Living Two Lives is Like Walking on a Razor's Edge

By Don Hall

Over the Mother's Day weekend, DMJ and I were in Kansas with my folks.

My dad is a fairly conservative Republican (but not a Trump guy in any way) and my mom is a bleeding-heart former hippie with both a heart of gold and an almost uncharacteristic hatred for all things Trump. In fact, both of them admitted to us that mom's fixation on Trump has become almost unhealthy.

"She gets up in the morning as happy as she can be. Goes out and feeds the birds, feeds the dog, soaks in the early morning and then..." Dad says.

"And then?"

"She starts reading all that crap and just gets angrier and angrier. It ruins her whole day sometimes."

Mom confessed that some of her friends were deeply depressed; one lady was taking anti-anxiety medication due to her overwhelming sense of TrumpDread, and that it was becoming a debilitating thing to read and know about the reality that the blowhard jackass who hosted The Apprentice now has the keys to the nuclear football.

I took Mom's iPhone and iPad and took a look under the hoods. She was receiving notifications on her lock screen from everything. Each morning and all day long, she was getting breaking news from CNN, CBSNews, MSNBC, Faceborg, AP and about six other sources. And most of the notifications were feeding her obsession with Trump because in this particular cycle the adage "If it bleeds, it leads" has been supplanted with a new one: "If he tweets, it leads." Sure, the rhyming sucks but poets don't fucking rhyme anymore anyway.

So I went in and eliminated all of her news-related notifications. Turned them off. Told her I had done it.

When I was deep within the confines of the Public Radio Mines, spending roughly 80 hours of my week either in a cubicle or running shows for NPR, my wife gave me a mounted cartoon for my desk:

I love this. As all things DMJ places in my life, it is a fantastic reminder of things that are important in it.

Not that I'll ever be so hippie-fied that my almost non-stop consumption of news of the horrors of daily living on the planet could be curtailed, but it does provide an alternative perspective. It points out that I live two lives every day: the one that engages in face-to-face conversations and takes walks in my neighborhood and has a beer (or two) with people, and the other that is immersed in the screens in front of my face.

It's a dangerous thing to spend too much time in the second life. More information isn't the same thing as more knowledge and we, as a species, were not ready for the rapidity of this technological revolution. Walking that razor's edge between the digital life of consequence-free interactions, unfettered rage and entitlement spewing forth across your screen like a little girl possessed puking like a firehose, the posting and re-posting of the same shitty news all day long and feeling real sun on your face, holding doors open for strangers, trying to cross the street without being plowed over by an asshat with a Mercedes is tough.

Something to keep in mind is that a full 80 percent of everything on social media and through the masscutt press is theatre. The posturing of both the Alt Right and Social Justice Left is designed to get you emotionally invested. Your buttons are so easy to push like a candy red marker with a label that states "Press Here to Ensure an Irrational and Enraged Response."

We're all feeling a bit raw. We're all on edge. We're all just like my mom with every reason in the world to wake up, acknowledge the simple pleasures of family and her yard, only to destroy any semblance of balance by jumping into the cesspool of media-generated antagonism.

Fear of the unknown is a choice. Trump is a wild card in our day. Rage at what he might do is a choice. Choosing to be afraid and/or righteously furious takes up so much energy, however, it leaves little room for either enjoyment of living or actively doing a goddamn thing about him. If you're busy being anxious and horrified, you aren't going to actually do anything to change things.