Advice From the Trenches

Forgive ’em? Or Forget ’em?: What to do with Trump-loving friends?

Dear C and Dr. B;

There are people in my life whom I was friends with before all the recent election fraud garbage erupted. They were supporters of the now ex-POTUS, and they were spouting such insane garbage, with such conviction, that I didn’t want to continue our friendship. During the month before the final inauguration, they seemed downright crazy. Then, after the insurrection mob swarmed the Capitol in January, I actually feared they might attack me for not sharing their conspiracy theories, and I cut them off completely. 

Now that the Election Fraud movement has failed in its mission and we have a sane person in the Oval again, I don’t know what to do about these ex-acquaintances. A couple of them seem embarrassed and chagrined in the aftermath of insanity and have ventured to check in with me again, wanting to reconnect. The problem I have is that even though they are saying they were duped and want to put the madness behind them, I don’t trust them anymore. I feel like I saw a side of them that creeped me out forever. But should I try to move on and be friends again? We’re never going to unify as a country if we keep hating each other for what the last four years did to us.


Dr B says: What is unusual is that you know people for whom “the spell has broken.” Studies show that people believing in conspiracy theories dig in when evidence is presented showing otherwise. For the most part, despite how things turned out, people who were into Trump still are and Trump has by no means gone away nor has the machine that fueled him. He is still very much a clear and present danger. I do not know what the solution will be, but it will not be as simple as just showing tolerance and acceptance of the other side. I believe the other side is being manipulated and used and is addicted to a cult of hate disguised as moral values and religion. White supremacy is still at an all-time high – the FBI  has us on domestic terrorist alert. There are still crazies in government and they are still hiring outright bigots who don’t even bother hiding it any longer.  

How this should affect your decisions as to whom you hang out with is up to you. You don’t need to preach to acquaintances, but I hope you can be honest with your close friends. Holding your tongue isn’t going to change the country. The last four years alone didn’t split the country – it has been split for a very long time. 

I personally do not see the country unifying any time in the near future. We would need serious changes to our system and to the media that covers it. Until the media develops a better standard for the “truths” it reports, we are subject to the continuing struggle of the current cult of conspiracy theories. 

C says: I think that what you have to do is to decide whether your previous friendships were strong enough to warrant the effort that a reconciliation would take. How strong were your ties to begin with? Were these people just acquaintances? Or did you share experiences that presented an opportunity to see their reflexive inner character? 

Let me put it like this: If you have a close friend who was always there for you, whom you could turn to for help in times of trouble, and whom you truly respected as a person, I’d give them a chance to explain themselves before turning your back forever. We have all gone through stressful times since the beginning of 2020, and people who have operated as sane adults for most of their lives have been thrown into a realm of the unknown, where they may have grasped at whatever rope they thought could save them from falling. Trump made a lot of promises that were cleverly engineered to sucker in those very people. One cannot blame humans for grasping at straws when they are in panic mode.

However, if your “friends” were the kind who habitually  made promises, then broke them, who lied when they didn’t want to admit to unpleasant truths, and who always seemed to be busy when push came to shove … well, I can’t see any point in wasting any effort to reconnect with that.

The question is, and always will be, what kind of people are these, at heart? If they are worth it, try again. If they aren’t, screw ‘em.

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