Cognitive Dissonance

My wife and I had the fun of baby sitting our two young granddaughters the other evening while our daughter and her husband got a little time to themselves.

After dinner, I suggested to my older granddaughter, Bridgette, that we toddle around the corner to see our elderly friend, Marsha.   It wasn’t a hard sell.  A long time favorite among neighborhood children because of her habit of passing out tootsie roll pops to any of the little beggars who show up at her front door, Marsha greeted us warmly as the porch light came on.  This despite the fact that two and a half year old Bridgette asked for her treat even before she said hello to Marsha.

With Bridgette on my lap, Marsha and I caught up on neighborhood news around the kitchen table.  Her daughter was well.  So was my family.

Then Marsha said something that caught me by surprise.  “I suppose you like how Trump is handling things.”  The look on her face made it perfectly clear that she didn’t.

Although I certainly knew that she was aware that I had served in the Colorado House for eight years, I didn’t remember ever discussing politics with her before.  And it definitely wasn’t my intent to begin that night.  I answered with what I trusted was a non-confrontational, “Yes, I do support him.”  And left it at that.  To my relief, she did too.

A few minutes later, the three of us pushed back from the table and made our way to the counter on which the jar holding the candy sat.  Taking it in her slightly arthritic hands, Marsha held the jar down where Bridgette could contemplate its apparently inexhaustible riches.  Having made her selection, Marsha reminded Bridgette that it had to wait until we got home.  And, she added, “It’s very important that you don’t run with the sucker in your mouth.”  Spoken like a real expert on the subject of suckers and kids.

Marsha put away the sucker jar.  And then said something else that came as revelation.  Tearing up, she told me that a nephew on her deceased husband’s side is dying of cancer.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.  “Does he have a family?”

“Yes, a wife and two young children.  And, short of a miracle, there really isn’t any hope for him.”

“Oh, Marsha,” I said, “I am so sorry.  Any idea of how he got it?”

“Yes,” she said, “he was a fireman in New York on 9/11.  All that dust . . .”  Her voice trailed off and she went to a cupboard and pulled out a white coffee mug. It read, “Never give up the fight.”

“They’ve given these out to show support for the family.”  Her eyes were glistening.

I rubbed her back; I should have given her a hug.  “I’ll pray for him,” I promised.

Hand in hand, Bridgette and I walked home a few minutes later.  Shortly thereafter, amidst the usual hugs, kisses, bustle, sucker and confusion, we bid our daughter and her family goodnight.

It didn’t occur to me until some time later how strange the conversation with Marsha had been.

She doesn’t like how Trump is handling things.  Exactly what she meant, I don’t know.  I didn’t ask.

But I do know that her immediate family has been directly and tragically impacted by Islamic terror.  Her nephew’s wife is likely to be a widow.  The nephew’s young children are likely to be fatherless.

Maybe Marsha doesn’t like a whole host of other things that President Trump is doing.  But wouldn’t utilizing “extreme vetting” on immigrants trying to get to the US from Islamic countries well known to harbor terrorists cover a multitude of other Presidential sins when your own family has been so terribly scarred?  Evidently not.

But, in a larger sense, Marsha’s disapproval is understandable, perhaps even natural.  She is elderly-around 80.  How can she resist the relentless barrage of propaganda masquerading as news that has declared it is an illegitimate interest of our nation to control our borders.   To-gasp!-benefit the citizens of our country, rather than foreigners? And now our black robed judges, in all their august sanctimony, are piling on, joining in the chorus of Presidential denunciations.

Of course, Marsha believes that all right thinking people agree that the President is wrong.

But why are so many feminists, unless they are willfully ignorant of how women are treated in fundamentalist Islamic countries, protesting the President’s travel ban?  And, for that matter, why are so many gays joining in the sometimes violent protests, when, according to a June, 2016 Washington Post article, homosexual acts can be punished by death in 10 Muslim countries?  Most of these types, presumably, aren’t laboring under the limitations of advancing years.

It would be nice to think that what they are doing is a courageous, sacrificial example of turning the other cheek to one’s enemies.  But that’s pretty hard to swallow.  How do the cursings, beat downs, burning and rioting that are directed at President Trump and his supporters square with loving your enemies?  At the very least, it’s an odd way to pick your enemies:  love those that are trying to kill and maim you.  And hate those that are trying to protect you.


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