persistence of memory

My husband and I were talking about Ted Cruz today, and what it must be like to be him–to have flipped, and endorse/ support Trump, after the things Trump has said about Cruz’s dad and wife. I said, “I assume that Cruz must have a memory like mine, but worse.”

My memory isn’t actually that crap–its a self-deprecating joke because I prefer to try to avoid dwelling on negative interactions. I’m not always successful, but I’ve noticed life is definitely easier/ happier when I don’t let my mind spiral down into those cycles. There’s a well-known quote about how dwelling on anger/ grudges is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill your enemy, and I definitely agree with that.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying people shouldn’t get angry or upset when they’re mistreated, or when they witness negativity. I just think that hurt should be channeled into productive action. Like a conversation, or social action, or volunteering. And if none of those things are possible, one thing I have learned is that tends to be better for my mental/ emotional health to try to stop thinking/ talking/ writing about the incident, because mulling over it drags it out months or even years longer than I would have otherwise dealt with it.

Anyway, my husband laughed and said, “Yeah, but Trump said it on tape. Its all on record. Cruz can’t escape it!”

That’s interesting when you think about it. Because its true–my forgetfulness only works for person-to-person interactions. Wherever Cruz goes, wherever he turns, the record of Trump’s accusations of his father and insults to his wife will trail him like a constant footnote. They’re a part of his story now–the politician who opposed the upstart demagogue, who denounced him on moral and ethical grounds, who defended him family against Trump’s slander … and who ultimately went down on one knee (metaphorically) to kiss the ring of the chosen leader.

Me, I can go, “Eh, this person is generally a well-intentioned/ good individual; they’re just going through a hard time. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and forget this incident/ action/ language/ behavior/ treatment that offended me.”

Or maybe, “Eh, I don’t like this person’s personality (or they don’t like mine), but I think they have generally good intentions and we just don’t click. I don’t want to waste the emotional investment in dwelling on their behavior or trying to repair the relationship.”

Or even, “Eh, I think this person is a total shithead, and I don’t care what they think of me. I don’t see the value in wasting my emotional energy dwelling on their behavior or trying to repair the relationship.”

Whatever it is, most of my episodes of forgetfulness are interaction where I’ve had the freedom to:

  1. Talk about/ resolve the incident with the individual OR block/ avoid the individual altogether in the future
  2. Delete unwanted emotional recorded reminders of the incident, if desired (if the individual and I disagreed over text/ email/ IM/ etc)
  3. Avoid discussing/ hearing about the incident on constant repeat

The ones I’ve had the worst dwelling/ mulling over cycles were due to one of two situations:

  1. There were a lot of people aware of/ involved in the original incident who kept asking about/ discussing it/ bringing it up long after I was emotionally done with it, OR
  2. I was stupid enough to write about it on a blog somewhere in my first flush of rage, and even with pseudonyms and anonymized locations, the person(s) in question always seem to find it months/ years later, after I’d forgotten and moved on, and the whole thing would blow back up.

That second one was especially annoying, because the entire reason I ever blogged about personal disagreements in the first place was only after all other lines of communication/ resolution had failed/ been shut down, and the two parties were at an impasse, so I was basically venting to the digital void. So the inevitable reaction of the person(s) I was in disagreement with finding the months/ years old post wherein they recognize themselves in the incident would be to a) e-mail the link with an outraged message to everyone in our shared circle, and b) contact me with the same defenses and explanations they had in the original disagreement, as though they thought I hadn’t heard them the first dozen times.

Lesson learned, haha.

Mind you, I still believe people should be able to write about their perspectives/ experiences on personal interactions, relationships, friendships, and family disagreements online, especially if they’re considerate and use pseudonyms/ anonymize the other parties … but for me personally, having dealt with unwanted re-initiated contact and the fallout of hurt feelings/ drama, sometimes years after the original incident, just because someone realized I’d aired my perspective on a situation and were outraged by that … eh. So not worth it to me.

But again, all those heated interactions are ones I have the relative anonymity and freedom–at least for now, and hopefully for always–to forget. I can clear out those entries by editing, deleting, or privatizing my blogs. I can delete angry IM exchanges or regretted email exchanges–at least, on my end. True, I can’t control what the recipient does with them, if they choose to hold onto/ dwell on the words I flung at them in a moment of ill-thought temper or not.

But on my end, I can sort through the disagreements and consign insults (you’re a crazy, stupid feminazi!) flung in the heat of anger to digital dustbins, while holding onto what may be possibly valid character concerns to address in therapy (you have irrational behavior expectation standards!).

But Cruz and other media figures … they won’t be able to do that, to avoid the very public reminders of these disputes. Isn’t that interesting to think about?

It reminds me of this Vulture article I read awhile ago, about a woman name Christine Chubbuck who committed suicide on live tv in 1974, and rumors persist that a recording (still unconfirmed) exists of the event. At the time, apparently studio recordings were not commonplace, and VHS/VCR wouldn’t debut for another three years. Chubbuck allegedly asked the cameraman to record the show the day she killed herself (not disclosing to him the reason for it). Whether or not the taping actually occurred is in dispute, as is what happened to the film if it was recorded.

Think about that. Forty-two years ago–a little over four decades, and we can’t find a tape of something that happened on-air. If that happened today, you can bet it would be shared and re-shared over and over; reflected and recorded through embedded windows on news commentaries, YouTube videos, and endless mirrors when the inevitable take-downs started.

Donald Trump was 28 years old in 1974. He grew up in an era when you could say or do something–even something wildly outrageous and/ or offensive, even as a reasonably well-known person, even on local or national television … and it could still disappear into rumor. I would ask if its any wonder that he has a different grasp on what constitutes truth, but …

There’s this fascinating article, which says Tom Cruise did not, in fact, jump wildly and ecstatically up and down on Oprah’s couch as he proclaimed his love for Katie Holmes, the way we all remember him doing. Apparently, that infamous 2005 interview aired only a few weeks after YouTube went online, to relatively little fanfare. Strange to recall, but before 2005, viral videos weren’t really a “thing,” due  to the difficulties in making, hosting, and watching them. YouTube was a game-changer, and when a looped clip of the Oprah interview went viral on the new platform, it also changed the public perception of Tom Cruise.

Clearly, the younger generations have our own issues with verifying reality.

Its popular to say history is written by the victors, but I wonder how often people really think about what that means–what the stories we tell ourselves about our shared pastwould look like if we’d lost this war or that, or if this social cause or that hadn’t succeeded. What things now considered anathema to so many would be normal, justified, even defensible–worth dying for?

The other interesting thing to me about demonstrably untrue political slander such the type Trump has engaged in is that it is now part of the historical record. I’m certain the working class has always gossiped about those in power, and we’ve clearly had political slander between opposing parties before (Jefferson and Adams, with their infamous, “He’s a hermaphrodite,” rebutted with, “Well, he’s dead!” campaign), but Trump fascinates  me because he took the dark gossipy underbelly of unsubstantiated rumors and presented them as truth–which, ironically, even after they were denounced as the lies and slander they were, have forever imbued them with a sort of legitimacy/ truth of their own. A Place In History, as it were.

The conspiracy that Cruz’s dad was involved in Kennedy’s assassination might’ve been lost to the mists of time, had not the guy elected president in 2016 made it part of his campaign–but now that baseless accusation will live on as a recorded footnote through the span of recorded human history, alongside the information about Cruz endorsing Trump after his initial denunciations of the candidate. Barring any serious future developments, I suppose he’s rescued the family name from infamy … but on the flip side, its kind of landed in pathetic humiliation territory, so, y’know. Win some, lose some.

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