What do you do when the news leaves you numb? A little shame goes a long way | Lloyd E. Sheaffer

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 5: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House October 5, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Mattis said this week that the U.S. and allies are "holding the line" against the Taliban in Afghanistan as forecasts of a significant offensive by the militants remain unfulfilled. (Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

Some days I am numb.

Lloyd E. Sheaffer (Capital-Star file)

I read a newspaper article about the latest administration scandal and think “What’s new?” and turn the page to the New York Times crossword puzzle.

I watch a TV news report broadcasting the dissembler-in-chief’s latest prevarication and muse to myself “Here we go again” and mute the sound until “Jeopardy” comes on.

I hear a story on NPR about the latest example of a cabinet member failing to honor a lawful subpoena to appear before Congress and hit a radio preset button for a music station for the rest of my ride home.

Then later in the evening as I wrap up my day in my study, I begin to feel something: guilt. And shame.

I have always tried to be an informed citizen, one who makes choices and forms opinions determined by facts and rational arguments.

Never have I pushed the straight-party button on my ballots, for instance. During the last two years, though, my sense of objectivity has waned; my animus toward certain politicians — the one at the top of the pyramid in particular — has engendered in me a mind-clouding anger that makes impartiality impossible.

I have, unfortunately, become so inured to the continual rancor and disrespectfulness spewing from the White House that I just turn away from it or turn it off. Too often I allow emotion to rule rather than reason. I have allowed my indignation to wrest away my former innate fairness. Thus comes the guilt.

Then comes the shame.

I wonder if I have unwittingly and shamefully fallen into the propaganda trap set by audacious, nationalist politicians.

It is not the first time the extreme right-wing has turned to egregious propaganda techniques to manipulate a populace (1) by fomenting distrust and fear thus producing followers or (2) by producing such an overwhelming amount of disinformation and hatred that many in the population just mentally turn it off thus diminishing the opposition.

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In the early years of the 20th century, certain groups with the belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach relied upon numerous propaganda strategies to rise to power.

The current occupant of the Oval Office office inhabitant uses many of these same tactics including, but not limited to, such approaches:

  • Name calling
  • Deification of a leader (“I am the chosen one.”)
  • Ignoring the question (listen to almost any presidential briefing)
  • Fear (“The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.”)
  • Diversion (Shifting topic from Ukraine investigation to Joe Biden)

I am ashamed of myself that I have arrived at such a point that I have developed an immunity to the abhorrent and dangerous antics of the current administration.

I am ashamed that I have reached the point of feeling that there is nothing I can do to countermand such despicable conduct by current politicians. Shame on me.

In 1939 while in exile in Sweden, German poet and playwright Bertholt Brecht wrote “Mother Courage and Her Children,” a play condemning the rise of Fascism in Europe.

Near the end of the drama, the anti-hero of the piece, Mother Courage, offers a warning about what will eventually happen to people if they do not take a stand against the rising autocracy and despotism in Europe.

She has already given in—and given up—and has as a matter of survival become an unquestioning part of the movement. Still she warns others of the impending dangers when she sings “The Song of The Great Capitulation”:

“That’s all very well, but wait a year. And you will join the big brass band. And with your trumpet in your hand, you’ll march in lockstep with the rest.”

In other words, the xenophobic rightists will continue to pound on you until you give in, and out of your capitulation will come their victory.

Despite the melancholy tone of this observation, I trust that I will soon overcome my ennui. I am hopeful that not too many others have fallen into such a shameful weariness and will energetically oppose and reverse the direction our current administration has forced our country to take.

We must no longer capitulate to the turns toward autocracy being driven by our present leadership and the impotency of our current elected representatives.

If we do not rise out of complacency to overturn this mind-numbing menace, shame on all of us.

Capital-Star Opinion contributor Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired English and Humanities teacher, writes from North Middleton Township, Pa. Readers may contact him at [email protected]. His work appears monthly.

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