A Dangerous Shrug …

Roger Cohen has been a writer for the New York Times since 1990.  This morning, an OpEd he wrote titled Truth, Lies and Numbness caught my eye and I would like to share parts of it with you today, for it makes an important statement.

roger-cohenYou grow numb. You grow weary. I recall discovering a few weeks back that President Trump had lied about two phone calls, one from the president of Mexico and one from the head of the Boy Scouts. The calls, supposedly to congratulate him, did not exist. They never happened. They were pure inventions. Asked if Trump had lied, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said, “I wouldn’t say it was a lie.”

I actually remember shrugging. The shrug was terrifying. This is how autocrats — or would-be autocrats — cement their power. They wear you down with their lies. They distract you. They want you to believe that 2+2=5. They want you to forget that freedom withers when the distinction between truth and falsehood dies. In a dictatorship there is a single font of “truth”: the voice of the dictator. Remember Trump at the Republican National Convention a little over a year ago: “I am your voice.” And now his voice is everywhere.

There’s the scripted Trump voice, which is fake. There’s the unscripted voice, which is genuine. The two tend to alternate; call this the choreography of disorientation. It’s confusing, like having a president who isn’t really a president but instead acts like the leader of a rabble-rousing movement. The Oval Office is a useful prop, no more than that. He’s held eight rallies since becoming president in January. The latest was in Phoenix, where he called the media “very dishonest people.” He led the crowd in a chant of “CNN sucks.” He attacked the “failing New York Times.”

I read this before I was even out of bed this morning and it gave me a chill.  I easily recognized Mr. Cohen’s response … a shrug … because more and more of late I have found myself having the same response.  I shrug, roll my eyes, shake my head, and say something akin to “Whatever … so what’s new?”  It is not because his lies and hateful rhetoric no longer offend, but because I am becoming desensitized.  It is old news.  Trump lies. Trump cannot speak in complete sentences. Trump criticizes everyone who does not agree with him.  Nothing new to see here, folks … shrug your shoulders and move along.

That which, as recently as five months ago, stirred my ire, offended my sensibilities and incensed me, now earns a shrug or an eyeroll.  How did we (I speak for myself, but I use ‘we’, for I believe I am not alone in this) come to this point?  How?  Rather the same way a human body becomes immune to disease after numerous or prolonged periods of exposure.  Rather like that annoying rattle in your car that, after a few weeks, you no longer hear it.  The rattle is still there, it is ominous in that it indicates something is not right, but you have become desensitized, immune, and you no longer hear the rattle, no longer heed the warning signs.

Long ago I opined that Trump did not wish to be a president, but rather an autocrat.  Nothing that has happened in the past seven months has changed my opinion.  I was told months ago that I should not worry too much, for the system of checks and balances that is built into our foundation, the U.S. Constitution, would keep Trump from realizing his goal of supremacy.  But those checks and balances only work if we remain focused enough to force them to work, and I fear that we are growing weary, we are losing our focus. I was told that the American people would never allow Trump to gain too much power, but the American people are divided, disheartened, and tired after only seven short/long months of the freak show we have been watching.

I wish I had easy answers, but I do not.  I do not know how we remain vigilant … I only know that we must.  We must continue to call Trump out on every lie, no matter how minor.  We must continue to fight, to resist, those things that we know in our hearts are wrong.  We must somehow find renewed energy to fight against the abomination sitting in the Oval Office. We must continue to remind our elected representatives that they work for We The People, that they are independent of the executive branch and that we expect them to act in OUR best interests, not their own.  In fact, we must remind them that at the end of the day, their own best interests are closely tied to ours.

We must continue, fruitless though it may seem, trying to maintain a dialog with those with whom we disagree, continue trying to understand them and help them to understand us.  In the end, we are all in this together. Last weekend I drove 500 miles on Friday and again on Monday.  The highway became tiresome, mile after mile of sameness, and I grew weary, more than once felt my eyes slowly closing.  The danger was real that I would drive into an obstacle and be injured or die, so I stopped, walked around a bit, got fresh coffee, and renewed my energy.  This is what we must do today and for as long as it takes, for the danger is real and we must find ways to renew ourselves so that we can keep fighting.  We cannot afford to shrug.

27 thoughts on “A Dangerous Shrug …

  1. Chills down the spine. He’s right, that shrug is terrifying. I hope you are all well supplied with pens paper and stamps to send copious letters to your reps – big bags of mail are more shocking than teeming email boxes. Is anyone organising demos in support of the press?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are quite right that a handwritten letter carries more weight than an email. A while back in one of my moments of extreme angst (and when has that NOT been the case???) I got the brilliant idea to send a letter to each member of Congress. But, at $0.49 per stamp, the postage alone would cost $262, and frankly I don’t have that kind of money to blow, so I stick with email, though I have sent a few hard-copy letters.As to your second question … I really don’t know, but I shall look into it … good point!

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  2. I, along with countless Irish people, watch and listen to Trump’s antics with a lot of doubt. We understand how he worked the system to get there in the first place but most feel he will be kicked into touch within the next year. And it is a good warning for us to be watchful and not grow weary of our own politicians. What have we learnt from watching your Mr. T? Well that remains to be seen.

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    • I do hope you are right, that he will be ‘kicked into touch’ within the year! I thought he would have been by now, but then … I predicted that there was no way he could possibly win the election, so … don’t listen to me 🙂 Thank you for reading and for your comment! Always happy to hear from those across the pond! I hope you will come back soon!

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  3. It is indeed strange how we become immune. But that does not mean that we do not pass on the disease and symptoms of an affliction to others. Trumpism is an infection and it had its incubation period with the run up to elections, it is suffering side effect symptoms right now (which has worn everyone down), and will soon pass into its latter stage…that of spread or eradication! We must keep our immunity strong, fight on and not let this insidious man and his preachings get the better of us. My husband predicts that he has stuck fast to the corporate and American value system and will run two terms! I cannot bear that, but unless we have some much needed inoculation of ‘common sense’ into the American population, I can’t see anyone stopping his disease.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, as you know, I write and fight about the man almost daily, so I was surprised when I read Cohen’s article and realized that I, myself, had become … if not quite immune … at least desensitized. How, I asked myself, did that happen. I swore I would remain vigilant, and yet here I was … shrugging!!! I have re-opened my eyes, re-declared my purpose. But yet, it has taken a toll, for I am now suffering a royal funk, as I call it.

      You mentioned your husband’s predictions once before … how likely do you think it is that he is correct? How convinced it he? My hope … the hope, I believe of most of my readers, is that Trump will not serve out his 1st term, which would make a 2nd term a moot point. Sigh. Please place duct tape on your husband’s mouth … 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Salutary words over ‘shrug’.
    In the meantime, congratulations to you Jill for a most eloquent, defiant and encouraging post. As long as there are folk such as you, battling away there is hope.
    Thing about ‘the shrug’ is that when an incumbent appeals to the People as he must at sometime, he gets..guess what ‘a shrug’.
    I understand how worried you all are in the US, but this small specimen of ego and greed is nowhere near the sort to bring down the USA’s democracy. He does not have the majority on his side. And the anger is still there in the foundations.
    Keep on keeping USA.
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Roger, for your kind words!!! You are quite right when you say that Trump does not have the majority on his side … BUT … the ones who are on his side, and there are still far too many, are LOUD. They are loud and offensive and … somehow they seem to matter more than those of us who try to use logic and reason and speak with a degree of intellect. I do know that you are right, that he is unlikely to single-handedly destroy what has been over 200 years in the making, but … he seems to adhere to no rules, no decorum, and he seems not to care at all how much damage he does. Though he may not destroy the country, he has done a damn good job at dividing it.

      But I must tell you that your logical take on it all DOES help me feel less defeated, does remind me that this, too, shall pass, though likely not in my lifetime. Thanks, as always … you are a good man.

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  5. “Long ago I opined that Trump did not wish to be a president, but rather an autocrat. Nothing that has happened in the past seven months has changed my opinion.”

    I agree with that, but with a small caveat. I don’t think Trump specifically wishes to be an autocrat in the government sense. It seems more in line with how he operates his “business empire” more than anything else.

    IMHO, Trump is trying to run America like he has run Trump Inc. That line of thinking is similar in piloting a wave runner vs piloting the Harmony of the Seas. Sure, they both operate on water, have engines, burn fuel, and have throttle controls. However, they require vastly different skillsets and cognitive ability.

    The one good thing about a Trump presidency is that he will offer concrete evidence that running a business does not automatically equate to running the government. Maybe we’ll see the death to the whole idea of running government like a business. I hope he utterly destroys that talking point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Here I vacillate between thinking he sees it as just running another one of his businesses, or truly wanting the power that comes with autocracy. He is money-hungry, for sure, but I think he also believes that if he could just get this country and its citizens to fall in line, he would be the most powerful man on the globe. I’m not sure which it is, and frankly we will probably never know, for whatever comes out of his mouth is not credible.

      That said, you are right that his attempts to run the country in the same way he ran his businesses should put paid to the notion that governance and business are synonymous. Or interchangeable. I was always amazed during the loonnnnggg campaign when I would ask somebody what, precisely, they saw in Trump, and they would reply, “he’s a good businessman.” First, he was actually a lousy businessman with more failures to his name than successes. But more importantly, we are not talking apples-to-apples. Business and government, especially in a democratic republic, are not one and the same. So in that, you are definitely right, this should put that argument to bed. But … his loyal base is still convinced that he is doing everything right and … well … until they start seeing the ramifications of some of his actions, there seem to be no talking points.

      Thanks for your well-reasoned comment … I enjoy this type of discourse. Glad to see you back!

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  6. Dear Jill,
    We all grow weary because we are human. Take time out to smell the roses but then get back in the good fight. “We the people” are the ones who are going to save this country by continuing to hold our legislators accountable. That means emailing/ tweeting/ writing contacting our legislators, media outlets at least one time per day. If each of us did just that one something, all of us as pebbles become an insurmountable mountain.

    My gut tells me DDT will be gone by Christmas. I wish we bloggers could all meet somewhere to celebrate. But I wouldn’t make any plans just yet.
    Hugs, Gronda
    PS: I heard someone in MA. won the big monies. Was that you?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, you know I am going to keep fighting the good fight as long as I breathe! I did take an hour to smell the roses this evening when I went for a 3-mile walk with my granddaughter, Miss Goose. Problem was, there were puff balls all ’round the park from the cattails that grow there, so … wheeze, choke, gasp, cough … !!! 😀 But anyway, I’m not going anywhere. But … I have noticed, as Roger Cohen said, that some things just seem commonplace these days, and I have become desensitized, like the lie about the two aforementioned phone calls that never happened. I remember that I, too, simply shrugged and said something to the effect of “what else is new?” This is what we must fight against, for it is a form of apathy, a form of accepting the unacceptable.

      I hope you are right that DDT will be gone before Christmas. I told Herb early this year that I thought he would not last until the end of the year, but I underestimated … or overestimated … his followers. I thought that surely they would have awakened by now. Sigh. If he is gone, we really should plan a big party!!! Party hats, balloons, noisemakers … wouldn’t that be something to behold!

      Many hugs, my dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I’d prepare a gallon of coffee and keep it handy so you’re awake enough to stop this evil man from creating a train crash of your country. I wish it was possible to get him on TV to answer questions about the lies he tells and the promises he breaks. Maybe as it’s pointed out to them more people will accept what he’s really like.
    I’m with Bushka, you need a Nelson Mandela to unite the people but it’s not going to come from the Republicans.
    xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ahhh … and if I keep a gallon of coffee and stay up fighting the good fight all night every night, you will be nattering that I should sleep more! 🙂 But on a serious note …. yes, Elliot is right … a Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi would be most welcome at this juncture. It seems that there are none who have the gift those men had … courage, conviction, compassion, and the ability to speak in such a way that people listened. But we are all doing what little we can, contributing in our own small ways. I must give a ‘hats off’ to Gronda, especially, who works even more tirelessly than I and is giving her all. Let us hope we are, in fact, making a difference.

      A thousand hugs, dear friend, and many thanks for all your support and encouragement. It means a lot!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mmmm…..All the signs are there that the USA is hurtling towards ‘God Knows What’! All dictatorships end in violence…or does it? Almost the entire world expected this to happen in South Africa! One person made the difference…..Nelson Mandela! Is there such a person in the United States? Surely there must be…..Hugs!

    Liked by 4 people

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