I learned over the last few years, about the price one pays, to some degree, for living in a self-made political bubble.

I don’t know when it happened, probably somewhere during the early Bush years.  I slowly began to ensconce myself in politics, and it began to pick up speed, if you will, during the Obama years.  I went from being a “follower” of politics, to being more involved, to being totally immersed in what “my side” was up to, and how it was taking on the “other side”.  As social media began to rise, I began to follow, and comment on, and post almost purely political things. I didn’t realize how bad I had gotten, until one day, during a conversation with my mom, I launched into a rant about one political thing or another, and was literally yelling at my mom.  I don’t know why, but I was that wound up in it.  I was quoting websites, and blogs that I read.  Trying to make a point that my mom didn’t really care about.   To say that I upset her, is putting it mildly.  The upshot of the whole thing was I had not realized just how involved I had gotten in politics, and how much of my life was focused on whether or not something was in line with my political beliefs.  I analyzed TV shows, I analyzed books, and music, and movies, for anything that was not in line with my political beliefs.  In short, I had become insufferable to family, and even my kids and girlfriend.  I had always been “political” in that I had views, just like everyone else, however, what happened, is that those views became the end-all-be-all of my existence.  I began to think, somehow, that my views were necessary for my survival, and the survival of the country, well, a country containing all of the “right” people.  You know, the people who shared my views. I had surrounded myself with people who believed as I did, and ignored any counter arguments, or opinions that challenged what I believed to be true.  It didn’t matter that the argument presented was factual, what mattered was that it ran counter to my beliefs, and therefore, needed to be rejected.   It took a family gathering, where I managed to upset my entire family with a bunch of political remarks that managed to offend several people.  Shortly after that, I was talking with my mom, who informed me that because of my remarks at the previous gathering, discussing politics was off limits at the next gathering, and if I so much as brought it up, I would be asked to leave.

Now, you have to understand something.  My family is pretty easy going, and mostly laid back, and we can discuss many subjects reasonably, its how we were raised.  The problem with me was I was saying things without any regard for anyone else there, and practically demanding my view be accepted as the only correct one.   It is what woke me up to the way politics had consumed me.  My Facebook was full of nothing but political content, either groups I belonged to, or stuff I had posted myself.  My Twitter account was nothing but political follows, and my Twitter feed was an endless parade of memes, links to blogs, and news stories that favored my point of view.  I attacked anyone who posted content that ran counter to my beliefs, and by “attack” I meant I insulted, and belittled the person who dared to post something in opposition to me.  I didn’t offer a logical, cohesive counter-argument, I offered vitriol, because I believed that my position was the only one.  Now, note that I didn’t say someone posted disagreeing with my politics, no, they were in opposition to me.  To me.  That’s how deep I had gotten.  Someone who disagreed with my politics, was disagreeing with me, because I had become political.  It was all I was.  It was so bad, that my politics had pushed aside my faith in God, and every thing I had been taught. My religion, my values system my beliefs had been pushed aside, rather, replaced by my politics.  It was, at this time, I woke up and realized what I had become.  I was no longer me.  I had become a political creature.  This was all prior to the 2016 presidential race.  It was near the end of the Obama administration, and things were shaping up for 2016.

The other thing that woke me up, is a “news” story that I read.  The story was about a container ship that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.  The story breathlessly related that the container ship was loaded with weapons and other support for the Syrian rebels, that had been approved by Obama.  I read the story, and in a moment of clarity, I realized the story was fake  Using Google image search, I found another story, from 2014, featuring the same photo of the sinking ship.  The ship had sunk in the Indian Ocean, that much was true, however, it had nothing to do with Syria, the rebels, or, Obama approving any kind of support for them.  The ship had broken up and sunk because it was old, and the shipping line that owned it was going to de-commission it at the end of the voyage it was on.   Here I was, so committed to my side, to my politics, that I believed every story that I read, everything put out by my side had to be the truth, because we were right, we were the only ones with the correct ideas, with the correct solutions to the country’s problems.  Yet, here was a group, a “news” source that I followed that I had believed without question, posting a story that was, to use today’s vernacular “Fake News”. It pissed me off.  It really pissed me off.  I began digging into the some of the stories that were posted by other groups. I began to find more of the same.

In the coming weeks, logic broke through.  I began to evaluate my subscriptions, the groups I belonged to, the “news” sites I followed, and even some of the bloggers I followed.  I stopped using Facebook for anything other than keeping up with friends, and activities within my Amateur Radio group as well as the hobby in general. I cleared my Twitter feed of all the political follows with the exception of a couple.  I began following people based on anything but politics, and in some cases, they were people I had followed because of their politics, but quickly realized that politics aside, they were funny, interesting, and decent people.  I also discovered that I could disagree with people, and not let it anger me.  I ignored people who tried to engage.  I quit paying attention to my mentions, and I was much better for it.

When the presidential race began to heat up, I distanced myself further, I stayed away from debate and discussing the candidates, because I thoroughly disliked both of them, and I couldn’t see any profit in taking a side.  So I let it be.  I still read other’s opinions, but I didn’t engage. I did know I didn’t want Hilary as President, but I could not get behind Trump, and that’s where I left it.  I stayed away from the arguments because they were everything I used to be, and everything I used to post.  Anger, insults, and no regard for anyone else’s humanity.

Politics is poison.  When your politics becomes your life, when everything you say, do, and get involved is nothing but politics, it ruins your life.  When you base someone’s worth on who they voted for, and ignore everything about them, you are short-changing yourself, and you have become unbearable. Whether or not you like Trump or hate him, or any other office holder, for that matter, is one thing, letting that admiration, or disgust dictate how you feel about family and friends, and is the deciding factor on continuing or discontinuing that relationship, then, you are the one with the problem.  No politician, or political cause is worth severing family, marital, or friendship ties over.

Back off, take a breath, re-evaluate, look at your life, and things around you.  Friends, and family are far more important than politics, or activism, or anything else. When the dust settles, and things have moved on, all you will have left is your family and friends.

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