Fishbein: Something About Russia

Confronting our political confusion is more important than ever.

by Daniel Fishbein | 7/13/17 8:20pm

Our country has begun to fall apart. I do not quite know what is happening, but it has something to do with Russia, with hacking and with “treason.” That is something I should know about, something a little more significant than Greek life, national sports or upcoming pong tournaments. 

Frankly, I do not know enough about it all. That worries me. I do not know what will happen to Donald Trump Jr. or to his father after the release of the seemingly incriminating emails Tuesday morning. I do not know who Sally Yates or Carter Page are, how James Comey is connected to either of them or what his firing has to do with any of this. 

Maybe I should pick up a newspaper or tune into one of those “failing” fake media outlets our President likes to mock on Twitter at 3 a.m. Perhaps I need a visual aid, one of those bulletin boards we see in crime movies, plastered with villainous mugshots and pins and a piece of string that link everything together. Maybe I should rewatch a movie, like “The Godfather,” for some insight on what happens when a rogue son betrays his powerful family boss. That seems more up my alley.

However, something tells me that I should instead embrace my status as a proclaimed future leader of my generation, and write something political. It’s hard, though. I do not even know where to start.

The Washington Post has called for a start to the impeachment process. Fox News decries leftist journalists for engaging in an anti-Trump witch hunt. I am personally much more inclined to believe the former, but the waters are muddy. 

Impeachment seems like a big step. Bernie Sanders has tweeted that the only way forward is an agenda of hope. I like the sound of that, but I doubt that Paul Ryan and other Republicans in Congress do.

Our present political chaos leads to inevitable confusion, which results in complacency. I would like to continue scrolling through my Twitter timeline, past Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, The New York Times or the President’s inane diary entries. Maybe I could find a video of some pandas going up and down a slide or discover some sick memes that I could post in our Dartmouth Facebook group to become a cool kid. 

Yet, a sense of responsibility lingers. Sure, Dartmouth might have an inflated view of itself but I am here for a reason. I feel an obligation to know more. My parents have given Dartmouth exorbitant sums so it can send me into the world with critical thinking skills and valuable experiences. This past spring, I had the opportunity to see the disaster in Washington D.C. as an intern on Capitol Hill. I have received blessings unimaginable to the vast majority of Americans to learn those skills and have those opportunities. Some part of me, an altruistic inner half, feels that I must leverage that privilege for a greater good.

As confusion turns into complacency, those in power may be even more inclined to defy their responsibilities to the public. I am not surprised that this Russian quagmire has unfurled while Republicans have quietly devised a new healthcare plan, one that will leave an estimated 23 million people uninsured.

I am reminded of the President’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last year. He spoke of a “moment of crisis for our nation”: radical Islamic terrorism, bad trade deals and soaring crime rates. “Alternative facts” might be a good way to label that speech. Trump’s words made him out to be the “mess-fixer.” Trump was supposed to restore a Great America. He was the kind of guy you might like to have a beer with, or vote for the following November. Trump manufactured a disaster, then offered the country a helping hand. 

While this Russia scandal may work in the opposite direction, hurting Trump instead of helping him, it functions in much the same way as that speech. When people do not understand something, they are more easily manipulated. Lacking background knowledge, Sean Hannity can show you a picture of Trump Jr. as an innocent victim of a militant Left, instead of a perpetrator of treason who may very well have aided and abetted a historic state adversary by changing the result of the last election. 

As Rome burns, I often feel like grabbing my fiddle; or, to update this analogy, my PS4 controller or my pong paddle. As someone with access to the resources of Dartmouth, maybe I should think twice about doing that, and grab a newspaper instead.