Every weekday morning on the congested train ride to the city, I huddle into myself and scroll Facebook, head bent, so that I don't have to interact with other humans. It's in their best interest, actually, as the morning & I have never made a happy couple; immune to caffeine's curative promise I'm merely a wide-awake grump until roughly 10 a.m.
Thumbing through my daily feed provides both an escape that I crave from an early reality while simultaneously giving the illusion that I'm an active participant in the world around me. I'm out yet I'm in, on the sidelines but still watching, a distant, insulated player. By the end of my 30-minute commute I'm usually a little bit better; I've typed "Happy Birthday!" on a few walls, grinned at a GIF or two, felt a pleasant flush of inner warmth provoked by a baby picture. I'm better.
Usually means normally and normally used to mean that which I know to be true, but since late last summer a new normal has emerged. Volatile Donald Trump and his vicious troupe of vitriolic supporters have vandalized my Facebook feed. It's an invasion, as if Aliens from planet Are You Fucking Kidding Me have descended and replaced humanity's habit of taking out the trash with the propensity to jump in and roll around inside of it. In my escape I can't escape the ugliness, the unrelenting posts with headlines about his latest insult, gaffe, contradiction or histrionic outburst, the images of his tangerine puss pinched in fury or tight-lipped and defiant, defending his ignorance in the face of indisputable facts. He's either frequently snapped when he's screaming, or he's just frequently screaming because rarely does he appear smiling and in my feed he appears all the time and he's not only in my feed, no matter where I go for news online, he's there, more than anything or anyone else.
I know that his supporters admire his strained, angry red neck, forever indignant, never at ease. I agree with what's already been written and said so much, that his major appeal is that he reflects back to them some latent potential, the person they wish they were but never became because of societal convention or psychological suppression or economic disadvantage. He's the hero of the Wanna-Be's war with himself. Those of us who oppose him, however, see clearly that he is just some over-the-top actor, a fear-filled person bellowing from behind a confident mask. Fear has to be loud because it's not the truth, it's the fog that covers up what's real and so it shouts as a means of distraction. It accuses, it denies, it incites and infuriates, and now every day it fills my smartphone screen.
I too was once lured in by all the drama. Before it became ubiquitous it was kind of entertaining, like a comedy show or outtakes from a TV program. When the posts were news, few and far between, I pulled them up so that I'd be informed and could form opinions, and sometimes I'd read them just for a laugh when a particular headline proved too outrageous to resist. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Trump and Sarah Palin as they made me imagine how The Muppets might behave on an acid trip; clumsy and clownish and trying in vain to make their thoughts come together. But the rate at which the pieces appeared seemed to increase proportionately to the damage his campaign was doing, not only to the American reputation but to its collective psyche as well. After each reading I would come away shocked, appalled, disgusted, no longer amused but rather always super agitated or fuming mad. Really, passionately, mad that this was a reality I couldn't escape, even if I escaped from my normal escape method by choosing to read a book or stare out the train window, I always had to come back to it because this is now what reality is.
And on those occasions when I still took the bait and clicked, afterwards I'd maneuver through the crowd on the subway platform a bit more brusquely than etiquette would dictate, than I normally would, I'd bounce my leg impatiently because the person before me on the escalator chose to ride instead of run. I'd catch myself throughout the day thinking many more bad thoughts than I usually did; expletives exploding like tiny fireworks all over my brain when normally I'd express a shrug or a sigh.
I've read that Psychologists have one of the highest suicide rates because of all the toxic information they're made to ingest, and many frequently seek therapy to get it out of themselves. We can't take in all that fear and anger and expect that it won't change us, even when we disagree, even if we support and elect someone else. It's here now, all around us, everywhere we look and listen. We have to stop taking the bait and getting fed this way. We cannot afford to let this be the new normal.