On the eve of the presidential election, one the New York Times warns poses the “greatest threat to American democracy” since the Second World War, it comes as a nearly impossible, herculean task to consider what exactly everyday Americans have witnessed over the past four years. There’s the unchecked cruelty. Shameless corruption. Rampant racism and xenophobia. Deadly incompetence.
But there’s also just been some unequivocal “weird shit.” The kind of bonkers, epoch-making shit that four years later, I still find it difficult to characterize with satisfaction. It’s certainly been relentless, alternatingly distressing and hysterical, and, on many occasions, it swallowed entire news cycles. We saw the weird shit take many forms, from bean spon-con to sharpies to many White House gaggles. But taking a beat to reflect on the heaping pile of shit left in the wake of the first and potentially only Trump term, it’s @realDonaldTrump—the uncontrolled spigot of misinformation, bigotry, and dumb—that perhaps more than any other feature of the weird shit haunts me most.
At the outset, we mostly saw things like “covfefe,” an internet obsession over a typo that now, after an endless supply of infinitely worse material, hits tragically naive. Our nascent relationship with Trump tweets was reflected in all the ink spilled over whether to take the garbage seriously, particularly from old media guards who believed it beneath them to cover such filth. But that thinking utterly backfired as Trump’s grab bag of dystopia became official government policy, White House announcements, windows into a hateful, insecure mind. Recommendations to ignore the tweets had applied the same misguided notion that turning a blind eye to racist dog-whistles will somehow make the racism disappear.
As a writer whose paycheck relies on staying close to the news of the moment, Trump tweets have been something of an unlikely assignment editor for these cursed times. Four years on, I can say that I feel mostly OK with how I approached this strange and unfortunate task. (Someone’s gotta pick up the shit, right?) But so many have botched the assignment, and continue to do so. Those standing at the false altar of objectivity and centrism still breathlessly repeat untrue tweets verbatim and still decline to label outright lies and racism as just that. When it comes to the weirdest of the weird shit, some still try to treat it as something entirely different, hoping to wring presidential behavior out of, well, weird shit. This unimpeachable failure has been exacerbated by repetition, and it’s left me bone-tired.
It’s a small thing against the cascade of horrors we’ve seen from this White House, but for the sake of democracy and my brain, I look forward to the day that @realDonaldTrump ends. I’m also incredibly anxious that it never will. Once upon a time, I had ambition as a writer. Today, I’m burnt out, with a steaming pile of weird shit to show for it. —Inae Oh