I was in an abusive relationship for two years longer than Trump supporters have been in theirs. It takes both time and courage to leave a relationship where you have been manipulated, threatened, or gaslighted into believing you were not seeing things correctly and convinced into thinking the only right way is your abuser’s way.
Threat of harm — or confidence-shredding beratement — are sure-fire ways to exert control. “I’m going to slap you silly if you don’t shut the fuck up.”
Or the more psychological version: “What the fuck are you talking about? Nobody wants to hear it.”
No matter how friends explained my situation was wrong, offered to help, or threatened to end their friendship with me, I could not make that life-saving move.
“What about you?” they would say. “Don’t you want to live a peaceful life again? Get rid of him — he’s an asshole.” or “Why do you stay? I’ll help you get out — I’ll come pick you up.”
Instead of seizing their help with both hands, I would drive 35 minutes to the ocean to scream and cry into the wind for an hour before sobbing my way back home, resisting the temptation to stomp on the gas and head straight into an ancient redwood tree at 90 MPH, or just not make the curve on that seaside cliff road.
I had a million rationalizations for staying; I had a million excuses for his life-denying behavior, and all of it revolved around my sense of guilt over abandoning someone who needed me.
It took soul-searching courage to admit that something I’d defended for years was, in fact, not right nor good. It took years to really hear — in my heart and rational mind — that all the efforts people had made to reach out to me were exactly what I needed.
It took years to wade through the programming of self-doubt, reality-denial, and my crushed self-esteem before I could start making plans to leave.
One night, after sleeping in the storage room at work so I didn’t have to go home, leaving seemed both right and possible.
I made a plan.
I stashed what little money I could eek out before turning over my salary each month. I stashed clothes I could carry and important numbers or passwords. I devised a way to leave the house without needing the car.
Then I started asking friends if I could flee to their place. They said yes.
When I finally left, I was badgered and threatened by my abuser, but I never responded. “You’d better get back here or I’m going to make your life hell. Just wait and see.”
I waited every day for something awful to happen, but — fortunately — it didn’t. Other women are not so lucky.
Eventually, the harassment slowed, though it was a few years before it stopped completely. It was months before my tortured dreaming stopped and I awoke refreshed in the morning.
And it was years before I could believe in myself, stopped looking over my shoulder, and could talk about the abuse.
Research shows that it takes a woman about seven years to finally leave an abusive relationship.
The donald’s supporters are in an abusive relationship.
It takes both time and courage to leave a relationship where you have been manipulated, threatened, or gaslighted into thinking the only right way is the abuser’s way.
Since 2015, the donald’s followers have heard he is the one person who can save them, although he hasn’t done one damn thing toward that goal.
Like every manipulative abuser, the donald repeats the same accusation — the Big Lie — and the same promises that originally gave his followers a sense of security, despite
· over 20 women accusing him of sexual assault and being caught on tape saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”
· the donald and the GOP doing their best to rob Americans of their healthcare
· all the promises to drain the Washington swamp, but instead giving billions in tax-relief to the top 1%
· 500,000+ deaths from Covid (40% of which could have been avoided)
His surety makes his confused, frightened, abused victims want to believe him over and over, even as they see their lives deteriorating before their eyes.
Every time he says, “The ballots were fraudulent,” his victims say “Yes!” despite
· him losing 60+ lawsuits claiming election fraud
· recount after recount after recount proving election integrity
· his supporters claiming the “bad” ballots came from Jewish space lasers or Italian hackers
Threats of harm to you or your family — or confidence-shredding beratement — are sure-fire ways to exert control.
Imagine trying to extricate yourself when your self-confidence is writhing on the ground with no anchor.
With that at stake, they need not only courage but resources to deal with destruction of their homes, cars, offices or threats to their families.
For the donald’s supporters, resurrecting enough confidence to embrace their own liberation needs loving support.
No matter how someone explained the situation was wrong, offered to help me get out, or threatened to end their friendship with me, I could not make that life-changing move until I finally saw the truth for myself.
Heartbreaking stories of families torn apart by the donald, his policies, or QAnon conspiracies illustrate how deeply such beliefs persist.
We have to understand that the followers simply do not see any other truth beyond baby-eating conspiracies or Jewish lasers from space.
Only time and friendship will create the necessary cracks in the dug-in tapes playing over and over in their heads.
It took courage to admit that something I’d defended for years was, in fact, not right nor good. It took years to really hear — in both my heart and rational mind — that all the efforts people had made to reach out to me were, in fact, exactly what I needed.
Of the seventy-five million people who voted for the donald the second time, thirty percent of them will probably always hang in there.
But that leaves seventy percent who were your regular, nice conservative neighbors and family before the donald entered the GOP stage — family and friends who got swept up in the false promises, the fear of losing their way of life, or the confusion of not knowing what to believe so why not just believe the donald.
Cue the white women defending him against their own interests…
It took years to suffering through the programming of self-doubt, reality-denial, and my crushed self-esteem before I could start making plans to leave.
As Biden/Harris protect the country from Covid, protect and expand healthcare, protect families by extending unemployment payments and eviction moratoriums, invest in infrastructure and create jobs, raise quality of life with a minimum wage increase, and make real changes that increase our ability to deal with climate change, life will look better for many, many people who want to go to church, play in school, get their hair cut, and go out to eat.
As life gets back to a newish normal, the nice conservative-turned-crazy-conspiracy-believer next door may begin to see not only reality, but that moving away from the donald and all he represents will make life better again.
We need to give the donald’s followers time to listen to us long enough to be able to hear, understand, realize, and make their move.
Some will never.
The best way to help them — and our entire country — is with kindness.
· Take a loaf of banana bread to your neighbor you haven’t spoken to for years
· Wave at your neighbor who only side-eyes you
· Ask if your estranged family member wants to come for dinner or go to church
When I finally left my abuser, I left with my toothbrush, clothes, some books, and one small love seat that I slept on, curled into a little ball, for weeks. I ate out of cans because I didn’t have one cooking pot, wooden spoon, or dinner fork.
Friends at work found out and suddenly I was awash with kitchen supplies, a bed, a dresser, towels, and cards full of encouragement.
They gave me a twinkling sense that maybe I’d done the right thing.
I wish that same twinkling for every donald follower on the verge of seeing the light and making the change.
We are stronger than hate and fear; we are kindness and strength.