We want to believe that you believe what you are saying, but we shouldn’t

Dear President Trump,

I’ve been struggling with the issue of belief all day and it’s giving me a headache. It’s not so much what people believe that has me going in circles, it’s more trying to sort out how to know whether what someone says they believe really is what they believe. Generally this shouldn’t be that hard as we can evaluate whether the person is consistent in what they say and whether they act in ways that seem to go along with their words, particularly when no one is watching or there are pressures not to act in certain ways. So really, this seems straightforward most of the time.

However, when the President of the US is inconsistent and we can’t tell if he believes what he says he believes, many of us don’t know what to do. This past week it was amazing to watch grown people lurch to and fro as they’ve cycled between dismay when you undercut the US intelligence community in favor of Vladimir and Russia, relief when you “clarified” that “would” was missing that pesky “n’t,” then dismay again when you responded “no” you don’t think Russia is still targeting US elections, and relief again when Sarah “clarified” that you were really saying “no, I won’t take any more questions” as though any of the specific utterances had any real meaning at all. It feels nuts that there were palpable, nearly seismic shifts in how comfortable and uncomfortable large swaths of the population were when you were saying the right thing vs. saying the wrong thing even when you were making it painfully obvious that you hated saying the right thing and that you delighted in saying the wrong thing (the right thing being that Russia did it and is doing it and the wrong thing being that they didn’t and aren’t).

When the most powerful person in the world is wickedly inconsistent and it’s not possible to trust that he really believes what he says he believes, when his word is worth nothing whatsoever, we are left reeling and can’t seem to right ourselves. Basically, it’s pretty crazy making and it’s very scary.

May we keep our sanity safe from the onslaught of double- and triple-layered lies.
May we retain the capacity for joy and happiness.
May we teach our children not to be like the greedy, erratic bully in charge.
May we not accept that up is down or that war is peace.

Tracy Simpson

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