Pre-Launch Episode: The Gaslighter-In-Chief

Traitor Radio, the resistance podcast for short attention spans, catches up with some of our time capsule responders in this pre-launch episode, wherein we grapple with the unpredictability, constant low-level fear and coping mechanisms that have become part of everyday life under Trump.

Can’t listen? We’ve posted the episode script below — something we’ll be doing for all of our episodes as part of our commitment to accessibility.

PRE-LAUNCH EPISODE: THE GASLIGHTER-IN-CHIEF

ANDREA GRIMES: Welcome to Traitor Radio, the resistance podcast for short attention spans. This is kind of a pre-launch episode, a check-in with our donors and our hopefully burgeoning audience, to say hey, what’s up, here’s what’s going on. I’m your host, Andrea Grimes, and this episode is going to be different — well, it’s our only episode so I guess it can’t be different from other episodes — but it probably won’t be like the rest of our episodes. I’ll tell y’all more about those at the end of this one (I’ll even tell you what our first couple of actual episodes are going to be about), and give you some homework, too. For now, let’s talk about — now. But also the past. And also the future. Okay, you know what, let’s go back a few months. To a chilly January day in Washington, D.C.

< MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR SINGS ‘AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL,’ CULMINATING IN A CRESCENDO: “FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA” AND APPLAUSE, FROM DONALD J. TRUMP’S INAUGURATION EVENT >

ANDREA: On January 20, 2017, Traitor Radio launched an online time capsule. We asked our friends, family and followers to think about the future.

It was a really scary day to think about the future.

NEWSREEL AUDIO >

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Donald John Trump do solemnly swear.

DONALD TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump do solemnly swear.

ROBERTS: That I will faithfully execute.

TRUMP: That I will faithfully execute.

ROBERTS: The office of president of the United States.

TRUMP: The office of president of the United States.

JASMINE UDUMA: Honestly, I’m afraid for my future children, and I’m not even close to having any yet.

ANDREA: That’s Jasmine, a 25-year-old college grad who studied public policy at Boston College. She’s originally from Detroit and now she’s working at a community college back home. Like so many people her age, she is living in her childhood bedroom trying to figure out what comes next.

JASMINE: I moved back home like all the other millennials, and have just kind of been figuring it out from here. And it’s a little weird, because, trying to think of your life as an adult but I’m in my childhood bedroom? < laughs >

ANDREA: Dozens of listeners responded to our time capsule, and a theme emerged. Like Jasmine, folks said they were scared, anxious and apprehensive about the future. Here’s Caitlin, a Texas expat currently in nursing school in Boston:

CAITLIN: Today I feel scared and angry and depressed and nauseous. I can quite believe this is happening, and at the same time I am full of rage that is has happened.

ANDREA: And Amanda, a mom from Ohio whose daughter relies on Medicaid for her health care:

AMANDA: Like utter shit. Angry. Terrified, mostly for my daughter. Heartbroken. Defeated.

ANDREA: And Patrick, a child abuse investigator from the Quad Cities area who pretty much sums it up. This was his response to our question, “How are you feeling today?”

PATRICK: Sad and pissed.

ANDREA: In the first few weeks of Trump’s presidency, a lot of stuff happened! Trump tried to push through a travel ban on Muslim immigrants, and tens of thousands of us turned out at airports around the country. Constituents packed town halls from the west coast, to the midwest, to the south, to the east coast, demanding to keep their Obamacare — and it worked! The momentum was building. When I asked our time capsule responders if they felt as bad in March of 2017 as they did in January, they all told me: No! Some of them even felt hopeful.

JASMINE: But I’m not as panicked, I guess I’ll say, as I was before. Because we’ve seen a lot of organizing from people from all different groups and backgrounds trying to figure out a way essentially to resist the change he wants to inflict on us. I’m comforted by that part. I’m still not comfortable with him as president, it still feels weird to call him president, I rarely do. I think what I was most afraid of, I’m not as afraid right now.

ANDREA: And so I was gearing up to release this little pre-episode of Traitor Radio, showing how we’d gone from despair to resistance in just a matter of weeks. Looking back at how fucking sad we felt that first week under Trump, and how much power we’ve built — through protest, political action, town halls, community building — in such a short time, and end on an uplifting note of, if not optimism, exactly, at least — strength. Listeners, it didn’t last.

< NEWSREEL FOOTAGE >

CNN ANCHOR: President Trump signed a law today giving states the option to block funding to any organizations that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood. It rolls back an Obama administration …

BBC ANCHOR: Or as it’s more commonly known, the “mother of all bombs.” And today, for the first time ever, it was used in combat. The largest non-nuclear weapon ever deployed. The target: So-called “Islamic State” in Afghanistan.

CNN ANCHOR: The third generation leader, like his father and grandfather before him, continues to hold absolute power over North Korea and its growing nuclear arsenal. That arsenal has become central to what many here see as a potential showdown with the U.S.

ANDREA: Nearly 90 days into Trump’s presidency, I had to call everybody back to ask them what they thought about the mother of all bombs, and that Planned Parenthood bullshit and, oh yeah, world war three.

PATRICK: The general mood, it’s like disbelief of what kind of crazy thing’s going to happen next, or what stupid thing’s going to happen next. Like, one minute it’s oh my god they’re going to blow up the world because they’re going to launch nukes at North Korea, and the next is oh wait the seventh fleet is nowhere near North Korea and oh yeah Trump was lying when he said that. So it’s like, what the fuck? Basically. It’s like a perpetual what the fuck is going on kind of situation.

ANDREA: What is this life, not knowing what you’ll wake up to? It’s life under the gaslighter-in-chief, I guess, a man who says one thing, says another thing, and does yet another thing, all the while telling us, the people he’s sworn to protect, that he’s done nothing at all, except all the great things he’s done. This is life under Trump.

ANDREA: What is it like? Do you feel like you’re kind of up and down through the days and weeks? What’s your emotional state, is my question?

AMANDA: Oh, god. Ugh. Kind of numb, really. It’s like okay, he did this, he did that. Everything he has done has pretty much been an impeachable offense, and nothing’s happening. It’s incredible that this small-minded, horrible human being has become a figurehead. And is continuing to be a figurehead. I mean, his daughter is profiting off her brand through the White House. They just, they’re building Trump towers in Turkey after Erdogan took over. I, don’t, ugh. I thought we lived in a free world, I guess. It’s just ridiculously obvious that I was insanely naive. So it’s kind of a whiplash to go from thinking that some things were maybe infallible, and finding out that everything’s full of shit.

ANDREA: I’ve been kicking myself for not getting this podcast off the ground sooner, feeling like a fool and an asshole for not jumping into the resistance zeitgeist. Even though I knew, and I’d even said myself, that resistance is a marathon and not a sprint, I was afraid I’d missed a moment. Now, I think we’re coming in at just the right time. Back in January, the refrain was — this is not normal, this can’t be normal, we cannot normalize the Trump administration. But of course we can — we’re humans, we areworn down by low-level fear and relentless abuse and gaslighting, and we have to learn how to cope. Life has to be normal sometimes.

ANDREA: It is super stressful to be kept guessing all the time.

PATRICK: Right, right.

ANDREA: There’s no equilibrium, ever, I feel like.

PATRICK: No. None whatsoever. Honestly, as a family we’ve been probably more into, keeping an eye on the news and being prepared for bad things to happen but also trying to focus as much as a family on we can on just sort of, escapism. Going to movies. We have a camper at a local campground here that just opened the last weekend. Really during the summertime I just take a break as much as I can from Friday night until Sunday afternoon from social media, from too close to the news. Now, this year, compared to past years, I have actually, like last weekend when we were out there I did try to keep more of an eye on my Twitter feed just to make sure I didn’t have to hook the camper up and drive to the middle of nowhere in case of nuclear war.

ANDREA: Oh my god, yeah. Yes.

PATRICK: But in general that’s kind of how we’re coping. My daughter’s prom is coming up on Saturday, so we’re just focusing on trying to keep things more light and escapist from what’s going on as far as the international scene or even the domestic scene because it’s, like you said, way too stressful to be that tuned in all the time and worry with each coming tweet or each coming proclamation or each lie that’s coming from the White House or whatever, is that going to piss off the wrong people?

ANDREA: 24/7 outrage is an unsustainable plan. We can’t resist everything all the time, but we can learn how to make resistance part of our everyday lives by building compassion and breaking down privilege. That’s what Traitor Radio is for.

ANDREA: So stay tuned. Our format is going to be pretty simple: every couple of weeks, you’ll meet someone with a story to tell, and then you’ll get some homework related to their story that will, hopefully, help you make your community, your city, your state, maybe even your country, a safer, more just and equitable place to live. In our first two episodes, you’ll hear from transgender Americans who’ve been targeted and harassed by their own lawmakers, by people in their own community, just for trying to live their lives — going to work, going to school, and you know, going — to the bathroom. You’ll also meet members of an underground, grassroots network of abortion advocates who are preparing for a time when abortion care becomes illegal in the United States — a prospect that, depending on the makeup of the Supreme Court, could be closer than any of us would like to imagine.

ANDREA: But for now! The homework I’m going to give you on this episode is probably the easiest you’ll ever get from us: Find us on social media, and tell us what you want to learn, what areas you think you know the least about when it comes to social justice, political activism or community engagement. I know this is dangerous and horrifying — we all want to pretend we know everything already all the time — but it’s where we have to start. We’re @Traitor Radio on Twitter, and there’s a Facebook page, too. Like us, tag us, resist with us. We’ll be back soon.

ANDREA: This episode was produced by me, Andrea Grimes, with help from Traitor Radio’s creative director, Carrie Kaplan. You can find us online at TraitorRadio.com, on iTunes, Stitcher and wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Take us away, ridiculous Mormon tabernacle choir!

< MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR SINGS ‘AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL’  >

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