In keeping with trying to avoid things that antagonize my character, I have become one of those people who does not read the news.
Well, let me qualify that. I write the news, at least in a non-profit way for a niche audience of health care professionals, so to that end, I also read lots (and LOTS) of health, medical, and science news, news releases, and so on.
But generic, mainstream media news? Nope. I will find out about things I care about, like environmental legislation, via the groups I follow on social media. For example, when President Biden restored the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, I found out via the social media pages of groups like the Audubon Society. When a state bans the use of battery cages for the egg industry or beautiful people like Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren do things like introduce legislation that takes on Big Agriculture, I find out through the pages of groups like Farm Sanctuary.
Hell, I don’t even follow groups that support women’s rights and reproductive rights. I live with the knowledge that there is always going to be an effort to take away reproductive rights and punish female sexuality by people who most likely either don’t get laid by their own spouses or are the living embodiment of hypocrisy and maintain at least one extra-marital affair (bonus for vocal homophobes who see people of their own gender on the down low), and I vote and donate in opposition accordingly. Same goes for people who would turn their religion into the law of the land. I know what these people are about, and I do what I feel I must as just another part of life.
So last Tuesday night, when I checked the election results in a Google search on my phone and saw that my beautiful Commonwealth of Virginia had a collective brain fart in the voting booth, I closed my phone, fired up the Netflix, and proceeded to watch a few episodes of Downton Abbey. Since then I have avoided all of the “analysis” and prognostications over the mid-term elections and 2024. Worrying about that now is the very antithesis to mindfulness and living in the present and it antagonizes my character, and that goes triple for reading the comments that spew forth from an increasingly illiterate, arrogant, and superstitious citizenry. (Yeah, sure, you got a C in high school biology, you did internet “research,” and you saw something on YouTube that caters to your fear and knee-jerk opposition to anyone and anything that some loudmouth armchair pontificator told you either comes from or is held dear by the opposing political party, so of course you know more than the hive of PhDs and MDs in the scientific sphere. Totally legit.)
With dismay, I saw that ads by the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump conservatives and Republicans, have already started running on social media. I don’t see them on Facebook (yet) but I did see a couple on Instagram, with one of the ever-unflattering pictures of the man they oppose. I’ve also seen similar ads by other organizations, and people are sharing things about him and his party that promote either fear or gloating with respect to Republican gains in states like Virginia and so on. We are not a year into the Biden administration and now I’m seeing You-Know-Who’s bloated orange face all over the place again, and I wonder what it’s going to take to get some relief from his continued malignant presence throughout both the news and popular culture. I don’t “like” political or news posts on social media, even when they are my friends’ posts and I whole-heartedly agree, because I want to avoid the algorithms.
And not for nothing, but this gives the lie to the notion of some sort of vast left-wing media conspiracy, because if the media really were biased, they wouldn’t give him any exposure or free publicity. They’d relegate him to the dustbin of history, not cater to his greed and narcissistic need for attention, neither of which is news at this point. In fact, they don’t need to be leftward biased for that. They just need to be media companies that engage in journalism in service of the public rather than in service of making money.
I suppose I could get upset. I could be annoyed. But you know what? I’m not. I vote. I donate. Every once in a while I might write a post like this to purge something from my head so it doesn’t get stuck on loop there. But I will say the thing that should not be said, which is that my day-to-day life doesn’t change too much regardless of who is in the White House or the governor’s mansion. While I am aligned with the left and its causes overall—health care, education, diversity and equity, and advocacy for the elderly, the poor, and the disenfranchised—the vast majority of my personal, private actions and political fights are on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves and defend themselves, those being the other creatures with whom we share the planet. I’m well past the point in life where I could get pregnant, so not even overturning Roe v Wade would affect me directly (although once the ball starts rolling against reproductive rights, women’s health takes a hit in general, such as diminishing access to contraception and losing funding and/or coverage for Pap smears and mammograms, the latter of which would affect me).
Maybe I am still recovering from four years that made the George W. Bush administration seem like a cakewalk. Some might say that that’s what the oppressors want, for people like me—people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and who have just the slightest bit of ability to use words to get others fired up for a cause—to get tired or stop caring.
But make no mistake: I may be tired, but I have not stopped caring and I have not given up. Rather, I have made a choice on behalf of my own mental health and well-being to compartmentalize and keep politics and ideology in just one spot in my head. This is a conscious decision, and it comes from surviving four years of gnashing my teeth and thinking at least once or twice a week, “Just when I thought he and his zealots could not go any lower, surprise! A new low!” I suppose I should thank them because nothing about the American political arena surprises me anymore, absolutely nothing, and when nothing surprises you, you are in a position of strength because you no longer react out of emotion. You react with logic and strategy.
Most of my career has involved working with and for non-profits of causes and professions I support without reservation. That is my effort, and along with my vote and my donations, that is my strategy. Beyond that, I will not live in fight mode.