The past few weeks of the national new cycle have been overwhelming. Everytime we check our phones, there is a new alert detailing heart-wrenching and alarming developments in the country.
This week especially has been jarring: on Sunday, a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue after touting anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant hate speech online. On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted about a caravan of Central American immigrants headed to the U.S., calling it an “invasion” and ordering an additional 5,200 armed troops to the southern border. On Tuesday, he announced plans to sign an executive order that would end birthright citizenship rights for children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. Last week, pipe bombs were sent to over a dozen high-profile critics of Trump, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. These events have transpired just after the alarming revelation that the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to establish the legal definition of gender as biological and determined at birth, a major threat to transgender rights. In the background looms the continued shock that the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of attempted rape, has released into the American public psyche.
Today, reading the news is no longer a neutral pastime. It is confusing and emotionally taxing. It requires us to come to terms with information that cannot be come to terms with — information that is disturbing, hateful and surreal. Even worse, much of the hateful rhetoric and many of the changing policies and acts of violence impact people on this campus personally. For Amherst’s women, people of color, immigrant/undocumented students and queer students, the events in the news are not politics. They are attacks on ourselves and our peers. There is a palpable sense of exhaustion on campus, stemming in part from the consistency and speed with which the news hits us. We are constantly bombarded on social media with a flow of unfathomable events that occur outside of our small campus bubble. It is a hamster wheel that has not stopped since November 2016.
Journalist and Professor of Political Science and Russian Masha Gessen describes this particular phenomenon as “outrage fatigue.” In “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” she writes, “the Trump presidency basically calls on a very large number of Americans to maintain a constant sense of outrage because Trump is maintaining a constant sense of outrage.” What is alarming, according to Gessen, is that the president persists until the American people are too exhausted from being angry.
The Editorial Board urges the Amherst community to be wary of “outrage fatigue”. It is important that we continue to not only read the news, but also care with the same intensity and determination for change that many of us felt in the wake of the 2016 election. We must articulate our concerns. We must continue to be upset and deeply disturbed that marginalized peoples are being attacked by the administration in our White House. Furthermore, we must act on these feelings by voting, protesting and continuing to pay attention to what happens to our country. It is our duty to our country, our peers and ourselves.
Students also need to take care of each other right now. We recognize how detrimental recent events have been to the mental health of those we love. With fortitude must come kindness. Part of combating “outrage fatigue” is combating the apathy that can make the world a dangerous place. We urge you, in this difficult week, to continue caring about both the world around us and those on campus.