After the last two presidential election cycles ended, I had to put myself in a media blackout. Particularly after Bush’s re-election. In the fall of 2004, I had gotten to the point where I was consuming political information at such an overwhelming rate that I wasn’t even processing it even more. I would eagerly monitor the changing electoral projection map in each new issue of Newsweek. My evenings began with Crossfire and ended with The Daily Show. I had a blog then, but my posts ended abruptly mid-October, simply because I couldn’t take the time to stop and reflect on what I was consuming.
So when it all came to a screeching halt after Sen Kerry’s concession speech, it was a complete shock to the system. I stopped reading the newspaper, and didn’t turn on my television for any type of programming whatsoever until well after Christmas (once the Southeast Asian tsunami hit and I was shamefully reminded that there was more to the world than American politics…).
2008 wasn’t much better. Up until late October of that year, I had been working nearly full-time as a caregiver for an elderly gentleman who did little more than change the channel between C-Span and CNN. I didn’t exactly discourage him, either. I was addicted to the coverage, craved more of it every day, and even when I left his house I’d rush home and check the HuffingtonPost and MSNBC before doing anything else with my evening. Granted, I had more reason to be optimistic then. So much so that my husband and I threw and election night party (figuring we’d probably feel the need to drink regardless of the outcome — luckily the drinking was celebratory). But I still had to cut myself off from most media for several days at least. I gave myself one exception: as I cleaned up from the party the night before, I played, as loud as I could stand it, the original Broadway cast album of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s virtuosic masterpiece Caroline, or Change. I had always loved that piece, but its truth rang more fully that day than it ever had before.
At any rate, I’ve deliberately taken a different tack this year. Yes, I’ve had more than my share of spats on Facebook (who hasn’t?). And I still definitely spend a disproportionate amount of time at my computer reading as many news sources as I can stand. But there’s definitely a change.
I’m more willing, and able, to stop. To shut the laptop and call it a night. To get up and practice at the piano for a couple of hours instead of trolling Facebook for a fight. To let the world of political punditry go on without me (I doubt they’ve noticed, anyway).
Today, I was folding and putting away some laundry, and it occurred to me, “No matter who wins this election, I will still have to wash, and fold, and put away the laundry, tomorrow, next week, next year.” Just like that. Life will go on.
Now, it might not go on entirely as I’d like it. I have not lost my conviction that elections can, and do, have a real impact on our day-to-day lives. But — and this expanding perspective is likely the ONLY thing I appreciate about getting older — I feel more certain than ever that the world will keep turning, and that the human race will keep trying, however haltingly and imperfectly, to achieve a free and just world.