JP Observer: Fear itself: President’s behavior keeps us constantly scared

August 25, 2017
By

Every few days since Donald Trump was elected president, it seems there’s something new from him—or something resuscitated—to frighten us. We have to be hyper-alert, constantly assessing and triaging the danger he’s causing: How likely is this to go wrong? Did it already? To what degree? Am I personally vulnerable? How far does this tsunami reach into the world?

Naturally, an attendant emotion is often anger. Nobody wants to be caught in a frightened frenzy caused by their country’s elected leader again and again the way we are. Under a barrage of negative information and resulting emotions, we are supposed to figure out how to best respond.

Two weeks ago, this column was going to be about frightening evidence that has come out, not yet officially, that Russia used the internet to influence the outcome of the presidential election in favor of Trump and could do so again for him or other right-wing candidates. The Trump campaign is being investigated for possibly having been involved in the illegal activities, like breaking into computers and stealing emails.

The column was also going to be about Trump daring North Korea to start a nuclear war.

Those were two very different Trump-caused fears people in JP were talking about the first days of August.

Then on Saturday, Aug. 12, opposing protester Heather Heyer was savagely hit and killed by a car driven by a white supremacist at a large, two-day violence and anger-filled right wing event in Charlottesville, Virginia. The guy who drove into the crowd of anti-hate demonstrators is now in jail charged with murder and other felonies. Several other protestors were severely beaten by the neo-Nazi demonstrators the same weekend.

To everyone’s additional horror, Trump did not rebuke the attack or the alt-right violence immediately, and later said “many sides” were to blame. One of the neo-Nazi leaders wrote in “Daily Stormer” that he took that statement as a sign of Trump’s obvious support for the hate groups. So did everyone else.

Learning that a similar “free speech” rally by white supremacists was planned for Boston Common for this past Saturday put everyone in Boston’s blood pressure in danger of escalating more each of the six days beforehand, out of fear of hate and possible violence right here in Boston

You could almost feel Jamaica Plain exhale Saturday evening, Aug. 19, after 40,000 people, including protestors from JP, turned out to oppose the hate groups and their messages. The tiny right-wing rally fizzled in less than hour, according to press reports. A strong, smart police presence kept violence mostly at bay, and distance kept demonstrators from even hearing the “free speech” speakers.

Peace of mind was short-lived. The next day we were pulled back to the top of the roller coaster by renewed threats of nuclear attack on the U.S. by North Korea the day before military exercises by the U.S. and South Korean were due to start. And Trump announced he would address the nation on Monday night about escalating the war in Afghanistan. [Editor’s note: This column was written before President Trump’s speech.]

Earlier this month, in response to North Korea shooting off long-range missiles—one awfully close to Japan and a commercial jet—Trump promised dictator Kim Jong Un North Korea would be subjected to “fire and fury.” A few days later Trump added that the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to attack North Korea, if necessary. Missiles with nuclear warheads were, at least figuratively if not literally, pointed at both countries. Comedians were making fallout shelter jokes. People were trying to laugh.

It’s an uncanny reflection of how the whole country is having to switch its energies to focus on a different Trump related crisis every day or so: Talk about the problems with the election that got us Trump in the first place will have to wait until next month’s column. Right now it looks like that column will focus on what and how we know about Russian and other possible future illegal U.S. election tampering via the internet. Preview: No need to fear voting machines being remotely hacked. But…

Meanwhile, if I were superstitious, I would be afraid to hit “send” on this column, not knowing what new or re-tooled scare Trump and his minions might cook up to interrupt our lives and ruin our moods before it even goes public. I know, though, that all of us who are aware of our responsibilities can’t let the fear of what he might do next stop us.

Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

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