Can I just hibernate until November? Pretty please?
I reached election fatigue several months ago and it’s only getting worse with the ever-present coverage and the ever-increasing contemptible behavior from the politicians, the media and even the general public.
I miss my educational and informative talk radio during my drives; it has morphed into a never-ending episode of Jerry Springer, only the guests are fighting over power instead of girlfriends. Thank goodness for audiobooks and Pandora. So far they’re untouched.
My Facebook feed looks like the politicians are trying to battle it out via memes, as though the one with the most superimposed quotes will capture the flag of the presidency. I wish I could install some sort of political filter on my social media so that I can still have friends come next year.
I’m tired of trying to explain to my students that mentions of penis size and potential federal indictments are not usually part of a presidential campaign. And that politics is supposed to be about governance, not entertainment. Yes, this is reality TV. But it’s reality TV that’s way more important than your favorite contestant being voted off the island.
And here’s the crazy thing – even though I have absolutely no experience in politics (and nor do I ever intend to), this election is bringing back some unpleasant deja vu for me. Not of an election. But of a dirty divorce.
The 8 ways this election season reminds me of a no-good, very-bad, down-and-dirty divorce:
Emotion Trumps Reason (No Pun Intended)
Looking back, I can see that I made many irrational decisions during my divorce. And that’s because I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was hurt and wanted to shovel some of that hurt on him. I was in shock and busy reacting instead of pressing pause and planning. But mostly, I was scared. Scared of what the unknown future would hold. And so I was grasping onto anything I could that gave me a sense of control over my life. With the gift of hindsight, there are some things I would have done differently. But I wouldn’t have been able to hear that advice then because I was too flooded with emotion to be able to reason.
This election is much the same. People are appearing to lose their minds. And that’s because rational thought has been displaced with emotion. People are frightened about what is around the corner for our country and they want to hold on to any sense of control that they can find. Much like facing a malignant ex in court, watching your anti-candidate debate fills you with disgust and aversion. If you have a beloved candidate, that person fills you with hope and promise, much like the first flame after a brutal break-up.
And the politicians and the media know this. They play on the emotions, knowing that emotions drive views, clicks and follow throughs. Just like the lawyers are the ones to benefit from an ugly divorce, the media is cashing in on this election. We’re being played.
Everything is Presented in Black and White
In family court, the story of the marriage and its demise is presented in absolutes – “I was the perfect spouse. He/she did everything wrong.” Nuance is wiped away in favor of decisive judgments. A lifetime of interactions and emotions and needs are distilled down into sparse sentences and quantified into legally-binding calculations.
This over-simplification is occurring as well in the political arena. Complex health plans are relayed in a single paragraph. A soundbite captures the intentions for illegal immigrants. These absolutes are easy to understand and easy to repeat. Yet they ignore the muddied gray area that really exists.
There is a place for stripping something down to its bare bones in order to see the inherent components and structure. But never get complacent that the skeleton is all there is. People and life are more complex than that.
Winning Becomes Everything
I was a boxer defending my title in the ring of my divorce. I was determined to win, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what winning even looked like. I just knew that I needed to be the victor. At any cost.
When I sat in court across the aisle from my soon-to-be-ex, I remember looking at this stranger and wondering how we could have gone from planning for retirement together to him trying to wrestle my retirement from me. We had completely lost sight of our once-shared goals.
When watching the current presidential contenders on the battlefield, it’s almost impossible to believe that they all (supposedly) share the common goal of guiding this country and its inhabitants towards a better future. They have become so consumed with obtaining the title (and wounding their opponents), that they seem to have forgotten what the purpose of the role even is.
Dirty Fighting in the Norm
As a pathological rule-follower, I was mortified when I first saw the lies from my husband recorded on his discovery documents. “How could he sink so low? How can he lie on legal documents?” I asked my attorney. She was unfazed. In a dirty divorce, dirty fighting is the norm. People will lie, use others as pawns and even escalate situations in an attempt to dominate the process.
The jokes about dirty politicians are endless. And not just the ones currently in the running. When you value winning at all costs, the costs are often high. And when you get so caught up in your campaign, it’s easy to lose sight of the truth.
Blame Becomes the Hot Potato
Many dirty divorces become an alternating he-said, she-said where one allegation is countered with another and the blame is passed back and forth. I know. I played that game too. And the harsh truth I eventually had to accept was that by focusing on blaming him, I was also giving him the power to decide when and if I was going to move on.
And it’s no different in this election. The GOP blames Obama for its troubles. The democrats blame the republicans for poverty. They all blame each other for the increase in political tensions. Fault is assigned. Fingers are pointed.
And it keeps the attention away from the candidate-in-question.
Victimhood is Nurtured
I certainly felt victimized by my ex husband and by my divorce. And I could have easily stayed there. As a society, we have gone from empathizing for victims to enabling victims. We issue trigger warnings and excuse poor choices all in the name of trying to keep victims comfortable. We seek to penalize bullies while ignoring what we can do to empower their targets. And when we nurture victims, we cultivate victims. The victim of a dirty divorce can end up being trapped by their position, giving up responsibility along with any power of their own well-being.
Politicians like victims. Because victims need somebody to rescue them. And they are wanting to be selected as your knight (or knightess?) in shining armor. Victims are perceived as weak, needing guidance and protection. And just like some people are drawn to dating victims because it makes them feel needed, some politicians are pulled towards being the savior of the injured parties.
Promises Are Made (But Not Kept)
I felt relieved when I saw the ink on the decree. I was going to be reimbursed for some of my expenses. He would take on the house and I wouldn’t have to absorb a foreclosure. Apparently, he was only making those promises because he knew what the judge wanted to hear. Because as soon as court was adjourned, so were his promises. Trust becomes as extinct as the dodo.
The politicians are well-versed in saying what we want to hear. They make promises that they have no intention of keeping, knowing that we have no real way to enforce their follow through once they have taken oath.
Throughout my divorce and its aftermath, I finally learned to take every promise with a saltshaker. I have the same position with this election. I’ll believe when I see it, and not a moment sooner.
There is Collateral Damage
And this is the unfortunate part. Every dirty divorce has collateral damage. Others, frequently children, caught in the crossfire. When the focus is on winning at any cost, that debt often falls to others to pay.
I’m feeling the same way watching this election, like a kid between bickering parents, pleading with to stop yelling and just talk. The politicians and the parties are pitting us against each other like children against a parent in court. And when that happens, everyone loses.
Okay, political rant over. I’m going to put my earplugs back in now, keep my head down until this is all over and cross my fingers that this country does a better job electing the next president than I did with selecting my first husband.
Oh, and if you know a way to scrub all political news from all my feeds, please let me know:)