Andrew Sullivan, in New York Magazine (Feb 10, 2017), explores the way politics has dominated American lives since the last presidential election. Then he contrasts normal life in the United States with a dictatorship.
In a dictatorship, people are always anxious, waiting for the unasked next entry of the Great Leader into their lives in whatever unpredictable form he wishes.
By contrast: “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. . . . A free society means being free of those who rule over you.”
The dominance of the Trump presidency in the news far exceeds that of past administrations. Its unpredictability keeps us uneasy. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. It doesn’t follow historic precedents and breaks many rules of civility. We retain a watchful uneasiness.
Sullivan compares the situation to a child trapped in a house with 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 strikes.”
One answer, Sullivan says, is for the press to fight every lie for what it is.
But much of the responsibility also falls on us, the ordinary citizens, to read widely in reputable media. Discernment between fake news—also called alternate facts—and the truth is our job. We can be careful what we post through social media. We can lower the decibels in our digital discussions. We can show more respect for those with whom we disagree and pay attention to what they say.
We also have congressional representatives and senators. They’re paid to listen to us. (If they won’t hold town halls, then call, write, and email them.) And we can vote in responsible men and women when we have opportunity.