Checking the News Like an Addict
No one could be more surprised than I to be jonesing for Trump, but I’m still checking the news like an addict.
I thought I was going to kick the habit of the thrice-daily news meals plus snacks, eager to see what the new outrage might be, what the newest lie.
I first planned to withdraw back in November – maybe not on election night, but soon after. But Trump’s alternate reality flourished in the form of a fantasy landslide, a stolen election. I kept checking the news, addicted to incredulity – his that he lost, and mine that he thought so.
But what if the electors caved to his demands instead of those of the voters?
The worry kept me logging on at all hours, hoping that he’d conceded and fearing that he’d manipulated the election. I tuned in for every verdict; relieved that the independent judiciary remained intact. I kept telling myself I’d go cold turkey when the electors from each state cast their votes. December fourteenth I’d be done, off the news and on the wagon.
But he didn’t give up, so how could I?
I kept using news as an excuse for work, for sleep, to calm worry. I know – it didn’t help, but I couldn’t stop myself. What would happen if he convinced Congress to subvert the elections? What would I do? What would become of my country?
I kept checking the news.
I was checking the news on January sixth, sure it would be for the last time. Congress would do the right thing and count the electoral votes as they were cast and confirmed, upholding the votes of, by and for the people, just the way our constitutional democracy is supposed to work. I was checking the news so I could say, this is it – now I can quit.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. How could I, when an unruly mob stormed the Capital, interrupting the peaceful process of counting the electoral votes?
I did something I almost never do: I watched the events on TV.
I watched people break into the Capital and –incredibly – take selfies as they smashed and defiled the halls of government and threatened the lives of elected officials and the law enforcement officers who defend them. Five people, including a Capital Police officer, died in the insurrection.
In stead of making a clean break, I stayed in front of the TV until midnight, and I was right back online at 6 a.m. to see what had happened.
The election was confirmed. Finally.
But the newly elected president was still two weeks from being sworn in. I still needed my fix during those two weeks, afraid of some new disaster: Martial Law? Start a War? Drop a Bomb? Pardon himself?
January 20 was my absolute deadline. That would be it.
Even though the inauguration took place on a workday morning in the middle of the week, I watched it, holding my breath.
Only part of me worried it was a super-spreader event and all those past presidents, the Supreme Court Justices and everyone but Bernie Sanders, who sat in splendid isolation with his mittened hands crossed, would come down with COVID-19. Face it: a lot of them were in the high-age, high-risk group with less than ideal survival rates.
I worried more about an assassination attempt, Dallas all over again, with some sharpshooter in a book depository within range.
I could barely breathe, and I’m a middle-class white woman in my own home. I kept watching the show, including Amanda Gorman reciting The Hill We Climb right there, on that hill. When the party broke up I kept using, watching reruns of Gorman, climbing that hill again and again, enthralled by her poise, her crown of hair, her words.
The inauguration was over, but I kept watching, kept checking, kept expecting some new assault on democracy – and I’m no longer just speaking of a metaphorical assault, but the real thing, by zealots with guns. So I’ve kept watching the news.
So far, I just see the sober reports of virus numbers falling, the stuttering roll-out of the vaccine, the President sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, often with the Vice President near by, aides sitting attentive, a news brief about cabinet appointments confirmed, legislators consulted, foreign dignitaries approached, relationships repaired. It’s all so ordinary and orderly. And such a relief.
Still, I keep watching.
I keep promising myself I’ll quit. But I know I’m kidding myself.
I won’t quit. I can’t. Democracy requires vigilance.
I’m all in.
This column first appeared in The Commons, Windham County’s not-for profit, award-winning, independent weekly.