The trouble with living in this year of our Lord 2018 is that startling, bad, once-in-a-generation things happen with such swift and disconcerting profusion. You can be upset about some things all of the time, and everything some of the time, but you can’t be upset about all of the things all of the time.
Or can you? If it is, in fact, possible, this would certainly be the year. Then again, it may give us all ulcers, and that seems risky given the current state of our health-care system.
I understand that so many other nightmare things have happened that when the president of the United States makes a cruel crack about the #MeToo movement at a rally, it barely ripples on the surface. I understand that we as a country look at this man, our president, and say, “Yes, that sounds like him! That is exactly the sort of thing that he would say,” and then we leave what should be a full month of just outrage by the side of the road to fend for itself — maybe with an apologetic note that we hope to get back to it in 2019, when we will maybe not also have to be upset at the speaker of the House for not bothering to familiarize himself with who Scott Pruitt was even after he hit his 58th scandal. I understand that we cannot be indignant about everything all the time or we would never sleep.
But as 2018 barrels past this incident, let us at least pause and agree that it was disgusting in a now-familiar way.
“I’m going to get one of those little kits,” President Trump said about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at the rally, “and in [the] middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage — because her mother said that she has high cheekbones; that’s her only evidence, that her mother said she has high cheekbones — we will take that little kit, and we will say, but we have to do it gently because we’re in the ‘Me Too’ generation, so we have to be very gentle, and we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm, even though it probably only weighs 2 ounces.” The clumsy, implausibly deniable pivot to arm injury is familiar — this is what happened with Megyn Kelly’s “blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump has this tendency to swerve away from his obvious meaning at the last second.
As writer Anna Merlan observed on Twitter, “He thinks a DNA kit is like a rape kit. That’s the joke.”
But really, how does he think DNA tests work? If Trump has ever looked up anything in his life to make certain he knew what he was talking about, he gives no evidence of it. There was a time when I was so ignorant of the world that I assumed that anything whose workings I did not understand was probably naughty somehow, but then I turned 14. (And also, there was Google.) Trump seems to have experienced no such evolution. He is still the little boy, vain in his misinformation, who boasts about never changing diapers. He seems as though he would still read Urban Dictionary with pleasure, then report the things he found there as actual occurrences.
“That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees,” he said to a “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant — another of the puerile, creepy insinuations that he has in place of actual information. His world-picture continues to seem to be put together from things he has overheard in locker rooms, and not particularly nice locker rooms, either.
So, of course, we will pass this without a sigh. Two roads diverged in November 2016, and we have taken the one where we knew, going in, that the president would be someone who made fun of sexual assault.
Of course, he has appointed Bill Shine the deputy chief of staff for communications, a man who presided over years of payoffs and coverups of sexual harassment at Fox News. Can’t wait to see whom he picks for the Supreme Court when Roe v. Wade might be revisited! This is how Trump sees half the world: not as people but as women — something quite different. We knew all this. Everything is happening, and we cannot give every injury the time it deserves. But how disgusting that this is what we expect. How disgusting that this is what we take for granted.
Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.