Sunday, June 19, 2022

In which I admit to being a snowflake.

Or a flake, at least. I had every intention of posting last Sunday night, as is my usual practice, but somehow the day got away from me. When I realized what had happened, I told myself I'd just post the next night. I've sometimes skipped Sunday and posted on Monday night instead. But that didn't happen this past week, either. So I apologize for flaking out on you last week, and I hope not to do it again (too many more times). 

Clker-Free-Vector-Images | Pixabay | CC0
Now about my snowflakery. 

As a retired person, I have the luxury of being able to watch the House January 6th committee hearings -- even the daytime hearings -- in real time. This past Monday, one of the topics was former President Trump's fundraising efforts after he lost the 2021 election to Joe Biden. Here is the scam in a nutshell: First, Trump lied that the election was stolen. That's been dubbed the Big Lie. Then he sent millions of emails to his supporters, asking them to donate to something called the Official Election Defense Fund to help fund the legal fight to "stop the steal." And his supporters did donate -- $250 million total, $100 million of that in the few days after the election. 

But the Official Election Defense Fund never existed, and none of the donations ever went to pay lawyers to challenge the election. Instead, the donations went to a political action committee Trump had just created, a charity begun by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, a conservative organization, Trump's hotel company, and the outfit that organized the January 6th rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol. In short, Trump raised a quarter of a billion dollars on a lie, and then lied about where the money went. During the hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) called it the Big Ripoff.

Moreover, more than half of the small-dollar donors to this scam -- that is, people who donated $100 or less -- listed their occupation as "retired". When this came out during the committee hearing, I got a little choked up. I felt sorry for the folks who got conned into giving money they probably didn't have to such a shyster. And I said so in a Facebook post.

I got pushback. 

A whole lot of people I know have zero sympathy for anyone who has gone along with any of Trump's lies. They believe it's his fans' own fault that they got taken in, and they deserve to lose their money.

But here's the thing: If you've been scammed, you've been victimized. It doesn't matter if the scammer is a guy claiming to be Nigerian prince, or someone who tells you to pay a bogus bill by sending them gift cards, or Donald Trump. It's still a crime, and crimes have victims. Making fun of a victim, or telling them they should have known better, doesn't solve anything. And it sure as hell doesn't help the victim.

Did Trump's victims have ample opportunity to wake up from the lie? Maybe, maybe not. Depends how deep into the rightwing media ecosphere they've been. Sure, they could have stepped away from Fox News and QAnon videos like their family members pleaded with them to do -- but keep in mind that Fox News has been in operation since October 1996. Trump's hardcore followers have been marinating in this stuff for more than 25 years. It's been said that if it hadn't been Trump who captured their slavish devotion, it would have been someone else (and we should count our blessings because that person might have actually been competent).

My friends think what Trump and his true believers have done to the country is so damaging that they should never be forgiven. I've written about my view of forgiveness before, and I've gotten pushback on that, too. I don't believe in forgiving someone who has done nothing to deserve it. However, when it comes to gaslighting, it takes a lot to wake someone up to what's going on. Seeing the violence at the Capitol on January 6th woke up some of them. Maybe the hearings will wake up others. And it seems to me that the realization they've been had is the first step toward remorse -- and feeling remorseful is the first step toward earning forgiveness. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the originators and perpetrators of the Big Lie should be forgiven; on the contrary, I hope they all rot in prison. But for folks like small-dollar donors who got sucked in? If they realize their mistake now, and take steps to undo the damage they've done, we shouldn't turn our backs on them. In my view, they deserve not ostracism, but compassion.

If we ever hope to bring this country together again, we need to find ways to breach the divide. Seems to me that compassion is a decent place to start.

And if that makes me a snowflake, so be it.


These moments of flaky blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The pandemic isn't over yet -- get vaxxed and boosted!

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