Sleeping is important to me, and so I’ve learned over the years to get most of my dumpster fire news from NPR. I choose NPR because other sources seem too ideological and have a tendency to make me think I’m in tremendous and immediate danger.
For example, if there was an actual dumpster fire down the street, while conservative outlets would report it like this:
“Progressive meddling has once again caused a dumpster fire down the road from your house; Nancy Pelosi was seen laughing about it and if you’re not careful, she’ll get you and your little dog, too!”
And liberal news would go this route:
“Conservative indifference has once again caused a dumpster fire down the road from your house. President Trump was seen throwing boxes of hairspray into the flames and probably thinks it funny.”
NPR would tell me how big the dumpster fire is, record its temperature, interview various dumpster fire experts to discuss the cause of the fire and its likelihood of spreading, and say all of this as if they’re reading me a bedtime story.
I appreciate that, because, as mentioned, I need my sleep.
Now, some might suggest, “Yeah, but they’re biased too, and you’re not getting the real story, man ... you’re not getting the scoop…”
And that’s fine. You keep your scoop, and I’ll keep my six hours of sleep so I can continue to be productive.
Speaking of productivity, recently on my way to school one morning I was listening to a reporter interview David S. Reynolds, an author who wrote a book about Abraham Lincoln entitled “Abe.” (As an aside, another reason I like NPR is that they often interview people who write books instead of burn them.) One particular chapter in this book focused on how Lincoln associated himself with a celebrity at the time, Charles Blondin.
As you probably know already if you’re familiar with 19th century French acrobats, Charles Blondin was famous for tightrope walking across Niagara Falls. He would perform stunts during his performance — somersaults, for example — and of particular relevance for Lincoln, Blondin would push a wheelbarrow over the expanse without a tether.
According to Reynolds, Lincoln related to this because he saw himself as trying to steer the nation over the chasm of the Civil War while pushing the republic itself in a metaphorical wheelbarrow. Lean too far one way or another, Lincoln believed, and the nation as a whole would fall into an abyss from which it couldn’t return. Granted, he did earn grief for this strategy by some advisors and continues to be critiqued today, but his ultimate goal was to preserve the union, not make friends.
So, here we are, in arguably the most fractious time in American history since the Civil War, and, according to almost all media outlets, Lincoln is still dead.
Lincoln is gone, and nearly everyone, regardless of where they land on the political spectrum, regardless of how far left or right they want the wheelbarrow to go, seem anxious about the future. Concerning the election, both sides seem absolutely terrified that the other side is going to win.
Now, like millions of Americans, I am less than enthusiastic about November’s potential results, regardless of what they may be, but the idea that one side is going to dump us all into Niagara Falls—on purpose, no less,—is kind of silly. It’s unreasonable, and it’s precisely the kind of bad behavior our actual enemies beyond our borders love to watch and help grow.
This will come as a shock to some of you, but I don’t believe Republicans are trying to “ruin the country.” Many Republicans simply have a worldview that prioritizes what they consider tradition and individual responsibility, and this way of seeing things influences everything else. Democrats are also not trying to “bring down America.” Many Democrats have a worldview that prioritizes what they consider progress and civic responsibility, and this way of seeing things influences everything else.
Both parties are mostly full of decent people who want what they think is best for America; they want to take care of their friends and family and would be perfectly willing to help a stranger.
Unfortunately, both parties have also allowed too many of their leaders to become too heavily influenced by special interests. Both parties have chosen candidates who seem more interested in using power to stay in power as opposed to using indluence to get things done.
The fix to these ills is by no means quick and easy. It would include, for starters, term limits, followed by the removal of those special interests from funding the process. It would also be helpful to organize Congressional districts to look more like actual shapes and less like weird monsters designed by party wizards. (Some congressional districts are so far red or blue that the opposing side doesn’t even bother. This leads to primaries where the winner is often the one who can yell the loudest and lean the furthest to the right or to left; over time moderate voices interested in actually solving problems get drowned out. This eventually results in very heavy wheelbarrows balancing on dangerously frayed tightropes.)
None of these ideas are likely, I know, in our current, overheated political environment. In the short term, then, perhaps our best path forward is to stop feeding the fire with trash.