First, think very hard about where you are. Are there certain principles that you have, or remember having? Not everything is a principle. “I want Republicans to be in charge of the White House” is certainly a preference, but it is not a principle. A principle can be very big, like wanting secure elections for our democracy. Or it can be very small, like not wanting the president to threaten to execute for treason a particular person who has not done treason. Or it can be medium-sized, like not wanting the president to use the nation’s prestige for personal gain. Think of that principle. Take a deep breath and think back to when you last remember asserting it out loud. It may have been in the course of argument, or in the course of throwing suspicion on your opponent, but that still counts. Do you remember? Maybe you said something like “Hillary Clinton betrayed this country and ought to be locked up!" That’s close enough. We’ll take that.
The next stage is easier. Take another deep breath and think about the first time you saw somebody assert, in print, that Donald Trump had violated this principle. What was your response? Probably you said that it was fake news. This is normal. You may even have appeared on cable news to make this assertion. If you went so far as to say that the president would never do that and added that the Deep State leakers were just trying to make him sound like an idiot, you may be experiencing greater discomfort now. But it is important to try to think of what you said. It was probably a pretty stern denial, wasn’t it? Do you have it?
Good. Now think of where you were when the president just flat-out admitted he had done or said that very thing. Do you remember how you felt? Some people start to pretend they have not actually seen a newspaper or TV in days, do not know what a newspaper is and are about to go on a prolonged vacation from which they might never return. That is perfectly normal. This is the mind’s way of buying time. Others experience grinding headaches. Still others feel nothing at all, merely a kind of leaden emptiness. Presented with items that formerly delighted them — procedural triumphs, for instance — they simply sit mute, blinking.
Next comes a phase I feel confident you experienced, during which you attempted to pretend the president was joking. This wasn’t pleasant for you or for anyone who witnessed it. This is the moment when your dignity levels dropped to such a critical point that your body had to start devouring from other reserves — smugness, partisanship, ill temper — simply to get you through the week’s cable shows. Breathe. Do not dwell too much on this. Your body was still adjusting.
Next came the finger-pointing phase during which you tried to insist it was someone else who had really done something wrong. You developed a set of slippery scales during this time, while your spine lost most of its original shape. You sprouted gills and sank into the mud and buried yourself in it. It made some of your suits fit oddly. But you got through it, didn’t you? You kind of loved the wonderful, cool mud in which you found yourself. It was your new home.
Then, at last, you discovered your courage. You found suddenly you could say or do anything. This is the feeling of the principle leaving the body. You found yourself saying that even if it were newsworthy (which it was not), what the president did was a very brave and good thing to do, that the real story was the Democrats who did a much milder version of it previously (then, it was still bad). The real story here is the people who are trying to take down the president. The president was right to do what he did. Also, he smells wonderful.
That is the stage where you are now. On the whole, I think, you will be much more comfortable. Don’t you feel better?
Read more from Alexandra Petri: