The last few days have had a haze of unreality about them.
Unprecedented events are whizzing by at the speed of sound.
U.S. embassies have been instructed to suspend the issuance of visas for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. (update: The State Department is also REVOKING VALID VISAS of people from the same countries.)
DJT signed the Muslim Travel Ban…
...and the very next day people took to the streets by the thousands…
...and hours after that a federal judge granted a national stay…
...but then some airport officials were ignoring the stay…
and so on and so on etc. etc. etc.
Then today, Senate Democrats walked out of a Finance Committee hearing so Rcons couldn’t have a quorum for an official vote on Mnuchin and Price. I can not remember this ever happening at the national level before.
There are rumors that DJT is considering deporting legal immigrants who are receiving government assistance. So much for the frequently repeated Rcon lie that they are only concerned with illegal immigration. And the once proudly liberal WaPo frames the story as “reducing the social services burden on U.S. taxpayers."
And tonight the President* manipulated the announcement of his SCOTUS nomination as if he were giving out the final rose on The Bachelor (I denied him his ratings by watching the Simpsons instead).
If you are feeling as if you are on overload, this is intentional. This is part of the plan.
Do not play this game.
There is more than one way to resist.
Some of you have already seen the Facebook post written by Professor Heather Cox Richardson of Boston College on Sunday. She explains that Bannon is intentionally creating a “shock event” designed to deliberately destabilize the prevailing political system. She says politicians only do this when they don’t have the majority and want to force a realignment that will throw the people into confusion, solidify lines of entrenched opposition, and make it harder for the majority to come together against the instigator.
Sounds exactly as I would expect Bannon to operate.
Prof. Richardson has given permission for her post to be shared. (Click here to read it on Facebook where you can like and comment there.)
I don't like to talk about politics on Facebook-- political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends-- but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night's ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries-- is creating what is known as a "shock event." Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
Last night's Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one's interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won't like. I don't know what Bannon is up to-- although I have some guesses-- but because I know Bannon's ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle-- and my friends range pretty widely-- who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union. If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln's strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power. Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.
Professor Richardson also gave an interview on WBUR today (click the red play button just to the left of the title to hear the interview) where she spoke persuasively about the alternative way of responding to the shock event: refusing to be played, refusing to be distracted, and being intentional about reaching across normal lines to establish new alliances and means of communication.
Sometimes we resist by getting out in the streets and marching and screaming and creating wonderful crowd energy with like-minded people. Reminding each other that we are not alone.
Sometimes we resist by taking action action action: calling, writing, meeting, marching.
But sometimes we resist by just remembering the importance of self-care, not getting over-hyped up, and remaining calm in the midst of events that are meant to send us over the edge with anxiety, apprehension and indistinct worry.
Sometimes we resist by refusing to play the OMG ONOZ game and holding tight to what we know is real.
Yes, events are swirling and it is dizzying. But we do not have to look into the spinning spiral. We do not have to look at the watch swaying back and forth. We can pull back and take stock and strengthen ourselves to fight more productively tomorrow.
Take a deep breath. They cannot beat us. We won’t be invisible. We won’t be denied. We outnumber them.
Previous TRUE BLUE REPORT diaries
Jan 30: Interview Skills 101 for reporters attempting to interview KAC and other Rcons
Jan 29: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness
Jan 28: Blue Ribbon Winners: Women's March participants and #NoMuslimBan demonstrators and...
Jan 27: I wish Steve Bannon would tell me to keep my mouth shut
Jan 26: Thursday Action—Have you ever written a letter to the editor? Here’s how to start
Jan 25: The Asch Conformity Study, inauguration crowds, and the importance of speaking out
Jan 24: #ResistTrumpTuesday—good news day or another paying dues day?
Jan 23: Spy the Lie 101: How to enjoy watching Rcon spokesbot interviews, even KAC!
Jan 22: Why I prayed for the President* today
Jan 21: The only silver lining in the midst of these clouds
Inaugural (!) diary: Stop expecting Republicons to make sense