This is from the second edition of the Near-Earth Object newsletter, to which you can and should subscribe to right here.
Here’s a way for me to talk about my response to last night’s debate.
In the parking lot at the grocery store today, I saw a man, who appeared to be in his 60s, returning to his car with his groceries. He was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Trump campaign logo on the front and “No Basement Joe” on the back.
Adjusting my face mask before walking into the store and catching sight of this fellow, my mind immediately recalled the depravity displayed by Donald Trump the night before at that horror-show of a debate. For a brief moment, my brain struggled to comprehend how anyone — including a presumably sane, sentient human being like the man in the parking lot — could witness the trauma Trump had inflicted on us all and still support him. Worse yet, this man was proudly advertising his continued devotion to the president the fascism-for-idiots he personified on that stage.
And in that moment, I felt hate for that man. To be clear: this was not okay. I know nothing about this person. Merely presuming that this man understands what Trump is and what he represents, I could come to no other conclusion that this man must be evil.
Of course, I have no idea if that’s so. I have no idea what this man is like. I have no idea what he knows and does not know. I know nothing of his life story beyond what could be gleaned by a few seconds passing in a parking lot.
It scares me, that I felt that way. But in noticing that sudden shock of hate in myself, I then considered how deeply and fiercely Trump and his cult have driven their followers to hate, and I became doubly frightened. I experienced a moment of hate, of indignant rage at the moral vacuum I assumed to reside in this stranger’s heart. Just imagine, then, the cauldrons of hate, like geological quantities of magma, seething within those who feel represented by Donald Trump.
For the few seconds that I burned, I struggled to come up with some imaginary scenario in which I might confront this fellow and set him straight. Absurd, of course.
But what about the millions of people, bubbling with hate, and being told to expect their enemies to deny their leader his power — and therefore, in their minds, their power.
I’m very worried about what scenarios they are imagining. I’ve very worried about that.
What I’m also thinking about:
How not to think about everything going on. M.G. Ziegler says, “I think in many ways we can only live through times like these by not stopping to think about them.” I don’t feel like I have that luxury.
So go easy on yourself. Try not to think about the future. Instead, think about the present. How can you win the next hour, the next day? How can you be of most value — to yourself, to your family, to your community, and to the earth itself? You still have the incorruptible capacity to create joy, and catalyze change. No one can take that away from you, no matter how dark they dim the lights.
That’s true. But while one’s capacity might be incorruptible, it is not inexhaustible. And I’m pretty exhausted.
I would ask you, dear reader, to remember the next-to-last thing that social media taught you to be outraged about. I bet you can remember only the last one. …
You can readily see, I suspect, how information overload and social acceleration work together to create a paralyzing feedback loop, pressing us to practice continually [informational] triage … forcing our judgments about what to pay attention to, what to think about, to become ever more peremptory and irreversible. … And all this has the further effect of locking us into the present moment. There’s no time to think about anything else than the Now, and the not-Now increasingly takes on the character of an unwelcome and, in its otherness, even befouling imposition.
No argument here, but this particular Now seems unavoidably pressing. It puts us in a state of what I once called “permanent fret.”
Oh, how I long to be bored again.