Remember after the 2016 presidential election when understanding the Trump voter became the thing for so many Democrats? Being empathetic, introspective types, we lapped up Hillbilly Elegy and wrung our hands over how we might have helped create this whole slice of the country that loved this nakedly corrupt, amoral guy.

We kept asking, what did we miss?

I’m a huge fan of trying to understand human behavior, whether in individual or trend form. Heck, my favorite part of The Sopranos was watching a mob boss squirm in his therapy sessions. I liked that insight into what made such a powerful man tick.

My decision to read Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, was really sealed by the subtitle – How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. What a fascinating maze it was.

You see my weakness.

I share that to lead up to this – I have hit a fucking wall with this bullshit when it comes to all things Trump. I am now, it seems, full-out triggered by such attempts to understand, most recently by New York Times columnist David Brooks in a piece headlined, What If We’re the Bad Guys Here?

In it he writes about “elite self-satisfaction” and goes on to describe the world he inhabits. I need to make this distinction. Many of us who call ourselves liberals or Democrats or even conservatives cut from the “old” cloth do not live in Brooks’ elite world. Many of us are scrappers and survivors. We are not better off financially than the Trump supporters in our lives nor is our social status a station above theirs.

I’m tired – beyond exhausted, actually – of that whole discussion. Maybe it’s because I’ve managed to hold on to my morals and common sense despite the financial pitfalls of trying to live true to my creative self and the rollercoaster $$$ ride that comes with that decision.

You want to talk about hate for Trump supporters? Go find people who see them as some kind of dumb, racist monolith. I think part of me is jealous of people who can so easily hate MAGA. I am, after all, in a completely different situation. I have spent the better part of seven years trying to figure out how people I love deeply have fallen for this guy’s schtick. Worth repeating – LOVE DEEPLY.

I’ve had a lifetime of relationships change, some drastically and some just a tad. I initiated almost no severing of any kind, but have been on the receiving end of the cutting. I have a large New Jersey Italian family and a ton of cousins, many of whom won’t be reading this because they cut me off years ago for writing about Trump. Messed with their MAGA Zen.

I don’t know if David Brooks has as much exposure to the MAGA mind as I do, but it sure doesn’t sound like it. My relatives are doing just fine, thanks. Nice houses, nice cars, nice livings, nice lives. They work hard, ranging from blue- to white-collar jobs. I have people in my life who have participated in MAGA boat parades with their vessels and let’s just say they’re not rickety rowboats.

Why is this not the swath of Trump voters I read about when elite minds start their handwringing? The ones who own million-dollar homes at the Jersey Shore (to be clear, not my relatives)? The ones who showed up at the Capitol on Jan. 6 while footing bills for airfare, hotels, and scary amounts of ammunition? Do they sound downtrodden and disenfranchised?

I’ve had people throw me over for this guy. You can bet I’ve gone down all these rabbit holes trying to understand the love for this grifting clown. His egomaniacal daddy fucked him up good and I’m not happy about being one of many paying the price.

If we’re assigning blame, why not members of Congress (Congress!) who we know are on to Trump’s game and are still perpetuating his delusions? You think Harvard-educated Elise Stefanik believes the shit she says? Marco Rubio? Kevin McCarthy? They’ve inserted themselves between Trump and people like my relatives to keep inciting violence and furthering proven lies about the 2020 election (among other things). It serves their interests.

How about right-wing media, also wedged oh-so-nicely between Trump and people I love? Fox News settled for multi-millions with Dominion because its major anchors were steeped in legal trouble with revelatory texts and emails being made public. We have proof they know they’re lying to their viewers, but they count on their viewers being too insulated to find out or care. They’re toeing the line and figuring out how to have it both ways, this clever entertainment enterprise.

Please don’t even try to ‘what-about’ me at this point. I know everyone has biases and media outlets manipulate as the norm. I’m talking about actionable, proven untruths here. Trump supporters largely don’t read documents like indictments or The Mueller Report or watch things like the Jan. 6 Congressional hearings because they’ve already been told by their media that they’re illegitimate.

That leaves us a choice of debating them when they aren’t fully informed (maddening) or shutting down and not bothering because their sources have muddied truth and facts. Like countless others, I have made statements in conversations that are objectively true and been told it’s my opinion.

Uh, no.

That’s the sick brilliance of Trumpism in a nutshell. He says it, denies it, twists it, doubles down, until you haven’t a clue how to function in his topsy turvy make-believe world. A cosmic joke where accountability is a farce and, I have to believe, Jesus keeps scratching his head when his name is invoked.

Back in 2016 some of this self-analysis may have been admirable and prudent. Now it reads more like cherry picking a swath of Americans here and a swath there who lost jobs or feel they’ve been left behind. They exist and I would never make light of their plight, but to attribute this disaster to them is willfully dicing up the picture to suit your own processing and belief system.

Like the rest of us, David Brooks is probably freaking out from the enormity of what our country is going through. It’s easy to be upended by the daily news cycle right now.

But understand?

Until you’ve seen someone you love with your whole heart, at the mention of Trump, get a look on her face that’s usually reserved for squishy puppies, you don’t know. Call me when your dear relative lights up like you just ate her prized eggplant parmesan because this bloviator just appeared on her TV screen. These are not poor, left-behind people.

Maybe stop judging from your lofty perch and try to imagine the strain this has put on real life-long relationships. Not just when Trump was elected in 2016, but now when his supporters mind-bogglingly triple-down their support of an ex-president with a pile of indictments. Perhaps stop boiling it down to “political differences” in an attempt to make it sound like we can’t be in relationship when we disagree. That’s insulting and, oh, blatantly false.

I can’t sit idly by while a major party’s candidate keeps grifting, obstructing, and making a mockery of our democracy. I’m done entertaining false equivalencies. If that means I’m sitting in a pool of my own elitism, then wow, OK, bring me a nice floatie because I’ll be hanging out here for a while basking in my desire for the return of facts and truth.