First 100 Days: Denial Ain’t Just a River


“That Didn’t Happen”

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

…you deserved it.”

-Author Unknown

I believe denial suffocates mental well-being. Trump’s narcissistic denial has given oxygen to a contingency of closed-minded thinkers, whose uprising poses a threat to our very democracy. It is my hope, however, that the majority of our nation will have their eyes further opened by this threat, which will breathe greater awareness and health into our nation.

While there are many malignancies in our sociopolitical undercurrent, I’ve been especially frightened by the level of inter- and intra-personal denial, spearheaded by our president himself. Trump epitomizes this seat of psychopathology: blindness to oneself. On the other end of the spectrum of health is the knowledge of and communication between states of being (and by extension, each other). For example, the self-important, easily enraged part of myself will be well known to the self-questioning and meek part of myself. They will be friends, even, holding each other accountable and having a certain fondness for one another. They know there is no shame in rage and no shame in meekness. On a relational level, this means that when I am told I have offended someone, I will, hopefully, be able to see myself from his or her perspective, empathically react, and self-correct if necessary. This ability strengthens relationships and assuages hurts. To me, there is nothing more relationally (and nationally) powerful than true self-awareness.

And there is nothing more dangerous than closing down avenues of communication- both within one’s psyche, and between people. Trump is a master at this. His denial takes several forms, and it’s unclear on what level (if any) he is aware of his lies. But he is effectively stoking the flames of narrow-minded thinking in large swaths of the country.

An example of this culture-level denial is the resurgence of white supremacy and xenophobia. It is the denial of one’s fears of others, it is the denial of the humanity of the ‘other,’ and it is scapegoating a person or group in order to deny one’s own ‘badness.’ This level of denial is primitive and base. It’s easy to be self-aggrandizing, elitist, and insular. Inclusivity and openness is what makes our country great. Our national experiment is premised on the mosaic of differences among and between us, which grows and heals our democracy. This is our ideal, but we have not lived up to it, even before Trump brought this to the fore. The infection that has always made our democracy sickly and weak is white supremacy: the cultural epitome of denial.

But there is another uprising: the exposure of this deep-seated racism is opening the eyes of progressive and open-minded non-minorities to implicit racism and white privilege. I’ve seen this personally among other white, suburban, young mothers who always took for granted our country’s progressiveness. Their suddenly burgeoning anger and action gives me immense hope. And I see evidence of this same fight all over the country. Trump’s blatant denial is actually having an eye-opening effect on much of the nation. Trump’s denial is shining a bright spotlight on these hideous monsters so they shrink away. We are gaining insight into each other’s struggles, which I believe portends greater national (and possibly personal) health.

The far-right appears to not be learning from this eye-opening revolution; insight is not growing in this group. They appear to be digging their heels into an already-entrenched mindset of bigotry and self-aggrandizement that Trump all too readily embodies and encourages. We can only hope, though, that this vocal group is a small one. We can hope that with more national and grassroots dialogue, this group will continue to shrink. Our country has challenged elitism and closed-mindedness in many ways in the past. I see this currently as Trump is losing his following at an impressive rate.

My hope is that most of the country will have the wool pulled from over their eyes, and they will take part in this process of self and other-discovery, to the enormous health and benefit of our democracy.