January 26, 2017
In the aftermath of Mike Pence’s attendance of Hamilton at which the cast delivered a harsh but courteous address to him personally, Trump unleashed a series of tweets bemoaning that the theater should be a “safe and special place” that attracted a storm of media and social networking attention.
The same week, Trump settled the fraud case against Trump University for $25 million.
“It’s just a distraction!” people yelled about the Hamilton debacle.
And though it may have been intended that way, the then president-elect’s tweets actually conveyed an entirely real message about how he views the proper role of the performing arts, free speech, and dissent in American society, and it was not benign or trivial at all.
On the day that we celebrated the collapse of Republican efforts to undermine the Office of Congressional Ethics, Merrick Garland’s chances of being confirmed to the Supreme Court were rapidly running out, and, lacking any evidence whatsoever that those events were connected or that the attempt to hobble the OCE was anything but a rushed, arrogant, disorganized power play, I saw another Facebook denizen declare:
“I knew it! This was just planned to distract us.”
(Never mind that Merrick Garland’s nomination had languished for most of a year; it was not news. It was not unexpected at all that it was going to expire without action from Congress.)
A few Republican legislators dared to rebuke Trump for his tweets mocking John Lewis; I note this is an interesting piece of information regarding who in the GOP might be more willing to openly oppose him on other matters. I’m told “pay attention if you want, but know that it’s just a distraction.”
I’m just gonna throw this out there:
There are a lot of bad things happening all at once right now. Some of them are really big deals and some of them are less so. That doesn’t necessarily make any one of them a “distraction” from any of the others.
We’re also going to have things go right, and just because something goes right in the midst of other things going wrong, doesn’t make it a distraction.
We might not be able to control very much right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t meaningfully influence outcomes, and when we manage to do that, even if our victory was relatively minor in scale, does not make it a distraction. It makes it a lesson in what we did right and how much further we should reach.
Seizing on the issues that we can influence strongly and immediately does not mean that we were “distracted” from something that meant more. Sometimes that may be true, but it’s not just automatically true that if we saw a chance and took it, that we were “distracted.”
There’s no shortage of things that need doing right now. There’s no shortage of things that need attention. Very few of them are inconsequential. Sometimes we’re going to benefit from unity of purpose and sometimes from diversity. I’m not saying not to be conscious of how we’re using energy, but just because something isn’t everything, doesn’t make it nothing.
That bad things will keep happening doesn’t make good ones not count.
One of the ironies is just how distracted they really are.
Trump is not on the same page with his Secretary of Defense about the value and legacy of NATO.
Trump is not on the same page with his Republican congress about the actual content of the ACA’s supposed eventual replacement.
The Republican congress was not on the same page with Trump or their constituents about the OCE.
Trump has to have his television time restricted like an impulsive child.
Trump is distracted by the hijinks of National Parks Service employees on Twitter.
Trump is distracted by dissent over the size of his fandom.
Trump is upset that protests and marches have disturbed his ability to “enjoy” the White House in the way he feels he should be able to.
We are not distracted. There are 63 million of us and one of him. Our resulting ability to pay attention to more than one bad thing at a time is not distraction.
Let’s not give undue time or energy to Twitter drama, but the fact that there are people paying attention to the content and implications of what he says directly to the American public on a media platform used by millions, is not distraction.
There was a time not that long ago at all when I thought that he was frighteningly good at derailment and distraction, but I’m not so sure of that anymore.
I say keep him that way.