I was going to write in my column this week about politics, specifically about Donald Trump and why I’m ok with his presidency (it’s not what you think. I’ll explain next week, #promise). But I decided against it. I decided that I’ve already spent too much time this week reading and observing and thinking about politics, and it’s making me sick.
Not that this paying attention hasn’t been important. It was Election Week and voting is our civic duty and paying attention and reading up is part of that duty. Also, I’m a contributing writer for a website called Honest Politics, which offers unbiased, politically neutral commentary on the News. So, I’ve been paying attention a lot. Too much.
The key is to know when to stop.
It’s very hard to stop. Politics–and really what I’m talking about here is political news coverage–is everywhere. It’s lurking in my email. Buzzing on my phone. My social media is awash in it. It’s playing on every surface of my gym and on the divider in my taxi. In the waiting room at my dentist. Above the checkout line at my grocery store.
What’s more, whenever it is there, I have to be paying attention to it. Part of that is certainly biological. Politics is dramatic and we are conditioned to pay attention to drama, so that we can respond to it if needs be. It’s a fight-or-flight thing. Part of it is entertainment. Politics is about outrage and outrage is entertaining, or at least stimulating. Part of it, too, is that it’s our civic duty, as I said above. But is it?
Yes, it’s your duty to be informed. Yes, it’s your duty to pay attention. But it’s also your duty to know when enough is enough.
If politics has got you overstimulated on outrage, that’s going to effect your ability to do the other things that it’s your civic duty to do. Like your job. Like being a patient, loving parent. Like being a patient, polite neighbor or car driver or subway rider or any other thing that you do in a public space. Being a human being is part of your civic duty too.
But how do I get unstimulated? How do I detox when it’s everywhere? A good point. Well, some of those things you control directly. Deal with those first. Delete the emails before you read them. Turn off the notifications. Don’t open the social media. Politely abstain from the political conversation. I’m not saying forever; I’m just saying for a while.
Or better yet, just put everything down. Put down your computer or phone or tablet or whatever you’re reading this on. Then stand up from wherever you’re sitting. Go outside. Now, breathe the air. Glance up at the sun. It’s all very beautiful, isn’t it? Now look at someone walking by, look them in the face. Really see them. That’s a person. That’s your neighbor. Now look at another. That’s your neighbor too. Oh, shit. There’s a whole world of them all walking by. You could talk to one–and not about politics. Or you can just walk, and look at things. Trees and flowers and dogs and cars. You’ll soon find that there’s no politics out there. Only a real, tangible, pretty okay world.
And you need to enjoy some of that some of time. It’s your civic duty.
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