In this Fast & Furious age of public discourse, last week’s focus of political drama is already ancient history. Before my pixels are dry, Trump or his minions will doubtless have pulled out a new shiny object for everyone to gape at, complete with hyperventilation by Sean Hannity.
Self-care requires occasionally setting our own pace, as when I skipped watching the State of the Union in favor of a good book. The president’s vocal delivery reminds me of my nieces imitating bored Valley Girls. We can remain vigilant without being masochists.
The fact that more volleys of deflection and distraction are certain to follow after the flop of the House Intelligence Committee’s overhyped “secret memo” last week should give alert citizens sufficient pause to learn lessons. One is this: If the assault on federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies by congressional Republicans on behalf of Trump is not treason, we should apologize to Benedict Arnold.
It is easy to be dismissive, such as by counting the incompetents on Trump’s team. Rep. Devin Nunes’s dubious hackwork occurs in a season when zealous numbskulls are popping up like crocuses that Republicans forgot they planted. However, it should be noted that Nunes has been backed by Speaker Ryan. His mendacious, self-contradictory hit job on the FBI and DOJ, to which he promised sequels, feeds the noise-generating machine that helps the president obstruct justice.
Perhaps the president’s lawyers will persuade him not to reprise President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre of October 1973, in which the top two officials at Justice resigned rather than fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. But Trump is ignorant, headstrong, and convinced he is a law unto himself. And he is politically clever. His trash talk sells, as in the prelude to a WWE wrestling match. The destructiveness of his zero-sum politics does not matter to his rabble.
Part of what blinds us to our situation is the media’s moral equivalence and its focus on the play-by-play of the game (a metaphor it hardens into reality) rather than the stakes. Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine dismissed Rep. Joe Kennedy’s SOTU response as mere rote recitation by a rival tribe, despite its appeal to a broad spectrum of people based on foundational American values. Seeking equality for all is not a tribalist enterprise.
Sullivan lumped Kennedy in with Hillary Clinton based on the conservative shibboleth of “identity politics,” a trigger term that shuts down thought in those who refuse to recognize that people organize in identity groups because discrimination leaves them no choice. He dismissed Kennedy’s criticism of Trump’s racist immigration policies just a week after he dismissed intersectionality, which is simply about dealing with our inescapable diversity.
A sign of the futility of arguing with some people is how conservative wags ignored Democrats’ inspired choice of a 37-year-old for the response to Trump instead of another septuagenarian, and suggested that the glisten on his lip was from drool rather than lights reflecting on his Chapstick. Still, Kennedy has the youth, warmth, and ability to connect that Clinton lacked.
“However,” as Prince Faisal notes in Lawrence of Arabia, “before the gardens must come the fighting.” Do we have the endurance and resolve to see this through? Trump is accompanied everywhere he goes by a military aide carrying the nuclear launch codes. Before November’s midterm elections as well as after, a lot of damage can be done that neither street protests nor all the trolls’ LOLs can undo.
The first job of the resistance is to resist overconfidence. I notice that under the new tax law, my federal income tax deduction was lower this month, which is lucky in case the current spasm of revolution by multipart tweets fails to recapitulate Lenin’s arrival at Finland Station.
As FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a message to employees after the release of the Nunes memo, “Talk is cheap; the work you do is what will endure… Remember: keep calm and tackle hard.” It is advice we would all do well to follow, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russiagate continues.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.