By Brent Glasgow
Overall, I can’t complain much about 2010. My wife and I welcomed our second child to the world. It was just the second year since 2001 that I didn’t have to move for one reason or another.
My wife didn’t get laid off and my own 10-month stint without full-time work came to an end. We paid off some bills after years of mailing monthly checks.
And, my family’s primary sports rooting interests — the Indianapolis Colts and Butler University basketball team — had seasons to remember.
It wasn’t all roses, however. Much of the year was a continuation of an often silent ideological feud with my father, the kind that has infected families across the country over the last decade during the polarizing Bush and Obama presidencies.
Ours took root during the presidential campaign of 2008, when Obama (my choice) defeated Hillary Clinton (my dad’s) for the Democratic nomination. Clinton’s loss had a profound effect on my dad, something comparable to Bruce Banner’s wide-eyed, clothes-ripping transformation into the Incredible Hulk. A lifelong Democrat, he hitched his wagon to the McCain/Palin ticket, and their subsequent whipping pushed him further in an unfamiliar direction. Soon, PBS and CNN turned to Fox News, and Tea Party-speak infiltrated his lexicon.
Meanwhile, I was in a soon-to-be-disappointed state of my own. After eight years of endless head shaking, I consumed Hope and Change like a starved beast. I couldn’t understand the hatred many felt for Obama — based on policy, race, manufactured fear or otherwise — before he even took office, including from my old man. Battle lines were drawn, and we spent 2009 and half of 2010 digging our philosophical trenches, waiting to leap out for the occasional short skirmish.
We spend much of our lives wishing we knew then — whenever then may be — what we know now. What my father and I didn’t know was that we had become enraged participants in a phony war sponsored by advertisers and perpetrated by the many paid-for supposed public servants on screen. With his Fox News and my MSNBC, each day became a fury-fest, especially between 5-9 p.m. For a retired senior and an unemployed journalist, political drama, wild hyperbole and unwavering subjectivity became our entertainment, our very sustenance.
Wake up calls come from weird sources sometimes, and ours came in the form of Facebook. One day in July, after I’d posted a link pointing out some inaccuracies in a collection of Glenn Beck sermons, my dad subtly pounced, with a snide comment about beer summits. We both have a history of uncompromising individualism. To fully comprehend, you have to understand me and my father. We have no problem admitting we’re wrong, it’s just that we’re never wrong.
On Facebook, I made a habit of being a Patriot missile battery in the fight against the Scuds of opposing thought. But instead of waging some back-and-forth hillbilly flame battle, I called up the old man. The ensuing hour-long discussion was like a joint baptism in a cool pool of forgotten reality, and we both came out cleansed on the other side. Despite still not agreeing on much, we achieved the following bipartisan conclusions:
1.) Facebook is stupid.
2.) We had way too much time on our hands.
3.) There is no reason to stress over things you can’t change.
4.) You can’t let opinion-based news programming control your thoughts and actions.
Since this grand realization, and the accompanying dramatic reduction in cable news viewing, life has been more enjoyable for both of us, and our spouses. Fox and MSNBC had become our addiction, arguably worse than those hooked on the endless idiocy in that rotten pile of garbage known as reality TV. Without the noise of impending doom and hostility, days are peaceful, and our relationship is back where it should be.
So for any of you battling your own addiction to the voices and faces of political armageddon, click the “off” button and take a deep breath. Pick up a book, play with your kids, or just remember that life isn’t as bad as the televised millionaire political cheerleaders say it is. Life at home is what’s important, not what happens in D.C. If you can stick to that resolution, 2011 will be a whole lot brighter.