The Pieces Don’t Fit

Three winters ago, when I was trying to reinvent myself into a more physically present advocate for homeless people, I would go to a local warming room at 4 in the morning to collect and fold the blankets that had been used by the ninety or more people who’d slept on the floor of a church gymnasium. My shift was 4 to 7 am but I was often late. It felt okay to get up at 4 and get to the church at 4:30 but getting up at 3:30 to get there at 4 seemed too hard. As it was, the driving across town in the dead of winter often made me nervous and wary, for no particular reason, the streets were always empty and still, but maybe that was why. What I was doing seemed surreal.

At the church, there would be a guy or two at the back door who would nod to me but inside it would be dark since people were still sleeping. A few small lights would be on – at the table where other volunteers were sitting, watching the room, getting their lists ready, counting up the McDonald’s cards and bus passes they would later give those leaving to go back outside. And a light would usually be on in the storeroom where the folded blankets would be stacked back up against the wall. More often than not, a young woman, maybe late thirties, would already be there.

Sometimes, she’d gotten up very early, 2:30 or so, and driven in from a far away suburb; sometimes she came the night before and slept on the floor with everyone else. And, as it often seems with people in recovery, she was a treatment and recovery evangelist. It wasn’t five minutes after meeting her that she told me about her journey. She had been saved from addiction by God and her own grit. When she told me these things, she was beaming, her smile electric and joyful.

During lulls in our blanket folding and stacking, she would look out across the room, seeming to have radar for fellow travelers. I could see her yearning to pull someone out of addiction and I admired that. It was so clearly her reason for being. I was a novitiate in this business of helping people face to face so I watched her very carefully.

So it surprised me many months ago that she was a Trump supporter. I only knew this because of social media since there is no warming room and we would have no occasion to meet. But I ignored her pro-Trump posts, many of them focused on right to life. There was no point in commenting. If life has taught me anything, it’s the futility of arguing with a person who is anti-choice. It’s a cellular issue, non-negotiable.

Yesterday’s post was different, coming after the January 6th invasion of the Capitol. She re-posted a long diatribe about the election and I realized that this person, this blanket-folding, recovery evangelist, the one who came extra early and stood looking longingly at people she might be able to help, well, she seems to believe the lies Trump has told the world – about the election, about Joe Biden, and about who is good and who is evil. And, I have to tell you, it’s really hard for me to make sense of that. There is sense to be made of it, but not by me. I just see the pieces in my hand and can’t imagine how they could fit together.

10 Comments on “The Pieces Don’t Fit

  1. The long response from Jerome makes some good points about the mental yoga people will go through to justify supporting insanity. I imagine that her tendency to throw herself first into addiction and then into recovery makes her long to throw herself into another movement. Trump sure provided a place to put passion, however misguided.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jan, Such a poignant, important anecdote about how we relate, and don’t, and to accept/choose, or not, individuals with whom we virulently disagree. With all of the current hatred, an honest acknowledgement of how we feel is a small step to greater good.- Tom

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That “the pieces don’t fit” is where the problem begins. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. Sometimes the pieces of the reality we see just don’t make sense together. I suspect most of the readers of Red’s Wrap believe in preserving the legal right to “choice.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that they think abortions are a good thing, it’s just that they believe we should preserve the right of women to make that choice.

    But of course, others believe there should never be abortions, and our government should make abortion illegal, as it once was. These people tend to be what’s called “single issue” voters–when siding with election officials, all they care about is their position on abortion.

    And so, part of Trump’s support is single issue anti-abortion people. But that’s where the cognitive dissonance comes in. What do you do when your cognition tells you that this person who feel you must support is totally evil in many other ways? How do you resolve that “dissonance?”

    To keep from going crazy you must somehow rewire your brain–you must make the pieces fit. So, in this case, the rewiring consists of convincing yourself that no, Trump is a great guy. And whenever he does something evil it gets worse, because you must rationalize it. He tries to convince Americans that he really won the election? No problem, he must of course be telling the truth.

    So how will Trump supporters rationalize the events of January 6? I was just looking at some poll numbers on the question of, “Do you support the storming of the Capitol building?” For respondents identifying as Republicans, 45% said yes. That’s pretty amazing, but I like the fact that 55% of Republicans said no or undecided. That tells me we may have some serious brain rewiring going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Jan for this post. Keep thinking about this as you have shared a story that illustrates our deepest challenge; we are way past disagreement. . We question values, choices and use words like unhinged to describe those who support the President. Over time all of us become part of the problem. We need a way back. It begins with individuals. I hope you’re able to talk with your friend some day soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes Jan, it goes well beyond comprehension and sense. Pieces are missing from so many puzzles and I suspect most of us will never find them, let alone fit them together to make a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

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