June 4, 2018

Turning Off Politics, Turning On My Sanity


One nice benefit of being in Europe for almost two weeks was the ability to not pay attention to the scandals, breathless updates, and the heated rhetoric of our politics. Yes, I occasionally had wireless Internet in some places, but with no daily newspaper and no desire to ruin what was a marvelous trip, I stayed away from most of what passes as news today. I was vaguely aware of what was happening back home, but chose to ignore it. After all, I was looking at towns and villages hundreds, maybe even thousands of years old that had withstood much worse.

Of course, arriving home, the morning paper and the daily flood of  inflammatory headlines took their toll. It didn't take long to try to suck me back into the alternate reality of Washington. My brief dose of cleansing was over.

Or was it? 

I really felt a peace during that break from what passes as news today. I don't like to live with my head in the sand. I think part of the responsibility I have as a citizen is to know enough of what's going on to have an opinion and voice it when appropriate, vote when possible, and even protest if that is best.  But, to wallow in it, be surrounded by it, and buffeted by the almost endless expressions of anger or distrust, is exhausting.  

My thinking about how closely I want all of this to touch my daily life is undergoing an adjustment. I realize that swimming in that pool all the time means I can't avoid constantly being wet. Allowing political news and the daily flood of what is happening to be always in front of me is not serving a constructive purpose. 

A good analogy may be how I watch baseball games. There are times I turn off the TV before the end. I know whether I pay attention or the not  the final score will be what it is. My attention to the very last pitch won't change the ultimate outcome.

With our present state of affairs my awareness of every ebb and flow won't change what is eventually going to happen. Probes, investigations, judicial proceedings, lawsuits, whatever will be will be whether I am paying full attention or not.

The European pace of life, living on a ship cruising down a river, is not my normal life. I know that. But, can I bring some of the feeling of separation and calm home with me?

I'll find out.

35 comments:

  1. You describe my current practice : I turn off the game before it's over I cannot ignore current events but don't have to just continue to sit in the stands and be emotionally manipulated.

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    1. Good analogy, David. At the moment our political landscape is like watching an 18 inning baseball game with no clear conclusion. At some point you just switch it off and try to get some sleep.

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  2. Right there with you. After a long visit with relatives I realized that I had not watched one minute of "news", except my daily market check. Although I have been, occasionally, sucked in by some of my favorite bloggers, I made the decision to go back to "vote globally, act locally". There is need right here that my attention is much better suited to. My life is so much better without talking heads. The next elections, for me, are in November. Those are pretty non contested here, but I will be in your state for a good part of October caring for mom. I am already planning a number of Netflix and library selections for the visit. I am betting AZ talking heads will be insane!

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    1. Very likely. Arizona politics can be a blood sport, at times.

      I don't think I have watched a TV news show, either network or cable, since the 2016 elections. I won't watch again until election night in November. Otherwise, it is just misinformation I can do nothing about.

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  3. Very well put...I'm listening less and less to all that and turn off the volume anytime I'm subjected to 'his' voice...can't bear it. But I'm donating to progress candidates, so hoping to help changes the status quo in that way and will vote from abroad of course. Bob, how did you like Basel? Did you make it to the Beyeler Art Museum hopefully?

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    1. Our time in Basel was limited to getting off the ship and onto a bus that took us to Lucerne. So, unfortunately, I saw absolutely nothing there. We flew home from Zurich, so all I saw of that city was the large and somewhat confusing airport!

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  4. I went on a river cruise a few years ago and loved it...up the Rhine to Amsterdam...loved the area.
    I really got interested in news and politics around Obama's election and now even more so. But it gets depressing and overwhelming, as I feel we are on a downhill slide and losing the very things that were fought for in WWI and II.

    And being older, I find most of this interest and concern comes from people in our age group. The younger people are so busy with their lives, don't seem to have the interest or be concerned. And that sad thing about their generation, is that it will affect them far more than it will me.

    I have been trying to be less absorbed in all the news, but it is hard because I see destruction of so many areas, where it is just so unnecessary.

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    1. We can't stop caring, nor can we simply rollover if something is happening that we find profoundly disturbing. But, the day-to-day minutia is what can drive you nuts.

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  5. Well, I was going to comment but am wondering if, as a conservative, I am in a blog where my opinion won't be wanted. When I saw the comment about "his" voice and realized that the writer wasn't referring to the Lord, I wondered, lol.

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    1. All voices are welcome here. With civility and arguments built on mutual respect we all can learn something.I'd urge you to comment on this topic: how do you handle all the "noise" of political reporting, regardless of its source?

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  6. If we all directed our energy toward making a positive contribution (insert your version of that here) and stopped being drained by negativity, the world, at least the small one we live in would be a better place. Vacations have a way of reminding us how insignificant our "opinion" is in the grand scheme of things.

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    1. Everything that happened while we were 6,000 miles away would have happened if we never left our zip code. It was nice to be reminded of that.

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  7. I never ever listen to or watch news.I only read it.I have the Washington Post on the ipad and that’s about it. I like to be informed, but I don’t want an emotional dramatic TV anchor parsing it all up for me.And I don’t need images or the sound of the donald’s Voice in my day. I will be helping get people to vote through an outreach program at my church. While playing cards, my girlfriends and I do discuss our views (all of us liberal Democrats!!) I enjoy the discourse.But most of my days are spent enjoying art, music, friends,family, cooking,the pool, coffee shops, Hobby Lobby, and exercising! We’ll be looking for Bett’s beautiful photography so we can see some of your trip highlights!!

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    1. I will have a sampling of the photos in a few days, then maybe a full post of nothing but pictures, suitable for framing!

      Interestingly, at one point during our trip the hotel lobby had CNN on. The commentators were just as biased and single-sided as the ones on Fox News. I stopped watching. When the media stakes out rigid positions, regardless of the point of view, we all lost.

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  8. Hi Bob! Thank you for expressing an excellent way to approach the troubles in the world. Let's not be blind to them but let's not let us overwhelm us and paralyze us either. Of course, I also believe we all need to get out and VOTE if we consider ourselves a part of the process. Otherwise we might as well keep our heads in the sand. ~Kathy

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    1. It is a cliche, but true: if you don't vote you have no right to complain. Democracy requires active participation.

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  9. Good post. I read the Washington Post online, and sometimes the Seattle Times in paper. But there are so many things over which I am powerless that I try to focus on where I can make a difference. It's usually one on one, in volunteering or writing.

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    1. I receive the print version of the New York Times, but never begin with the front section. That I look at it later in the day so my mood isn't disturbed!

      Like you, writing and volunteering are where I am putting my energies...oh, and spending time with the grandkids while they are still young enough to want to hang out with Grandad.

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  10. I will state upfront that I am conservative; there, that's out of the way. I stopped watching the big three networks news broadcasts some time ago, since they were so slanted in one direction. I also do not watch Fox, either, since they can often be slanted too much in the opposite direction. In addition I ended a major city newspaper I was receiving here in TN, since even in this state the papers that are owned by the Gannett chain lean strongly to the left. Lastly, I have culled down many websites I was receiving daily emails from that supposedly contained news; my idea of news was not one item of actual news, and nine items of anti-Trump venom that was on all the other websites as well that I was receiving (are they all getting their daily marching orders on what to say and print?). I still receive news via our small local newspapers website and their hardcopy paper, as well as viewing a number of websites that stay somewhat middle of the road. It is very difficult since one side really doubled down hard on the rhetoric since 2016, but you can still get a reasonable amount of news without raising the blood pressure too much if you work at it. Again, glad you guys were able to suspend the fireworks that pass for journalism in the country today, Bob, even if only for a short while.

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    1. I have found the BBC to be a reliable, unbiased place to find news from all over the world, including here. They cover the stop stuff from America but in much smaller doses because they are covering the whole world. It works out well.

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  11. I try to avoid all tv "news" as I consider it all propaganda, but because my husband is a news junkie I get a passing glance now and then. But I do like to stay informed. I sometime check internet sources such as Reuter or the BBC and I subscribe to the print version of the Wall Street Journal because I think it is the least biased of the newspapers. I sometimes disagree with their editorial but they always seem to be honest and well thought out, and they give me something to think about. I do wish our leaders would cooperate and solve some of our problems. But I don't dwell on any of it. I quickly get on with my day.

    I wonder if all the angst some are experiencing is not so much the state of our country and our world as it is a profound hatred of "the other side" and in particular the leaders of the "other side". Maybe because at least one of the leaders is somewhat "unusual" (to put it kindly) and keeps us on edge, we cannot make an honest evaluation of the state of things. This country has seen worse days, but 24 hour news networks and many newspapers and twitter accounts would have us think otherwise. It is to their benefit to keep fanning the flames. We're suckers to fall for it.


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    1. Interesting, since I just mentioned the BBC in the comment above!

      As we spent the vacation time in Europe the various tour guides told us the history of each region. All of them suffered greatly from medieval times through World War II. The Nazi period was particularly hard on Holland and France, but Germany suffered tremendously, too, after both world wars.

      My point is, we aren't the only country going through some tough moments. Compared to what others have endured and survived we may be making too much of our current situation. As you note, that attitude sells papers and drives ratings.

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  12. I traveled to Europe for the first time when I was in my fifties, and I remember being amazed by the much longer view of history there. It provides a useful perspective. One of the ways I try to get beyond the obsessions of American news media is by listening to the BBC news once or twice a week. Imagine; there are things happening in the rest of the world that have nothing to do with us!
    At home, I find that spending time out in nature also provides perspective and a sense of calm. I generally try to live by the philosophy of the Serenity Prayer -- grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. In politics as in life, it's that third one that's trickiest. -Jean

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    1. Nice perspective, Jean. That prayer really says it all. It has always been one of my favorites.

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  13. I have cut way back on watching and listening to the news. Without a TV now, I am definitely and gratefully cut off from the endless news networks. I do see the headlines on my computer, and occasionally I click on one and read. But the constant barrage of news is like a toxic poison I'm sucking into my soul. So that had to stop. Every other weekend, I'm completely cut off from the news at the cabin. I come back to town with the same feeling you have coming back from your trip. I'm refreshed and relaxed, and I try not to jump right back into the news cycles.

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    1. I didn't realize you are without a TV. How do you keep up on the Titans football games?

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    2. I have cooled my football mania. All the head injury news.... I now obsess over cute animal videos on FB.

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  14. PS--The endless dire news cycles remind me of one of my favorite lines from "Another Roadside Attraction" by Tom Robbins. Throughout the book one character or another would turn on the news. "The world situation was desperate as usual."

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    1. Isn't that the truth. Or, maybe, "the world situation was portrayed as desperate, as usual."

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    2. Even better. You should write the sequel.

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    3. Actually, I am about to publish my next two or three booklets about retirement for this blog. And, I am writing a children's book...it is quite fun!

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  15. I do not use a computer, a smart phone, etc. on weekends, unless there is a death investigation and I get called out to the scene. I do listen on weekends to the radio for bluegrass, gospel, and blues music. Other than that, I just use a flip phone for any calls or texts. I do not have a tv either so I am essentially unplugged on weekends (and at night).....it is nice. My view is that I live in a 1950's house, so I just pretend like it is 1950, (except instead of a land line, I have a cell phone) and when I am home, I chill.

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    1. I like your approach. I don't think I'd have the self discipline to go that far, but I appreciate your desire to keep distractions to a minimum.

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  16. I was a long time listener of NPR until the last presidential election when it became clear to me that there was a big slant toward Hillary vs. Bernie. They lost my trust and I boycotted them. I have blocked the 3 cable news stations on my TV and when I hear the voice of the person in the White House on my TV, I reach for the remote and change the channel.
    The hard part is when I go out to a restaurant and they have cable news on. There is a diner I like in town who has FOX on all the time and I stopped going for awhile. I returned a couple of weeks ago and noticed that FOX was not on this time and almost made a comment to the owner. I have no idea why these businesses think that there is such a need for TV's in their restaurants. When I look around, people are having conversations and eating not watching TV.
    I do like to watch my local cable station that has the most effect on my life. I like to keep an eye on what my local politicians are up to in my own town especially the issues around development and taxes. Listening to the small town debates in the town meetings is truly what democracy is all about.

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    1. Very early in my career I attended local city council and Board of Education meetings. It was quite interesting to hear what bothered people and how local officials dealt with those issues.

      I understand a lot of people like Fox News, but like you, any channel played all the time gets old. My gym has Fox News on at least two of the 8 screens all the time. I tend to pick a treadmill that is out of sight of those channels. I try to avoid overload of anything. In a restaurant? I wouldn't be back. That's not the time or place.

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