normie island in a sea of wtf
I’m so confused right now. Let’s talk this thing out, okay?
I was listening to Gaslit Nation this morning at the gym - highly recommend that podcast, btw - and the hosts, Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa, along with their guest, Alexandra Chalupa, were discussing Bob Mueller’s public statement in which he basically read aloud from his written report. To sum up:
The DOJ cannot charge a sitting President with a federal crime.
If the investigation had concluded that President Trump was innocent, I sure as shit would have said so. In fact, if the President were innocent, I might even say so right now, in the next five seconds. (Bob Mueller stares hard directly into the camera while we all count to five-Mississippi). Okay? So, not sure how much clearer I can be here, people.
There are other processes by which these crimes need to be adjudicated (or rather, not adjudicated. Congressicated? Is that a word? I think it is a word. It is now, anyway.)
Please don’t subpoena me. Mueller out.
I’m not confused about this part. All of that information is clear to me. I have a podcast listener’s fairly firm grasp of the most elemental bits of the Mueller report.
Where I start going sideways is when I hear the Gaslit Nation crew, experts that I respect, discussing Mueller’s report and statement, and finding them frustratingly insufficient because they adhere to political and procedural norms that are, at this moment, kind of a quaint normie island in a sea of whatthefuck.
I can’t decide how I feel about normie island.
On the one hand, we need normie island. I understand Mueller’s intentions: to not allow his choices, values, and principles to be swallowed up by surging whatthefuck tides. I respect that and I agree with him.
One of the scariest things that Donald Trump’s administration has done is shift our idea of what is normal. We are used to reading about immigrant children dying while in federal custody at our borders. We are used to that now. The water is the same temperature as our skin. We need normie island. We need a place to swim to, a place where we can stand up and look around and accurately say, “Woah, what the FUCK.”
We need normie island. Without it, we might forget how enormous this sea is. We need people like Mueller to hold that ground so that when the sea of whatthefuck does begin to recede, we have a spot on the horizon that we can point to and say, “That. That’s where we need to return.”
On the other hand, I understand the Gaslit Nation perspective, shared by many politicians and journalists: the time for fidelity to norms has, in many ways, passed. We can’t show up for afternoon tea when the HMS Titanic is hip-deep in the North Atlantic, just because that’s what we’ve always done.
Mueller. Bubbe. You can’t play normie in a world gone whatthefuck. What, are you going to doff your cap and say “Milady” every time you see Pelosi around town? What, are you going to remove your topcoat and lay it atop a puddle for AOC to cross the street to get a breakfast burrito from the cart? What, are you cosplaying Hugh Jackman from the movie Kate & Leopold? #FreshCreameryButter #DeepPullThereKatie
We all have to fight for to preserve our norms, but ironically in order to win that fight we have to show up to fight where the fight is, and right now the fight is in the fucked up, rising water. It’s fucking TIME, is what they’re saying. We are barreling toward a terrible future. The time for proper procedure is past. Procedures do not apply when the institutions that owned those procedures are burning.
I respect them and I agree.
The norms have already shifted. The sea of whatthefuck is surging, and normie island is already lost, even if it’s not quite under water yet. Mueller has abstained from evolving with the norms of the day, which I genuinely respect because I feel, in my bones, that the last square foot of land that we cannot let them take is the real estate in our hearts and minds. His fidelity to lawfulness is admirable, but I’m keenly aware that it’s kind of bullshit, too. His principles are honorable, but it’s hard not to take it personally, like he’s dumping America for his own principles, like his honor is more important to him than preventing this administration from killing children and destroying the planet and honestly, Bob? That’s not great.
I wish we all had the luxury of looking at the Trump administration’s policies and saying, “I shall condemn that choice with my silence, as is the proper procedure.”
The problem is, even if your intent is to condemn, the impact of silence is permission.
I don’t want to be part of the silence. I want to make some noise. Quick question: Does ANYONE have a consensus on what we should be asking for when it comes to Mueller, impeachment, the 2020 Democratic candidate, and our current congress?
We need normie island. I fucking straight-up refuse to allow Donald J. Trump to drag all of our institutions into the filthy pork fat grease fire that is both his administration and his chosen hairstyle.
(But we’re there.)
I will not goddamn permit this giant, angry infant to set the rules of engagement.
(But he already has.)
We need to preserve our values and not allow them to be tainted by the human taint that’s currently t-bagging the US of A.
(If you’re looking for the line of human decency, turn around and grab your spyglass, Matey. We’re way past that point now.)
We need to stick to our own messaging and make our resistance about more than beating back this rising sea….
… we also need to get in the fucking fight! How many more transgressions, dead children, murdered journalists, alienated allies, acts of treason, stolen courts will it take before someone (not you, Avenatti. Pipe down, ya jackal.) removes the white gloves, gets in the ring, and says “Oh, you wanted to fight dirty? Well Christmas come early for you, biatch. I have no more values or aspirations except one: to beat your bigoted ass out of the White House.”
I want decency and ferocity and I don’t know if it’s possible to get both. I want honor and victory, and I’m starting to suspect that I can only choose one.
That really sucks, but that’s the climate here on normie island, deep in the sea of whatthefuck.
I think a lot of people are in my position: we follow the news and seek to understand complicated issues as best we can, knowing that we are not and will never be pundits or wonks. We read journalism and then read the journalism that explains the journalism. We ask our smart friends what they think, and at a certain point we form an opinion.
I often form my opinion based on listening to the media figures and outlets whom I’ve come to trust over the last few years. Problem there, though: Many of the outlets I once trusted have performed magnificent belly flops into the sea of whatthefuck over the last months and years. I mean, the New York Times sure is doing SOMETHING right now, but it’s not all journalism and I can’t always tell which is which.
Too often, I read an article and then turn to the people I trust on Twitter to confirm or challenge my gut reaction to that article. I form a tentative opinion just in time for the people I trust on Twitter to be challenged by other people I trust on Twitter, and honestly, at that point most of the time I clock that problem as above my pay grade and I walk away.
I don’t have an opinion about impeachment because I see experts I trust on both sides of the issue.
Experts are telling me we have to impeach. It’s shitty to NOT use every tool at our disposal to hold the nutsack-in-chief accountable for his crimes. It’s shitty to opt out of accountability because your POLLING tells you that people don’t like accountability. Well shit, Shirley, any parent of Kindergarteners can tell you that folks don’t like accountability but that doesn’t mean you want me to send your kid home with a black eye and a shrug, right?
But experts are ALSO telling me that the election isn’t winnable if we alienate moderates and these experts are telling me to get down off my high horse and join the team trying to sandbag up normie island against the whatthefuck tide, which, yeah, is COMING IN. Get a shovel and stand your ground.
But OTHER experts are telling me that the election is only unwinnable if the only votes you’re looking for are those of predominantly white moderate voters. What if, instead, our candidates activated and empowered disenfranchised voters who aren’t always seen as top-shelf “gets” despite the fact that a vote’s a vote, son!
But don’t forget the OTHER experts who are screaming at the top of their lungs that this whole debate is a waste of fucking tweets if we CAN’T TRUST OUR ELECTION RESULTS.
I care so fucking much and most days I want to quit. There are too many questions that feel unanswerable and I haven’t even started Fleabag season 2 yet. God, the couch is calling me.
Normie island is looking so small right now but I don’t want to step off its beach. I don’t want to look out at the horizon and see how much what the fuck out there. I’d much rather look at my square foot of land and let my world get smaller and remain recognizable. That’s so much better than allowing it to remain the same size and have to see how much it’s changed.
I think I’m like a lot of people, in that way.
I don’t understand everything that’s happening in our government right now. I don’t understand the implications of a misstep. I don’t know what to ask for: decency or ferocity? Honor or a win? If we don’t win, nothing else matters. If we replace dishonor with dishonor, nothing else matters.
I think I’m like a lot of people. I look up from my square foot of still-normal-for-now and look around me, and try to process the shit out of confusing, complicated, high-stakes questions, and the only thing I can come up with is
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