Staying sane: The impossible dream?

We live in interesting times. No two ways about it. Some people are focused on the idea that the world is crashing down around us as a result of the election in November. Others see the world as on its last legs since the dawn of man, and still others think things have been going to hell since maybe the 1930s.

Personally, I’m getting just plain exhausted by all of it. I’ve been involved in the media in one way or another for over 30 years and I can say that the current mess that’s passing for American politics isn’t really new.

When I was still in college, I got into a public debate with James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983. He was the guy who suggested trees cause air pollution. He and I went at it in a public forum and he won. Not because he was right, but because he used rhetorical tricks to get the crowd on his side.

Fast forward to 2017 and Tweet Wars, alternative facts, hacking, and, well, you get the picture.

The fact is, we have always had hatred in our country. We’ve had intolerance, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, sexism, and just all-around grumpy people.

The difference for those of us who live in a blue state in little old Altamont, is that we’re seeing this hatred very clearly and it’s sad, frightening, unnerving, and nasty. So what do we do about it?

Some folks have taken to social media on a daily basis to rant, rave, sign petitions, send letters, and speak out, based on their point of view. Others have gotten even more active, joining protests, groups, and marches.

Phone calls are made, signs are displayed, and chants are shouted. And, of course, leading the opposition is “Saturday Night Live,” skewering the current administration on a weekly basis in contrast to Fox, Breitbart ,and Rush (Limbaugh, not the band).

Other countries are alarmed and speaking out, too. So here we are in what would appear to some to be open political warfare. So, again, what does one do to remain calm and sane? Well, I have a few ideas I’d like to share.

First off, tune out. Really. Turn off the news, shut off Facebook and Twitter, silence your phone, and go outside. Look around. Things are melting; streams are burbling pleasantly; birds are singing; and, miracle of miracles, the sun has continued to rise every single day.

Love your partner, love your children, your parents, and your animal companions. Sit quietly on the couch and just breathe. Water your houseplants. Do some laundry or vacuum. Spring is starting on March 21.

Dust off your bicycle and put away the snowshoes. Go to your job and be nice to your co-workers. Wave to people as you’re out and about (practice the Altamont Wave). Smile at people, pet strange dogs, say hi to squirrels, and enjoy the fact that you’re alive and functional.

Remember that most people want the same things: A safe place to live, enough food, a decent job, good schools for their kids, a clean world to live in, and maybe a little money in the bank.

Many of us in Altamont are fortunate in that we have many of our basic needs met. Not everyone, to be sure, but many of us are doing OK thanks to work, luck, and maybe karma. In other words, each day it’s probably a good idea to focus on what’s working in your life as opposed to what’s wrong in the world. I’m not saying to ignore things, maybe just give yourself a break on a regular basis.

Back in the 1960s, one of the more famous slogans was, “Make love, not war.” It’s still true today.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you might be on, it’s probably time to start thinking long-term and big-picture. We’re a little planet in a big universe and just a single country among many others. We have limited resources and not terribly long lives, so maybe it’s time to put the nonsense aside and focus on getting along and enjoying life.

I’m all in favor of fighting for what you believe in. But remember the old saying: Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he is focused on petting animals and looking for sunshine these days when he’s not ranting and raving periodically. The cats just prefer he keeps up with the ear scratching and feeding. They couldn’t care less about politics. Smart animals, those cats.