by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 4/2017

In a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, the President of the United States (played by Alec Baldwin) faces off against the three judges who stopped his executive order travel ban – in, of all places, “The People’s Court” TV show. It’s an over-the-top, silly skit, but also topical. Cecily Strong, who played the TV judge, said these words which were not only hilarious, they RESONATED:

“I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.”

And suddenly, a political comedy sketch became real. Because every day, there’s at least one news alert, usually more than one, that sets off the red alert klaxons in our minds and kicks us into overdrive.

As a nation, we are EXHAUSTED, STRESSED and profoundly DEPRESSED. Every day brings news that scares us. Every day the major news sites report BREAKING NEWS alerts in bright red, huge fonts. Every day.

There have NEVER been times like these. When it seems like every night a BREAKING NEWS story hits and it’s “unprecedented.” Or a report adds more fuel to any of the dozen metaphorical fires burning in Washington… Bad after bad and worse after worse and JUST when you think you’ve heard the worst thing ever, well, it gets worse than that.

This country has moved very quickly – perhaps as a defense mechanism – into a mode where we are simply not shocked by anything anymore. Think about it – the day of the London terrorist attack – A TERRORIST ATTACK ON PARLIAMENT — on that day, the attack was NOT the 24/7 news story. Yes, the horrific shootings, the deaths, the carnage – it was reported, but then the anchors focused back on the events in Washington that day – the Health Care Act replacement attempt, confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court justice, new reports of Russia meddling in the US Government, and one or two other stories. And we don’t remember what these other two stories were because days later they were replaced with other crisis stories.

Shocking news stories – daily – information that should warrant months of discussion — well, we don’t have time to process any one of them because something wilder, crazier or mind-boggling happens the next day.

This country is in perpetual crisis mode. We are CONSTANTLY in an adrenaline fueled news rush with NO time to process this latest punch to the face before ANOTHER punch comes in, and then another and another.

What was the news last Monday? What had everyone so upset? Remember how mad that made you? No? You can’t remember, that was four days ago and three bigger stories have occurred since.

If a human being is in a constant state of stress, crisis, flight or fight mode, with no rest — eventually the body breaks down.

There has been NO rest for this country for many months. EVERY day is a crisis. Miscommunication. Scandal. Real news. Fake news. Journalistic integrity. Journalistic malpractice. Good people trying to do what’s right. Machiavellian agendas. Protests. Outrageous statements and actions. “Experts” and talking heads on every channel. What appears to be real crimes. Real scandal. The scramble to interpret EVERYTHING. People living in fear. Nonsense overriding SCIENCE.

And the mixed messages, dear God, the mixed messages. Every statement from anyone results in chaos.

It has become impossible to know what the hell is really going on.

We cannot – we must not — subscribe to the idea that what is happening is NORMAL. Nothing about the times we live in is normal.

In this nation’s Declaration of Independence, there is a particular line that seems relevant to current days. Thomas Jefferson, as part of the indictment against King George, wrote, “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

Say that again: The sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance.

Fatiguing us into compliance.

Isn’t that exactly what is happening?

How soon before we give up, numb to each day’s news being worse than yesterday, numb to the most shocking statements or revelation being met with a “meh, whatever,” sentiment? How soon before we are fatigued into compliance? How soon before we stop questioning the government and media?

The short-term solution is to unplug, turn off the TV and radio and Facebook and the news sites for a few days. That’s healthy, and advisable.

But then what? The country is still FATIGUED.

We need to find a balance. In these uncertain times, it is incumbent on all Americans to keep vigilant, stay informed, try to separate the real news from the fake news, the lies from the truth, to try to recognize the journalists with integrity versus the posers just looking for ratings. We MUST (peacefully) hold our leaders accountable to the law and Constitution, to protest (peacefully) when appropriate, to write our letters, and to call our leaders. This government in 2017 cannot run itself – we the people must participate, we must be part of the process.

But we also have to stay mentally healthy and not become overwhelmed by the negative news avalanche.

April 2, 2017, writer Jimmy LaSalvia wrote on, “The moral of the story is simple. Striking a positive balance in your political activism, your other contributions to society, and in your life in general in these turbulent times is important, because the compulsion to be in the fight about politics can pull you into a downward spiral of negativity that may be hard to recover from. … Diversify your life and find that positive balance, while still working to make a difference. ”

That’s good advice. How about you? You love this country. You want to be involved and effect good change. You need to remain informed. So how do you balance that in a constant state of negative news feeds? How can you make a difference in such exhausting, turbulent times? How do you make a difference and balance a healthy life?

The question is not rhetorical. I’m really seeking answers and ideas. How do YOU find that balance to be informed, to be vigilant (you need to be) and maintain a healthy and dare I say, happier view of life, the universe, and everything? Do you even think about it?

Or have you already been fatigued into compliance?

Think about it.


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