As one friend recalled, we used to go days, sometimes weeks, without even thinking about Obama. Perhaps that was never the case for feverish Tea Party types and conspiracy-minded birthers—which might help explain why we are where we are today—but that is how a democracy is supposed to work. Even under the worst years of George W. Bush, he wasn’t chronically foremost in my thoughts. As another friend put it, there is something deeply totalitarian about continuously being forced to ponder the executive branch of your government: such preoccupations are neither normal nor healthy.
—Thomas Chatterton Williams, “All Trump All the Time,” February 8, 2017
Now lovely Venus doth her son persuade
To seek the walls, and townward turn his train,
And deal swift havoc on the foe dismayed.
While here and there Æneas scans the plain,
Still tracking Turnus through the ranks in vain,
Far off the peaceful city he espies,
Unscathed, unstirred, and in his restless brain
The vision of a greater war doth rise;
Larger the War-God looms, and to his chiefs he cries.
—Virgil, The Aeneid, Book XII, a long time ago
Last Sunday, the idiot Atlanta Falcons, who had held the evil New England Patriots to three points for the first 43 minutes of the Super Bowl, gave up 31 points in the remaining 17 minutes of regulation and four minutes of overtime to complete the greatest choke in NFL history. Despite this collapse, most people have correctly blamed the Falcons offense rather than the defensive unit for the loss. The Falcons defense was on the field for 99 snaps! The average number of snaps a unit saw in the regular season was 64. So the Falcons defense was forced to play a game-and-a-half of football on the sport’s biggest stage. Moreover, they were playing aggressive man coverage, rather than a zone defense which waits for the offense to come to it. They were utterly exhausted by the end. As people who’ve played football will tell you, offense is always less draining than defense. The offense has a gameplan that it must execute; it knows exactly what it has to do every time it lines up. On the other hand, the defense’s goal is to stop the offense. It has to read and react to an unknown situation each time. The wide receiver has to run his assigned route, and that’s it. The cornerback has to anticipate every route the wide receiver might run, then work extra hard to correct any mistakes he makes. Chasing is harder than leading. Unless you play for a team in the habit of spying on other teams’ practices and learning their gameplans, on defense you will become tired faster.
Knowing that defense is harder than offense is important as we consider our response so far to Trump. I’ve been extremely impressed by the scale and intensity of protest. But I’m also mentally exhausted, and it hasn’t even been a month. We have almost 50 to go. Reacting to all the horrible stuff is draining. This is the point where I’m supposed to say that everybody’s doing it wrong and we should be
primarying Joe Manchin figuring out what to call ourselves ignoring distractions and focusing on one thing, but that’s stupid. Surely the world is wide enough for multiple simultaneous actions. But just like the Falcons got gassed, resistance is taxing. It feels like we’re running back and forth between multiple fires. And in a sense, we are playing into Trump’s tiny hands, in that the issues we protest are things that he loves to talk lie about. In contrast, think of issues that Trump hates talking about: Tax returns. Sexual assault. Russia (hoo boy, Russia). When we go after these issues, then it’s team Trump that must react to our actions. Then they can be the exhausted ones, terrified, unsure of what will happen next. Other than Sally Yates, nobody in the administration has lost their job because of Trump’s executive orders. The Russian issue has already bagged us Flynn. The Congressmen fleeing their own town halls have been cowed into submission. But we still need to get them out of Congress. This war will be fought on multiple fronts, defending the things that make us strong and attacking the things that make them weak. It feels good when we can go on the offensive.
(Image source: ESPN)