Social media has been a hotbed of hysteria and hyperbole the last few days. Yeah, I know, that’s typical but this has been extreme. It’s been amped up by people connecting unconnected events because they occurred at around the same time. I saw the Nice attack, failed Turkish coup, and Baton Rouge police shooting listed as an unholy trinity that should have us all adopting monastic vows and/or run screaming into the night. Freaking out never made ANY situation better and usually makes things a helluva lot worse as does endless speculation about events and the who, what, and why of them. In addition to the fogs of war and history, there’s the fog of news. The internets and 24-hour news cycle had led many people to expect to know everything instantaneously, and in detail because everything is about them. It’s not, y’all. People need to relax and take a chill pill: the world has always been a slaughterhouse and we just have to get by the best we can. Fixating on bad news is just as bad as ignoring it altogether. Balance is vital even for someone as imbalanced as I’ve been known to be…
One reason I have come to respect, admire, and, I daresay, love President Obama so much is that he’s always calm and takes the long view. Ranting, raving, and making threats have as much to do with leadership as bad hair. They’re certainly fashionable on the American Right but throwing gasoline on a fire never made anything better. It may frustrate people that POTUS takes the long view but it’s an essential component of genuine leadership: it’s what made FDR our greatest President. The world has always been an imperfect place and hysteria has never improved it. I have a relative who melts down and freaks out in the face of adversity. Every personal or world event calls for drama as far as they’re concerned. Fuck that shit. It’s a prescription for madness and despair. Empathy is a fine quality but empathy overkill can be lethal.
Now is the time for people to take a deep breath and do something pleasurable. I’ve seen folks urging us all to don hair shirts and forsake the joys of life. Fuck that shit. It reminds me of post-K New Orleans when people told us that celebrating Carnival profaned the memory of the dead. Once again: fuck that shit. We’d been through a lot and Carnival was just what we needed to ease the pain: good food and booze didn’t hurt either. We’d survived as a community after suffering grievously and needed to cut loose and have some fun.
I’m tired of the fear mongers who tell us to freak out and hide under the bed at the first sign of trouble as well as the scaredy cats who fall in line. Fear and paranoia never helped anything whereas keeping a level head and a sense of humor can save our collective asses.
In searching for an antidote for this palpable fear and paranoia, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I’ve met. One of whom was one of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Rosenberg. She was a plump and cheerful woman who lived down the street from us when I was a small child. One day I noticed the tattooed numbers on her arm and asked her about them. I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me a stern look but her friend waved her off and told me what they signified. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Shoah. I was horrified and asked how she could be so cheerful after so much loss and suffering. Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, patted me on the head, and said: “When you’ve been to hell and back, nothing else ever seems so bad.”
Words to live by. I’ll add my own: fuck that shit.