As most of you know, I just recently returned from vacation with my family, an astonishing occurrence that is so inexplicably difficult to pull off that it only happens about once every…well…actually this was the first time. You see, my father is the senior pastor of a church, my mother is a school teacher, and my two siblings and sister-in-law work full-time jobs in three vastly different fields. The sheer acrobatic scheduling coordination that is needed in order for the six of us to be able to successfully escape at the same time makes The Olympics look like child’s play. Of course, we’ve taken “trips” together in the past, but I wouldn’t equate overseas missions work or visiting extended family up north with personal vacation time. There’s a difference.
Anyway, thanks to dad’s diligent planning and saving, we spent a few days at a rental house in Kentucky, toured The Ark Encounter and Creation Museum exhibits, dined at great restaurants and generally relaxed as much as possible. It was quite a refreshing change from the busyness of everyday life. There were no board meetings or counseling appointments. There were no presentations to be given, speeches to be made or sermons to be preached. There were no clients, customers or patients. No office phones to be answered. No students to be taught. No classrooms to be set up. There was no lawn-mowing, weed-eating, hedge-trimming, leaf-blowing or mulching to be done. There was only the sheer ecstasy experienced during a season of rest and recovery.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, there was no national news consumption whatsoever, at least for me. This was quite intentional on my part and I was all the more thrilled to discover that the TV in my room wasn’t working.
Since I don’t have a “normal job” — at least not by the definition or standards of most people — vacations like this one tend to work a little differently for me. I was still technically “working” on a magazine piece in an effort to meet a tight deadline for one of my editors. Nevertheless, I was determined not to watch or read any headlines about politics, culture or society because so much of my weekly blogging focuses on those issues.
You might think I’m being a bit fanatical or extreme, but I tend to adhere to the radical notion that a person (or society) that elevates politics above all other aspects of life, Truth and morality will ultimately crumble under the weight of such a disastrous decision. Sadly, much of America has already made this choice. We have, for one absurd reason or another, allowed our politics and obsession with the news to replace our adherence to things like family, religion and the pursuit of righteous living. And it is slowly eating away at our very souls. Call me cynical, but I think a lot of this started around the beginning of the Obama administration and has only gotten phenomenally worse ever since. Adults over the age of 18 consumed over 27 billion minutes of national cable TV news programming per week in 2016. And that nearly-incomprehensible figure doesn’t even begin to take into account the additional mediums through which people consume news on-the-go, including radio, smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.
Politics has become our god and we have been left empty and dry, starving for something that will satisfy our minds and hearts. Yet, even in the midst of our unmistakable starvation, we plunge forward, remaining in the endless cycle of consumption, and ignore our own suffering like oblivious idiots. We flip on the national news every night and lap it up like dogs at a water bowl. It has been said that the definition of “insanity” is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” The game of politics is indeed insane, but more importantly, we are insane for obsessing over it as much as and as often as we do, always failing to realize the havoc it will inevitably wreak upon our mental and spiritual health.
Now, I realize we don’t always mean to do this. You might just be mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram when you suddenly see a headline like “BREAKING: President Trump to address the nation in one hour” plastered across your screen. Your curiosity peaks, you decide to click the link and before you know it, you’re reading the article. You might find yourself sitting in a restaurant where half of the TVs are tuned to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC. That’s certainly out of your control. After all, you’re just there to enjoy a meal with your family. But, that story about North Korea hanging a few feet above your head does sound interesting and important.
I totally get it. I was a broadcast journalism student in college, so news consumption wasn’t just a big part of my life, it was required. Even now, eight years after graduating, I still have a passion for politics, society, culture and everything in between. I stay abreast of what’s happening in the world so that I can bring you my thoughts, opinions and commentary here on this site every week. But, the truth is that much of the national news these days is dark, bleak, depressing, divisive, and stress-inducing.
You don’t need that in your life on a regular basis. Neither do I. Political drama is like a vapor. It’s fleeting. It comes and goes like the wind. It may seem alluring and worthy of attention right now, but it’s not. Trust me: You can survive without checking on national political news every five minutes. It really is possible. You will not die. You will not perish. You will not melt into a puddle of nothingness if you don’t know the absurd contents of Trump’s latest tweet or what ridiculous law Congress is debating today. And, you might be surprised to find that you’ll be a better and healthier person because of it.
I avoided political news during my vacation and lived to tell the tale. Indeed it is a heroic and brave battlefield epic, filled with the glories of triumph and victory. I suspect I will share it with my grandchildren some day. My solemn hope is that one day, you will be able to do the same.
Fare thee well, fellow soldier.