Hi, Patrick. What would you like to talk about in therapy today?
Well, I think I’ve become a little OCD when it comes to politics. I know people jokingly refer to themselves as being a political “junkie,” but I’m really starting to wonder if I have an unhealthy addiction. And I think I read about and talk politics so much that my friends are starting to think I’m a… a..
Is “pain in the rear” the phrase you’re looking for?
Uh-huh. And how much would you say you pay attention to politics?
Well, I thought you’d ask me that, so in an effort to understand my addiction, I kept track of my television viewing habits using a basic Excel Spreadsheet—
You kept a spreadsheet of your television viewing habits?
Yes. This was during a week of summer when I had no pending responsibilities (i.e.- work, trips, events) of any kind—and it just so happened to be in the middle of the Debt Ceiling talks, from July 23-July 30, 2011. In that week, I watched 25.5 hours of news and politically-related television. All told, the television news and politics I watched came from no less than five network and cable stations, and consumed one of the seven days I was awake during that span. And that’s not including websites, radio, newspapers, blogs, newsapps, and other media sources.
(reaching for a prescription pad)
I know that’s unhealthy. And believe me, I know I used to be the guy everyone wanted to invite to the party, but now I’m the guy who ruins it by bloviating about how Mitch McConnell looks like a creepy marionette.
And how does that make you feel?
The Mitch McConnell thing? He really freaks me out—
--No, the unhealthy amount of time you talk about it.
Oh. It makes me feel conflicted. I am ashamed; but also shocked that an enormous portion of the American public isn’t addicted with me. There’s really no reason, given the time and the place we live in, for it not to be more popular. Politics is like a reality TV show, only the plot actually matters. The characters are just as entertaining in terms of personalities when compared to your average reality show, except that these very interesting people may one day hold an office that could cost you your job or your lifestyle. To put it another way, Michele Bachmann is like Snookie; if Snookie had the power to force you to have a baby.
So, to me, politics has never been more entertaining. I can’t pinpoint why this is, or what happened to our society over the last thirty years; but somewhere in my lifetime, politics went from “I can’t believe that peanut farmer we elected just told us to conserve our resources!” to “There’s a guy running for President who thinks that dinosaurs and humans lived together!”
I know a lot of people seem to inherently believe that politics is boring and frustrating. And I can understand that, because if you don’t know the characters and the plotlines, it must seem overwhelming to try and suddenly take an interest. But as far as I’m concerned, that logic is pretty dated. With all this media available to check and fact-check today, you’re missing out on some really incredible life-changing stuff. But as it stands, America seems intent on rushing headlong into a self-made apocalypse of ignorance and idiocy, and a significantly large portion of its public would rather watch Chad Ochocinco try to dance.
The idea that any one of these candidates or ideas could potentially bring an end to this nation, or the world—and that, at the end of the world, a mass of Americans wouldn’t even know how we got to that point or why— bothers me.
As a child, I was taught a good citizen thoroughly researches the issues and current events from quality sources and forms critical opinions. And when I see others who don’t do that, I feel like it’s somehow incumbent upon me to pick up the slack by disseminating the information I’m taking in to people who don’t make the effort themselves.
But somehow I have to rectify the balance between that personality, and the identity that emerges publicly, which is that of an annoying know-it-all who can’t shut up about one of the three things you never talk about on first dates-- the other two being religion and anything the Red Hot Chili Peppers have recorded since Californication. You just don’t want to get to a place in your life where the people around you end up leaving because their self-esteem is lowered just by knowing you.
So, I guess I really just want someone to tell me that other people feel and act this way, so I feel normal.
Are you asleep?