I’ve been trying to find my way back to a state of reasoned calm, following the election and the current repetitive rhetoric still filling our airwaves. It doesn’t matter who is right or who is wrong, no one is listening.
Every time I get to a moment where I think, okay I’ve got this, I’ll catch the news that another member is being added to the billionaires’ club of the new administration. I hear that an education predator, one who has made gobs of money off the very system she has lobbied for, is going to impact the education my child will be receiving until she graduates, and it fills me with rage.
But I am beginning to return more quickly to center.
Nobody is listening and my words and rage are like so much flotsam on a vast ocean of noise.
What is becoming more clear is that the American public is, as it has always been, subject to the whims of the wealthy. It doesn’t matter who you voted for – you’re nothing but human capital. Liberal or conservative doesn’t matter. If you’re not a gazillionaire or have your own network show, you’re just peasant grist for the mill.
This notion is actually freeing in a way. If nothing I do matters, then I get to do what I want, feel how I want to feel, be who I want to be – all without a politician’s input or political labels. For some people, this means expanding – reaching out to others, committing to service, broadening horizons. To others, it means curling up in a tight ball, hanging with like-minded people, protecting oneself at all cost. We get to decide who we want to be. That’s a damned powerful choice to make.
I’ve read some posts and articles by many articulate and reasoned people. They argue opposite points and I think, well, that is something to think about. It made me realize that we can talk ourselves into anything. We can look past all kinds of flaws in reasoning and become so enamored of our own talking points as to sound like reflexive robots. We seek out confirmation bias for the pure pleasure of feeling self-righteous, comforted, and above all, right.
I’ve walked for miles this week. My knee injury is slow in healing and each step is focused on not slipping or stepping down too hard. But I’m moving forward with quiet concentration. Yesterday, I mapped out a four mile walk that included a stop at the library. The sun was out and the sidewalks were melted off, a lovely November surprise. I gingerly walked uneven pavement, stepping with a wince off curbs. Each step a measured choice.
Over the last year, I read a lot of comment sections on news sites and I realized that they actually made me more stupid. Comments are often not measured choices. I wondered how this affected my worldview – to constantly read angry, denigrating insults, regardless of political affiliation.
Every article, no matter the topic, triggered a cavalcade of repetitive and childish squabbling. This article made me laugh, because the comment section was reflective of nearly every news comment section I’d ever read.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bypassing comment sections and trying to stick with the news. It’s a challenge. Vitriol is addictive and even if it’s not you writing it, reading it is a hard habit to break. It feeds the little part of your brain that likes to feel amped – that burst of rage that lights you up and gets the adrenaline going. The primitive urges of modern life.
As I stripped away the filthy layers of this election season, I remembered that the same things that mattered most to me before, mattered most now. My family, learning, contributing positively to society, writing, friends, etc. While I was thinking about what matters, I tripped over a great new resource, the Action for Happiness website. Check out Action #30. I’m still digging in, but I like the positive vibes from the site – and lots of reminders that politics is only a fraction of life.
Humor is also a much-needed palliative. I have a fondness for political cartoonists. When I was 16 and editor of the school paper, I went to the Iowa High School Press Association conference. I fangirled Brian Duffy, a political cartoonist from the Des Moines Register. Pigs featured prominently his cartoons, since much of Iowa life is focused on farm culture, so I had a very specific request in mind. He drew me a huge pig which hangs on the wall behind me and makes me smile to this day.
Here’s some cartoonists that have made me laugh lately:
- Claytoonz Syndicated Cartoonist Clay Jones. He’s a liberal after my own heart, so it might not be your jam. I enjoy learning about his thought process that goes into the work.
- Tabula Candida A historian who likes to doodle. I always feel just a little bit smarter if I get the joke.
- Wrong Hands Cartoonist John Atkinson does a fantastic job combining history and literature with the idiosyncracies of modern life.
So what does this all come down to? It comes down to getting in touch with our own humanity and inner lives before pretending we’re ready to understand that of others. Casey Fleming at non(seculargirl) wrote a great post “Sermon for Self-Purification” that covers this exact point.
The election results triggered a heavy duty depression in me, but it made me realize that the whole year has been a bit of a bust. There have been few highlights and brief glimpses of enthusiasm were easily squashed. It wasn’t only the election, it was that I had allowed my inner life to be eclipsed by things out of my control. No matter which wealthy bastard is in charge, nurturing our inner lives and deciding who we want to be, are really all we have.