Misery Loves Company

Are we becoming addicted to bad news?


President Trump and the White House press corp.

Sept. 19, 2020 — This is the last column and last issue of The Reader before the election.

Yes, there will be a November issue, but there is no way/no how it’s going to be in your hands by Nov. 3. So this is that time, like four years ago, when I look into my magical crystal fondue pot and tell you who’s going to be running the country for the next four years. Please note that I failed spectacularly when I did this in 2016, but didn’t all the wizened pundits get that one wrong?

Ah, those indeed were different days. We’d just come off eight years of uneventful — some might say boring — leadership from President Obama, and the spate of candidates lined up to take his place had all the personality of potted plants. When Trump slithered from whatever Stygian mire in Manhattan where he coifs his golden locks, he brought a new kind of excitement to politics. No matter the situation — be it stump speech, rally or debate — Trump never failed to entertain with the sheer audacity of his comments. And we all laughed and laughed, assuming with every racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, insulting lie that he was gleefully, purposely throwing another shovelful of dung over his own political career. How wrong we were.

Now, four long years later, I’ve gone from being addicted to politics to despising it, especially the media that covers it. Any last inkling of interest in Politics in These United States went up in a puff of digital smoke when Ruth Bader Ginsburg finally succumbed to cancer on September 18th.

When the news alert flashed onto my iPhone, I walked from my office into the living room and told Teresa, who changed the channel to CNN. But I didn’t want to hear about it.

While I knew there would be wall-to-wall remembrances of RBG, one of our greatest Supreme Court justices in history, there also would be dreadful speculation about what happens next with SCOTUS.

CNN, MSNBC and FOX would give us every gory detail about Trump and McConnell’s attempts to fill the vacancy despite the Senate having blocked President Obama’s efforts to nominate Merrick Garland in 2016 because it was too close to the election. We all remember it well; and we all know about the pending hypocrisy. I don’t need to hear about it over and over and over again for the next few days, weeks, months. No one wants to be swindled and then told every day how badly they were swindled. Or do they?

Look, I already know we’re screwed. I know exactly what’s going to happen regardless of the election’s outcome. And there’s nothing you, I or anyone can do about it. So why have it drilled into my head every time I turn on cable news?

People have tuned into MSNBC since the days of Keith Olbermann to hear talking heads explain how Republicans are screwing the country. FOX had done the same thing on the right since Bill O’Reilly and now with Hannity and Tucker.

But over the past year or so, the callous partisanship has bled over to other channels. You can’t turn on Anderson Cooper or any CNN anchor (day or night) without hearing end-of-the-world “thought pieces” about how Trump is screwing us. And I often find myself standing in front of the screen saying to Anderson, Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett, “We know, goddammit. And no one gives a shit. Nothing will ever change.”

The only thing worse than broadcast news is social media, where you not only get the never-ending retelling of every dreadful political apocalypse, you also get your Facebook “friend’s” personal spin. Nothing like reading the armchair bleatings of an army of out-of-work bartenders, artists and musicians warning us about what’s going to happen with Trump and the Supreme Court, their anger rising with every post, telling and retelling and retelling again the same awful news.

This country wallows in tragedy. And while there’s plenty to go around these days, never have I seen media (social or otherwise) bombard us with it as if we wanted to hear it.

I finally turned it off; the cable news, the social media; I scroll right past it. I haven’t put my head in the sand; I still know what’s going on, I just don’t worship at the altar of misery.

And I walk away knowing the same truth that was first uttered by crazy French philosopher/diplomat Joseph de Maistre some time in the 18th Century: Every nation gets the government it deserves.

You hate the other side of your personal political spectrum and the people who represent it in Washington, but remember those senators didn’t just show up one day with their briefcases and bad haircuts. Someone voted for them; someone who lives right next door to you or is driving that SUV in the opposite lane on Dodge St.

You hate what these senators are doing, but they’re playing by the same rules of democracy as everyone else. In the immortal words of ICE-T: Don’t hate the playa, hate the game. Your neighbors all knew Trump and McConnell were shit-stains before they were in office, and the majority voted for them anyway.

And, god help us, they’re going to do it again.

Like I said four years ago in these very pages: Donald Trump is a reflection of the country you live in, its ideals, its vision, its hopes (or lack of it) for the future. His election is a testimony of your world and the people who surround you. The reason he’s in office is because there are more of them than there are of you.

Which brings us back to that prediction. I’m not going to tell you who’s going to win. Just vote, and remember, it was never supposed to be us vs. them.

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com


Leave a Reply