In Trump’s America people are understandably experiencing news fatigue. There are torrents of it on multiple streams. There is outrage after outrage. It is often overwhelming.
That’s the plan, I suspect. Trump is operating on the Doctrine of Inundation. He floods the airwaves until you simply give up because you feel like you’re drowning.
And unfortunately, it’s working. A Pew Research Center report released Tuesday found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days.”
Fighting this fatigue is the real test of a person’s resolve, including mine.
When my enthusiasm for resisting this vile man and his corrupt administration starts to flag, I remember the episode that first revealed to me the darkness at Trump’s core, and I am renewed.
On an April night nearly 30 years ago, a young investment banker was beaten and raped when she went for a jog in Central Park. The attack left her in a coma. She happened to be white. Five teenagers arrested for the crime – four black and one of Hispanic descent – went to trial. As this newspaper reported at the time, they were “in what the police said was part of a marauding spree by as many as 30 youths in the northern end of the park” that night.
After being questioned for hours, the defendants gave false confessions that conflicted with one another, and those confessions were captured on video. As The New York Times pointed out in 2002: “The defendants in the jogger case were put on camera after they had been in custody, in some cases, for as long as 28 hours.”
As one of the five wrote in 2016 in The Washington Post: “When we were arrested, the police deprived us of food, drink or sleep for more than 24 hours. Under duress, we falsely confessed.”
A few days after the attack, long before the teenagers would go on trial, Donald Trump bought full-page ads in New York newspapers – you may think of this as a precursor to his present-day tweets to a mass audience – under a giant, all-caps headline that read: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”
The boys would be convicted even though the physical evidence in the case was inconclusive. When one of the teenagers was led away in handcuffs, he yelled at the prosecutor: “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this … up.”
After serving up to 13 years in prison, the boys were proven right: Another man confessed to the crime and his DNA matched that at the scene of the crime. The boys, then men, had their convictions overturned, were freed, and eventually reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city over their wrongful convictions.
How did Trump respond after having called for them to be put to death? In true Trump fashion, he refused to apologize or show any contrition whatsoever.
In a 2014 opinion essay in The Daily News, Trump wrote that the settlement was a “disgrace” and that “settling doesn’t mean innocence.” He continued his assertion that the men were guilty, urging his readers: “Speak to the detectives on the case and try listening to the facts. These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels.”
Some people will never admit that they are wrong, even when they are as wrong as sin.
But it is the language in the body of Trump’s 1989 death penalty ad that sticks with me. Trump wrote:
“Mayor Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”
“Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”
That to me is the thing with this man: He wants to hate. When Trump feels what he believes is a righteous indignation, his default position is hatred. Anyone who draws his ire, anyone whom he feels attacked by or offended by, anyone who has the nerve to stand up for himself or herself and tell him he’s wrong, he wants to hate, and does so.
This hateful spirit envelopes him, consumes him and animates him.
He hates women who dare to stand up to him and push back against him, so he attacks them, not just on the issues but on the validity of their very womanhood.
He hates black people who dare to stand up – or kneel – for their dignity and against oppressive authority, so he attacks protesting professional athletes, Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama himself as dangerous and divisive, unpatriotic and un-American.
He hates immigrants so he has set a tone of intolerance, boasted of building his wall (that Mexico will never pay for), swollen the ranks of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and attacks some as criminals and animals.
He hates Muslims, so he moves to institute his travel ban and attacks their religion with the incendiary comment that “I think Islam hates us.”
He always disguises his hatred, often as a veneration and defense of his base, the flag, law enforcement or the military. He hijacks their valor to advance his personal hatred.
So I remember that. I center that. I hear “I want to hate” every time I hear him speak. And I draw strength from the fact that I’m not fighting for or against a political party; I’m fighting hatred itself, as personified by the man who occupies the presidency. That is my spine stiffener.