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The Essence and Importance of Affirmation

by LInda Irvin-Craig April 12, 2023


We all have witnessed and/or been the victimized by the requirement for affirmation by the neediest on the planet…one Donald Trump. His need goes back to proving to his father Fred Trump that he could best Fred’s real estate accomplishments. He moved his efforts to Manhattan, a place Fred had feared to tread. The wake of his bankruptcies remain legendary.


But his need exploded with aspirations to succeed in politics, after teasing for years that he might do that and was then scoffed at for leading the press down that guessing road for years. Even though he did get sworn in as president, he was often reminded that he had lost the popular vote, so it was only half a win. That was too much for him to bear and then he completely lost a follow-up for re-election.


His fits of affirmation need engulfed him in so many legal entanglements that some have lost count. His own review of his first indictment shows clearly in his claim that courthouse personnel were weeping for him when he arrived. That was debunked by the officer who let go of the door so he had to push through on his own.


Then we turn to the two young men serving in the Tennessee State House of Representatives who were exiled for having the audacity to challenge leadership there for refusal to recognize them on the floor. Their cause was to offer some ideas for gun safety regulations following an incident of a school shooting that killed 3 children and 3 adults.

Their resorting to the use of a bullhorn to be heard upset the leader so much that he stupidly had them voted out of office by the members of the house, not the electorate. It brought national attention in the way of affirmation for these young men. Duly elected by their constituents, the bodies of local community leaders in Nashville and Memphis re-affirmed their rights and they were returned within days to state office.


The “Two Justins,” as they have come to be known, were not looking for national affirmation, but they received it and they will now be watched to see if they could represent an opportunity for greater affirmation in the future. Courage to lead under difficulty affirms itself.


Finally, I turn to a personal relationship I have had for a number of years with a young man who suffers from PTSD…not from military service, but from violence inflicted by a cruel step-father. His need for affirmation ebbs and flows with the way in which he is treated by those he encounters in life.


The relationship we developed began as landlord and tenant. That ended when his significant other ordered him out and then she moved out. He came to me to apologize for the way in which this all ended, which included some unpaid rent.


My encounter with him that day worried me all night. Among the information he shared with me, when I asked about his well-being because of his gaunt appearance, was the he was living in his car with his young son. I called him back the next day to exact a caretaker arrangement, not for him, but for me.


As tenants it had always been apparent to me that he was the more responsible of two adults in the house. We both had problems to solve. He needed decent shelter and I needed someone to stay in the house to keep it from being ravaged. This was the period following the 2008 housing crash. Many vacant properties were being robbed of wiring, plumbing, etc. and some set afire.


The arrangement lasted several years during which he cleaned up the property from damages done by a previous tenant, kept the grass mowed and the snow shoveled and sometimes was able to pay the utilities. He also promised to let me help him navigate the mental health system he needed to affirm his place in the world.


He kept all of his appointments and we had long talks about the values he held about parenthood and his interests in the cultural differences he encountered in everyone he met and those he studied on-line. He eventually found a house he could afford to rent and I sold (at a tremendous loss) the one we protected together, but it was still whole.


We no longer see each other often, but he stopped by this week to share with me his progress with his son, who graduated from high school and now serves as a volunteer fire fighter, affirmation of his parenting skills. We also talked again about his continuing struggle with new relationships and all I needed to affirm to him was he remains a good person in my mind and has the right to be who he really needs to be.



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