Politics and distraction

I lost about an hour of work today because people were crying in Congress.

(It’s a real thing–check it out.)

This isn’t necessarily a new thing for me. I experience similar lapses during national debates and every time there’s another mass shooting or incidence of police brutality. Yes, it’s amazing that I get anything done at all some days.

It’s hardly a phenomenon unique to me, of course. One of the reasons I’m distracted is because the people I connect with on a daily basis via social media are also distracted. We have to stop and talk about what’s happening. It is one of the characteristics (requirements?) of internet citizenship. 1) You know what’s happening quickly. 2) You talk about it.

I’m not saying this is an inherently bad thing. Honestly, without the crew on Twitter, I’m not sure I could get through another mass shooting or another Freddie Gray. These are the people who help me process, help me think through things. And they’re also the people with whom I snark about the political process, which as we speak is reaching new levels of absurdity.

But why are politics so freakin’ distracting?  I grew up right by D.C. so I’m used to the national news being omnipresent, but I feel like something different is happening lately, something that’s been building for the last fifteen years or so. When we say “politics,” we have ceased to mean the mechanisms by which our government operates or even the issues upon which we as a country must come to an agreement. There is no operation; there is no agreement.

In its stead, we’ve settled for a bizarre form of entertainment. We’ve become not unlike the fanbases of two opposing sports teams. We assign heroes to our own side and villains to the other. The key difference being that at the end of the day in sports, most of the time we grant our opponents their humanity (Yankees fans aside).

In politics, it’s ceased to happen.  We’re caricatures to each other and it’s becoming increasingly harder for us to recognize our similarities over our differences. Maybe we’re not so similar anymore–but perhaps naively I don’t think that’s true. There has to be a common ground somewhere. The question is if anyone can find it.

I’ll almost certainly continue to find politics distracting. At times, I might continue to find them entertaining. But as we remain stymied and divided, it’s getting less and less funny.

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