Friday, January 29, 2021

Trump and Truth

 

One of the worst things Donald Trump did to our country was to undermine the trust of the American people in the free press and in the free and fair election system, both pillars of our democracy. At no time in our history has democracy been under such a tremendous strain because of the actions of one man.

I cannot make assumptions as to why Donald Trump lies so often, and if his lies were only about inconsequential matters, I wouldn’t really care (it’s assumed nowadays that politicians are about as trustworthy as used car salesmen anyways.) But his seemingly compulsive need to lie has done real damage to our country. Now many people don’t know who or what to trust in order to find the truth. To see the extent to which Trump carried out his strategies is scary. Sadly, it was also somewhat predictable. Looking at the tactics used to create such chaos, it would be hard for average citizens to not question reality at this point.

One of the best tools for manipulating people’s sense of reality is gaslighting. As stated in Psychology Today, “Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed.” This is an important piece of the story of how one man is able to distort the truth to the point that a person literally wonders if they are crazy, or despairs of ever finding out truths again.

Let’s see how many of the gaslighting tactics Trump used on a regular basis:

First tactic: Tell blatant lies. There are many, many instances where Trump was caught in blatant lies. The only people who deny those lies are those who support him no matter what he says or does. It’s hard to deny when there’s legitimate proof though. Take one of the first official lies the administration tried to pass off: Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest in history. When confronted about this blatant lie, the administration held to the narrative Trump wanted published, rather than admitting the truth. Pictures clearly show that Trump’s inauguration was much less well attended than Obama’s.

Another example: when Trump said that the head of the Boy Scouts called him to tell him his speech (to the Scouts) was the “greatest speech ever made to them.” A senior Scouts source confirmed that no such call was ever made.

Some may write these off as just “bragging,” or exaggerating, but when a person consistently uses lies to make themselves look better and to create a false sense of reality in his followers, it’s dangerous.

The second tactic: Denial that they ever said something, even when there’s proof. This is one that probably does not apply to Trump, because he never bothers to deny anything he’s said. He is upfront about his lies, and defends them to the end. I could do an entire post about why this is, but for now I'll just say, research narcissistic personality disorder. 

A third tactic: Using what is dear to you as ammunition. What is dear to many Republicans and Trump supporters? Securing borders, pro-life agendas, democracy, patriotism, small government, election security, freedom, etc. (All of which are noble values.) Trump has used lies about his opponents to create fear in his followers for everything they hold dear. By hanging the specter of Democrat boogey-men trying to destroy democracy, usher in socialism, open the borders in an immigration free-for-all, and allow late-term abortions for every woman, Trump has created a false sense that what his supporters love is in danger of being taken away. This tactic was taken to new lows when he attacked our free and fair election system. Although he and his team had unmitigated access to the courts, no widespread voter fraud was ever discovered or able to be proven in court, even with many Republicans represented on election boards and in the judiciary. If there had been anything at all to his claims, they would have been all over it.

Fourth tactic: Wearing down over time. Trump is a master at this. He sprinkles the lies in amidst nuggets of truth, but keeps a constant stream of rhetoric flowing, often at a pace that leaves little room for anyone else to get a word in edgewise. His use of Twitter took this to a level we've never seen before. 

Fifth tactic: Actions do not match words. Although Trump has fulfilled some of his campaign promises, there are many instances where what he says he is going to do, or has done, aren’t matched by his actions. Does anyone remember his promise to repeal and replace Obamacare? How about the border wall paid for by Mexico? He’s a politician, so I’ll cut him some slack for not being able to fulfill all of his campaign promises, but other things like his vow to not golf as much as Obama, or to not use executive orders were quickly tossed aside. His actions seem to be whatever is expedient in the moment, while his words express greater motives.

Sixth tactic: Confusion and chaos. The majority of people prefer order and stability in their lives. By making people constantly question everything in the world they used to think they understood or trusted, the gaslighter is creating a sense that the world has turned upside down. Gaslighters know that when confronted with chaos and confusion, people turn to “trusted” sources to reassure them or to restore stability- and Trump naturally set himself up as that source.

Seventh tactic: They project. What they do, they deny but then accuse others of doing the same thing. This is often done to distract from their own behavior. You’re not as likely to notice what Trump is doing (or not doing) if your attention is constantly drawn to what his opponents (the enemy) are doing or planning.

Eighth tactic: Telling you everyone else is a liar. This could be Trump’s trademark move. Cast doubt and suspicion on mainstream media, Democrats, liberals, and anyone who opposes him. Call them liars and fake. Start rumors of election rigging far in advance of the election, cast doubt on the security of the voting system. Repeat over and over, until it almost subconsciously becomes truth to the hearer. 

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting)

I’m deeply saddened when I hear people state that they don’t know what is true or real any more. This was not the case four years ago when Trump took office. Much of the confusion and doubt has been carefully sown by a man with tremendous influence. Trump was able to manipulate the very fabric of our society in order to fulfill his own desire for power and popularity. I’m afraid he got what he wanted, and our country is going to be paying the price for it for years to come.

As for me, I’m putting my trust in what I believe to be true: God is real, Jesus Christ is my Savior, the Bible and Book of Mormon are the words of God, love is stronger than hate, and good will prevail in the end. To keep myself rooted in the kind of truth I want and need in my life, I am immersing myself in the scriptures, recent talks and statements from the Prophet, and all things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” I don't listen to most news sources, but choose instead to read news articles from ones that are least biased (avoiding the over-dramatization and emotionality that most news videos contain.) I go to original sources as much as possible, and have access to research articles when I want to go more in-depth on issues. I, too, am sometimes confused about what appear to be conflicting reports, but I know that truth is usually somewhere in the middle of two sides, and that no one has all of the answers on any topic. 

 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Long Overdue Update

I was going back through all of my old blog posts so I could copy and paste them into a word document so I can eventually get them all printed out (to have a physical copy of my "journal".)
I noticed that my writing fell off drastically when I went back to school (who wants to have to be on the computer more than necessary, or have to write even more when you're already bogged down with assignments?!) Skimming through some of my old posts, though, I can see the value of taking the time to record things. There are so many posts that reminded me of what I was doing during certain years, of good times with family and friends, and of spiritual impressions that someday I'd like my grandchildren to hear. It doesn't even matter that there's likely only 2-3 people who actually read my posts, because there's value in the act of writing and recording of my life.

So here's some of what's been happening since last April:

My mom came for a visit in May. We spent some time in Amish country, which is always awesome. We went to a place called The Farm, where we drove through the park and were able to feed a variety of animals from my car. (If you ever do this, don't stop for the water buffalo!!) We also did the train ride at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's always fun to have my mom around.
Riding the train ride at Cuyahoga Valley Nat'l Park

No disrespect meant...we genuinely enjoy and appreciate the simply beauty of Amish clothing, so we had to see how we'd look when we found some in a thrift store in Amish country. 

I think I look kinda cute in an Amish bonnet!
In late May we got to fly down to visit David's sons and their families again. I really wish we all lived closer! We've got four more grandchildren down there, and it's hard not being able to see them all the time. We're hopeful that they'll come up our way for a visit this year.

Last August we rescued two horses from a kill pen (a place that buys horses from auction to send to slaughter.) David's horse is "Max," an 18 year old, 16 hand Standardbred who had been used to pull Amish buggies. Mine is "Snoopy," a  16 year old, 15 hand Morgan cross who was also used as a buggy horse. Poor Max was terribly underweight when we got him, but he has since put some pounds back on and is happy as long as he has plenty to eat. Neither horse had been used for riding, as far as we can tell, but they've both been good sports about it. Snoopy is really smart, curious, and catches on quickly. I can't take him near the road yet because he gets excited, thinking he's going to get to trot off at a fast pace (I think he misses his old job.) Max is laid back and sometimes just on "autopilot" but seems to enjoy being put to work.
Max, when he first arrived
Snoopy

David riding Max

Snoopy and Max
Having horses has been a LOT of hard work, especially since our property really wasn't (isn't) set up for it. We've found lots of ways to make things work, but we've occasionally second-guessed our decision and wondered if we're crazy doing this at our ages. Our hope is to eventually get these guys to the point that we can trailer them to nearby trails for rides. There's been too much mud to ride on our property all winter, but I'm looking forward to drier ground so I can get back in the saddle!

David got laid off at the beginning of November 2019. It was a bit of a shock this time, but having been through this scenario many times, I knew we'd be all right. At the very beginning of his job search, David talked to a recruiter about a position in Pittsburgh for Hepaco. This is ironic, because Hepaco bought one of the companies David and I worked for previously. The recruiter was very confident that David was a good fit, and that he would get the job. We both felt good about it, and neither had the feeling that we needed to start packing and getting ready to move (which has usually happened with job changes.) So we waited. And waited. And waited some more. It literally took 3 months from the time of first contact to receiving a job offer! During this time David kept applying to other companies and had moderate interest, but it wasn't until he accepted the offer from Hepaco that he suddenly started getting calls back from multiple companies who were very interested in him!

David started his new job at the beginning of February, and so far it's going pretty well. He had to travel quite a bit for the first couple of weeks (training, meetings, etc.) but was still able to be home every weekend (which is good, because I've needed help with farm chores that I couldn't do by myself!)

We didn't do much during the months he was laid off. We both joke about how you either have the money but not the time to do things, or have lots of time and no money to do things! That was definitely the case for us. We had plenty of projects we would have loved to have done, but with not knowing how long the bout of unemployment would last, we couldn't justify using savings for them. This also impacted our spending for Christmas, but that was a blessing. It was nice to have the focus on the real joy of Christmas, instead of worrying about what to buy.

We also skipped another semester of school because of the unemployment, but neither of us really regrets that. It was nice to have a break and to be able to fully enjoy time with family without assignments and deadlines hanging over our heads.

One of the highlights of my weeks is when I get to go spend time with Aimee and Alley. It's such a joy to watch Alley's personality continue to develop and shine. She's a pretty unique child, with a fun sense of humor and the sweetest kisses. I feel very lucky and blessed to get to see her a couple of times every week.




And now it's March already and I'm trying to figure out where the time went. I'll be signing up for classes again next week, and I think I'm equally excited and dreading it! Excited to be learning more, but dreading the amount of time it takes. I'm also doing the "Start or Grow Your Own Business" self-reliance class through the church right now, just because I wanted to see what it was like. So far I'm getting the sense that I'm nowhere near ready to start a business, and not sure I'll ever want to! I'm tired of being in charge of things!

We'll see how well I keep this updated. I know it won't be at the level it was when I first started blogging, but hopefully it will be better than 2018 and 2019!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spiritual Insights

As I've been re-reading the Book of Mormon again I've been trying not to just skim over it, but to be deliberate in seeking new perspectives or insights. This morning it didn't take long before I found verses to ponder in 1 Nephi, chapter 16.

There are multiple mentions of Lehi dwelling in a tent, and in verse 6 it says, "my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel." It goes on to speak of how Nephi and his brothers took the daughters of Ishmael as wives, a necessary step for ensuring posterity. This made me think of how we sometimes have to "dwell in a tent" in a temporary place on our journey. It isn't until everything necessary is in place that our journey can continue. Sometimes our sojourn "in a tent" or in a wilderness is short, others times prolonged. "Dwelling in a tent" can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It might mean that we've given up or lost things of value in our life. To top it off, the journey itself is often frustrating, scary, and difficult, so getting stuck "in a tent" can feel like adding insult to injury. Knowing the outcome of Lehi and Nephi's story gives me hope, though. It clearly demonstrates that if we listen to the Lord and do the things He is guiding us to do, He will eventually lead us to our "promised land."

Another small insight came in verse 12 when it said, "we did depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman." The river was named after Lehi's oldest son, Laman, but could the name also have symbolism? Laman has come to be associated with rebelliousness, and this verse made me think of how we sometimes have to cross over a river of rebelliousness in order to continue our journey.

In verse 16 it speaks of how the family followed the directions of the Liahona, or compass-like ball the Lord provided. The ball led them in the "more fertile parts of the wilderness." When we follow the Lord's guidance, He takes us to fertile areas, even when they are in our own "wilderness." His tender mercies are with us even in our most challenging times.

The last insight of chapter 16 is in verse 38, when Laman is speaking of his perception of Nephi, and how he believes that Nephi is trying to be a king and ruler over the group. Even though Nephi had done nothing that was not in the best interest of the family, Laman constantly felt threatened and belittled by the fact that the Lord had chosen his younger brother to be their leader. Never mind the fact that Nephi was willing to seek out the Lord and trust in His guidance. All that Laman could see was that someone lesser than himself was being put in charge of him. This severely rankled him, as is shown throughout the remainder of the story. What strikes me most about this is that Laman's biggest problem was pride. He couldn't bear the idea of someone else telling him what to do, whether that was Nephi, or the Lord Himself. He thought he knew what was best, and he had a really hard time accepting counsel. This is a pretty normal human trait, but Laman's example shows us how a negative trait can turn into a serious stumbling block if we're not careful to keep it in check.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Savior's Peace

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”

The first scripture I quoted (John 14:27) is one of my all-time favorites. It's one of the few that I have (mostly) memorized. I think it really speaks to me because there have been so many times in my life when I have needed the Lord's peace more than just about anything else. During the hardest trials,  the peace of knowing that everything will be okay gave me the strength to keep going, and the courage to face whatever challenges came my way. The Savior's peace didn't take away my struggles, nor did it suddenly make everything okay. That's not how it works.

The peace that Jesus promised His apostles (and us) is greater than the temporary or conditional peace that the world hopes for. The world thinks that peace comes only when there is no conflict, war, worries, trials, or personal dissatisfaction. In contrast, Jesus teaches us that true peace can come regardless of what is going on in our lives or in the world around us. As He said, we will have tribulation in the world, but we can be “of good cheer” anyways, because we know that He has overcome the world. Because of Jesus Christ and His gospel, we know who we are, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. We have the peace of knowing that this life is just another step on our journey, not our final destination.

I'm not even sure I understand how the Savior gives us peace when everything around us says that we should be anxious, stressed, and unhappy. All that I know is that it is possible to feel that peace in the midst of the storms of life, and for that I am eternally grateful.