I have this daily ritual when I wake up and after I organize my day. I scan both the local and national news sites. My head usually hurts afterward. These days it’s just always the same: political fights, wars, shootings, COVID denial, culture wars, the GOP this, the Dems that. And the opinion pages aren’t any better. I mean, I have an opinion, and no one cares about it, so what makes me want to care about these (unless, of course, I agree with them). It’s all the news that’s bound to drive us into a dark hole.
This morning like every morning, I went through my list of sites beginning with local. Long Beach Post. It’s Monday, so at five a.m. in the morning, the news isn’t fresh yet, I get it. People need time off. Headlines like “Community Hospital to close ER, increase mental health services, skirting seismic requirements” and “From migraines to vomiting, residents struggle to live normally through Dominguez Channel odor” compete to get the positivity vibes going. Over at the Press-Telegram, there’s the mandatory update on the Pandemic (there’s a pandemic?) “LA County reports 1,153 new cases of COVID-19, 10 more deaths.” Seriously no one seems to care anymore. That’s the impression I get from all the sightings of people entering businesses with no masks (it’s okay, they’re vaccinated. Yea, how do I know that? I’ll leave this for another rant).
“4 weekend shootings in Long Beach leave 2 people hospitalized,” and this is with strict gun control laws. Wait until the Supreme Court rules that we can all run around with a handgun in our pocket to bars, stadiums, public transportation, hell, maybe a school. As my brother, who lives in New York, said, “What could go wrong?”
Over at the Los Angeles Times, the headline that caught my attention was the one about books in school libraries, “A ‘war on books’: Conservatives push for audits of school libraries.” Is this like election audits where we call in people who have no clue how to run elections, and then they sort of hack their way through ballots contaminating the process, and still come up with nothing but more votes for the winner? So who gets to decide who the expert is this time? Do the neighborhood Ken and Karen who barely made it out of high school get sent into school libraries and just go nuts pulling books from shelves and sniffing them for the odor of subversion and anti-stupid? No, that wouldn’t be right. Let’s invite the same people who gave us the majority conservative Supreme Court that we have. They’ll know what America needs.
Over on the national news sites, the news is scarier. The New York Times blasts “Retailers Scramble to Attract Workers Ahead of the Holidays.” It seems people don’t think bonuses of $500 upwards to $3000 are just not enough to put up with “the pandemic’s many challenges, from fights over mask-wearing to high rates of infection among employees.” Sure, the pay is just great. All I have to do is bring my boxing gloves to work every day to fight with Ken and Karen or break up a fight they start with other customers. I’ll just stay home and watch the videos.
Down in Washington, D.C., I see our elected officials are hard at work…arguing with each other and not doing the people’s work. The Democrats finally squeezed through an infrastructure bill (you know, the one that creates jobs) with some of their own refusing to sign on and only thirteen Republicans in the House voting for it. In the Senate in August, only nineteen Republicans voted for it. At the Washington Post, the headline is “Democrats insist Build Back Better bill will pass, despite divisions.” They’ve been saying that for months as the amount of money and programs are carved away to satisfy, wait for it, two Democrats in the Senate who will have to vote for whatever passes in the House eventually. I wonder how many Republicans will vote for the package. I’m not taking that bet.
Thank goodness there’s some good news, but good news gets easily crushed combined with what we see and hear on television, our phones, and radio. It’s all enough to make us depressed. The bad news has always been with us, but I do feel like this time is different. You cannot absorb all this terrible news without seeing it in the context of the Pandemic. It’s enough to drive all of us into a dark hole.
According to Mental Health America in their report on “The State of Mental Health in America,” over half of adults (27 million adults) in the United States with a mental illness are not receiving treatment.” Thinking about suicide amongst adults has increased. “4.58% of adults report having serious thoughts of suicide,” that’s 664,000 more people from last year’s data. The numbers are numbing when it comes to substance abuse: “7.74% of adults in America reported having a substance use disorder in the past year. 2.97% of adults in America reported having an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. 5.71% of adults in America reported having an alcohol use disorder in the past year.
This latest survey has more bad news. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020.” During June 24–30, 2020, “U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.” The affected groups include younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers, pretty much everyone as far as I can tell. Compared to the same period in 2019, the survey turned up these groups suffering “disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide). I wonder if dealing with all the Ken and Karen debacles involving mask and vaccine resistance has anything to do with it (I’m not laughing).
The solution is not to stop watching the news, as I implied in last week’s blog. Although a respite from the noise sure does help drain the muddy swamp in my head. I speak to a therapist regularly, but that’s because it’s a medical insurance benefit. More people should take advantage of it if they have it. The real problem, as always, is reaching those who feel stigmatized by the idea of therapy. Then there are those Americans who don’t have access to the benefit at all.
Suppose elected officials would stop their partisan sniping and sending up false flags. Then maybe, just maybe, Democrats and Republicans can deal with the real issues threatening all our futures.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to look for the good news amongst the bad and hope for the best.