Politics & Policy

How Not to Go Bonkers over Donald Trump

Protesters march outside Philadelphia International Airport, January 29, 2017. (Reuters photo: Charles Mostoller)
It will be tough to stay sane the next four years, but it can be done.

So, here we are in week two of the Donald Trump presidency, and I don’t know about you, but I’m already kind of exhausted: My brain feels slightly bedraggled, and I think I may have run out of sighs. Not because of Donald Trump, mind you, but because a significant chunk of America seems to have made a hobby of yelling and hollering and ranting and dramatically tearing its hair out every ten minutes, whether that’s warranted or not.

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“President Trump is an American terrorist,” former Star Trek star George Takei told the nation on Wednesday. On ABC’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg declared that she couldn’t see how Trump was “really much different than the Taliban.” Upon Trump’s nomination of the apparently mild-mannered and widely admired Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, a dour Nancy Pelosi described him as a threat to everyone but robots, extraterrestrials, and those mysterious giant heads on Easter Island: Gorsuch would be a disaster, she cried, for all those who “breathe air, drink water, eat food, or take medicine.”

As you might have noticed, these are not the type of measured policy critiques that inspire people to listen up and take you seriously. But delirious anti-Trump panic — marketed as “The Resistance” — is now apparently baked in. On Tuesday, CNN ran a full story on a bunch of people who drew the word “RESIST” in the sand of a Maine beach. No, really: That was the entire story. “The group wrote the word “RESIST” in enormous letters in the sand at low tide,” the news network cheerfully reported, “then took pictures before the ocean rose again and washed it away a couple of hours later.”

In other news, my colleague’s cousin’s neighbor’s ferret, Grizz, just learned how to jump through a hoop. Come on, CNN. (As an aside, it should be pointed out that drawing “RESIST” on a beach is just plain bad symbolism. No one wants their resistance to wash away in a few hours, become blurred by slightly bored crabs, or get crushed in the tracks of some oblivious power jogger and his wildly enthusiastic dog.)

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but when he was inaugurated, my brain helped me out with one thing: It promptly accepted that he was our new president. It also noted that over the rest of his presidency, Trump would continue to be the man people voted for: Rather than acting like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Hillary Clinton, Bill Murray, or Magnum, P.I., he would act like Donald Trump. Weirdly, it seems that at least 75 percent of today’s Trump-related hysteria can be boiled down to a denial of these basic facts.

In comedian Dave Chappelle’s now-defunct show, there was a popular skit called “A Moment in the Life of Lil’ Jon.” Chappelle played Lil’ Jon, a rapper largely known for yelling “YEAH!” and “OK!” and “WHAT!?” in a slightly crazed voice. In the skit, Lil’ Jon appears at places like the doctor’s office and the airport and answers every question, predictably, with “YEAH!”, “OK!” and “WHAT?” — until he suddenly, and quite randomly, bursts into fits of haughty Shakespearean English.

Delirious anti-Trump panic — marketed as ‘The Resistance’ — is now apparently baked in.

In some ways, the Trump-related freak-outs that appear every few minutes online are similar. Trump will do something Trumpian — not bothering to wave when he boards Air Force One, complaining about Vanity Fair, analyzing crowd sizes, or veering into discussions of hostile media coverage when he’s talking about Martin Luther King Jr. — and social media will explode in outrage, shock, and surprise, shaking each example like the aforementioned wildly enthusiastic dog.

People are welcome to critique whatever they’d like, of course. These days, in fact, it seems that endless critique is the sole function of our increasingly joyless social media. But therein lies the second step to sanity in the age of Trump: More often than not, it’s worthwhile to tune out of the social-media yell-fests. “I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world,” the professor Alan Jacobs wrote at The New Atlantis on January 23. “To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion.”

He’s right, particularly in the age of President Trump. Unplug from social media for more than six hours, and you’ll find you’ve missed about three almost-scandals, six near-tragedies, 26 stranger-on-stranger fights, and 13 impending panics — all of which managed to fester, burn out, and float away before you even returned to the keyboard. Meanwhile, genuine good news or thoughtful, reasoned critiques of the Trump administration — some, for instance, were made regarding last week’s executive order on refugees — get lost in the gnashing of teeth. 

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” said the writer Annie Dillard. One thing is certain: The next few years won’t be boring. But it’s certainly worth thinking about the best ways to spend them. Freaking out on Twitter might not make the list.

Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star

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