Sunday, February 12, 2017

The soft tyranny of Donald Trump

Andrew Sullivan, who's back to (semi-) blogging after a two-year hiatus, ponders it:
With someone like this barging into your consciousness every hour of every day, you begin to get a glimpse of what it must be like to live in an autocracy of some kind. Every day in countries unfortunate enough to be ruled by a lone dictator, people are constantly subjected to the Supreme Leader’s presence, in their homes, in their workplaces, as they walk down the street. Big Brother never leaves you alone. His face bears down on you on every flickering screen. He begins to permeate your psyche and soul; he dominates every news cycle and issues pronouncements — each one shocking and destabilizing — round the clock. He delights in constantly provoking and surprising you, so that his monstrous ego can be perennially fed. And because he is also mentally unstable, forever lashing out in manic spasms of pain and anger, you live each day with some measure of trepidation. What will he come out with next? Somehow, he is never in control of himself and yet he is always in control of you. 
One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.
I understand what Sullivan is sensing, because I'm beginning to see it in my own life. I check the news websites several times a day just to read his latest tweet or to see what his administration's latest ridiculous pronouncement or action is. I see that the majority of the posts of my Facebook feed are political in nature. I watch every new episode of Saturday Night Live just to see Alec Baldwin's latest takedown of him (Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer has me in tears, by the way). And all anybody wants to talk about at the bar or at the Super Bowl party is Donald Fucking Trump.

It's relentless. It's discomforting. And it's only been three weeks.

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