St. Mary's County Times December 07, 2017 - Page 27

Contributing Writers The County Times Thursday, December 7, 2017 27 Governance by Gaslight In the 1940’s movie Gaslight, a seeming- ly-devoted husband torments his trusting wife with a series of strange and frightening incidents. She doesn’t know he’s behind the incidents, which lead her to question everything she knows, and even her own sanity. He does it to deflect atten- tion from crimes he’s committed. Over the years since, gaslighting has come to represent an effort by one person to shift the ground under another person, typically with bad intentions: to use lies and deceit to make the other person feel (and appear) increasingly un- stable. Psychologists, self-help gurus and average- Joes point to gaslighting as a particularly damag- ing—and malevolent—way to make someone feel insane. Welcome to Gaslight Central: 1600 Penn- sylvania Avenue. This means an unending stream of denial of what is abundantly clear, even in the face of incontrovertible proof: a videotape from Access Hollywood in which the president is heard making appalling comments about women, followed by an apology for doing so, followed months later by de- nials that the video is of the president at all. It means indefensible behaviors defended as normal: verbal attacks on Gold Star families; cru- elly mimicking the movements and voice of a per- son with disabilities; saying certain women aren’t attractive enough to sexually assault. It means projecting one’s own bad behaviors and intentions and insecurities on others: Crooked Hillary and Lyin’ Ted Cruz and Lil Marco Rubio. And, it also means praising anyone who is sup- portive or admiring, no matter their own flaws or history of, oh, I don’t know, murdering their enemies, for instance: Vladimir Putin, white su- premacists, Nazis. And then, when they aren’t so supportive or admiring or cooperative anymore— the FBI, say, or the entire U.S. intelligence com- munity—it means painting them as crazy or hacks or “haters and fools” or “in tatters.” Meanwhile, the House and Senate, who have ob- viously taken lessons in gaslighting themselves, make statements encouraging voters to elect into the Senate a man accused by multiple, cred- ible women of sexually assaulting teenaged girls, while simultaneously saying they’d be appalled at having to work side-by-side with Al Franken. If you’re feeling a little crazy lately, there’s a reason for it; we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, and up is down, while wrong is right. Posting and praising videos of fascist, extremist hate groups and poking the nuclear bear are suddenly pre- sented as good political strategies, and anything you don’t agree with is “fake news,” and any man accused of inappropriate sexual behavior is out of a job…unless that man is the president. That’s all before breakfast, carried out on early morning tweets into a world that once made some sort of sense. Someday, if there’s a future—if a man who can’t keep his twitchy little fingers from tweeting is able to keep them off the nuclear button—we’ll have to come up with a name for this upside-down time. I’m putting in my recommendation now: the Gaslight Years. May they be brief, and may we all survive with our sanity—and our country—intact. I love hearing from you; feel free to contact me at if you have com- ments or questions about the column. limited time offer: Free Window Why in the world would we give you a free window – no strings attached? A TRUSTED NAME SINCE 1945 Improve your home. Improve yo