Donald Trump destroyed our culture. He made politics and comedy inseparable, resulting in brutal scenes like Kate McKinnon performing “Hallelujah” dressed as Hillary Clinton and Stephen Colbert fake crying during unfunny monologues. The rightful fury directed towards him resulted in unprecedented activism, but also supercharged our sensitivity. Worst of all, he made all of those #Resistance losers famous, from the Krassenstein brothers to The Lincoln Project dweebs. My favorite #Resistance-era tweet came from a woman named Louise Mensch, who took “no pleasure” in informing us the death penalty was being considered for Steve Bannon.
Instead, he got a pardon.
It will take decades to clean up the carnage from Trump’s brutal presidency. As President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, there is disease, joblessness, and hopelessness. But there is one thing we can do immediately: Take back our minds.
For the last five years, Trump’s spastic and ridiculous Twitter feed controlled our endless news cycle. He was inescapable. TV networks rode his madness to record ratings; social media companies kept his accounts online to drive engagement. Every debate was framed in the same way: You were either with Trump, or against him.
Like many horrors of the Trump era, this disturbing phenomenon did not begin when the Evil Orange Man entered the Oval Office. It was brewing for decades, fueled by partisan news and downright hero worship. Ronald Reagan is a God; Barack Obama’s year-end book list is everything. Somewhere along the way, our politicians became icons.
Of course, Trump personified this horrifying trend more than anyone, leading us to the obvious endgame: an armed insurrection. Tens of millions of Americans base their entire identities around their devotion to MAGA. There is no longer a shared reality.
Faced with unrelenting evil, it’s tempting to retreat into the fox hole and play defense. That’s what happened in the entertainment world throughout Trump’s interminable term. The stage became a safe space, peopled with anodyne comedy like Randy Rainbow’s toothless show tune satires and Sarah Cooper lip syncing. As a result, we inadvertently gave Trump his ultimate victory: We made him ubiquitous.
It’s hard to reverse habits once they develop–especially when they become ingrained in our psyches. The Republican party is now filled with QAnon devotees, but the Democrats and liberals and content creators can’t keep letting their insanity stifle our creativity. It’s OK to think critically about commonly accepted liberal causes. For example: White Fragility is not the Bible of anti-racism. It is an unreadable piece of dreck.
At the risk of sounding like Charlie Kirk (horrible words to write!), it would be nice if late-night hosts stopped their sanctimonious pleas to save democracy and got back to making us laugh. Saturday Night Live did not produce a single funny segment in four years. We were subjected to memes and “covfefe” and “Donald Drump.” It was utter hell.
Desperate to lash out, we channeled our rage towards digging up people’s offensive old tweets and comments in attempts to ruin their lives. That is not cool. “Cancel culture” is one of the worst phrases in our lexicon, but that doesn’t mean it’s fictitious. Donald Trump is a racist rapist and it’s a travesty he was president. But going after Shane Gillis, or a random woman who stupidly wore blackface at a Halloween party, didn’t change that. It just pushed centrists to the right.
With Trump out of office, we should all take an opportunity to exhale. He dominated every conversation, and for those of us living in elite coastal cities, every piece of fleeting small talk. His odious presence led to us idolizing George W. Bush for giving candy to Michelle Obama. Talk about losing perspective.
Finally, we can be free, but only if we allow ourselves to be.
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