Monday, April 24, 2017

COLUMN: Political Stress

It's been a rough couple of weeks.

This is NOT a political column. I am not a political writer. I know that many of you are probably yearning for political wisdom and democratic insight from the guy who usually writes about cats and video games, but I'm afraid you'll be big-ly disappointed here. I just don't have it in me. I think I speak for both sides of the fence when I say we could all use a little breather at this point.

Remember when news used to occasionally include stories NOT about politics? Back when the Iowa caucuses were heating up, I distinctly recall thinking to myself, "Ooh, election season! This'll be exciting!" It feels that that "season" has been raging for about 3 years now. Every time I pick up the paper or turn on the TV, I have to steel myself for whatever blood-pressure-raising headlines await. I'm sick of worrying about politics. I miss the good ol' days of worrying about everyday household items that could secretly be killing me ("find out more... after the break!")

I miss the innocent days of social media, when you could log on to Facebook and see pictures of your friends' dinner or their babies that you have to comment "aww!" on, even if you secretly think they're kinda funny-looking. Nowadays, my Facebook feed is little more than people complaining about Donald Trump, people complaining about people complaining about Donald Trump, or people complaining that Facebook is full of people complaining.

I'm not going to pretend for a minute that I'm one to rise above it all. I might not be a political columnist, but if we're friends on Facebook, you already know that I'm just as prone to semi-informed spontaneous political rants as you or your weird uncle. To that end, I like Facebook. When I read something in the news that infuriates me, typing up a daft Facebook manifesto is way more relieving than squeezing a stress ball while making disapproving glances at my cats.

I have friends on both sides of the political fence, and I'm generally okay with their social media rants, too. But one of my friends just posted a soliloquy about how terrible all the political posts are. Last week, some girl I barely remember from high school "unfriended" me. I know a couple people who have quit Facebook altogether because they're tired of reading about politics.

Personally, I don't get it. Yes, it can be frustrating to scroll through argument after argument about how awful and/or great the state of our nation is. But still, these people are my friends (or, at the very least, snobs from high school whose ongoing hair loss is now fun to monitor.) I'm not going to "unfriend" any of them unless their posts turn racist or offensive. I might vehemently disagree with their views, but it's still encouraging to see people caring about the future of our country instead of just turning a blind eye.

To me, the answer seems simple: if you don't want to read about politics, don't. It takes 1.5 seconds to press that arrow key and scroll past someone's post. If I'm not in the mood to read political diatribes, I don't. Easy peasy. I may love my wacky uncle down in Alabama, but I ignore 92.3% of the garbage he puts on Facebook. I'm not going to banish him to the Land of the Unfriended. No bridges are going to be built if you only surround yourself with like-minded people.

Still, though, I get it. It can be draining when the only thing in the news, on social media, and at the watercooler is politics, politics, politics. You've got to hand it to President Trump: People are NOT ambivalent about the guy. Everybody has an opinion, and we could be looking at four solid years of non-stop arguments. So for now, let's all take a deep breath and think about something OTHER than politics for a few seconds.

Like cats. My cats don't know or care that Donald Trump is president. All they want is food, water, and to be skritched under the chin from time to time. Or music. Music is good. My favorite band, Ride, is putting out a new album this year, so that's pretty awesome. After a finale that blew my mind, NBC just renewed "The Good Place" for another season. David Bowie and Prince can only die ONCE, so I guess we've got that going for us?

The point is, there's good in the world, and you don't have to wear rose-colored glasses to see it. If you hate what's happening in government, do something about it. Start a blog, protest, run for office. Be proactive. If you like what's happening, do the same. Whatever you do, just do it respectfully. Social media wasn't created to make it easier for us to yell at one another from a distance. If we utilize it the right way, we might just be able to start dialogue that could bring us closer together. If we can be civil about things, maybe we can even show our Commander-in-Chief that there's better things to do at 3 a.m. than send hate tweets to Saturday Night Live.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have cats to pet and video games to play.

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