I am not Amish, in terms of lifestyle or religion.
But these days, I am adapting an Amish tactic in order to keep a sunny outlook on life.
I am shunning.
I get scream-at-him mad at President Donald Trump. No, he has not done an awful job in office, substantively.
But I cannot stomach the boy-child’s need to dominate the headlines every day, with outright hogwash if that is what it takes to keep everyone in the nation focused on him.
I get scream-at-them mad at Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Joe Scarnati and Reps. Matt Gabler and Cris Dush. They were elected to do specific things, according to the Constitution. One fundamental obligation was to have given us a balanced budget four months ago. Instead, they waste millions in interest via reduced credit ratings by refusing to reduce state spending to levels consistent with the amount of money taken in via taxes.
Local officials do not provoke outright screams, but I did yowl in protest when the Brookville Area School District claimed via a bill that I owe them $150 in occupational privilege tax. News Flash: I have been retired for four years.
I ought not to spend entire days in screaming or yowling. Those sounds upset the dogs, cats and chickens, not to mention my long-suffering spouse.
So I shun.
Three years ago, we got rid of our satellite-supplied TV service. The TV set sits unused for weeks at a time. We turn it on occasionally to watch movies on DVD or VHS, or when visiting family members log it into Netflix or another streaming service and watch the hop-and-skip service we get at the end of our rural Internet connection line.
I still check the news, from across the world right down to our communities, each morning, but I do so via computer.
The computer’s speakers are deliberately turned off as I access websites of local newspapers, state news aggregators, broadcast and cable news sites and national/international news services.
An hour later, at most, I am done.
I have been dragooned by necessity into carrying a smartphone. But Facebook is not activated on it. Neither is email. Neither are news services. I use the thing to send and receive voice calls and text messages. I do have one “news” site activated: The National Weather Service widget.
See, I am genetically and constitutionally incapable of just sitting there and receiving news. I have an irresistible need to participate, by responding to the news.
When Trump tweets, I holler “Shaddap!”
The dogs move away. The cats look at me with suspicion. The chickens strut and cluck, and for all I know, retaliate by lessening their output of eggs.
So I shun the news for most of the day.
Actually, that’s the way it was when I was growing up.
We listened to the radio every morning, mostly because if school was delayed or called off, the radio would inform us. Even as an adult, I caught the “noon news” on the radio station to see if there were developments.
We tuned a TV set to the 11 p.m. local news to see what late-breaking items were of interest.
But by and large, those morning, noon and evening interludes were all we needed or wanted in terms of keeping in touch with the world around us.
In recent decades, cable and satellite TV and the Internet have given rise to 24/7 news cycles – except that there is not enough new news to fill those cycles.
So we are bombarded with endless every-hour repetitions of the same film or tape clips, the same attention-grabbing sound bites, the same stomach-churning headlines.
They do this, of course, so that viewers will stay tuned in and thereby see and hear the advertisers’ messages.
We aren’t constitutionally built to withstand being bombarded, 24/7, with the same crisis news: Wildfires in California, hurricanes in the South, Tweets from the White House, feckless posturing in Harrisburg.
Well, maybe you are.
I am not.
So we shun.
Off with the TV service.
The newspaper, we can pick up or put down as we choose. We can also skim a newspaper, without having to endure the spoken words of the entire story, registering only the headlines if we are not interested in the full details.
Radio is not much of a news medium these days. Once a week, I am in a vehicle at 8 a.m., before I have had a chance to fully visit my computer’s bookmarked websites. Then, I’ll flick to National Public Radio, but for the first quarter-hour only.
I even shun that.
Much of the negativity in our daily lives comes, in my view, from our negative reactions to the upsetting “news” of the day that is not really news, but is speculation by “talking heads:” What will North Korea do? What will Trump Tweet next?
That isn’t news. That is stomach-stressing hogwash.
I’m with the Amish in that regard. If it goes against the grain, shun it.
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org