I’m Tapping Out on Caring if People are Following the Social Distancing Rules

I’m going to slap the next person who says, “The cure can’t be worse than the disease.”

I’ve finally decided to turn the Coronavirus news off, at least on a national scale. I catch a tiny bit of the local stuff when I tune in to the local news to see what the weather is going to be like, but even that is starting to wear on me. It’s not that I don’t like the extended miniseries about a pandemic told in real time that CNN, FOX News and MSNBC have been airing, but the whole thing is now becoming about politics and frankly, that’s disappointing.

When I was in jail, I witnessed a lot of men who I think mentally cannot follow directions. There are plenty of conditions where that is a symptom, like ADHD, but these men displayed this behavior in an angry way I hadn’t personally seen before. One of the smarter guys there who sometimes had these symptoms told me that he’d been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

As you can imagine, people with ODD are openly uncooperative, defiant and hostile toward parents, teachers, authority figures and anybody trying to exert power over them, even if the other person is making perfect sense.

Making perfect sense as in, “I can’t let you sit down in a crowded restaurant with the closest thing to a plague happening until the number of cases of that plague starts to drop.”

The response from someone with ODD is well, you’re seeing it played out on TV every day. What’s the end result if they win? A hamburger and fries?

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The flip side of this, and the side I’m reluctantly moving toward as my libertarianism sneaks into the equation is to just let people do what they want. The people who are going to make the smart decisions based on data are going to realize that now is not a time to reopen their hair salon or clothing boutique or sports bar. Nor are smart people going to shop at these places. I’m not worried about the smart people. And frankly, I don’t have the energy to worry about the not-so-smart people anymore.

I’m starting to think about this the way I think about smoking cigarettes. People smoke cigarettes for whatever their misguided reason and they all know it’s bad for them. There is no scientific data that suggests it’s a good idea to smoke, much like there is no scientific data that the world is ready to reopen. Yes, the curve seems to be past its peak in some places, but in others, they are reopening as the cases get higher every day.

There are a lot of people who smoke that don’t die of lung cancer. Many die of emphysema or COPD. Many develop other respiratory issues and we know smoking also leads to things like high blood pressure and stroke. It also makes you smell like ass and your skin begins to look like a saddle that’s been left out in the rain.

But still, people want to smoke. And they get angry when you explain the health issues or the long-term effects. The government will never help because Big Tobacco pours in a lot of money in both taxes and campaign contributions. The industry also provides a lot of jobs. You’re never going to see Washington take people’s right to smoke away, even though those people who do smoke are showing a severe lack of smarts by continuing.

If you want to open your burger joint and you think that there are enough numbskulls who can keep your business afloat, go ahead and open. Ignore the six-foot separation thing. Sure, it’s better than no separation, but science has proved it’s not a magic line. I don’t care if you wear the masks. I’m not going to be there. Something tells me I don’t have to worry about hand sanitizer either way.

The reality is, maybe these people are correct and the virus won’t get any worse. Maybe the doctors and scientists who are trained to know more than a redneck with a pickup truck, gun and minimal ability to create a carboard sign in defiance of life-saving measures, are all wrong. Maybe it’s the non-medical experts who are right.  I’m not willing to potentially give up my life as a test subject, but if these people are so sure that they are correct, by all means, serve as the control group. You’re actually doing something positive for science at that point.

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I hate to say it, but I don’t think I have the energy to care anymore about the public’s health. I know what I need to do and the those closest to me are making good decisions. If the governors, mayors and other elected officials are all wrong, we can vote them out in November. I have a feeling the vocal minority believes they are a majority because of their noise, but may be in for a rude awakening. Mother Nature has a way of sorting things out.

I’ve landed a couple gigs, including the book I mentioned yesterday, that need my attention far more than cable news. I have to free-up the head space currently used by people who are making more decisions. Go ahead, make those decisions and we’ll see what happens. As I was prior to the virus, I’ll be behind my computer, already socially isolating, doing my own thing.

Remember, it’s still important to wash your hands…even after this all over.

Photo Credit to The Boston Globe. Used without Permission. Someone from the Globe can write me to take it down if it’s a real problem.

 

 

Pornography Cannot Become Just Another Political Issue

When I’m up with the dogs at 5:30 a.m., letting my wife sleep an extra hour because she has to head for a job outside the house and I have a leeway in catching a nap if need-be, I’ll browse headlines in the Google News feed. I rarely ever read stories unless it’s good news, but an article on pornography was featured today and I’m not sure what to think.

I stopped reading halfway through to be honest because there wasn’t a ton of substance to it. Essentially it said that there are a small handful of Republican members of Congress who have been making waves about doing “something” about pornography. It talked about how this issue was more one of the radical liberals in the 1970s and 80s, but seems to have evolved as the other side’s cause in recent years.

Most of you know my stance on the pornography industry. You can’t fight it. Much like prohibition, it would be destined to fail. And unless it involves children or animals, porn may be immoral or unhealthy, but it’s not illegal. I don’t want the government defining what is or isn’t pornography. That’s not its role. Pornographic magazines are failing not because of any government interference. They’re dying because print media as a whole is collapsing. Let the market define its needs.

I would like to see an embrace of some kind of health curriculum in schools that makes basic pornography addiction education mandatory. A middle school teacher could literally spend only 30 minutes on it in one class per semester and I believe it could change a generation. If Congress is willing to pony up the money for that, I don’t care if it’s a Republican or Democrat; it’s a bill I can get behind.

As an ex-journalist, my former life before recovery was consumed with news and like almost everybody with access to social media, I didn’t mind sharing my opinions on whatever the topic of the day was. I think that was done far more to see myself pontificate and get like-minded people to tell me how right I was vs. truly changing anyone’s mind.

In recovery, I largely limit myself to headlines and stay off all social media except LinkedIn. I suppose I have my website to expound on issues, but it’s still 97% politics-free. I do this because despite my disconnect, which has moved me even further into the middle of the political spectrum, it has certainly not been lost on me that this country is divided more than anytime I can remember.

Now, it doesn’t worry me too much. As a student of history, this is a cyclical occurrence, not an anomaly. If you think politics seems bad now, go read the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow upon which the musical was based. That was a disgusting, divided time that makes today seem much more civil. I guess it can and may get worse, but I don’t worry about it bouncing back eventually.

Unfortunately, the issues of pornography, pornography addiction and pornography addiction education are coming along during this time of people dividing into little tribes and circling the wagons. I’ve mentioned this before, and I think most people truly in the middle agree, but there’s very little difference between the two political parties except for the small details. Both sides act completely boorish, make unintelligible statements, pander to their base and are far more about power than figuring out solutions. You’ll know if you’re one of these people if you immediately thought, “That’s not me! That’s the other side!” Sorry, buddy, it’s also you.

I’m concerned that if conservatives take up this cause right now, liberals will fight it simply because they feel they’re supposed to fight whatever conservatives want. Similarly, if the liberals were to take up porn, whatever position they took would be opposed by the conservatives not because of facts, but because that’s just the way things are done today.

I know I have people from both sides of the aisle who read my articles, and plenty of folks in the middle, too. I urge you, do not make whatever fight against pornography that may be on the horizon a political one. I know that’s easier said than done, but there are some issues that should bridge the political gap.

Do not let your party affiliation dictate your stance on pornography and if you’re active in your political community (boy, I don’t miss those days) be a voice of reason. If your side is for it, reach out to the other side. They’re probably not against it – just against the idea of agreeing with you. If your side is against it, explain to your brethren why this may be an issue that needs partisan walls to come down. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to be on the side that is trying to frame the argument pornography is not a problem. There’s far too much data against that position…although facts and data just don’t mean what they once did.

This cannot turn into just another political issue. It’s too important.

 

Trying to Figure Out Why Local Election Results Tweaked My PTSD

Sometimes I wonder when I’m having a legitimate PTSD moment and when it’s just a combination of anxiety and borderline nausea. Last night, I think I had a PTSD episode looking at local election results.

I didn’t feel off because of any specific results. I, more than anyone, know how insignificant one person is in the vast machine known as our government. I’m not sure exactly why I had a physical and mental reaction, but I’m a writer, so I’ll work it out on the page.

In 2011, when I made the decision to run for the city council in Auburn, Maine, I thought that I could try to move the city in a more forward-thinking direction. Between my city and the one next door, we are the second-highest population density in Maine. The first, Portland, is a progressive city where things like art, culture and a view toward the future is a good thing. Here, not so much. I think most believe our best days are long behind us. The magazine I launched two years earlier was trying to change that mindset and I thought being on the City Council would also help.

I’m not going to deny that I knew being on the City Council would also raise my name recognition if I won. I really didn’t aspire to any higher office, but then again, I’d never made many plans in life, just going with the flow and seizing opportunity where I saw it. If nothing else, running would give me a good gauge of how popular I currently was.

I won, defeating the other four candidates with only one, a long-serving incumbent, coming close. It was needed validation that I was as awesome as I tried to convince myself.

The experience serving was not good. As you have probably surmised about me, I like to be the one in control. It’s why I started companies and didn’t work for other people. It’s why I now work from home. Being an equal part of a team, especially one as divided as that City Council, wasn’t fun. I had very little respect for a couple of the members as I was going into office and that number only grew during my tenure.

With my socially liberal, fiscally conservative bent, I usually ended up being the tie-breaker on a lot of 3-3 votes. Ironically, in the voting order, I came last, so everybody saw it as me making the decision, and since I was the only one there who knew how to give a good soundbite to the media, it was always me that was quoted. I liked that power at first, but grew to hate it.

Despite the fact I showed up to most of the meetings in the second half of my two-year term borderline drunk (or full-on drunk), I didn’t like making decisions that either way, hurt people. I didn’t like making decisions that would leave one group of people angry at me and the other feeling like I was on their side. My wife knew that I’d come back from most meetings angry and sad.

With about six months left in my term in early 2013, ironically just as I was seriously descending into the worst of my porn and alcohol addictions, I made the announcement I was not running again on my Facebook page.

I didn’t regret stepping away as I secretly knew just how much my life was spinning out of control. There hasn’t been a day that I wished I was back there and with the exception of seeing the results last night, I don’t follow a damn thing they do in the news.

I’m so thankful I left the City Council before my arrest. I don’t know if it would have been any bigger a deal if I was actively serving, but amidst the clouded judgment I was showing at that time in my life, walking away after only one term was probably the smartest thing I did.

Maybe reading those results was a flashback to the night I won and was so smugly full of myself. I didn’t like that guy. I don’t attribute the City Council to my downfall, but maybe subconsciously I do think those long Monday nights contributed to my trip toward rock bottom. Maybe it reminds me that despite winning the seat, I felt like the time I served was a failure or it could be that it just shows this community marches on without me, never missing a beat, as if I never mattered at all. And while the magazine, film festival, co-workers, award ceremonies, friends, etc., are all gone, the City Council always remains.

I’m still processing why I had such a visceral reaction, but at least I’ll have something to talk about at therapy this week.