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Healing the Hurt After Trump: Forgive and Forget? Or “Fuhgeddaboudit”?

Can I forgive people who believe wearing a mask in a deadly pandemic is akin to book burning? How to deal with PTSD: Post-Trump Sufferance Disorder

New York: "Put a mask on" (Photo by Terry W. Sanders, Summer 2020)

How do we move forward? There will be people, no matter how much you love them or how long you’ve known them, who will not be able to return to the relationship you once had. And that will be sad. But it is not on us to welcome back everyone to the fold.

Joe Biden did it. He won. Much to the consternation and disbelief of Mr. Trump. And to his legion of supporters, too. The fact that Trump continues to make money off of his true believers is astonishing and hints at being a scam. Combine that with their disdain at contributing to the mitigation of the coronavirus by refusing to simply wear a mask, and it almost makes one feel sorry for them.  Almost.

In the days after the election and in the weeks and months to come, there was and will continue to be a call to unity; a coming together of a once split nation. You will be asked, if not expected, to forgive the friends and family members who loudly supported Trump throughout the last four, exhausting, years and when you don’t–or can’t–you will be labeled and insulted, once again, as a snowflake who can’t move on.

None of what has happened in the last four years makes sense to those of us who not only didn’t support Trump, but saw his insulting, malignant, autocratic behavior as dangerous and divisive. I don’t know about you, but I have very little interest in trying to bridge a divide in beliefs with people who thought wearing a mask was akin to book burning or burying the hatchet with someone who thought North Koreans shipped fake ballots to Maine to rig the election. No. I can safely say this is not something that is palatable to me. Or as Al Pacino says to Donnie Brasco in that titular movie, “Fuhgeddaboudit”.

On line in Manhattan for the Covid-19 test (Photo Terry W. Sanders)

Sometimes, there is just no way to move on. Sometimes, you lose a friend or “agree to disagree” with a family member and the relationship simply cools and becomes distant. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgive everyone or everything. I suspect that there are some relationships that will be irreparable. Especially in this last year of pandemic and negligence, when we could have had–should have had–leadership to unite a beleaguered country, the Trump administration continued to create divisiveness and mistrust, using the rejection of masks and suspicion of social distancing as a barometer of loyalty.  As if we had wanted the country to be in lockdown? How does that even make sense? Just trying to have a conversation with a Trump supporter was an exercise in futility as the so-called rationales became more and more convoluted and vague. And now we have to forgive them? Forget it happened? For me, it just doesn’t seem that easy.

But then I have to remember the thing about forgiveness. This topic comes up a lot in Angelo’s practice. For some clients, forgiving and moving on is undesirable because it would take them down a pathway they have learned long ago to avoid at all costs, as it would cause them to confront their “self”. This “self” has been created as a way to survive and sometimes coming to terms with the power of forgiveness is too much to face. So, forgiveness then, isn’t so much an aspect of the relationship with others as a core aspect of relationship with yourself. It’s not forgiving that’s so hard… it’s the required shedding of the outgrown self that we so desperately want to avoid. To offer and to receive forgiveness is what allows us to get back that true self.

Times Square. (Photo: Terry W. Sanders)

In other words, forgiveness is for you, not for them. Forgiveness is saying that you have come to terms with whatever transgression has come between you and the other and you can get past it. The transgression will hold no sway over you anymore. Whatever the transgressor does with this forgiveness is his or her problem–you are past it.

But how to deal with the damage and the pain caused by a Trump presidency and maybe even a little PTSD – Post-Trump Sufferance Disorder. How do we move forward? There will be people, no matter how much you love them or how long you’ve known them, who will not be able to return to the relationship you once had. And that will be sad. But it is not on us to welcome back everyone to the fold. In fact, I suspect, as Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris work their way through the minefield that is the American landscape, there will be Trump supporters who will continue to insist that they were robbed. Of a president, of their liberties, of their truth.

For me, the path forward–to be true to myself–is to forgive some and forget about others. If that makes me a snowflake, so be it. Because we all know what happens when a bunch of snowflakes bunch together. An avalanche.


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