By Merrill Lynn Hansen
My name is Merrill Lynn Hansen, and I am an addict. I am addicted to arguing with idiots about Donald Trump. I know it might seem mean to refer to Trump supporters as idiots, but I'm convinced they are I have been interested in politics from a very young age, and have learned the importance of researching, keeping an open mind, and gathering as much information as I can, in order to educate myself. I watch congressional hearings, read transcripts of legal proceedings and listen to speeches and press briefings. I read several newspapers and magazines every day, watch the news, and even watch Fox (as long as I can stand it), to see how many conspiracy theories the network’s pundits perpetuate.
My addiction began innocently enough, when Donald Trump first came down the escalator of Trump Tower with Melania in 2015, and announced his candidacy for the office of President of the United States. I'd begun researching Trump when he pretended he was going to run for president in a prior election, and accused Barack Obama of being a Muslim born in Kenya. I believed it was a publicity stunt, and my research revealed his history of bankruptcies, lawsuits and trickery, and the fact that he was a well-dressed grifter. I knew that he might appeal to people who liked reality TV, but I was not aware of the Idiot Factor.
At first, I limited my conversations to Republicans who told me they were disenchanted with politicians, and hoped that Trump would offer a change from "politics as usual.” Some disliked Hillary, and even though I didn't agree with them, I thought of them as intelligent people who just weren't looking deep enough to see the vile person Trump was. Besides, I never thought Trump would win. When I realized on election night in 2016 that Hillary had lost, I found myself in a fetal position, and stayed there for weeks. I then resumed my conversations with Trump supporters and was determined to show them that he was unfit to be president.
Slowly, the Trump supporters with whom I was having intelligent discussions began to become disillusioned with him. Their tolerance for his bad behavior ran out, after I pointed out how Trump had said he saw "fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville, and how Trump had stood next to Putin in Helsinki, and said he believed Putin's assurances that the latter had not interfered in our 2016 election, and he didn't believe our intelligence agencies. I felt I had contributed to their realization that Trump was a scoundrel, and I enjoyed that feeling.
I began to take part in conversations with other people whom I thought were misguided. I was certain that if given enough information, they would eventually see what should have been apparent to them all along: Trump should not be reelected.
But, after a while, it became apparent to me that these people weren't really misguided; they were willfully refusing to pay attention to facts. They believed everything was "fake news.” When the Washington Post wrote that Trump had told 20,000 lies to the American people, they believed every single lie. I tried to go over each lie with them, but was exhausted by the time I reached 10,000, and their responses were always the same: "hoax.”
Even though I was becoming distressed, I couldn't stop. I was convinced that there had to be more Trump supporters I could convert. But in July, I began to realize that arguing about Trump with idiots was starting to interfere with my life. Even though I was still high functioning, and carrying out all of my responsibilities, I started to prioritize my tasks differently. While working on a project for work, I found myself looking at my text messages and arguing with someone about how Trump was ignoring Dr. Fauci's advice about COVID-19 and was now getting all of his "expert advice" from an MRI doctor and the My Pillow guy.
When I explained to one Trump supporter that I had watched the House and Senate investigative hearings about the new Postmaster General and the delays in the mail that were deliberately intended to cause people to lose faith in the Post Office, and had decide not to request mail-in ballots, she had no idea what I was talking about. But she was convinced that the Democrats were going to rig the election by sending in ballots for their deceased parents.
"How will they do that?, I grilled her. ‘Do you have proof?" Her response was jarring, "Rudy Guiliani has proof of that, and he's releasing it in a documentary, but you'll never believe it, because you and your friends are sheep." This woman's husband had earlier called me a sheep, when I told him that according to our intelligence agencies, Rudy Guiliani is spreading Russian disinformation about Joe Biden. This argument ended with me telling him that I was no one's sheep, and that I was smart enough to be a shepherd, rather than be part of a herd. Now, I sounded like an idiot.
I finally felt the need to distance myself , but the Trump pushers always popped up. When I wrote on someone's Facebook page about how pretty her flower pictures were, a Trump supporter posted a comment that "Sleepy Joe" looked senile at the first debate. When I posted a funny video on my page about an old Seinfeld show, a Trump supporter wrote, "It's interesting that you're posting something other than news about Kamala Harris. Is that because you know she wasn't born in this country?"
I reached bottom when I realized I was arguing with someone who had chased me home from kindergarten the entire school year, with his eyelids flipped up. I had sworn sixty years ago that I would never speak to that person for the rest of my life, yet suddenly I was screaming, "There are no intelligence reports that say Obama spied on Trump's campaign. Do you still think he bugged Trump's microwave, you idiot?"
My addiction has overtaken me. I can no longer refrain from calling Trump supporters idiots. Every sentence I speak or write, ends with "you idiot.” I feel powerless over my addiction. I argued in September with one Trump supporter who said that Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, would never try to limit a woman's right to have an abortion. He assured me that even though he was voting for Trump, he would not vote for Barrett if she's not pro-choice. "SHE'S NOT ON THE BALLOT, YOU IDIOT! YOU CAN"T VOTE FOR TRUMP AND AGAINST BARRETT.!”
I am struggling to take the first steps in recovery, and acknowledge that I am powerfless over my disdain for The Base. I am trying to curb my enthusiasm for political spats with those who don’t agree with me. But I have to confess that yesterday,I couldn’t resist having one last argument with a Trump supporter on Facebook about whether or not Trump has spread COVID -19 throughout the White House. He accused me of hoping that Trump and his aides would test positive for COVID-19. I have to admit that the conversation ended without me calling him an idiot.
Merrill Hansen is a legal assistant, living in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She describes herself as a frustrated writer, who wishes she could be Nora Ephron (when she was alive), if only for a day. She is a news-, political- and FB-junkie, a combination that requires a constant reminder that she needs to take deep cleansing breaths when responding to people who don't agree with her.