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  • Reverend James Squire

Unconventional Response to the Absurd

Voltaire, 18th century French philosopher, writer, and historian wrote, “Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Today is the day that Liz Cheney lost her leadership position in the Republican Party. She is losing it because she has spoken out against the absurd claims of former President Trump. Her comments are really identical to what other Republican leaders said after the insurrection on January 6. Lindsay Graham spoke recently about the reason that Liz Cheney is being removed from her leadership office when he said, “The Republican Party cannot move forward without Trump!” People want to make sure that they are on the “right power train” to be elected when they are up for reelection. They have made a choice between integrity and power staying in office which is resulting in a loss of integrity. 70% of the Republican voters believe Trump’s lie about the election.

There is something else going on that has made this situation having reasonable people just shaking their heads in disbelief that the Republican Party can’t see the light. The short statement by Voltaire is the answer to our confusion. The Absurdism School of thought emphasizes the tension between an absurd universe and our striving for meaning to make sense of it all. Religion is the biggest antidote against absurdity. It seeks meaning!

I think that the world of counseling can help us understand what is being played out on a national and international stage. What can help us to counter all the self-contradiction that we have been exposed to since that January day when our democracy was attacked?

Have you ever wondered why Trump got along so well with Putin and Kim Jong-un? To use a non-clinical term, all three are crazy. Crazy here meaning to have us believe something that was not true and irrational. Despite all of Trump’s security agencies saying that Russia was at the heart of attempting to control our election, he chose to believe Putin who is Trump’s rival in telling big lies. Trump also told the American people that he “received a love letter” from the North Korean leader. America and North Korea were on the verge of a new relationship. Any reasonable person knew Putin and Kim Jon-un were lying and feeding the narcissism of Trump.

Voltaire is reaching across centuries to point out what is occurring today. Trump’s lies have created an absurd world that doesn’t make sense to us. Voter suppression and new acolytes espousing conspiracy theories are just a few of the atrocities that have become our new normal.

What do you do to help people who are irrational and are gaslighting the general population? Pretend that our irrational absurd culture is being promulgated by one person who comes for counseling. Continue to believe that power is the issue but don’t keep identifying the issue but realize that the propagators of the lack of reason are really frightened at a deep level. They fear that they will lose power and find themselves in a vulnerable position. Biden has indicated that he wants to work with the loyal opposition, but they are scared to death that they will lose the little ground that they have. White supremacy and racism have grown in visibility for the same reason. White people don’t want anyone above them. They say, “We won’t be replaced!”

One of the things that I was trained to do when counseling someone who had absurd irrational beliefs is to make oneself smaller so that the other person wouldn’t feel threatened which causes the atrocities that they have committed. We were instructed to literally sit on the floor so that we would seem smaller than the irrational client. It is counter intuitive, but it works to help those with deep dysfunction..

I once had a woman who was psychotic brought to my office for help by the plant operations staff at EA when I was off campus. She destroyed my office including spilling coffee on my computer and freezing it up. When I asked what happened the police were searching for answers. However, a spokesman for the police present said that a large tall officer came later and stood in my office door. It was then that the woman tore the office apart. Bottom line she was threatened by him, his size, and his power.

It is a very frightening position for Trump and his followers to feel that they are losing power to someone “bigger” than them. The result is atrocious behavior which makes the rest of them hold on to him and a lie.

Second, remember Trump and his dealings with Putin and Kim Jong-un. They are three liars wanting others to believe irrational responses. If they were one person coming for assistance, one can try a somewhat risky move. Act more irrational than them. It’s like hitting restart on a computer. You have a fresh screen. The one who comes for help responds by trying to make sense of what you are doing. It can shock them into seeing what they are doing as completely irrational. At the same time, it doesn’t scare them.

In essence, we need to get the irrational ones to see that the solution to their fear and commitment of atrocities is to work something out with the people who are reasonable and not interested in being “bigger” and making them as vulnerable as they feel.

Surely a view of Sartre’s existentialist notion of hell would require Trump, Putin, and Kim Jong-un to live forever in one room together. Their only way out would be proving the other two are irrational and absurd. We know that would never happen as they would hold on to their respective big lie for all eternity.

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