The Internet is where people vent, decry, express anger, sadness, joy, you name it.
We pride ourselves on being a free society, ready to defend the virtues of unrestricted speech and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I did some noodling the other day (it’s what old people call pondering) about the state of the people I care about and I’d like to make a suggestion. Actually, a couple of them.
To begin: breathe. Relax. Take at least 60-seconds out of every day where you don’t think about what’s going on at work, what the president tweeted or what you think may or may not happen in this country. OK, now, with that clear head, think back over the years you’ve been around and how our nation has constantly battled between right and left. It’s a pendulum. Our country has a history of swinging back and forth.
Starting with Ike:
Eisenhower (R) 8 years
Kennedy/Johnson (D) 8 years
Nixon/Ford (R) 8 years
Carter (R) 4 years
Reagan/Bush (R) 12 years
Clinton (D) 8 years
Bush (R) 8 years
Obama (D) 8 years
Keeping this pattern in mind,
Keeping this pattern in mind, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Trump was elected. OK, so that’s how the election went, he’s doing what he said he would do and there will be battles a plenty. But that’s politics and, in reality, a very small fraction of our life. Unless we choose to make it our entire life.
And that’s what I see people doing. Day in, day out, they’re upset about the latest incident or quote or appointment or alternative fact. Then, you see people expressing their frustration on Facebook. Now, what used to be a collection of food pictures or cats playing pianos, is a collection of mean-spirited, caustic snipes and swipes at anything and everything that happens.
Take a look again at that list above and the way the country has gone for the past half-century–we’re going to swing right, then left, then right. Let’s call that a given. Now let’s introduce the fact that one of the deadly killers we really don’t know a lot about is stress. Are you really going to maintain this current level of discontent for another four or eight years? Let’s say you have 30 years left on this earth. By this formula, you’re going to spend 15 of those in misery. Really? You just want to toss those years away?
How many family gatherings will you find yourself afraid of saying the wrong thing? How many rainbows not even notice because you’re pounding away on your keyboard in response to another Facebook post?
And this just in–science has now confirmed that not a single person’s opinion has ever been reversed because of a clever meme. Hey, if you going to generate fake news, you might as well make it entertaining.
We all have a gift called life. What we do with it is entirely up to us. So, there will be people who march, carry signs, write angry letters, make phone calls, put on bumper stickers, and spend the bulk of their time completely unhappy. It’s their choice.
Or, consider doing things that might actually cause change. Being angry and gathering with a bunch of like-minded angry people only results in feeling good about yourself momentarily. The next day, not a micro-organism of change.
As a comedy writer, I’m always on the lookout for commonality. Those are the things that allow you to cut down on the set-up time of the joke. You can lose your audience saying, “You know, over in Scotland, they had banned the use of round scissors and so what happened was…..” or, you go straight to, “That’s now five rings for Tom Brady and he should go to voicemail.” You didn’t need to explain who Tom Brady was, what the rings referred to and best of all, it was non-political. When you go political in comedy, you stand a good chance of alienating at least half your audience, or at least make them less appreciate your comedic talents. Right now, late-night TV hosts and Saturday Night Live are having a field day with Trump (and he and his staff are providing ample fodder), but I have a feeling that long-term, that’s going to backfire on them. We’ll see….
Again, I’m in the middle, watching all of this happen and absorbing what I can along the way so that the next time I get to vote, that will be reflected. It’s how this democracy works. Please, be informed, stay on top of things, but don’t waste half of the years you have remaining being consumed and feeling that anger, fear and hurt score brownie points.
Someone else won the trophy. OK, fine. Let’s do things that can really help win it back next time. But you won’t be able to help right the ship if you stress yourself out into non-existence between now and then.