Yesterday I recalled a Writing Boots post I once wrote, and I chuckled. It was in 2010. I said that Facebook was making me feel "well-informed" in a way that I hadn't felt since the advent of the intimidatingly endless Internet.
Here's how it works now: I do my dilligence—I read the local and national newspapers, I keep up on the communication trade as as I always did—and then I rely on my 368 Facebook Friends to give me a heads-up on the rest of it. I reckon—rather, I passively, subconsciously assume—that if something important is happening that's not in The New York Times, one of these friends or acquaintances or who-is-that-again-half-strangers will point me to it.
A quote, a new song, a YouTube video, a new piece of architecure or writing: I've got hundreds of friends or at least like-minded acquaintances scouring the world every day in hopes of finding something to amuse or inform their like-minded friends. (That's me!)
That was then.
Now, I have 683 Facebook friends!
Most of whom spend all their spare time just keeping up with presidential politics.
I go running with a guy once a week. If he and I aren't careful, we can run for eight miles doing nothing but recapitulating the week's presidential political news to one another, in panting astonishment.
Think of the loss of American productivity.
Think of the loss of American imagination.
Think of the loss of American optimism.
Think of the things we might be thinking about and doing instead of keeping up with Trump's tweets and all the analysis of their relevance—the art we might be making, the R&D we might be doing, the daydreams we might be dreaming, the books we might be reading, the souls we might be searching, the love we might be making if we weren't watching Brian Fucking Williams (or Sean Fucking Hannity) every fucking night with the same discipline with which we make our children's dinners.
I am not telling you to stop watching Trump. I do not want you to tell me that you quit paying attention to the news when the administration quit the Paris Accord. It would be real trouble if significant numbers of Americans checked out on Trump—an unthinkable dystopia, where, when matters of state arise, the citizens shrug. There's enough shrugging in this country, already.
I am telling you that much of the damage that Trump is doing is unseen. It's opportunity cost. Whatever you think of Trump, the national Trump Watch is time-killing, soul-sucking, unproductive and plain dumb.
Even setting aside the fear and uncertainty and the grief that comes to many of us in waves, living in the U.S.A. these days also seems like a waste of time—like working at a terrible company where everyone spends all the time bickering about the management, and none of the time working.
Often these days I remember how my dad described feeling, between punctuations of terror in the Army during World War II: impatient rage that the life he wanted to get on with was being stolen from him by this stupid fucking war.
We can't get another country.
To borrow a phrase that sounded sinister when we heard it from the other side not very long ago: We've got to take our country back—to get our lives back.