I saw a cartoon on Facebook last week of Bart Simpson by his usual blackboard. Only this time, he has written “I will not compulsively check FiveThirtyEight.com” over and over.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that not obsessing about the presidential election has been next to impossible these past few weeks. And how long has it been going on, anyway? Last summer, Trump seemed like the not-especially-funny punchline to decades of Republican dysfunction. Now, on the eve of Election Day, the race has tightened to an unnerving degree.
Back then, who fully appreciated the depth of Trump’s appeal, the anger of his supporters, and the pervasive distrust of Clinton? I installed software that’s supposed to block my wireless signal, but it’s no good: I keep disabling it because, well, how else am I supposed to go online? The siren song is constant and it’s just too damn strong to resist: from Nate Silver and Sam Wang and Wonkette, to WaPo, Politico, Jezebel, the Nation, Vox, the Atlantic, the Guardian. At every gathering I’ve been to, everyone starts off by swearing that we are NOT going to talk about the election, absolutely not, no way… let’s talk about books! And art! But then of course someone blurts out: “Hey, who saw the latest cover of The Economist?” “What’s up with Susan Sarandon?” “Did you see what Kasich said?” And then there goes the evening.
It would be one thing if the conversations were persuasive or illuminating or stimulating. But you know what? They’re not. They’re heart-stopping at the worst, soul-crushing at the best. Like a lot of people, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to friends. I don’t have a sniff test when it comes to politics; hey, one of my exes is a libertarian!
But this election has turned a klieg light on some things that have long lain underneath the damp patio stone of polite conversation: misogyny, xenophobia, racism. What do you do those things are revealed in people you care about? Even among those with whom I’ve been on picket lines and phone banks, the mood has turned hysterical… and ugly, as well. I had to unfollow a friend whose support of a third party candidate had become anti-Semitic and conspiracy-theorizing to the point of lunacy. And I can’t bear one more conversation with anyone trying to persuade me that the only reasonable response to a Trump win entails a move to Bermuda. Social media has become a low-voltage cage fight, figurative body parts flying. And these are my friends I’m talking about here. My people!
So I try to write. In fact, I have to write: I’m under deadline on two TV shows, I still have a bunch of packets arriving in a week, and I’m also steeling myself to address the rather substantive notes my agents sent about a book project (possibly the topic for another blog.)
But none of this keeps me from being terminally distracted. I just can’t stop myself from compulsively refreshing Google News. Even writing this one measly blog has been interrupted at least a hundred and eighty-six times by my incessant log-ins. Just ask my cat.
Writing anything when you’re not deeply within your own head is, I’ve learned after many years, a fool’s errand. And so I need to steel myself to get back to work… RIGHT NOW.
Although that’s interesting. Did you know that a GOP operative just declared Trump “dead in the water” in Nevada thanks to early voting? Maybe I’ll start writing in another five minutes…