Politics or not, I’m still doing my job
I’m proud to announce that I kept my 2011 resolution: no more politics. Not just writing about politics, but following it like a bad soap opera. It’s tricky trying to keep up with current events and remain detached from the political melodrama, as they frequently cross-contaminate, but it is possible.
What it wasn’t — astounding as this may seem — was difficult. Despite two decades of sucking on the political crack pipe, quitting cold turkey was more of a relief than anything. Actually, it made me feel a bit selfish and lazy, not commenting on the three-ring circus that is our political system. One of my favorite quotes on writing commentary would often come to mind: “If half your readers aren’t mad at you at any given point in time, you aren’t doing your job.” Lordy, Lordy, I was putting in overtime. Which means I’d earned a vacation.
Political commentary is good sport, but I started wondering what writing about it on a small scale such as this actually accomplishes. My total impact on Washington thus far was, roughly, zero. Why waste your time and energy on something that reaps no benefit?
Obsessing over politics and writing about it invited aggravation into my life. And, it’s not like life doesn’t already provide an ample supply of that on its own. What would it feel like to release all that aggravation? I had to find out.
So, on Jan. 1, I abandoned my beloved MSNBC programs, with only one exception: When it became obvious that the major news networks were actively avoiding coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, I broke down and watched Keith Olbermann because in the beginning, he was the only one devoting substantial air time to the topic. But after nine months of political detox, let me tell you, Olbermann’s signature gust of vitriol was a shock to my system.
Wow. I used to immerse myself in that every night. I guess you don’t mind the pinch of the needle when you’re hooked on heroin.
Although I wrote about current events in 2011, all in all, I stuck to my resolution. The only time I stuck a toe across that line was a funny little piece casting the Republican presidential nominees as characters from the Island of Misfit Toys because, come on, an opportunity like that’ll never come around again. It was golden.
In retrospect, I only regret that I didn’t go with the obvious and cast Rick Perry as the confused cowboy, and Herman Cain as the water pistol that shoots jelly. I ask you: Has a more jelly-like word ever oozed from someone’s lips than “Uz-bekibeki-stanstan”? Ah, too late for remorse now.
Most folks who commented told me that column was a lot of fun. Except one, who emailed me to complain that it was “just an excuse for another anti-Republican rant.”
(No, it’s not just engineers who write to me.)
“Thought that after your boring countdown to the end of the Bush administration ended you’d move on. Guess not. Same old, same old,” she wrote, noting that I’m “insulting to everyone who does not agree with you.”
What you call insult, I call truth. If I tell the truth as I see it, and someone feels insulted… Oh well. Not my problem. If you’re going to climb into my sandbox, be warned: I don’t always play nice.
I enjoyed a few email volleys with this reader, pointing out that aside from this one lighthearted little column, I hadn’t written about politics all year, and noted that if I’d poked fun at Democrats, I’m sure that would’ve been just fine with her. She replied, “It’s the constant, one-sided slamming that bothers me.”
Well, duh. Why would I slam things I agree with? The things I don’t agree with tend to fall on one side.
The most amusing part of the whole exchange was the “rant” comment.
Oh honey. You call that a rant? A romp is more like it. I don’t call it a rant until I’ve made someone soil their boxers and cry for their mommy.
Oh, how I’ve come to loathe the word “rant.” It’s as threadbare and stale as Grandpa’s bathrobe. It’s the default snip made by those who can’t articulate an effective rebuttal, as if calling something a rant immediately neutralizes it. (It doesn’t.) Such a sad, tired, overused word, particularly on the “letters to the editor” pages. Let’s resolve to retire “rant” in 2012.
Back to politics. Or lack thereof.
During my apolitical year, I explored new topics and techniques, and was rather enjoying this relatively aggravation-free jaunt. But what about my readers? How did they like it? A true story answers this question best:
At a party at the Express office last spring, someone was chatting with me about a column I’d just written about love and relationships, and said he really liked the new direction I’d taken. He’d grown so weary of all the political posturing. Literally moments later, another person took me aside, eyebrows earnestly knit, and asked why I wasn’t writing about politics anymore. I explained that overall, I just didn’t feel like my opinion mattered that much in the grand scheme of things.
“You’re wrong,” he replied. “You inspire others to think, and write the things they’re afraid of saying.”
I just shrugged and said others would just have to learn to express their own opinions from now on.
His disgust was evident.
“Well, frankly, your columns have turned to (rhymes with “sit”). Nobody cares about love.”
Following on the heels of the first conversation, I had to chuckle. Clearly, I’m still doing my job, politics or not.