Matt Pearl

I have a serious question for you:

Is anything you read, watch or hear about your political leaders going to change the way you vote in the 2020 elections?

For a fraction of the American population, the answer is Yes. For most of the rest of us who are entrenched in our views, there is little if anything that a candidate could say to persuade us to change our vote.

So, I’m going to say something horrible, and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying it: 

Quit paying attention to it all.

Stop hanging on every word Trump says, or every phrase Bob Mueller won’t say, or every implication of Hillary’s lost emails, or every DNA nuance of Elizabeth Warren. You know who you like, right? You know who you can’t stand, right?

So, leave it alone for a while, huh? It’s a virtue to remain vigilant in a cause that holds importance to you, and I would never discourage anyone’s passion toward politics or toward policy. But you all have to give the rest of us a break.

My daily life has become flooded with folks praising the president for keeping his vow regarding draining the swamp. And when I’m not hearing about his accolades, I’m hearing his opponents’ hourly reminders that he is the worst human that ever walked among us. I can’t quite believe that either of those extreme viewpoints is wholly right.

Social media has given universal means for folks to proliferate their ideas. Some of those ideas are garbage. Some social media users (usually unknowingly) pass on false information regarding politics. And just about all of us consume what our news feeds show us, then react with either agreement or outrage.

Then nobody changes his or her position on anything. It’s all wasted frustration and needless information wars. Give yourself a break from it.

It’s all like soap operas. I remember those things being on the TV at midday growing up, and while you’re watching them, you feel like you’re hanging on every plot line and character twist. Then you go back to school and don’t even think about what’s happening on the show. But a week back to watching at the end of May and you’re right back in its grasp.

It’s the same with political news, folks. If you tune it out for a week or two, you don’t care so much. How do we reconcile our responsibility to pay attention to our leaders and their policies with our ability to maintain a sense of civility as a society? Are we better off with up-to-the-minute information on a political story if the cost is our general peace and well-being – not to mention not being on speaking terms with our neighbors.

So many of us see ourselves standing on the front lines, defending our fellow citizens from the ills and deceits of society. More and more, though, I am wondering that after the smoke clears and we have won our battles, will there be anyone left standing with us? Or will the fight itself consume us, driving out of our lives the very people for whom we struggle?

Take a social media break. I know, cheap talk from a guy who has watched Facebook devastate several aspects of the useful work newspapers used to do. The people have chosen, and they want questionable, unverified content from a free platform, rather than pay a little for traditional media. But if social media is killing your peace of mind, making you paranoid or putting you at odds with the good people all around you, why not just leave the swamp behind you?

We have missed too much of the good in our world already, and we gave it up to argue over politicians and pundits who wouldn’t take 5 seconds to talk to any of us. I can’t speak for you, but I’m ready to stop watching this soap.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.