We’re lost in space – by Deborah Levine

(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

DEBORAH LEVINEWhat should I write about in these incredibly tumultuous times? It’s impossible to keep up with the Ukraine details. Then there’s asking China to investigate the Bidens when Donald Trump Jr. developed luxury condos in Indonesia with millions in cash from a China-owned construction business. And Reuters reports that Ivanka Trump’s Chinese trademarks include voting machines. How do we handle the just-joking defense, not to mention the bullying, denials, distractions, and denunciations? Despite everything, the reality will emerge. It will become a question of severity. Is this an impeachable offense or inappropriate behavior? My answer is yes to both. So now what?

I appreciate Chief Justice Ruth Ginsberg saying that history will show this time as an “abberation.” I sure hope she’s right and we’ll return to civility and normalcy in the not-too-distant future. But what should I write about in the meantime? On a whim, I took a short poll at my local Walmart and asked what they’d like to see in my column. The response came quickly. “Tell us how we’re going to get through this.” While I nodded in agreement, inwardly I panicked.

Surely there are pundits, professors and psychologists who will come up with a better methodology for survival than I could possibly imagine. What to do? I feel that we’ve fallen into a black hole in space and there’s no escape. According to a new study published by the University of Nebraska, we’re energy-depleted, sleep-deprived, and physically ill with 24/7 access on every device to political noise. Our affected brain chemistry is increasing anxiety, depression, helplessness, and the adrenalin overdrive of the fight or flight syndrome.

Since I’m hardly alone in feeling stranded in alien territory, the science fiction series Star Trek Voyager comes to mind. Like the space ship, we’ve been deposited into a distant universe where it takes 172 episodes to get the crew back to Earth. Their journey is fraught with peril, especially going through Borg space. The Borg is a collective that absorbs normal beings and transforms them into a single mind through artificial intelligence. They are all ordered to think and act in unison and can hear commands simultaneously. The “We are Borg” assertion comes to mind in today’s political environment. I’m waiting for the White House to go full Star Trek on us and issue the Borg directive, “Resistance is Futile”. 

Former Senator Bob Corker recommends getting off the 24/7 news cycle. A reputable psychologist suggests watching warm and fuzzy videos of kittens. Both ideas are appealing, but I prefer the Star Trek Holodeck. I mentally recreate Horseshoe Bay, a peaceful beach of my Bermuda childhood. The sea is bright blue and the sand is a faint pink. The horizon is an endless vista. My breathing slows and my blood pressure lowers.

No doubt these time-outs preserve our sanity, but we can’t stay in the imagined Holodeck indefinitely. We eventually rejoin the real world, and when we do, the political noise hits like an exploding star. Whether its Ukraine, China, or the withdrawal from Syria and our Kurdish allies, we‘re whisked away into uncharted space kicking and screaming.

So take that time-out, but don’t ever opt out. Words matter, so speak up and speak out. Every vote, act of protest, and letter to the editor makes a difference. We are history and what we say and do shapes the future. Don’t be absorbed into the “Resistance is Futile” mindset. Together, let’s make the voyage home to civility, honesty, and the rule of law.


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