A left-leaning 66-year-old searches for balance in unbalanced times

In the Orwellian universe in which we now marinate, that uncomfortable reality in which rumors seamlessly transform into facts, and disinformation invades our bloodstream like a mutant virus, I wonder what the proper balance is while cowering under the bed and wearing a helmet, face mask and noise-cancelling headphones.

These last 18 months of America held spellbound under the everlasting stench of the Jan. 6 coup attempt and Donald Trump’s continuing odorous reign of dysfunction have been difficult to manage emotionally, even with a daily dose of 100 milligrams of Zoloft (up from 50 milligrams a year ago), an occasional chaser of Xanax and an uptick in cheap chardonnay. The endless tweets, the 24/7 news circus with its countless cable TV “experts,” the GOP and its ringleader Tucker Carlson, have infiltrated every corner of my real and virtual worlds.


So what is my obligation as a left-leaning 66-year-old with high blood pressure (150/90, thanks for not asking) who was raised to be politically involved and duly outraged at any sign of social injustice? With my remaining years quickly sliding into amnesia, did I really need to watch Trump’s recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference? Did I need to waste time stalking Lauren Boebert’s latest Twitter babble? Did I have to find out that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is holding a “Moment of Truth Summit” later this month in which the 2020 voting machines will be the defendants in a “trial of the machines”?

“The only way this doesn’t work — I have all the pieces — is if the people don’t watch it,” Lindell boasted. Who did he reveal this bit of breaking news to? Why none other than the great rumpled one, Steve Bannon. Am I the only one with IBS, Irritable Bannon Syndrome? I was raised under that false American rubric that “one person can make a difference.” By using our infectious Yankee optimism, we can change the course of history, stop the tanks in Tiananmen Square (How did that work out?), give peace a chance (Miss you, John) and stop U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from pretending that wearing floral drapes is cutting-edge fashion.

I have always thought that maxim should read, “One incredibly exceptional person with the right connections and gorgeous hair can make a difference.” I’ll be brutally honest: I am not that incredibly exceptional. I do not like confrontations with people who disagree with me. It’s kind of icky. I have really nice hair, some would call it flaxen, but I lack any connection that would even let me cut ahead in the “20 items or less” line at Wal-Mart. I vote regularly. I occasionally turn up at a protest — mainly for the smug selfies — and then reward myself with one of those $5 Starbucks drinks. I sign online petitions; write unanswered letters to Congress; and retweet, “like” and insult online, but do I have the same power to effect change in the United States as say, Kid Rock, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin or a TikTok influencer?

To my liberal comrades, I would caution, just because you are upset, dutifully read New York Times or Washington Post editorials and drink organic fair-trade French roast does not mean you are a better person than those who, instead, do not want to pour all that anxiety into their short lives and would rather drink beer on the patio, binge-watch “Emily in Paris” or pet a cat.

Lately, I’ve been taking the long view. Trump’s tenure, as excruciatingly bizarre, destructive and still inspiring to a third of Americans, was but a short belch in history’s digestive tract, a digestive tract, by the way, in need of a strong colon cleanser. After all, what is four years in the grand scheme of things? If I make it to the age of 80 (no guarantee, note blood pressure numbers), four years will be only 5% of my life. And by the time I’m 80, I probably will not remember the previous 20 years or the last 15 minutes. I tell myself that, look, I’m still standing after 12 years in the custody of the Chicago Public Schools system, Ronald Reagan’s dementia, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, George W. Bush’s blunders, the last 30 years of Bears football, a bunch of wars that accomplished, well, nothing and a New Kids on the Block concert (don’t ask).

So I think I will opt for detachment by simply sitting out, for example, the Trump-Marjorie Taylor Greene 2024 presidential ticket and our next military foray into fill-in-the-blank (Pro tip: Las Vegas favors Taiwan) and the much-anticipated return of a youthful and apparently converted conservative Republican, the one and only John Kennedy Jr.

Heck, what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to me? Please don’t answer that. I’m having a decent day. Now, where’s my helmet?

— Chicago Tribune

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