"It’s easy to think we’re screwed,
Reading the front page news;
Swimming a sea of deals,
Ain’t gonna sooth our fears"
- Tom Chaplin, Under A Million Lights
I love Christmas music, but I get tired of listening to the same 25 songs over and over again on the radio. I like to mix it up. New stuff, old stuff, the 8th song on Tony Bennett's third Christmas album, "A Very Acoustic Christmas" playlist on Apple Music. Michael Buble, Mannheim Steamroller, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, obviously. But also "That's Christmas to Me" by Pentatonix and "Winter Song" by Leslie Odom, Jr., and a couple of 2017 additions: Red and Green, an EP by Jon McLaughlin, and Christmas in Blue, an EP by Sam Sparro. Things that keep my spirits up and put me in a good mood, but don't drive me insane because I've heard them five times before the end of Black Friday.
A couple of days ago I discovered the new song "Under A Million Lights," by Tom Chaplin. The opening lyrics are powerful and all-too-relevant in 2017, particularly while Christmas lists are being built and fulfilled: "It's easy to think we're screwed reading the front page news; swimming a sea of deals ain't gonna sooth our fears."
My Twitter feed is the equivalent of what the front page news was to my dad when I was a kid. I would come downstairs before we left for school, and that day's issue of The Oregonian, the largest newspaper in Oregon, would always be open on the kitchen counter. I would grab the Sports section and the Living section to check the box scores and read the comics before my dad would drive us to school.
Yesterday, when scrolling through my "front page news," a particular tweet felt like a punch in the gut. It was from retired Air Force general Michael Hayden, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. Love him or hate him, this is a man who spent much of his life serving his country.
His tweet was in response to President Trump's seemingly unprompted trashing of CNN International, calling it "fake news," and further undermining the first amendment. We've become numb to stuff like this, because it's also so regular now -- but a President of the United States saying these things is both remarkable and terrifying. It shouldn't happen.
General Hayden responded: "If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life. Until now it was not possible for me to conceive of an American President capable of such an outrageous assault on truth, a free press or the first amendment."
It's easy to think we're screwed when a former Director of the CIA and four-star general says he may have wasted forty years of his life serving the United States of America. This whole thing, the election of Donald Trump to the most powerful position of the world, has felt like a crisis to me from the beginning.
I was scared on election night, and not a single thing that has happened has made me feel better about our country in the year he's been in office. We've seen further polarization (which didn't seem possible a year ago), we've seen a sitting president actively work to undermine the existing health care infrastructure to hurt poor Americans, we've seen America's standing in the world crater, and we've seen America's top nuclear commander reassure the public that he would not follow an illegal order from the President. We've watched as lying has become not just normal, but expected from the highest office in the land. This is all insane, unprecedented, and scary.
It's helpful when people we respect behave like things will be okay. The way President Obama handled the transition of power, with grace and honor and respect for the norms of our country, for example. That helped. But when people like General Hayden -- people who are undoubtedly insiders, people who understand more about what's happening right now than the rest of us watching this unfold -- when people like him start saying things like he said yesterday, it's hard not to panic. When will this nightmare end?
I hope Joe Biden will make me feel better, or at least make me feel like I can do something about this, on Thursday.