OPINION: The 24-hour news cycle might save us all

Sony Ton-Aime (NEW)

Sony Ton-Aime

My only political conversation with my father ended with him slapping me so hard I almost fainted. It was in January 2004, just one month before Aristide was sent into exile for the second time. My country, Haiti, had been engulfed in open rebellion against him since the early months of 2003. He had refused to resign and had done all he could to hold on. Both his mercenaries, the chimères and the rebels were killing people on a daily basis.

As a 13-year-old, I only saw one solution. If he resigned, the whole thing would stop, and so would the killings. This was exactly what I told my father, who supported Aristide. I also told him that I could not believe he was an accomplice to a murderer. That was when he slapped me. When I finally steadied myself, there was contempt behind his eyes, but also shame and anger.

I am seeing a similar contempt in many of my American friends today. Like my father, they choose to “stay out of politics.” By that I mean they stopped watching the news. My father, too, kept silent on anything related to politics after that episode. He would simply mumble things and fume under his breath anytime someone on the radio would report of some new body found. He would ask one of us to just turn off the radio. He could not take it. We learned to change the station when the news came on.

These American friends that I am talking about here are mostly Christians and moderate conservatives who typically voted for Donald Trump. They would tell anyone who would listen they are fed up with how nasty the news and politics have become.

There is some truth in that claim, but the experience with my father tells me there is something more at play here. The news and politics have always been nasty. The only difference here is the persistence of it. They are being faced with the consequences of their votes daily, and these consequences are happening here and affecting the lives around them. The 24-hour news cycle and reality of this presidency are becoming a painful reminder of their mistake.

For the first time in their lives, politics has become more than just voting. It has become their identity. They are constantly asked to defend their votes and the actions of the president they voted for. They are facing what is inevitable in a populist regime − every action taken by the leader is the people’s desire. They have unwillingly become militants. They are living the consequences of their votes, and this is a cost too high for them to pay. They know it now.

My father knew, too. He knew that Aristide was responsible for the deaths of the people and that he should have resigned. But what would be the cost of admitting all that? Wouldn’t that make the former priest (Aristide was a Catholic priest before becoming president) a demon? Wouldn’t that be a direct blow to my father’s religion? What about his values? What good would it do?

When Aristide was taken and sent to exile, my father started listening to the news again. One day, he admitted the country was better off without Aristide.

And this right here is why this constant and inane news cycle will be the difference maker in the next election. This irritating news does not only frustrate these moderate conservatives — it implicates them. Donald Trump’s caprices — putting children in cages, declaring an unnecessary national emergency, the government shutdown, etc. — are too extravagant for them.

They will never admit it now, but they know, like my father knew, the country is better off without this president. As I am sure that my father would not vote for Aristide again if he were asked to do so, I am sure President Donald Trump has lost the vote of many of these moderate conservatives.

Sony Ton-Aime is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].