In times like these priority one is to stay sane. Priority two is to hold on to what’s real—facts, sources, arguments—and not succumb to the tide of whatever bullshit constitutes a Trump speech or press-briefing. Here are some ways ordinary and famous citizens alike have of holding to these anchors.
- The “Fuck Trump.” A friend of mine posts on Facebook two words every day, once a day. I like this idea because it’s simple. It toes a line between not forgetting and not obsessing. Every day our president actively seeks our destruction in exchange for his temporary enrichment and, to add insult, gets upset at us if we don’t thank him for it. But does reading article after article change that fact? Hardly. Considering that the message does not change day to day (neither her message nor his, for that matter), she gets a surprising amount of chatter, likes, etc., in response; catharsis is contagious. Side-note: having a concrete action every day (such as posting “Fuck Trump” on your Facebook wall) makes it easier to add other actions, such as calling a senator to complain about the latest attempt to pass a healthcare ‘fix,’ thereby murdering poor people outright in order to marginally enrich the already-enriched. What fucking world are we living in? Ok. Right. Breathe.
- Keith Olbermann’s The Resistance. What I like about this daily Youtube show is three things. First, it’s short. Olbermann doesn’t mess around. Within 10 minutes he’s made his point. Second, he is a real orator. The influence of Cicero, of Churchill, of Lincoln, can be felt in his speeches. Their tools are his tools: the strings of parallel, dependent clauses; the use of repetition to create rhythm; the sudden change-of-pace via pithy zingers. And, although his “show” has a recognizable format, beginning and ending with set catch-phrases, he is not married to those catch-phrases the way, say, Trump is married to his. Catch-phrases, even the most deadpan ones, are precious and tone-deaf in face of tragedy and so when Olbermann is talking about a particularly bad incident, he discards them. Mourning and schtick do not mix.
I was never a daily participant in Olbermann’s work before Youtube brought him to my doorstep every morning like a dog brings a newspaper. So why am I so enamored of this 10-minute daily tirade? First, he it poetic. I respect good writing. And I think there is a courage to holding fast to the pillars of civilization—to the mores of discourse and forensic rhetoric—during this the reign of lies. There are episodes where he overdoes it, but I respect what he is trying to overdo. Second, he is comprehensive. He cites his sources, connects seemingly unrelated details, probes. Again, it’s fine to disagree with Trump’s agenda but that’s not enough, because Trump is a symptom, not a disease. One must combat the larger sickness by taking a stand for facts, for analysis, for thoroughness, for ideas, and perhaps most of all, for sources. Third, he has a sense of humor about himself: when he advertises his book Trump is F*cking Crazy you can hear his voice and enthusiasm trail off as he concludes: “…or just wait for the movie.”
Trump is the acknowledged king of showmanship, so there is a brilliance to Olbermann’s willingness to play ball—the catch-phrases, the book, the focus on the delivery and not just the message, all of which are hallmarks of the Trump package—but only to a point.
- Colin Kaepernick: A star athlete can apparently get away with just about anything: theft, vandalism, drunk driving, steroid abuse, murder, and of course publicly trading in unpopular opinions. But Kaepernick is not a star athlete. If he had been, one of the teams would have broken the blockade to hire him two seconds into that foolish collusion, though they might not have broken their omerta about there being a collusion in the first place. It takes a certain kind of stones to put your career on the line, and Kaepernick did that.
He reminds me of an electrician I met last year, sixty-odd years old, Puerto Rican, living month-to-month, who had rented out an office-suite in midtown to run a call-center for Hillary Clinton. We should all have such dedication to the causes we believe in.
The grandeur of Kaepernick’s gesture, combined with the comparative instability of his position in football, means that he is shaming more successful football players into taking a stand. I’m pleased by the football players joining up with this man in his protest. I hope their statement and their message spreads. I hope it spreads to an activity that doesn’t trade in slave labor via the NCAA and hollow out the brains of its participants. I admit that part is frankly ruining the glow for me. How do you boycott something you already wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole?
On a broader note, I am really enthused by the growing trend of American symbols rejecting Trump. So much of the military has turned its back on him; a bald eagle tried to peck his eyes out; now football hates him. I haven’t felt this proud to be an American since Bruce Springsteen told Chris Christie to shove his inauguration up his homophobic bridge-stalling, social-safety-net-fraying ass.
- Some News (Cracked). Not much to report here. This is one of the smartest versions of the news out there. It drops every Monday and has done the following:
- It’s one of the only shows that has a sensible take on Antifa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVOuY7hoqEs&list=PL_saLI-LH-VpuPG3SVkgxnHfkoPPdVyV1&index=2
- Its tone is just perfect. Like Keith Olbermann, you could replace the well-researched content with someone saying “this is not normal this is not normal this is not normal” over and over. Individual news items are less important than our sanity, both collective and individual.
- It cuts through bullshit like a coulter (yes I’m taking back the word ‘coulter’ from that cocktail-dress-wearing-meangirl)
There’s no such thing as “just business” or “just politics.” All of this stuff is too connected to too many lives. These are some people who have incorporated into their daily, or even weekly, routine a way, not just to stay sane; but to spread messages of hope. And sometimes the most hopeful messages can be: We’re in this together; and we’re not the crazy ones.