about them to take our Trump support out of their view for their sanity, but we don’t rate the same consideration. My personal page is now filled with photos of my kids and my dog and that’s it. No one needs the kind of harassment the TDS folks are dishing out, and the only way to avoid it is to become completely silent about politics. Contrary to popular belief, we have no interest in fighting with people all the time. We miss the days when we could disagree and still like one another.
Unfortunately, this forced silence is just breeding more contempt between countrymen and ensuring the Trump haters are going to be taken by surprise again when he is reelected by people who won’t talk about it but heartily support him. Get ready for more therapy, folks. You’re going to need it. #TrumpIsYourPresident