Social media has been very much in the spotlight the last few months for some of its more negative influences on our culture, with companies such as Facebook and Twitter acknowledging they were used as tools in Russia’s effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, with both of those sites along with Reddit being prime gathering spaces for the white nationalist groups that have become increasingly prominent in the news, and with harassment on all of the various platforms becoming a growing – and not very well checked – problem. But social media does still have plenty of benefits to offer, which is of course, the reason so many millions of us stick with it, despite any downsides.
One of the things I love about Facebook, in particular, is the way it can bring back long forgotten memories – memories that otherwise would be lost down the “memory hole.” I’ve posted on this blog a couple times before about how I love Facebook’s “Your Memories” feature for exactly this reason. Sometimes the memories Facebook resurfaces are just fun & entertaining – old photos that are funny or cute or just reminders of a good day.
But other times, the memory Facebook offers up will really surprise me and get me thinking by showing me a written post that I’d totally forgotten about. These memories are especially interesting, because of the way they can bring a shift in perspective – a reminder that , wow, five years ago, I was thinking that?? Or seven years ago that was happening in the world. And right now, even the memories from just one year ago feel like they’re from a totally different world, since certain things have changed so significantly since then.
On Sunday, Facebook gave me a memory that made me stop and really think about how different things are now from a year ago. But this fact also made me especially appreciative that this weekend – at least for a moment – the tables have turned back. Here’s the memory:
That post – from 5 years ago – is obviously very vague. It took me a minute to figure out what the heck I’d been talking about. Then I noticed the date, and I remembered what was happening just a few days before election day 2012. Hurricane Sandy was making its way to the Northeast part of the country. And we knew – for many days in advance – that it was going to be bad. This wasn’t one of those situations with those “maybe it will/maybe it won’t” weather forecasts we’re all so familiar with. Nope, these forecasts were all saying it was going to be a big hit. And all we could do was just wait, knowing it was on its way.
Yeah, as I noted in the Facebook post, there was some prep you could do to try to mitigate the damage to your home. And you could get yourself ready with supplies in case there was a power outage or you got stuck inside during flooding. But other than that, it was this odd feeling of just waiting, knowing disaster was on its way, and there was nothing we could do to thwart it.
Anyway, that “memory” was newly relevant when it showed up this past weekend. As soon as it popped up Sunday morning – before I recognized that it was about Sandy – I read it and thought, “yeah, that pretty much sums it up.” Because that’s kind of how I feel all the time right now. And I may be wrong, but I get the sense that’s the way many people are feeling much of the time now with Trump in office.* (Obviously Trump’s fans don’t feel that way, but they’re a minority of the country). It may not be at the forefront of our brains every minute of every day, but I think there’s an underlying, background sense of dread and anxiety that – for many of us – is always there now. We know the storm is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it – all we can do is prepare ourselves for when it gets here.
I don’t want to sound fatalistic or like we’re helpless in the face of Trump and his Republican accomplices. We’re not. There are certain things we can push back on. Opposition stopped Obamacare repeal from happening. Lawsuits have stopped Trump’s travel ban – so far (it remains to be seen what will happen as Version 3.0 progresses up through the courts) and have prevented a number of his regulatory rollbacks.
So we can continue to resist Trump and GOP policies in those ways. And occasionally, calling attention to possible corruption gets results as well – for example the outrageous spending on private flights by Trump’s cabinet members are now being investigated after dogged media attention. So a persistent press also matters. Most of all we can make sure that we and everyone we know shows up to vote in the midterm elections in order to elect a Congress that will provide Trump with much needed checks that aren’t currently being provided. So we’re not helpless.
But unfortunately, as we’ve been seeing, there’s much Trump can do that we are powerless to stop. And that’s when I feel like I’m living inside that Facebook post. When word got out that Trump decided he was going to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, I could have posted that Facebook status. When news leaked that Trump was going to issue an executive order to weaken Obamacare, I felt like that Facebook status.
When Trump decided to end DACA, when he decided to pull out of the Paris Accord, when he gets into Twitter feuds with Kim Jong Un, and every time he nominates another extremist judge to federal court . . . with each of these things, when I hear the news – that Facebook post is relevant all over again. I know what’s coming, and there’s nothing to do but wait for it to arrive. And that is not a good feeling.
BUT, here’s why the timing of that Facebook memory was so perfect. It came at the exact moment that the tables have turned – if only just for a moment – when Trump is the one who’s feeling that Facebook feeling. Right now, as I write this, Trump is the one who knows a storm is coming, and there’s nothing he can do about, he just has to sit there and wait for it.
I’m of course talking about news that leaked Friday evening about the indictment that’s been filed in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. On Monday (or perhaps Tuesday), someone (or perhaps several someone’s) is expected to be arrested in connection with that investigation. But that’s all we know. We have no idea who it is or what the charges will be. And neither does Trump. And that’s got to be driving him mad. According to this Politico article, “Trump, his lawyers and senior administration officials were all caught off guard by the news” about the indictment:
The lack of information, on a case that could have major ramifications for the president, left many current and former Trump advisers livid, focusing their rage on how the information leaked and on a forever target: Hillary Clinton . . .
That leak, [a a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team] said, left the White House in an uncomfortable position. “All you can do is wait and see,” he said.
So, as I’m writing this, we don’t know who the subject(s) of the indictment is/are. Maybe by the time you’re reading this we will. But in the meantime, I’m not afraid to admit it: it’s incredibly enjoyable to think of Trump waiting out the weekend uncomfortable, anxious, helpless to do anything** but wonder who the unlucky soul(s) might be – and how they’re connected to him. It’s only a moment, but at least for this weekend, while he waited it out, Trump was as powerless & in the dark as the rest of us.
*Just taking a moment here to recognize that of course there were many people who lived with feelings of anxiety or a sense that something bad was coming long before Trump was in office, because they were dealing with real life, day-to-day worries, like serious illness, or struggles to pay rent, etc. So I’m talking about a new, external, more inchoate sense of unease.
**Ultimately of course, Trump has nearly unlimited power, since Republicans are doing nothing to limit him. He can reassure any targets with the promise of pardons in order to keep them from flipping, or he can go whole hog and just fire Mueller. There’s almost no doubt that he will at least attempt to have Mueller fired. Whether he’ll be able to go through with it (i.e. whether an adviser will be able to talk him out of it before he gives the order, or whether everyone in the chain of command will refuse to do it even if the order is given) remains to be seen.