I have a problem. Maybe you have the same problem.
The very first step for recovering alcoholics in the AA program is to admit that you are powerless over alcohol — that your life has become unmanageable.
Only by the grace of God, I am not an alcoholic, but I am an addict. And while not yet unmanageable, my addiction is interfering in the quality of my life . . .
What am I talking about? Cocaine? Opiates? Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? No, no and . . . well, maybe.
I’m talking about social media. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I reach for my phone to see if anyone has commented on one of my posts; or commented on one of my responses on someone else’s post. Several times during the day, even while working, I find myself scrolling through Facebook updates.
I am a political junkie. I always have been for as long as I can remember. I blame my parents. They got me hooked on watching the news. One time, my father pulled me out of school so that I could see Jimmy Carter during a campaign stop in Biddeford.
They made me stay up late on school nights and watch “Roots,” a televised production of the Alex Hailey novel. We participated in the “Fresh Air” program, hosting minority, inner-city kids from New York during the summer.
I remember seeing George Wallace get shot on the news. I was glued to the television when Nixon announced his resignation. By the time I hit sixth-grade, I was writing essays about G. Gordon Liddy and Charles (Chuck) Colson. I dreamed about becoming the next Carl Bernstein.
My mother is and was always a progressive Democrat. When my parents divorced, she became relentless with Helen Reddy music. To this day, if I hear: “I am woman, hear me roar . . .” I begin to twitch and drool. Mom wore that album out on the old Zenith turntable.
Meanwhile, my Dad became a volunteer on Ted Kennedy’s failed presidential campaign in 1980. Before then, they were always talking at the dinner table about Vietnam and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other boring stuff.
I was hooked. I became a political animal. It was once a badge of honor, but has since become a curse.
I can’t help myself. For some reason I cannot just scroll by political posts on Facebook, even the bat-shit crazy memes created by extremists on the polar ends of both political parties. I LOVE to argue. I piss off friends on the left and then I piss off friends on the right.
I am sarcastic and stubborn, a fly in the ointment, always challenging the so-called iron-clad pronouncements of the self-righteous, never quite realizing that I’m just being an asshole. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Somewhere along the line, even though I once worked for the Maine People’s Alliance, I started becoming a bit conservative in my political outlook. It makes my mother cry and my father roll in his grave.
As some of you may already know, I used to get paid to offer my opinions as the editor of a local newspaper. That led to hosting a live political talk show on public access television. Politics led to meeting my wife for the first time on Election Day 2001. She was running for a seat on the Old Orchard Beach School Board. I did not endorse her in my local endorsements. She was pissed. Really pissed, sending me e-mail after e-mail after e-mail because of a tiny mistake. She does the same shit today.
Anyway, so often I find myself engaged, actually consumed, in heated arguments on social media. My blood pressure spikes. I lose track of time. Before you know it, hours have passed.
That’s precious time that could have been allocated toward more meaningful and productive endeavors; like re-arranging my sock drawer or working on my collection of Canadian placemats.
Even while vacationing with my wife just a few kilometers south of Cancun, I was still arguing with people on Facebook. There I was, in paradise with the love of my life. Beautiful scenery, the green Caribbean and white sands, palm trees and I’m arguing about Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the cost of gasoline . . . WTF?
In all seriousness, it’s just silly. No one out there is trying to engage you and help you see their perspective. Instead, it seems they just want to scream about the other side being wrong. You really have to work at it in order to find consensus . . . and it’s damn rare.
I don’t care what your political outlook is, I can be friends with you . . . well, at least on Facebook. Look, we are ALL much more alike than we may want to admit.
We all love puppies and pictures of newborns.
We all have fears and concerns that we don’t share publicly.
We all have parents, and some of us have children. Everyone I know would take a bullet to save their child or their parents.
We all love sunny days and the smell of fresh-cut grass, the gentle pelting of a late afternoon rain shower.
We have all made silly mistakes.
I am worried about the world and where we are heading, but I can’t afford to let that consume me. I find solace in music (and 200mg of Clozapine every night). I have posted this video clip before, but I think it needs to be repeated.
A friend turned me onto this band earlier this year. These four young Asian women are amazing, and this song, in particular, gives me hope for the future: the idea that everything is going to be okay.
Also, the drummer is 12. Not a typo. She is 12. Give it a listen and tell me that you don’t feel just a little bit better about the world. I need more music and fewer political conversations in my life. Cheers!