We are less than three weeks into the Trump era and are already being buffeted by a daily onslaught of unprecedented gaffes, flubs, abuses, outright falsehoods, and threats. One serious danger is that we become inured to all that is wrong with our government, creating a space for it to operate beyond our vigilance. We must not allow this to happen, but fighting it will be exhausting. Of all the abominations of the past week alone—from Kellyanne Conway’s boldfaced invention of “the Bowling Green Massacre” to the president’s dressing down of allies in Australia and Mexico, to his petulant, even pathetic tweeting about judicial verdicts he doesn’t agree with, to his xenophobic fear mongering about a botched suicide-by-soldier near the Louvre—one feature that most disturbs me about our brave new world is the sheer amount of mental bandwidth Trump & Co. use up.
As one friend recalled, we used to go days, sometimes weeks, without even thinking about Obama. Perhaps that was never the case for feverish Tea Party types and conspiracy-minded birthers—which might help explain why we are where we are today—but that is how a democracy is supposed to work. Even under the worst years of George W. Bush, he wasn’t chronically foremost in my thoughts. As another friend put it, there is something deeply totalitarian about continuously being forced to ponder the executive branch of your government: such preoccupations are neither normal nor healthy. And I know I’m not alone in my sense of inundation. Not even celebrity gossip wins the day anymore. I used to lament the amount of attention the Kardashians and Knowles-Carters of the world stole from our online lives, but not even the announcement that Beyoncé is pregnant with twins can compete with Trump. I find myself nostalgic for those vapid but infinitely more innocent assaults on my mind.