A few nights ago – Wednesday 11/11 – I had a dream. I go through phases where I dream very frequently and vividly, so it was nothing out of the ordinary. But, after sharing it with a few close friends, I decided I would go ahead and write about it.
So here it is…
I was at some kind of festival. It was one where all kinds of barbecue and ribs vendors are trying to compete to win one of those “best recipe” awards. When I lived in Indianapolis, we had these festivals during the fall. Rib Fest, Jazz Fest, and others would feature well-known music acts and hold contests for “World’s Greatest Recipe” of various food items. As I was looking around, I saw a booth with a really long line, and Donald Trump was standing there. I thought it was a little weird that the President was standing at a food booth, but decided I’d go see what was happening.
When I got to the front of the line, Trump was standing at the table with a jar of peanut butter in one hand and a hamburger in the other hand. He grabbed a butter knife, stuck it into the jar of peanut butter, spread it over the top of the hamburger, then handed the hamburger to me. I started laughing and said, “Why did you put peanut butter on a hamburger?”
“That’s not peanut butter; that’s ketchup,” Trump replied.
“No, that is clearly peanut butter. I saw you get it out of the jar.”
“Try it. It’s the best ketchup ever.”
He is the President. So, out of respect, I took a bite. “That’s definitely peanut butter,” I said.
“No. It’s ketchup. It’s the best ketchup ever!” Trump responded very loudly, so that everyone in line could hear.
I just stood there for a moment, confused. Then, he grabbed a hot dog, spread peanut butter all over it, and handed it to the next person in line. “This is the best ketchup you’re ever going to eat!”
I watched as the man beside me took a huge bite of the peanut butter-covered hot dog. He immediately exclaimed, “This is the best ketchup ever!”
I looked at the man beside me and said, “You know that’s really peanut butter, right?” Then, everyone in line started yelling that it was ketchup to the point where I began questioning my own eyes and what I was seeing.
That scene in my dream ended, and I was suddenly sitting on the couch in my living room. The television was on and a commercial for Trump Ketchup was on with Trump exclaiming it was the most delicious ketchup you could ever try. He was holding, what was clearly, a jar of JIF peanut butter, with a red Trump label slapped over the top of the JIF label.
This phenomenon is colloquially known as “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is when an individual seeks to assert control over a person or group of people by manipulating the truth in such a way that causes them to question their own sanity. Followers of a leader employing this technique lose faith in their ability to discern right from wrong or truth from falsehood. They ultimately become pathologically dependent upon the leader to tell the followers how to think or feel.
Additionally, we can gaslight ourselves. In fact, we often do this and then look for another person to blame. Rather than thinking independently and intellectually, we segment ourselves into groups that reinforce our own behaviors and beliefs. Over time, we create a reality for ourselves that is in no way built on truth, but on the self-reinforcing opinions of those who think as we do. Social media has given us a tool to do this on a global scale. Before long, we have given our total selves over to this new version of reality that we’ve created. Through this new reality, we decide what is or is not true, and what our feelings should be about various matters/issues. Inside of this reality, everyone has good intentions. Outside of it, everyone is the enemy.
When we silence dissent to the point that we refuse to listen to the mindset or reasoning of those with whom we disagree, then we have begun a journey down a very dangerous road. Eventually, dueling realities become irreconcilable for reasons that no one can adequately express. Rather than creating mere disagreement, we create enemies. Rather than reaching across barriers, we villainize those who think differently than our group.
Rather than seeking to understand the truth, we believe that peanut butter is the best ketchup we’ve ever tasted.