Let’s chat for a moment about the state of our union. Is it just me, or has a sizable portion of the population gone and lost their marbles? Like, totally, epically tossed sanity right out the window?
I don’t and won’t debate politics. I have no political party affiliations. Not my bag, baby. However, we appear to have a megalomaniac with textbook narcissistic personality disorder tweeting out fake racist stats while vying to be leader of the free world. So, there’s that. And then we have people supporting such lunacy, which . . . well, I just don’t know what to say. This brand of cuckoo isn’t even about politics—it’s about people losing their everlovin’ minds.
Have you seen the news about rapper B.o.B. believing the Earth is flat? Seriously, he does. And there are other people—like, more than two—who sincerely believe in a pancake Earth. They have their own society and everything.
I couldn’t help myself. I looked up the Flat Earth Society and read some of their discussions. It was 15% entertaining, 85% terrifying. NASA is one big conspiracy, don’tcha know, as is every other space program on the planet. And apparently, our most highly educated, renowned astrophysicists are either gullible or in on it.
Good gracious, people. COME. ON. Isn’t this 20-freaking-16?
Shall we discuss that militia tantrum at the wildlife refuge in Oregon? Shall we discuss the people who think that all terrorists are Muslims and vice versa? Shall we discuss those who believe that black people in America have brought racism on themselves?
No, we shan’t. Because I can’t. I just can’t take the madness.
But you know what? I truly believe it’s all going to be okay. It’s not like this is the first time the crazy train has come through careening through our collective living room. History is full of this stuff. I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” and WHOA NELLY. We’ve had some serious insanity happening for a long time round these parts; we just haven’t been reminded of it constantly with smartphones, Facebook, and 24-hour news channels.
As immersed as we are these days, it’s easy to slip into an abyss of despair. So I thought I’d offer my personal tips for coping when it seems like the world has flipped its lid:
1) Step away from the Internet and the television for a while. There are crazies in real life, of course, but there are a whole lot more of them on the Interwebs and cable, serving up a steady diet of sensationalism. You may feel like you’re staying in touch with reality and being an informed citizen by reading or watching the news, but that “reality” has become more and more skewed by way of money and ratings. That is, in itself, a form of crazy. Take a break from it.
2) If you can’t step away from the computer (some of us do this stuff for a living), avoid reading comments AT ALL COSTS. Anything positive in the comments section will be totally negated by the crap pile of ignorance and bigotry you have to wade through to get to it. Trust me.
But it’s tempting for some of us. I get it. That’s when we employ some Pavlovian conditioning . . .
3) The moment you find yourself scrolling to the comments section, stab yourself in the leg with a sharp object. Violence and immediacy are key here. Grab a sharp pencil and plunge it right into your quad.
4) If you can’t avoid the comments section because you really want to explore some different viewpoints and discuss . . . NOOOOO! See? There’s the slippery slope right there. Stab that leg! Do it now.
5) If you manage to push past the pain and read the comments anyway (You rebel!) remember this:The commentary on the Internet does not reflect the thoughts of society in general. NO, IT DOES NOT. Think about the people who sit on the Internet for hours at a time getting into badly worded arguments with strangers. If you can’t picture a large percentage of your friends doing that, then don’t assume commenters are speaking for any kind of majority. (And if you can picture a large percentage of your friends doing that, maybe it’s time to find some new friends. Just saying.)
Commenters aren’t all bad. Some can even be articulate. However, I know folks who come across as quite eloquent online who I know for a fact are batsh*t crazy in real life. So, you just never know. You’re better off having real conversations with real people so you can filter properly.
(Side note: I know it can be tempting to address ignorance and correct wrong information online, and sometimes that’s necessary. But in my experience, most commenters are not looking for constructive dialogue. They’re last word freaks, and engaging with them too much will slowly destroy your faith in humanity.)
6) See the crazy for what it is—a desperate population clinging to a dying worldview. There are a lot—A LOT—of people striving daily to build a better world for all. And in that process, the greed, prejudice, nationalism, racism, sexism, and other “isms” that have defined much of human history are being dismantled.
Picture it like a condemned building that has to be torn down in order for a new one to be built in its place. Some people are really attached to that old building, despite it being beyond repair. They look at the facade with nostalgia, and they won’t let it go down without a fight. That’s fine. Let them try to salvage it; it’s all going to come crashing down eventually.
In the meantime, here are some ways to keep on building . . .
7) Spread goodness online. Counter the crazy with awesomeness. Upworthy offers loads of inspiring stories. Humans of New York is seriously life-changing. The Good News Network shares nothing but—you guessed it—good news. Soulpancake is a collaborative effort to share inspiration and elevate conversations. There are SO MANY wonderful people doing wonderful things online. I truly believe they outnumber those suffering from bigotry and ignorance by a wide margin. We just don’t always see it.
Our tendency to rubberneck at tragedy and click on sensational, negative headlines creates the illusion that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. So go in the opposite direction. Only click on positive or helpful headlines. Fill your feed with positivity and intelligence. You’ll be amazed at how much better reality looks through a filter of positivity.
8) Spread goodness at home. If you’re going to fret about crazy, at least focus on the crazy you can do something about. Look around your community, your neighborhood, your town. What can you do to improve your local environment? Learn about what faith communities, service organizations, and charities are doing in your area. Find one that resonates and get involved. Start a conversation with someone unfamiliar to you. Heck, just smile and say hi to people you walk by. When darkness and fear loom, be a beacon of light and hope. Small things add up to big things.
9) Support education. So much of what we’re experiencing is due to fearmongering and a lack of critical thinking skills. Ironically, most of the people who are spouting crazy claim that they are the ones who are thinking critically and everyone else is being a sheep. But it’s clear to anyone who actually understands critical thinking that they are woefully mistaken.
One cannot be well-educated, think critically, and believe that Earth is flat. One cannot be well-educated, think critically, and believe that someone who spreads fake stats from a neo-Nazi is presidential material. One cannot be well-educated, think critically, and believe that minorities have created their own suffering in this country. So much comes back to quality education, which we desperately need.
10) Love everyone. Even the crazies. Oh, here we go. Now Annie’s gone all soft and squishy. But hear me out.
You know how you have that one kooky relative who drives everyone batty, yet you love them anyway because they’re family? We need to truly see humanity as one human family. We don’t have to like everyone, but we have to love them. Even the kooks. Even the bigots. Not because of some froo-froo, kumbaya ideal, but because love is the only thing that ever truly changes hearts. Racism and bigotry—and the craziness that they cause—can only be eliminated through an education of minds and a transformation of hearts. So as hard as it is, “Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.” It’s so much more effective than bitterness and frustration.
I hope that gives you some hope, friends. Don’t let the insanity of an adolescent world trying to sort out its identity get you down. Even with all the madness we see, I have faith that we’re heading toward a bright future and that our inherent nobility as human beings will prevail in the end. We may have to go through some serious growing pains to get there, but we’ll arrive eventually—with all of our crazy relatives in tow.