Life is tough. The nights are long, the winters are cold, and demands of the days are unrelenting. Many people need a little help just to get by.
If you look around at the many problems facing our nation, states, communities, and families today, I am certain that the one tool most commonly employed to ease the fear, pain, and frustration so many feel is the one sitting right in each of our pockets—denial—and we tend to use it one of three ways.
Sometimes the problems we face seem too overwhelming, too complex, or too depressing, so we simply shut ourselves off to the possibility that a problem might exist. I suppose this is a defense mechanism baked into our DNA to help us survive adversity.
Other times we deny that a problem exists because it collides with our pre-conceived ideas or core beliefs. For example, if you believe in free trade—or your job depends on it—you’re going to be immune to the notion that globalism harms many. This is true for many other issues, and not much about this facet of denial is ever going to easily change.
Finally, our blind belief in the benefits of self-esteem—which has led to all manner of personal and bureaucratic tomfoolery designed to inflate our destructive self-regard—has contributed to our denial of many problems. We are, after all, beautiful people living in a beautiful world, and anyone who says otherwise is obviously an awful person.
Unsurprisingly, the Presidency of Donald Trump is quite a challenge for many. His impolite refusal to sugarcoat the problems facing our nation, lack of grace when criticizing those with whom he disagrees, and his smug skewering of those shocked by his election have shaken the psyches and security of many to the core—which has contributed to a ferocious reaction among his opponents that seems far out of proportion to any reasonable facsimile of reality. Trump is not Hitler; this is not Darkness at Noon.
There are, of course, those who have honest and thoughtful disagreements with particular policies—and this is perfectly appropriate and understandable. However, watching so many people scream, howl, curse, and otherwise overreact during and after the Inauguration seems to point another issue: the fear caused by the denial—if you will—of our denial by someone who simply cannot denied. It’s terrifying.
It might, therefore, be a worthwhile exercise for many to reflect upon the causes of their anger and existential angst and decide whether it might be more effective to speak calmly with your fellow citizens. We can all benefit from a reasoned discussion of our problems and disagreements and a respectful search for common ground. However, if the response of those who oppose the incoming administration’s policies is going to consist solely of snark, snarls, and sniveling, an opportunity for necessary dialogue will be lost—and this will only serve to harden the divisions within our nation.