If Trump’s presidency is to mean anything besides the penny finally being a fitting color for a portrait of a US president, it is for all of us to wake up and get something done towards preventing any and all of this from happening again. This happened on our watch. All of us. Trump is supposed to be president; he’s not. The newsfolk are supposed to report the facts. They’ve gotten better but still aren’t quite there. This is the era of legislation by protest and journalism by between-the-lines interpretation. The society in which news articles were designed, not to inform, but to get you to click on the native advertising they were sandwiched between, is not surprisingly a society in which we must expect to do our own work. There is a kind of grandeur in this that I think people are quick to focus on. Having Donny Darkseid in the White House means having an enemy; a reason for depressed people to get up in the morning and for manic people to make their 3AM projects politically relevant. Let’s all take a deep breath and remember that ultimately the enemy is ourselves. And the fight is with ourselves: our own disappointment and despair and fatalism.
My new mantra:
I am not going to win this.
I am not going to win this by shit-posting a few friends and relatives on Facebook.
I am not going to win this by attending a protest or two.
I am not going to win this by writing an article.
I am not going to win this by writing a weekly article for an Anti-Trump website.
I am not going to wake up in a year to find that Trump has been impeached.
I am not going to wake up in a year to find that President Pence is losing in the polls 75-25 to Mecha-Hillary.
I live in a Gordian knot.
I can’t cut the strands.
HOW TO BE PREPARED TO FIGHT YOUR OWN BATTLES IN TRUMP’S AMERICA IN 2 SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY STEPS
- The news media. Sometimes they are faithful to their job. I think the Clinton era taught them that a government could be both morally and politically dysfunctional with Bubba and Newt arguing over everything, an impeachment trial running at full steam, and mishandlings of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, and in Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan without it seriously harshing our mellow. I hate to say it but I think Lewis Black was summarizing the zeitgeist of the media when he said: “We don’t need a president… we just need a guy in the Whitehouse who’s willing to get a hummer every now and again” (The White Album). We have to police our information. Don’t share something just because you agree with it; look at the documentation the shared post provides OR put it on the back-burner until you find your own documentation… or AT LEAST post in the form of a question. For example, if you see a too-good-to-be-true article about Robert E. Lee’s slave who served with him throughout the Civil War, whom the good general had a hand in raising, side-by-side with an article about how Robert E. Lee never owned slaves until the 1860s… don’t share the link(s) with your own taunting headline: “What do you say about Charleston now, LIBTARDS!” Try something more along the lines of: “This sounds amazing if true; any of my history-buffs available for a fact-check?”
- Know your bubbles. The dichotomy of Bill Maher is that the Right-Wing bubble strengthens its residents in the fantasy that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, tax-cuts increase the size of the budget, and a white person coming from a hard-knocks background and going to school is proof that there is no such thing as racism or classism in this country. The Left-Wing Bubble strengthens its denizens in the idea that there is such a thing as bipartisanship, that the arguments between right and left can be solved, that justice and logic will prevail, that the person who gets the most votes will win, etc., etc., etc. How else to explain some of the gaffs made by newsfolk than through this pathologically sunny lie? One example: an NPR reporter was interviewing Civil Rights activist, US Representative from Georgia, Mayor of Atlanta, and Ambassador to the UN Andrew Young. They were talking about a statue in Georgia called Stone Mountain which Young regards, among other things, as too beautiful a sculpture to take down. In general, Young thinks it’s a waste of time, energy, and coalition-building consensus to go after these statues; any of them.
The worst liberal bubble-itis is the delusion that there can be across-the-board agreement on even the most divisive issues; this is not just a matter of YOU being right and everyone else being stupid; it’s a matter of YOU being stupid.
I think NPR rightly found the most credentialed civil rights fighter alive to drive that point home. But even amidst what was otherwise an excellent journalistic piece, the journalist said something dumb, asking Young what he thought the president could do to ease tensions, and Young said something brilliant, not for its content, but for its tone, to the effect of: not going to happen. You could hear the tone of dismissal in the old soldier’s voice, and I began to worry that this is the same escapist madness that led my liberal compeers to retreat into the world of The West Wing during those darkest of Bush years. Young made the further point that statues are not keeping people enslaved—he used the word enslaved—and that real progress can only be made when we build coalitions; Right-Wing dedicatees who want to keep the statues may nevertheless support measures towards achieving equality in education or employment or housing.
The worst symptom of this left-wing bubble is the continued coverage of the national and international stages alike as if everything were normal. Take coverage of the proposed surge in Afghanistan: an NPR reporter was discussing this issue with experts as if we had a president. He was asking experts what role nation-building might have in the 40-year slog to and from national stability. A bunch of points:
How do we normalize the abnormal without, you know, normalizing it? In other words, how do we adapt to the situation without acquiescing, without bowing, to it? At the very least I’d like to propose a new way of reporting the news. We have charts for so many things, but the main thing that comes to mind is baseball. One chart says when the games are going to be; one says what one team did; one said what the other team did; one says who’s ahead, who’s behind, etc. Why can’t we do that for politics? How many Nazis showed up versus how many counter-protesters? How many atrocities blamed by the right on the left versus how many ACTUALLY COMMITTED by the left, and vice versa? Where is the next rally going to be? What was the effect of the last rally? Save the articles for the out-of-character stuff or for the most notable, like Trump hitting for the news-cycle by flipping off Kim Jong-Un, apologizing for American Nazism, deporting a Mexican mother of American children, and meeting with the Russians all in one game—I mean day.
The following is a sketch of how we might conduct our journalism moving forward:
Today, the President…
- Shitposted the North Korean dictator.
- Alienated our delicate alliance with China.
- Shat on John McCain… again.
- Hit 15 over par but marked it down as 8 over par.
- Listicle/Linkticle of information to disprove whatever garbage Trump said today, including, but not limited to, kindergarten books explaining why it’s not ok to make fun of someone who’s dying of brain-cancer no matter how he makes you feel about your miserable excuse for a legislative agenda.
- Experts and/or politicians, sorted by political affiliation and by strength of statement, who disagreed with Trump.
- Experts and politicians, ibid., who agreed with Trump.
- Running tally of the scores of these and other politicians including a list of those who are now considered self-serving persona non grata until further notice and a list of those who have sufficiently repented their support for Trump, Richard Spencer, et al., to be considered no longer poisonous… for now.
- Countries under direct existential threat because of the Trump presidency, with links
• Marshall Islands (sea levels)
• Netherlands (sea levels)
• Bangladesh (sea levels and regional instability
• India (regional instability and potentially chaotic weather)
• Pakistan (ditto)
• Afghanistan (direct conflict)
• Iraq (direct conflict)
Protests, cross-indexed by topic (e.g. Asian Politics), subtopic (e.g. Afghanistan), date, expected crowd, and whether said protest is happening in response to a particular trump event, visit, legislative push, etc.
This is a mantra I could get behind.