I was in Washington D.C. last week, which you might think would have been exciting. I say “you might” because I would not. I have successfully placed such strict boundaries around consumption of news that I actually had this conversation with my friend Shelby when she called me while I was buying a bagel on K Street:
Shelby: “How is the mood there?”
Me: “Maybe a little bleak; the weather sucks. It’s 45 and raining.”
Shelby: “I’d have thought people would be tense.”
Me: “Well, I mean, it is February.”
Shelby: “No. About the President.”
Me: “Why, what’d he do?”
Shelby: “He was acquitted?”
Me: “Acquitted of what?”
You could almost hear her eyes roll. But I was serious! I gave up news when I left ABC in 2005. It was a great call. I used to marinate in that stuff, like all-day-every-day type attentiveness. I remember, during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, assuming that we were now entering an era of one impeachment trial per administration. I assumed this partially because of the rancorous, overwhelmingly-connected, 24-7 news cycle nature of the world in 1998 compared to those civil, decent days, decades and decades ago during the previous impeachment trial. Here’s some dismaying math I just did: Clinton and Nixon’s impeachment trials were separated by a similar amount of time to that separating Clinton and Trump.
I realize, as I type this, that I can tell you vastly more about the trial of Bill Clinton (and the trial of O.J. Simpson) than I can about whatever Trump was on trial for even though I was in D.C. last week and he and I work for the same company.
I purposely didn’t look it up, by the way. One hundred percent of the facts I know about Donald Trump’s impeachment:
1) It was over asking the Ukrainian government to help discredit Joe Biden.
2) There was some controversy around whether or not to have witnesses (but I don’t know what it was or how it came out).
3) He was acquitted.
I feel like I don’t need to know more. I didn’t really even need to know the three facts I do know. The more I have managed to avoid current events, the more those events begin to feel like something from a TV show everyone watches but me. (Though I can tell you more than three facts about Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones and I have not seen more than five total minutes of those two shows combined.) Catching 10 minutes of involuntary exposure to the stuff from Airport CNN or a waiting room TV or something is like watching maybe 10 minutes of a show I used to watch but let go of years ago. “Hey, who’s that guy? And why does she look mad? Whoa, is that Stacey? She looks great! But how did she wind up in Seattle?”
News angries up the blood (as Satchel Paige used to say about fried meat), same as Facebook or Twitter or listening to a crazy drunk person yelling about Satan on the Blue Line. They’re all comparable experiences at this point anyway. Someone you don’t know is yelling about something you may or may not agree with them about in an effort to transfer either their rage or their outrage to you. Ya gotta have boundaries. Turn off the TV. Don’t look at social media. And stay off the Blue Line.