I learned something about myself the last few days: I don’t really care about Russia. I used to, when they were the Soviet Union and had thousands of missiles aimed at me that could incinerate my world, but now? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I care about Russia in a “Hmph, Russia annexed a country I feel like I heard about somewhere, how ‘bout that” kind of way. But beyond that? Well, let’s say I care about Russia as much as the Germans arming their soldiers with broom handles against them do, which is to say, not very much. Germans are wicked smart, I’ve been told, and if they don’t care about Russia, I feel liberated not to care about Russia either.
I could have gone the past three years hearing nothing about the goings on of Russia, and I’m pretty sure my life would not have changed a bit. Well, except for all that time reading about the intricacies of “Russian collusion”—I’d have gotten that back.
The Last American Hears About Russia, and Blinks
The other day my wife asked me to explain what’s going on with President Trump and Russia, and out came a rambling, impressionistic word salad about peeing on a bed, FBI lovers, dossiers, the Democratic National Committee screwing Bernie Sanders, and Trump being called a traitor for dissing intelligence agencies. My wife, to quote Nietzsche, blinked. At that moment, I realized how little Russia matters to me as well.
This led to a couple “aha’s.” First: there are a whole lot of other political things I don’t really care about. Second, I’m not alone in my feelings. Hear that sound? It’s the sound of 300 million Americans blinking.
If I’m honest, the only reason I care about Russia is because it’s fun. That’s about it. It’s my video game. It’s an escapist leisure—we Americans have a lot of those—and reading Andrew McCarthy about Russian collusion is a nice distraction while I sip my coffee and ready my mind for the day.
For those on the Left scandalized by this—The Republic is at stake! Russians stole the presidency for Trump!—guess what? Ten years ago I was in your shoes. I was convinced Obama’s election meant the end of the republic. I suffered eight long years hearing about Washington shenanigans to take over a sixth of the economy, intense regulation of industry, the revolution of marriage and gender, selling baby body parts, using courts to impose a cultural revolution, and entrenching a globalist ideology threatening to nullify the country and principles I grew up with.
Somehow I survived. The apocalypse never happened. Truth be told, I didn’t really suffer. Things actually went pretty well in my life. I had children, wrote a book, became an Army chaplain, went on vacations, and further enjoyed the liberties and blessings of this country. If I went through those eight years not knowing a single detail of Obama’s presidency, my life would have changed not one bit. For all of you “suffering” through Trump, the same is true. And you know it.
But the Republic!! Um, which is why you’re focusing on the next elections, presumably because such things can “save our democracy.” Isn’t this sort of how this whole democracy thing works when things are healthy? Dial it back, ladies. The election will come soon enough.
But how can you be so selfish and not concerned about the world?!! Because I know the right answer to that after-party ethics question in college, “Who’d you rather save, your child or a hundred Montenegrins?” My child, of course. Anyone older than 22 knows this. If it makes you feel better, I’ve been grappling my whole adult life with how to psychically process living in a country that legalized the murder of 70 million babies. I’m confident you’ll work things out.
But this is how fascism happens!! First I did nothing when they came for… Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. Folks, we’re not Nazi Germany, and Trump is not a fascist. But, liberals, please keep running with that. Please handicap every leftist candidate by alienating 50 percent of the electorate with that language.
This Isn’t Really about Russia, Anyway
Nope, I don’t care about Russia, you don’t either, and you know it. But as you also know, this isn’t really about Russia. It’s about the massive psychic energy we spend on political escapism, and what it means about us.
Maybe it satisfies my entertainment fix or maybe the outrage and virtue-signaling feeds your quasi-religious yearning, but neither of us genuinely cares about Russia, the border, collusion, James Comey, Trump’s tweets, Brett Kavanaugh, China, North Korea, Syria, Iran, campus speech, income inequality, and most other national politics, at least not in any way approximating the things in our world we truly care about: our family, friends, children, pets, job, neighbors, and so on.
Recently Bethany Mandel wrote for The New York Post suggesting a radical thought: we can be happy in the age of Trump. She cited an Instagram post by James Van Der Beek, who announced the birth of his child, but had to mitigate his joy because other parents are separated from their children at the border. “It wouldn’t be honest to wax poetic about my new baby bliss without speaking up against this atrocity.”
I’d say this is clinically insane if I believed such people were truly outraged. They’re not. No one’s talking about children at the border anymore. We’re back to the status quo ante—that is, the status quo Obama. It’s yesterday’s media-induced outrage, much forgotten. That is to say, it never was a real outrage, just as it never was in the age of Obama. Can the human soul even handle that much genuine outrage?
Here’s the good, centering news: if you reassess your life for the past two years minus everything you’ve heard about Trump, Russia, the border, or Kavanaugh, I’d bet your life has changed only marginally since the end of Obama’s presidency.
I know it’s true for me. I remember all the outrage I had during the Obama years, about gay marriage, transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, bad foreign policy. Funny thing is, none of this touched me in a real way.
And it’s not like I was isolated from the “hot take” national issues. At the time I was a campus pastor, inner-city pastor, and Army chaplain. Yet as a pastor I wasn’t forced to marry gay people. At my campus I experienced none of the snowflakes I was hearing about. As an inner-city pastor I came across Black Lives Matter radicalness precisely never. In the Army we had the brief on the new transgender policy, rolled our eyes, and moved on.
Then Trump got elected and…things went on pretty much as before.
Maybe It’s Time to Reassess the God that Failed
Perhaps it’s time to put down the smartphone and podcasts. Grow a garden, or learn to crochet, or start a business, get a new job. Reconnect with reality, you know? Turn the news off and give ourselves a break from bearing the planet’s burdens. All our obsessive politicking and fretting hasn’t added, and won’t add, anything to America’s stature. I feel like I heard that somewhere.
If you’re a leftist, maybe this is what’s bothering you, that government really doesn’t move the needle that much for actual lives. Obama the Lightworker advancing human evolution, Trump the Clown wreaking havoc on every norm, and life goes on as before.
It must be quite the conundrum. You’re surviving as normal under Trump as under Obama—having babies, living the life, experiencing a lot of good—but to grant any goodness to your personal world is to admit the “system” isn’t broken, that good can happen without History inaugurating an enlightened age through political movement. To admit a happy life is to give up the statist dream. Thus, you have to manufacture a nightmare that isn’t.
Maybe take a cue from the #WalkAway movement. Go watch their videos. Sense their liberation, their resolution of the conundrum. You’ve lost the Supreme Court for a long, long time. Unless the Electoral College changes, you’re in for a lot of disappointment. Red America is an awful lot of territory. Short of leaving the country for Scandinavia, you don’t have a lot of choices.
Perhaps Trump’s buffoonery is exactly what you need right now. Perhaps it will get you to realize your god—the sweeping, imperial power and promise of hope you’ve invested in the position of president or the Supreme Court—has no clothes and never did. The court jester’s job was always to humble the king. Perhaps Trump is the jester demonstrating to the American king, its people, the folly of the imperial potentialities we invested in the state.
If so, Trump deserves that spot on Rushmore, with as orange of hair as possible.
So try it—not caring about Russia, that is. Begin with Russia. Trumpify it. See it in shades of orange, chuckle, and forget about it. Then try it with other things. Enjoy the pretentious folly of rarefied politics. Join those of us having a blast laughing at the antics of America’s court jester.
Perhaps you’ll rediscover a country that’s actually pretty great, the country centered not in Washington but right in front of you. Perhaps Trump’s legacy will be not to make America great again, but to redirect our minds away from the state, toward the things that have always made America great.