I am a political animal, always have been. I have always loved a heated debate, and thrilled to an intelligent exchange of ideas. I am told my mom carried me on her shoulders as a baby on a protest way back when, and I remember carrying my own son in New York City in the Bush vs Gore debacle of 17 years ago. I listen to the news every day, and by 7am have usually scanned my top 5 or 6 daily sites. I have never missed an election, not even local ones, and have been thrilled to watch my son carefully study every judge and school candidate on his ballot as he prepares to vote this year for the very first time in his life; I listen with pride from outside his room as he leads an online discussion with his voting age buddies about what each proposition means.
But tonight, as the last Presidential debate of 2020 was about to unfold, I found myself getting increasingly anxious, even cranky. I was sweating and my pulse was beating faster. I felt hopeless, and mad at everything.
Like many Americans, I feel extremely strongly about this election, as though our lives hang in the balance, because, by the way, they kind of do.
What I am finding so hard to fathom and simply cannot understand, despite many painful attempts over the last few years, is how any sane, thinking human could look at our current President and not see him as being a fundamentally psychologically troubled person, with the inherent drama and untruths and blaming and extremely limited real world capabilities and everything else that comes with it. It seems to me to be an undeniable fact, whatever political party you consider yourself to be in. And so pretending that you can have a reasonable conversation, or in this case a debate, with an unreasonable person, is ludicrous. It is make-believe. I have learned this lesson the slow way throughout my life, and know now that pretending that someone who has been unreasonable every single minute of every single day for many years, can suddenly, because you want them to, be reasonable for the duration of a conversation.
You might as well go bang your head on a brick wall.
I know this is (very) old news this far into a Presidential term, but when did basic decency and truth telling become liabilities to be poked fun at rather than respected? There have been literally too many laws broken, both legal and moral, to even count, but ripping babies from their parents arms and losing them somewhere in the country is about at the top of my list of unforgivable intentional sins this regime has committed. I could go on and on, but suffice to say, as my pulse was quickening this evening, I thought – No. I can simply turn it off. Turn off the lies, the empty promises, the finger pointing, Turn it all off.
What a concept! Me, the political junkie, who has donated and called and been involved in every campaign I could for the last 40 years, decided I could simply not tune in, but rather I could unplug. I could instead fill my personal airwaves with something beautiful, something funny, clever, maybe inspiring.
And what was and is my go-to, what soothes my savage beast? Music. In this case, jazz.
Ahh, jazz. Thank you, Joe Williams! That note he holds seemingly forever at the end of “Every Day I Have the Blues”, the version with the Basie Band, that note alone could make you believe in a higher power. And thank you Antonio Carlos Jobim for “The Waters of March” and thank you John Coltrane and Geri Allen and Sarah Vaughn for everything, and for reminding me that such beauty and genius and poetry exists, and that we humans can attain something so wondrous simply for the sake of doing it. It reminds me of the best in our humanity and takes me out of my worried mind. If we humans are capable of such things, surely we can shake some sense into our current American system and put some kindness back into our daily political lives.
So what today reminded me of was, although it is imperative to stay tuned in, to be aware and for god sake to VOTE – one person really can change the world – it is equally valuable to unplug and to remember that magic and beauty do matter, and can inspire and help gas up our tanks to tune back in tomorrow, to be ready to rejoin the good fight to make our neighborhoods, cities and country a better place to not simply live but to thrive.