The State of the Union

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans: I’ve come here to report on the state of the union and I would like to say emphatically that the state of the union is fucked.

We gather tonight knowing that the sacrifices and toils of previous generations of Americans are rapidly approaching the point of having been in vain because our nation has made a choice to hand over the reins of power to a regime of fanatical, greedy, misanthropic ignorami who have made it their collective goal to embrace and promote all manner of diabolical policies and platform agenda while doing so under the guise of Christianity, summarily hijacking the good name of Jesus Christ. In just one year, this Reich has made the United States less safe by enabling unstable individuals to engage in unchecked gun violence while simultaneously instigating radical ideologues to engage in terror activity through implementing a draconian foreign policy, the sole purpose of which has been to avoid moral responsibility for past American transgressions and to symbolically thumb our nose at the entire global community. We are far less respected around the world than perhaps at any time in history.

For the first time in eight years, Americans are losing access to affordable healthcare. For the first time in over half a century, minority groups are seeing their civil rights in a state of systematically-imposed rapid regression. For perhaps the first time in our nation’s history, we have a leader who is incapable of discerningly analyzing even the most basic of briefings and memoranda because he lacks the cerebral capacity to employ elementary reading comprehension. He is incapable of thinking or speaking in complete sentences, uses a social media platform that communicates in 20-word soundbites to provoke equally unstable foreign leaders and has us closer to the brink of nuclear conflict than any president before him has.

After 8 years of economic growth, advancements in science and technology, increased income equality and an augmented glimmer of hope for those Americans seeking to be accepted for who their Creator created them to be, this administration has relentlessly sought to rapidly negate all progress for the sake of appeasing their simpleminded, vacuous, religious-fundamentalist base. They’re consumed with greed, vindictiveness and a nostalgic longing for a time and place that has never existed. They obsess over their differences with those who don’t subscribe to their dystopian worldview. They attack the essential institutions that have made our nation great in years past such as the free press, the National Endowment for the Arts, the EPA and the National Parks Service. They spearheaded the “Blue Lives Matter” concept yet they have aggressively sought to undermine and discredit the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies because those agencies have launched investigations into the nefarious doings of the American Reichstag. They fixate on completely fabricated news stories and ignore those that matter. They work together to make life as easy as can be for as few people as possible while concurrently making life as difficult and arduous as possible for as many people as they can. They embrace white nationalists, calling them “very fine people” while referring to black and brown men and women who stand up—by kneeling—for their civil rights as “sons of bitches.”

These people have sought to redefine the definition of what it means to be Christian. They have seemingly embraced the “magic eraser” form of Christianity; they believe they can engage in any kind of deplorable behavior under the sun and all they have to do is confess their sins or accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and all shall be forgiven; the pussy-grabbing, the affairs with porn stars, the hotel rooms in Moscow with multiple prostitutes, the 19 women who’ve been assaulted by the man who currently occupies the White House. After 8 years of these same people calling our former president a Muslim, a terrorist, a communist, etc.—despite his being a gentleman, a loving husband and father and a rather exemplary Christian—they now extend their hands in prayer over a man who is such a colossal thief, liar and conman at his very core, he lacks the ability to even be honest about his height and weight. This man does not have an honest, Christian bone in his body and yet pastors and priests—so-called men of God—have the unmitigated, shameless audacity to publicly claim that this man was chosen by God to be president. Hypocrites, blasphemers and charlatans, all!

My fellow Americans, as brother Malcolm once said, “Oh, I say and I say it again, ya been had! Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!” The power brokers in this country have swindled all of us; they know no political party, mind you. The wealthy plutocrats care only about one thing: keeping their loot. They don’t care who they have to use or hurt to do so and they will turn on you in a heartbeat if they feel threatened by your very existence. They’ve adorned themselves with the cloak of Jesus as a means of veiling their true motivations. Malcolm knew it; Dr. King knew it; Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez knew it. As President Obama stated in a previous State of the Union address, “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs…an economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”

This is within our reach because we’ve been there before. No, it was not a fair game for all people and we have a moral responsibility to ensure that as we strive to reach newer and greater heights, we leave no American behind; that our leaders learn to lead from behind, ensuring that they themselves will not reach the promised-land until all Americans get there first. Jesus himself said “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Unless that man was a liar, I have to believe that he meant what he said. My fellow Americans, our nation is in peril; we are divided in unprecedented ways. Now is legitimately the time to “take our country back,” lest we lose it forever. Now is the time to repair our reputation in the eyes of the world and to once again regain the respect of the international community. Now is the time to once and for all reclaim the good name of Jesus Christ and to tell the Satanists-in-Christian clothing, Vade Retro Satana! Back to hell with you where you belong!

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…like anybody, I would like to live a long life–longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

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The Root of Suffering is Attachment

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The parallels between the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and the Beatitudes of Christianity are strikingly similar, particularly when comparing the Beatitudes with the Fourth Noble Truth, which is the Noble Eightfold Path. It never ceases to amaze me that after millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of human advancement, we still wear our religions like the jerseys of our favorite sports teams, as if to say “our side is better than yours”–though when speaking about my beloved FC Barcelona, it would be true to say that my side is better than yours, but I digress. In no way does it diminish the verity of one’s own chosen system of faith or “religion” to acknowledge the reality that truth exists in other systems of faith or “religions.”

Thomas Merton, the brilliant mystic, monk and Catholic priest once wrote, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” Allow me to second that motion. To pigeonhole oneself into a very sheltered and willfully benighted religious point of view for the sake of thinking yourself to be right and others wrong is to engage in a form of blasphemy because it is essentially claiming to know all there is to know about God; this inherently negates faith because faith is inherently the absence of empirical knowledge (I’m not going to get into the historical realities of any particular religion; I have a degree in history and I can assure you that attempting to support any system of faith from an empirical, anthropological standpoint is not advisable, as the evidence will not be on your side). Sadly, the “my religion is better/truer than yours” mentality continues to prevail, despite the fact that we are–thankfully–no longer living in the Middle Ages.

Below, I will offer a brief comparison of how the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha and the Beatitudes of Jesus of Nazareth are not only similar, but complimentary. The resurrection (no pun intended) of populist-driven nationalism both in our country and around the globe is a clear sign that we as a species continue to ignore the ways of the Divine, opting instead to feed and fuel our own disordered lust for bigoted greed and antipathy toward education and enlightenment. We claim to love God, to believe in God, to follow God and yet we aren’t even trying to do any of those things; sure we talk a loud, obnoxious talk about imaginary wars on Christmas and nonsensical attacks on our religious freedom, but all of that is little more than thinly veiled code for promoting the true, nameless, polytheistic religion of America, exemplified by the red, white and blue pantheon of Money, Greed, Guns, Hoarding, Vanity, Ignorance, Insecurity and Bigotry. Speaking truth to power hurts; it hurts those who are guilty of–and unwilling to acknowledge–the offenses addressed and it hurts those who feel compelled by their Creator to speak out–we tend not to have many friends because our consciences will not allow us to remain silent in the face of lies. Those who are deeply devout to the aforementioned pantheon will not be moved by anything I write here; their gods have given them the promise of power in this life; far be it from me to deprive them of their very finite salvation. Hopefully, something in my comparison below will reach those who are still trying to figure things out and maybe they’ll repent–literal definition: change direction toward God–before it’s too late.

 

The Four Noble Truths:

 

*In life, regardless of our best efforts, suffering will be an inevitability.

 

*The root of suffering is the incessant desire to accumulate/consume.

 

*The only cure for suffering is to eliminate the desire to accumulate/consume.

 

*The way to eliminate that desire is by:

 

  • Seeking the truth (Blessed are those without ego)

Rid yourself of yourself and be humble, then you will understand God’s Way/Will rather than your own.

  • Freeing your mind of evil (Blessed are the peacemakers)

When you truly encounter God, you will only want to share peace with the world; evil only begets more evil.

  • Avoiding hurtful words towards others (Blessed are the merciful)

Through your own proper understanding of righteousness, you will depart from fanaticism and in being merciful, will be shown mercy by God.

  • Working for the good of others (Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness)

When you empathize with the suffering of others, you will recognize injustice. You will not be able to rest until the victory over evil is won. 

  • Respecting life (Blessed are those who mourn for others)

Be a steward over all creatures and living things in God’s world; respect Creation and mourn in solidarity with the pain felt by others and you will be comforted by God.

  • Resisting evil (Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness)

A true follower of God can endure persecution by not responding to evil with evil.

  • Praying/Meditating (Blessed are the pure in heart)

God is merciful; a pure heart can be obtained by abandoning your own ways and instead learning God’s ways through prayer and meditation.

  • Controlling your thoughts (Blessed are the meek)

Remember the times when you have been comforted; do not react with pride or anger; comfort those who suffer around you and you will receive God’s comfort.

 

The Joy of Love; The Need for Compassion

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As could be said for nearly every generation since the birth of Christ, we find ourselves living in rather tumultuous times as Christians. The world around us seems to be in a state of disarray as our collective understanding—or in some cases, misunderstanding—of morality and compassion seems to be rather foggy. Here in the United States, we seem to have embraced a very primal form of populist anger, opting to take a very narrow and harsh view of the world around us and this is leading us to behave in deeply concerning ways as a nation that happens to call itself Christian.

Though I am young, I have never before experienced the level of divisiveness and hostility that I see around me and this holds true in my daily experiences and encounters with colleagues and members of my work and home parishes. The degree of animosity shown toward particular groups of people, as well as Pope Francis is simply dumbfounding. The rather heated debate surrounding Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia exemplifies what I’m referring to. This beautiful piece of pastoral literature was meant to offer hope and solace to individuals who have, for far too long, been made to feel marginalized and forgotten by the global Christian community. “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community…,” he writes.[1] It is no secret that for as long as there has been a Christian church, specific demographics have found themselves on the outside looking in, particularly homosexuals, heterosexual couples who have “shacked up”—lived together prior to marriage—and divorced, remarried couples. “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”[2]

At the age of 37, I find myself at a very interesting crossroads in my life. I have spent many years discerning what my purpose and role ought to be in terms of living out the vocation that God intended for me. I have always prided myself on being a man of the people because I love interacting with and understanding people. The world is in desperate need of a resurgence of dialogue, compassion and sincere advocacy; a return to the basics of Christianity where, as Martin Luther stated in his Treatise on Christian Liberty, Christians understand that it is their duty to be “free lords of all, subject to none…dutiful servants of all, subjects to all.”[3]

I believe the most important thing that I can do to empower others is to make it clear, through my actions that our single greatest priority at every stage of the game is tending to the needs of God’s people. This is the apex of living the mission of God. We must always be open to answering the questions posed by our “sheep” and our answers should be abundantly evident in the examples set by our actions and our lives. I feel it is imperative to always be mindful of Pope Francis’ desire to “encourage Christian communities to recognize the great benefit that they themselves receive from supporting…couples as they grow in love.”[4] Yet I also feel that this support must be taken to further lengths than the global Christian community is currently willing to go. While it is encouraging that Amoris Laetitia “reminds everyone to be nice to gay people—‘Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration,’”[5] I feel that right now is not the time for nitpicky and nuanced theology; from a very brass tacks perspective, we need to be shepherds and as such, we need to embrace people as they are; as they feel God has created them. This means that we need to strongly consider shelving what might eventually very well prove to be antiquated notions of sexual morality in lieu of a more inclusive and accepting approach to the changing sexual and relational mores in our society. Pope Francis seems to be subtly hinting that he is attempting to move the Church in this direction; “For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain ‘irregular’ situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”[6]

This is promising, especially as it pertains to the divorced and for the intimate lives of married couples who find themselves unable to conceive. Interestingly enough, as William Saletan states, “This double standard, between homosexuality and other forms of infertility, is the cracked pillar at the foundation of the church’s policy against same-sex unions. It’s how Catholic teaching on homosexuality will eventually collapse.”[7]

The most commonly cited reason for opposing same sex marriage by Christians is their adherence to upholding the values of so-called “traditional marriage.” Pope Francis states that “Families should…go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society…married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations.”[8] Yet Saletan appropriately responds to this by saying, “Same-sex couples can do all of these things. They can sustain lifetime commitments, build virtuous communities, and give children loving homes.”[9] As Paulo Friere suggests, humanization is the only legitimate part of our vocation as humans;[10] what better way to embrace the humanity of our fellow man than to embrace his or her freedom to love as he or she sees fit?

I must admit that there have been times in my life when my daily toils were driven by things other than a true sense of Christian charity. At times, pride, careerism and the pursuit of money clouded my abilities to see the world clearly—and at times they still do. I am no more or less apt than the next man to engage in the act of dehumanization, which in my opinion is the most heinous sin against God and our fellow man, not only because it causes harm to the other person or group, but also because it serves to cause great psychological and spiritual harm to the person who is engaging in the act of dehumanizing others.[11] I am often very quick to harshly judge those who seek to deprive people of rights, which is a manifestation of the old adage, two wrongs don’t make a right. The act of helping people to see the error in their ways must include a humanizing spirit of humility and charity; in the same way that we who advocate on behalf of the marginalized want the Church to empower us to follow our consciences, we must also empower our opponents to change their thinking and better form their consciences; after all, as pastors and teachers, “we have been called to form consciences, not replace them.”[12]

[1] Pope Francis. The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family. Paulist Press, 2016. p 213.

[2] Ibid, p 213.

[3] George W. Forell. Christian Social Teachings: A Reader in Christian Social Ethics from the Bible to the Present. Fortress Press, 2012. p 105.

[4] Francis, p 146

[5] William Saletan. Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” Is a Closeted Argument for Gay Marriage. April 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/faithbased/2016/04/pope_francis_amoris_laetitia_is_a_closeted_argument_for_gay_marriage.html. p 1.

[6] Francis, p 217.

[7] Saletan, p 1.

[8] Ibid, p 1.

[9] Ibid, p 1.

[10] Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, 1970. p 28.

[11] Freire, p 28

[12] Francis, p 23

Grief and Loss During a Season of Joy

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I wrote this a few months back as part of a larger essay, but I felt it would be appropriate to post a portion of it here upon receiving the tragic news this past week of the loss of three individuals known to me; a good friend, Douglas passed away of a heart attack at the much-too-young age of 66; the son of a colleague tragically took his own life at the age of 27; and the 4-year-old great-grandson of a member of my church died in an unimaginably tragic accident. 

Few, if any of us can say that we’ve never heard—or uttered—the phrase, “where is God in all of this,” typically in the aftermath of a tragic or traumatic event. It is a common, and quite human reaction to wonder what God’s role is in our oftentimes confusing and seemingly nonsensical world. Some of us might even blame God for allowing evil to plague our world, feeling that he should perhaps somehow intervene on our behalf. But would doing so be in line with the true purpose for our existence and God’s corresponding role in that existence? Certainly an all-powerful deity could, in the blink of an eye, intervene in any earthly scenario and impose his will for the betterment of society and civilization. But would doing so really be beneficial for our sake?

It is easy to understand why people ask these questions about God and human existence, particularly individuals who do not possess anything beyond a very basic theological foundation. It is worth mentioning some of these mindsets for the sake of better understanding God’s true role—and our frequent misunderstandings of it.

Some people view God as a cosmic wish-granter; a genie of sorts whose purpose is to grant us all the things we ask for in prayer. Typically these are individuals who have grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort and privilege in their lives; the danger in such a misguided understanding of God’s purpose in this world is that when things start to go wrong, these individuals find themselves unable to cope with their equally misguided belief that God has abandoned them.

Other individuals believe that God’s primary role is to be a supreme judge—not to say that he doesn’t have that power or authority—but these individuals believe that God is constantly keeping a tally of every sin we commit and every good work we perform and in the end, the scales of justice will determine our eternal fate. This mindset is not only Biblically incorrect, it also has the potential to lead the individual down a path of incessant guilt and psychological torment—not to mention the fact that it is ultimately contrary to a proper understanding of how we are ultimately justified in the eyes of God.

Then, of course we have individuals who feel that God ought to be our supreme protector, intervening when evil lurks in our vicinity; when God “fails” to do so, for example in the case of terrorist attacks, as I mentioned previously these individuals wonder why God didn’t do something to stop the evil. The reason why this would not be helpful for us, despite appearing so on the surface, is that God’s intervention would effectively negate our free will, the very essence of what makes us moral beings. The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that we, as humans, are collectively responsible for all of the good—as well as all of the evil—that exists in the world. This view could be compared to Zen concepts that describe how our positive or negative thoughts play small roles in the greater good or evil in the world.

From a traditional Christian standpoint, each of us simply has a moral responsibility to “engage the way of the cross,” that is, to visibly live the Gospel message in our actions and through our words and it is through doing this that we make the world a better place. In doing so, we perform the work of God in the world through the grace of God the Father and the gifts of the Holy Spirit and our living example becomes the living body of Christ on earth. It might seem to be a monumental task, and in many ways it is, but when taken to its logical conclusion, true evangelization would accomplish God’s mission of peace, justice and mutual benevolence between human beings—God’s children—in this world and the outcome of this would be a much more realistic and comprehensive understanding of loss, grief and the hope that one day we will indeed be reunited with our loved ones as God promised we would.

American Dystopia

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You tell us to work hard to get nice things; we work hard and barely make ends meet.

We try to go back to school to learn a new trade but you’ve taken away our tuition deductions and grants so we’re forced to take out loans that we’ll never be able to pay back.

You take away our healthcare, so a simple sinus infection puts us thousands of dollars in debt.

We can’t pay the debt, so we’re referred to collections and our credit is ruined.

Our bad credit forces us to pay higher rates on simple car payments—cars that we need to get to our low-paying jobs, reducing our disposable income.

Our limited income makes it impossible to save money to buy a house so we have to rent in perpetuity.

Our bad credit forces us to live in less desirable apartment complexes and pay higher deposits, often far removed from where the jobs are so we commute hours each day, costing us gas money and vehicle maintenance money that we don’t have.

The neighborhoods we live in have nothing but fast food establishments and liquor stores—establishments that prey upon people like us because they know that we can only afford cheap food and quick highs.

This causes us to have health problems that we cannot remedy by basic doctor visits because you’ve already taken away our healthcare.

Us and our neighbors barely make ends meet, are unhealthy and are tired of seeing our kids suffer so we do what desperate human beings have historically done: we improvise.

You decide that our improvising is illegal so you send police into our neighborhoods to seize every opportunity to incarcerate us.

We’re barely making ends meet, are unhealthy and tired of seeing ourselves and our kids suffering, beaten, murdered and enslaved by your police so we do what desperate human beings have historically done: we fight back.

You call us thugs and animals and savages and tell us that we’re less than human.

We grow desperate, feeling like there is nowhere to turn.

You tell us to turn to God.

We turn to God and all we hear from the pulpits is how we must support our oppressors.

We say “fuck you” and leave your churches.

You tell us that not going to church will send us to hell.

We become psychologically damaged and resort even further to drugs and alcohol and many of us contemplate suicide.

You tell us that those who commit suicide go straight to hell.

So correct me if I’m wrong: you’re telling us that we were put on this earth to serve YOU, to cater to YOUR needs, to be perpetually indebted to YOUR corporations, to be YOUR slaves, to make YOUR lives and YOUR children’s lives easier, to follow YOUR rules, to obey YOUR laws, to worship the way YOU tell us to and that if we decide not to, our only options are prison or hell?

On Charlatans and Tax Cuts

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I feel no obligation to uphold any traditional rules of structure or order when it comes to writing this short piece. I won’t be wasting my time citing the plethora of sources that would back up my charges in this piece; if you want sources, you can look them up. I have no desire to do the legwork for you anymore. For example, I don’t need to reference the fact that a jackass who currently occupies the White House thinks it is perfectly acceptable to “grab them by the pussy;” links are easily accessible all over the internet; if you can’t find them, or you refuse to, that’s your problem. So I will jump right in with both literary guns blazing.

The fact that you call yourself a Christian does not make it so. Something, whether a person or a thing, is what it is, regardless of what it calls itself; regardless of what someone else calls it. The truth of what something is at its core is inherent, even if it spends its entire earthly existence thinking of itself or being referred to by others as something else.

If you support Donald J. Trump, you are not a Christian. Sure, you might call yourself one; you might think you’re one; you might even go through all the motions and pretend to act like one; but you’re not a Christian. Unless, of course, the real Jesus Christ was someone wholly unlike the Jesus Christ the world has known for 2,000 years; I suppose anything is possible.

If you support the tax “cuts” that the GOP twits in the Senate passed last night at an ungodly hour, you are not a Christian. Again, I don’t need to start rattling off links to prove that millions of students will see their taxes increased due to the loss of deductions as a result of this tax bill. I don’t need to cite the fact that the middle class will see their taxes increased due to the loss of SALT deductions (look it up). I don’t need to cite the fact that people who make $25,000-$35,000 per year will see upwards of a 25% tax increase. I don’t need to cite the fact that graduate students will now see their fellowship money taxed, causing many potential PhD candidates to drop out due to their inability to pay for their education. But education is “overrated” anyway, right? These are facts; easily Googled, and backed up by the data presented by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Your support of these politicians means you support this tax bill and that means you support the results of the implementation of this bill; you might not see it that way, but tough shit; you’re guilty by association…and you’re not a Christian.

It’s okay to admit that you’re not something you’ve long believed you were. I once believed I was a Republican. I registered as a Republican, occasionally voted as a Republican and referred to myself as a Republican. Eventually, wisdom kicked me square in the face and showed me the truth; just like I’m doing for you. Stop calling yourself a Christian when you’re not one. It makes you look like an idiot and it gives a bad name to people who actually have compassion, empathy, humility and a soul; you know, like Jesus Christ.

Feed the Good Wolf

Is it ever acceptable to make a conscious choice to fully disengage from the madness of the political realm? That’s a rather bold question coming from someone who is as opinionated as I am. But I’m beginning to notice a somewhat disconcerting trend in the clients I interact with on a daily basis. Working in a mental health clinic has its inherent challenges. Many clients are already feeling the complications of chemical imbalances and stress factors, both internal and external; it is elementary to see how these existing conditions are exacerbated by the constant bombardment of media via portable electronic devices and TV news. Social media only serves to further augment the sense of siege that many of my clients feel that they are under; many cannot differentiate between legitimate news and the ever-increasing flood of “fake news.” I don’t think I need to elaborate on the difficulties faced by individuals with mental health problems in terms of processing information that they’ve heard or read; fear mongering and overt negativity can push unstable people over the proverbial edge.

But the manifestations of media overload aren’t just impacting people with diagnosed mental illness. We can see the evidence of this at family gatherings and social events with friends–some clinicians might have us believe that everyone suffers from some sort of mental imbalance and while I can certainly bring myself to appreciate their perspective, I am not convinced that this is universally true. Essentially I’m referring to otherwise fully functioning individuals who, as a result of a number of factors including the 24/7 news cycle, attachment to social media and political polarization which is leading people to shelter themselves from individuals with differing opinions by associating only with people who fit their own political mold, are becoming mentally and emotionally frazzled and even unhinged. I can recall numerous gatherings in my younger years where politics would be the debate topic du jour, but they never resulted in outright screaming and vitriolic ad hominem attacks; recently, however, the viciousness has become far more commonplace and this is simply not healthy for any parties involved.

It is this behavior that is prompting me to wonder if it might not be best for some of us to take some time off from the game of politics. I realize that in doing so, especially given the current global political climate, one risks enabling the potential forces of authoritarian populism to spread unchecked. Could we perhaps remain in tune with the “top stories” for the sake of keeping an eye on things while maintaining a certain distance? I suppose this is possible, though I am suspicious. I don’t know if there is a middle ground to be found. My primary concern is far more micro in scope; I’m worried about individual people and their mental wellness. Of course rampant fascism would not bring any greater semblance of mental stability to the nation and world as a whole, but I often wonder if some–not all, mind you–of the political boogeymen that we encounter on our social media feeds are contrived for the sake of stoking fear and instilling uneasiness in us; what is it that we are fundamentally lacking as a species that lends itself to our collective trepidation?

I’m not one to preach; those who know me personally know that I am a practicing Catholic. I will be the first to acknowledge that I am a terrible Catholic. I need my Church more than it needs me. I find a sense of peace in my faith and I understand why many people who are opposed to the notion of religious belief feel the way they do; some would accuse me of attempting to artificially manufacture a sense of purpose and security in a world that is chaotic and violent. I stand accused and guilty of their charges, in that I do find purpose and security in my faith; as to whether or not it is manufactured, we will simply have to agree to disagree. I’m the last person who is going to try to convert anyone, as I have always seen my faith as something that should be personal in words while being visible in actions–I don’t mean outward expressions of wearing my faith on my sleeves, so to speak or making the sign of the cross after scoring a goal in pickup hockey; I mean kindness, empathy and a sincere attempt at trying to see the goodness in all people as they are, not as I would will them to be. I am not trying to say that the decline of religiosity is the hole that we are trying to fill as individuals and as a society; but I do believe something is missing from our psyches and our souls that might otherwise provide a sense of clarity and/or groundedness. It doesn’t have to be God as I would think of God or even a sense of mysticism but perhaps something as simple as wonder would be sufficient, as I feel that we have collectively lost that sense of wonder. We have become so literal and material as a society that we are starting to become too fragile, too sensitive and generally morose and stoic. What happened to our joy, our benevolence, our desire to see our neighbors succeed alongside us?

Considering how health conscious–relatively speaking–we have become as a society, why is it that we seem to neglect our mental health? The electronic leashes that we have all willingly embraced, despite all of their potentially negative side effects, are still essentially tools. Just like a table saw, they have the ability to make our lives easier in many ways, provided that we use them properly. But I’m beginning to think that they are serving a detrimental purpose by keeping us plugged in to an ever more deleterious and malignant stream of bad vibrations, which, at their root, feed upon those of us who are reaching out for something, good or bad, that could consume us. Feed the good wolf, my friends; tis’ far more preferable.