Writing these columns is usually not very difficult for me.
I always have something to say. It may surprise you to know that I often write multiple drafts of my more political ones, trying to tone them down, and then I send them to my dad, who tones them down even more.
(Anyone still fuming from my Kamala Harris column might have fainted right there.)
This week, though. It was tough. I couldn’t wrap my head around the madness I’m seeing in the country right now. I sat in my office in a full-on despair. The blinking cursor on my screen was more insulting than inviting. My fingers couldn’t form words. I even tried to read a comic book to calm down, but that didn’t work at all. I barely flipped through a few pages before coming back to the blinking cursor and asking, “Doesn’t anyone see this madness?”
Maybe we don’t. Maybe we can’t.
Dad always taught me to do a self-assessment with any strongly-held belief. He told me to step back, take a few breaths, and ask a question a lot of people don’t ask.
“What if I’m wrong?”
So I asked myself that question about my analysis of the world today. Wildfires out of control, one started by something as stupid as a gender-reveal party. The sky above San Francisco looks like a scene from some post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie! As Gandalf would say, “When did we abandon reason for madness?”
Further madness? How about a president who lies so much that fact-checkers stopped counting back in July, and a populace who is OK with that? They’re also OK with his now-proven but always-obvious work for Russia. Even when he says something – like, I don’t know, calling John McCain a loser? – and then tweets that he didn’t, so people believe him. (He did, by the way, at a family leadership summit in Ames, Iowa, on July 18, 2015. You can find the video.) After that lie and all the other lies, the stories that he called fallen soldiers “suckers” seems even more plausible, unless you’ve gone all-in on his brand. Sherlock Holmes would say, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” This isn’t even improbable. It’s very probable.
More madness? 190,000 people are dead from COVID-19, and the president admits to Bob Woodward that he wanted to play it down. The president even retweeted a Q-Anon conspiracy misrepresentation that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths came from the virus and the rest were not caused by it. That CDC update he’s talking about said that only 6% were caused by COVID-19 alone. The rest happened because the person had other conditions WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE KILLED THEM IF THEY DIDN’T GET THE DISEASE! People still believe that it’s a hoax, even though the death toll is the equivalent to just over two Vietnams, 456 full passenger jet crashes, and 63 9/11s. As Orwell wrote, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
So what can I do? I expect that the president will get reelected in November. Voters staying away or throwing votes in a tree shredder (what they call “third-party protest votes”) will help this. It’s easy to despair when you think the country you love is running off the rails. It’s easy to despair when the rest of the world is making plans to find ways to avoid working with the country you love because they can’t understand our madness. What’s a nerd to do?
Dad says to stop “doomscrolling,” and he’s right. I need to limit how much of the bad news I consume. Enjoy the goodness of my little corner of the world. Change the things I can change and ignore those things I can’t.
And, of course, since I’m a nerd, I come back to Gandalf. As Frodo despaired about living in such dark times, wishing he did not live in the time where the One Ring had to be destroyed, Gandalf gave his sage advice.
“…so do all who live to see such times,” he said. “But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I can’t understand the madness. I’ve asked myself if I’m wrong a million times. No, I’m not wrong, but it doesn’t matter.
I have to decide what to do with the time that is given me.
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