I don’t know much about tariffs on trade with New Zealand.
I couldn’t tell you the difference between Joanne Deborah Chesimard, Raddulan Sahiron, and Ibrahim Salih Mohammed al-Yacoub — three of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists.
I could not point to the exact moment that a fetus becomes a baby, and I’d have a hard time explaining the capital gains tax beyond three sentences. Don’t look to me for clever answers on job creation.
So why am I so personally invested in this presidential election? Why do I feel compelled to watch debates, read transcripts, cross-reference accounts, and bathe in the words of pundits?
Everywhere I go, I talk to readers who say they feel tempest-tossed by this vicious campaign season. They describe what sounds very much like emotional exhaustion bordering on traumatic stress.
You’ve likely heard of seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression sometimes frivolously sloughed off as “the winter blues.” I think America is in the grip of election seasonal affective disorder — as November approaches, we’re howling at the moon, turning claws and fangs on our families, friends, and coworkers in a political bloodlust.
I’ll admit it can feel good as an emotional release, a place to point all our petty anger at the smallness and unfairness we feel. Politics is just abstract enough, just detached enough, and certainly unprovable enough to be the perfect battleground. We can rend each others’ flesh on Facebook every night, argue over every Sunday dinner, yell and point fingers at faceless strangers and never be a step closer to resolving our national issues.
We march on fact-checking, fill our guns with talking points, fire volleys on Twitter. We dig trenches along the lines of our relationships. We establish demilitarized zones between ourselves and those with whom we disagree.
Is it a war worth fighting and dying for? That’s up to you.
I know I feel strongly enough in favor of immigrants coming to our nation — “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — to do battle. I am angry enough about our prison-happiness — we have the largest incarcerated population in the world — to seek justice and reform. I am terrified enough of the widening wage gap creating a new aristocracy and de facto indentured servant workforce. I am tired enough of waking up each morning to hear about the latest mass shooting. I am worried enough at seeing friends unable to get medical treatment because of enormous health care costs.
With so many of these issues, I see clear ethical paths laid out for helping those all around us. And I see extremists armored and blocking those paths.
So the war winds on. But at what cost? Come Nov. 9, I suspect we’ll be diagnosed with a national case of shell-shock. Hopefully the damage won’t be permanent.