Pamela Garber – As that rarest of species in Manhattan – a single female and therapist who supports the policies of Donald Trump – I am routinely informed by my dates and peers that, in addition to my common, domestic lifestyle, I am “destroying the world.”
Finding someone whom I can share my life with is a priority, and I am on a mainstream dating site. After a favorable email exchange with a divorced guy, things moved to a phone conversation. He asked what I do. I said I am a therapist. We talked about our mutual interest in running, and I said that if I got accepted to run N.Y. again, I would train on the treadmill while listening to Trump’s speeches. I said that would be Nirvana. He then said the president is guilty of genocide for what he is “doing” to the caravan people. I said I see it differently but that I am sympathetic and heartbroken still over Elián González and that having to face Janet Reno in the middle of the night was pretty cruel. He then said we are not a match, that people like me are destroying the world – but wished me luck and then said, “Lord help us” before hanging up on me.
Since our president was elected, I’ve experienced a daily routine occurrence where verbal pellets are shot at me from all corners of my life whenever I am brave enough to reveal my agreement with much of our president’s agenda – if the person I am communicating with doesn’t agree.
“I question your ability to have true empathy,” says the fellow therapist at a workshop.
“Oh, it’s because you lived in Texas that time with your aunt as a child,” says my grandmother’s cousin, a doctor, sounding as if she discovered the cause of my unfortunate diagnosis
“Check, please,” says the divorced guy I sat down with at a coffee shop.
“I don’t understand how you can call yourself an American and still support what this man is doing,” says another date. “I think you need to remember who Adolf Hitler was,” says my very ex-date, a psychologist in private practice. That one made the rhythm stop as I looked at this person sitting across from me. I regained my composure enough to respond as follows: “When you make a comparison between two people, it helps when the people have a significant, legitimate commonality. Do you, as an educated, employed person, see factual commonality?”
He replied, “You’re an awful Jew and a disappointment to your people.”
About a year ago, I first experienced verbal pellets. This was post-dinner, while sitting on the sofa for what was supposed to be a cozy, quiet evening at home. It was a New York winter night of CNN, my now ex-fiancé, and me. After watching well dressed broadcasters yell at Jeffrey Lord while my former fiancé was cheering, waving his arms, with TV remote in hand, I knew there was a psychological dynamic taking place. Something felt familiar. I tried to explain to my liberal then-partner what I was seeing. I began by describing the angry parental type of stance the yelling broadcasters were taking. They had an unyielding commitment to an emotional stance, regardless of the facts that challenged their argument.
That’s when it hit me. The mainstream broadcasters and much of society are an exact replica of the angry parents I sometimes see when providing family therapy sessions. In family therapy, there is almost always what is known as The Identified Patient. This person, usually a teenager, becomes the catalyst for the family being in therapy. The family then sits with the therapist and blames this one member for all of the problems in the family.
My next insight: If the Trump-haters are playing the role of the angry parents, then President Trump is the Identified Patient. If our country is a family, then President Trump is the scapegoated teen who prompted all the issues to come to light.
“We cannot solve a problem without naming it.” Who gave us this adult, pragmatic, and concise quote? Was it a famous mathematician, scientist, or motivational speaker? This quote is from President Trump. He was trying to discuss the issue of terrorist attacks at a time when ISIS was announcing plans to attack the United States in honor of Islam. Somehow, the take away was that President Trump hates immigrants, hates Islam, and wanted to eliminate everyone who hasn’t stepped out of a Ralph Lauren catalog.
As far as where I go from here, maybe there will be someone on the next treadmill who won’t think Human Events is a government-funded study on the bar scene. Or, just maybe, they’ll be a guy who won’t feel charged with the task of clipping my conservative wings. Our home would be a place where I could say I’m against The Rules of Engagement without risking a fight.
Sometimes the city feels like a friend. Between the East River and the Hudson are various neighborhoods full of life, expressive personalities, and warm small talk. New Yorkers bask in a mode of shared circumstances that evoke an awareness that life is in the present moment. But it takes just one wrong comment at the wrong time in favor of the wrong president, and the most benign-looking Birkenstocks become potential weaponry. I’ll continue my routine and my search, knowing that it in a city of over eight million people, the odds of things eventually working out in my favor are…yuge!