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Watching too much T.V. lately?


I realized today that I’m treating coverage of this Insurrection as just the latest T.V. episode of the Trump Show, which I’ve watched with a certain compulsion for more than four years. It’s like getting hooked on The Sopranos or Homeland (which I did); every episode is better than the last, and all you want is more. What happens next? It’s all so exciting!

It’s embarrassing for me to admit that. Trump isn’t just good T.V. (although he is), he’s the worst thing that’s happened to America in my lifetime. As fascinating as I find the television coverage (and it is), this isn’t just entertainment. Those insane clowns who invaded the Capitol weren’t extras on some Hollywood set, they’re real people caught on camera, with their death stares and pipe bombs. So I have decidedly mixed feelings when I turn the T.V. on first thing in the morning and leave it on until I go to bed.

I know people who would say, “Kill your T.V.” They believe that everything “out there” is a lie. The correct approach to life, in their view, is to shut out the external world (or, at least, the political and commercial parts) and get in touch with your true self. While I have a certain amount of admiration for that philosophy, I fundamentally reject it. The political parts of the external world aren’t going away, whether you’re aware of them or not. Politics and law affect us at every level. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” means, to me, that we citizens should participate in our democracy by voting, by studying the issues, and by understanding who’s on our side and who’s against us. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your private, contemplative side. It does mean that it’s stupid to stick your head in the sand and pretend that the rightwing religious fanatics in the Republican Party are not a danger to you and your loved ones.

I think this is why Karl Marx called religion “the opiate of the people.” He meant that government is the single greatest influence upon every aspect of our lives, our health, our freedom, and our happiness. To me, the people who say “Turn off your T.V.” have eaten the opiate of non-participation in our country. Never has it been more important for Americans to participate, in the way I defined above: voting, studying the issues, and understanding who’s on our side. Every American should know full well that he or she does have enemies. If you’re gay, you have enemies. If you’re a person of color, you have enemies. If you’re Muslim, you have enemies. If you’re an immigrant, you have enemies. If you believe in science, you have enemies. If you’re not a rightwing Christian, you have enemies. It couldn’t be clearer. Donald J. Trump has given the enemies of freedom and democracy legitimacy and standing. That should concern everybody who cares about America.

But, in the end, am I watching too much television? Maybe. But where do you draw the line? These are momentous times. I love History; I study it and believe in it, and right now we’re watching History unfold in an extremely dramatic way. I pity people who don’t care. They think they can live their lives insulated from what’s happening all around them. They will continue to think that, until their own particular enemies come for them. But by then, as Pastor Niemoller reminds us, it will be too late.

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