Friday, June 1, 2012
Seriously, Shut UP About Politics
I have been, as has been discussed, obsessed with politics from a very early age. The only place I come close to being normal is in DC. My family and close friends put up with me, but I think on the whole they are happier when I can talk about politics with the other people who can get rolling on it the same way I can.
But even I - especially since having kids - can get fed up with politics.
I am pretty well-informed. I like to read news regularly. I often get curious about a news story or a policy area and I get voracious and read everything I can find about that topic. And then there are the topics somebody paid me to know about. I love it when someone pays me to learn about some new area of policy, and I have been lucky enough to work for people who did that on a regular basis.
For the past 4 years, however, I have been a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM). Most of that time we were living in Germany, where it was illegal for me to work under our residency visa. This was kind of a nice situation, because I didn't spend a whole lot of time feeling guilty or worried about not working for pay. But SAHMing is the single most challenging job I have ever had.
So one of the things about being a SAHM is that you have to take care of a little person/little people. And I love my kids dearly, but they like some serious attention. Right now the Daddy is on a business trip (he has been stuck on a whole bunch of these lately). That means I am the law/attention/caregiver unto myself right now. That's enough work to occupy almost every bit of my time and attention. And it's put me in this mood. It's the kind of mood where you lose a good deal of your patience. And whatever patience I have left is going to the kids.
So I am just not listening to or reading the news today. I am not listening to the end of Drift, which I have been working my way through for about a week. I turned off the news podcast I was listening to that was about to go way into talking about local government efforts to suppress the vote all over the country.
I cannot handle one more story about one more stupid thing any politician is doing right now. I cannot handle any more partisan crap about trivial things - or even about big things. I cannot handle the disingenuousness with which this whole enterprise between politicians and reporters/pundits is conducted, often creating stories out of nothing to gin up partisan zeal (and political contributions or ad revenues), while ignoring or causing real suffering in the world.
We live in a democratic republic. That means we elect people to represent us. And I would like, for a day, for those people to friggin' represent me. I would like to be able to trust them to fight for what is right, and to figure out adult ways to conduct the nation's business, to be forthright and honest, and to take a long view. Some of them do that. But clearly not enough.
I suspect my problem is that I get so invested in all of these policy issues that I get upset, and then I feel like I should go out and do something about them all. And when I was working in government, I could at least feel like I was doing something to contribute. Try as I might, however, it is challenging to do anything political when you have two adorable urchins along for the ride. Ones who are highly likely to say things like "read to me!" or "stop talking, Mommy!" or "I want some food!" or the ever popular "I have to pee!" at any moment.
And since I cannot stop caring, or turn my brain off once I know about the many crazy ways people are trying to do stupid things through government to hurt each other and generally create chaos, I have to not listen or read about them when I get like this.
It's an effect I first heard about when the Ethiopian famine hit in the 1980s, and the news was all pictures of starving children, and you just didn't ever want to watch the news again because you felt so sad and so powerless. I experienced the same thing during Milosevic's campaign of death and destruction through the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and during the more recent African genocidal campaigns.
It's not always even about the severity of what you hear in the news, though. Sometimes it's just stupidity like birtherism, and made-up, opportunistic arguments over sound bites from one political campaign to another. And while this desire to turn away from it all is probably healthy in the short run, I suspect it has led, in the long run, to some of the great cynicism and separation we face in our political system. And democratic republics need thoughtful tending and engagement by civic-minded, caring citizens.
So in a day or two I'll get a 53rd wind, and I'll try to go learn more and be involved again. But for today, seriously, shut UP about politics.