If it weren’t for the fact that I had interviews already scheduled, I might have stopped this project on Friday, just shy of 24 hours after it had begun. I had spent more than four years investigating religion, including its enigmatic fringes, but just one day in this arena and I felt defeated.

I thought of how, at a rally, Trump told the story about a U.S. general who used bullets dipped in pig’s blood to shoot Muslims prisoners in a firing squad more than a century ago. He said this action helped end terrorism in the Philippines for 28 years, the insinuation being that this was an effective act. Not only was the account untrue, but I found Trump’s use of it deeply disturbing. It spoke of his support for behavior I consider grotesque and unnecessarily cruel.

It pained me how careless he was in his relations with others: hurling insults, mocking people. He did things we teach children are wrong, that as a society we have agreed are counter to basic decency. These knee-jerk responses spoke to me of his inability to gracefully tolerate criticism or opposing opinions.

The only way I could see forward in these interviews was to take Trump’s example and do the opposite. Lay down my defenses. Restrain knee-jerk reactions. Sit calmly and respectfully with another point of view.

I could just listen.

That evening I spoke to Tiffany, who was born in 1975 and currently lives in Milwaukee. When I called, she was in the car driving back to the small town in upper Michigan where she grew up. She was heading home for a reunion of some sort. I didn’t start off with questions about her vote, I just said, “Tell me about yourself.”

Perhaps it was the several hours of driving ahead, or the many old friends and acquaintances she would see when she arrived, but Tiffany started with her childhood. She acknowledged the many factors that contributed to her being a particularly melancholy kid. For starters, she was known as the “smelly girl” in school because of farm chores. Also, her mother, who had grown up in an abusive household, was lugging around her own sadness. But undeniably, a big part was nature: she had come into this world prone to dark moods and low self-esteem.

As a teenager, the sadness gained traction and became white hot anger, which she directed at a multitude of targets, primarily men and herself, though often everyone and everything in between. She was labeled a “man-hating feminist” for how tough she was on guys. She was also known as a “partier” for the substances she consumed. Like millions of others, she was acting on the seemingly contradictory impulse to protect oneself while simultaneously destroying that same self.

At 18, she started taking medication that kept her moods from dipping so low, though she still struggled with a sense of hopelessness. The way she saw it, girls from her town had one of two career options: nursing or something with the nearby prison system. She opted for the latter, getting a BA in criminal justice and then promptly securing a job as a guard at an all-male correctional facility. She also got married. With these big life issues settled, it was just a matter of waiting for a sense of serenity to arrive.

But dissatisfaction continued to haunt her, forcing her through changes: divorce, quitting her job after 7 years and going back to school for a second BA in communications, moving to Chicago and then Milwaukee, going off her meds, and getting remarried.

Now she feels she has finally found peace. She did it with the help of a female friend, a mentor who modeled a different sort of strength—one that embraces vulnerability rather than trying to hide it. She’s become more transparent about her suffering in the hopes of helping others. She works at sharing her story and communicating. She’s learned to let her own desires guide her career choices. She actively practices gratitude.

Her vote for Trump had everything to do with how she feels about Hillary, which appears to be a reflection of how she feels about herself. As she lists the ways in which Clinton is less-than-perfect, I read between the lines. I think in Hillary she sees the remnants of her unhappy past. She sees a woman with a hard outer shell, who isn’t soft, who doesn’t show vulnerability. She sees a marriage held together by forces that do not appear to be about love. She sees a woman who is tough and maybe a little bit angry. She sees a person she wasn’t comfortable being and doesn’t want to be reminded of for the next eight years.

13 thoughts on “Tiffany

  1. It’s unfortunate that Tiffany relied on her (dishevelled) emotions – rather than her brains – to vote for a completely unqualified candidate for POTUS. 😦

  2. “To understand is to forgive.” Well, I’ve always thought I could practice Pascal’s philosophy but this election has challenged that belief.

    I’ve wondered how so many are unable to move beyond “feeling” to “thinking” about the true cost of alternatives? On the other hand, if I apply this to myself, I can see it in my own freequent choices for “comfort food” over nutrition!

    I pride myself on making “logical” decisions, but that’s more illusion than I like to admit. I hope to acknowledge the power of emotional choices in my own and others lives-and to recognize that our civilization and our rational education are only a veneer over our deep survival instincts. I do believe we can learn to recognize the difference and make “better” choices, but wonder if that is limited to each individual, and maybe doesn’t extend to cultural learning.

    It will be an interesting journey as we watch our own and others efforts to maintain the environment, democracy, and civil rights for all. I know so many who have already taken actions they hope will increase education about the issues they are concerned about. I see less complacency among my liberal/progressive peers that the world is naturally “bending toward justice”.

  3. I vote on the basis of policy and a candidate’s record, not psychology. I voted for the Green Party in a state that was decidedly not a swing state. Had there been only two names on my ballot, Clinton and Trump, and had I been forced to vote for one of them, I would have voted for Trump. The reason is simply war and peace. Hillary Clinton has a very long record of promoting US aggression. She supported her husband’s expansion of NATO through Eastern Europe in 1996. She supported the questionable bombing of Serbia. She supported the war in Iraq that she knew was based on lies. She supported the war in Afghanistan long after it had lost a shred of justification. She promoted the coup overthrowing the democratically elected government of the Ukraine. She was a primary advocate of the overthrow of the government of Libya leading to jihadist chaos. She was an outspoken advocate of US “boots on the ground” in Syria and openly threatened Iran. So my overriding issue was the avoidance of nuclear war and the promotion of detente with Russia. Regardless of Trump’s manifold despicable qualities and fascist domestic policies, he appears to favor peace with Russia. If you think otherwise, please explain why Russia is an adversary of the US that must be confronted militarily.

  4. David spent most of his time re voting on the basis of a “candidate’s record” primarily with Hillary’s record. Unveiling Donald Trump’s record is not much better. Tiffany gave us a look at her family history and how that pushed her in the direction of voting for him. It would be interesting to look at David’s family history as well but then he doesn’t believe in psychology. He just wants “the facts ma’am, just the facts.” This belief that he has the “facts” well in hand is the reason why trying to look for peaceful negotiating through discussion and compromise doesn’t work. As we bump into these folks we have to learn to transcend them. They all come with the same message so we know it well and we know the fallacy of engaging them. They suggest that we move on and get over it. I agree otherwise we’re going to get stuck in their narrow non-inclusive lane. Up and over we go finding new ways to demonstrate a more fulfilling life not by our words or “facts” but by our demonstration of it. The drivel left behind will eventually implode within itself. It’s only four years if it lasts that long.

  5. Given her past emotional upheaval and the difficulty she has chosen to face as a vulnerable women, I find it totally incomprehensible that she voted for a deeply offensive sexual predator instead of a woman who found a way to be strong in spite of life’s difficulties. There is no logic there. You can deal with emotional things only, and ignore logic, but that will usually “end in tears”, as a British nanny would say.

    With Trump, we will end in tears of humiliation only, if lucky, instead of war. Frank….I wish it were as simple as moving on and getting over it, but it isn’t. Active evil (or if you dislike that term, just simple lack of goodness) must be stood up to. It can’t just be ignored. It is going to be the requirement of every civilized person to actively refute Trump’s lies, even if we don’t see an end in sight. I deeply appreciated Bernie Sanders speaking on the Senate floor with Trumps lies in black and white behind him. What Trump said that he doesn’t mean, and the GOP doesn’t mean, needs to be constantly shown in the light of reality. Even if some of the people and all of the GOP have drunk the kool-aid.

    And when what Trump is and does becomes embarassingly, scathingly clear, it will also be ok to say “I told you so!”

    • Just to clarify: I was agreeing with Frank’s last sentence, “IF it lasts that long”. I don’t think it’s going to; that is, I don’t think tRump is going to last that long; impeachment might be the order of the . . . year. Although I can’t see Pence being an improvement. . 😦

    • I hear you, Patricia and say, “Go for it!” Just because anyone transcends Trump’s gibberish doesn’t mean we can’t express our opinions of it. Just keep your cool when you do it and show how you would handle it. Just getting riled up for the sake of being riled up doesn’t accomplish much. Meryl Streep was a good example of speaking one’s feelings. We can do the same and still rise above the gibberish “facts”. I like people like Bernie speaking out. Folks like him come from a strong political and feeling background with the ability to stay cool and competent. Do what you resonate to.

    • Patti, et al…Besides Jesus, other great moral teachers have taught us to confront evil. From the Founding Fathers to Gandhi, we’ve been told that to stand by and do nothing in the face of evil is in itself an act of evil. As Frank said, we should do so while keeping our cool, but confront it we must. Those who think we should “wait and see” or give Trump the chance to fail underestimate the damage he can do as President. There have been way too many lessons from history when people and nations took the “wait and see” approach–lessons learned at the cost of millions of innocent lives. As for Tiffany, projecting her personal issues onto Hillary is an odd kind of anti-hero loathing, rather than hero worship. Basing your vote on whom you personally like is rarely wise. I believe it was David Brokaw who said of Ronald Reagan, “He’ll create policies that would throw your grandmother out in the snow, and he’d be the first to give her his sweater and bring her in his house, and see no conflict between the two.” Trump would kick her to the curb.

  6. OH, and Patti – you’ve probably already seen Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech at some kind of Awards ceremony just recently. Very well said and I think she captured what many of us have been feeling for months. I bet ‘our’ Merrill nodded her head in agreement, too. 🙂

  7. Well Tiffany explains why she didn’t vote for Hillary, but not why, especially considering her background, she voted for Trump? I can’t see a strong feminist ever voting for Trump…perhaps she is not as certain of who she is or was as she thinks she is.

    • “I can’t see a strong feminist ever voting for Trump”. Lori, I can’t understand how ANY woman could vote for him. . . and it looks like Corinna is trying to figure this out also. I’m no closer to understanding, either. 😦

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