Rather late in the third week of April, I realized I’d gone too far. I’d been, you could say, in a kind of rehab, recovering from a life that was pegged to the news, obsessed by the news, distracted at all hours by the always very bad news.
This all started, as it did for many of us, on June 16, 2015.
That’s when a reality television star and real estate magnate announced his candidacy for the office of the President of the United States with the opening words “Wow. Whoa.”
In that infamous speech, he dog-whistled to racists with the claim that Mexicans were bringing drugs, crime, and rape across our borders. He talked about the leader of the free world as a brand in need of a makeover. He took down Obamacare. It was a pivotal moment for the country. For the highest office in the land. And for all of us. It’s when we all realized we could not look away.
During the run-up to the election, and in the year that followed, I had a professional responsibility to pay attention to everything Trump did, day in and day out. But it wasn’t just us journalists; it was everyone. The future president’s Twitter following swelled. Newspapers and cable news shows talked about the “bump” in audience they received after live broadcasting his semi-improvised speeches. And all of us, seemingly against our will, got sucked in.
The human desire for escape is a strong one. In fact, our brains are wired for it. We’re wired to avoid discomfort. To fantasize. To drink wine or do drugs or play videogames to make it all go away. For those humans in confinement, mental or physical, the urge to seek freedom from terrible situations is desperately real. On a more mundane level, we all want fun, adventure, and play — that’s escape too.
Throughout the month, Medium will explore the theme of the GREAT ESCAPE. We’re going to look at the many ways we seek and find escape—from our own minds, the contours of our lives, and even life itself. (We’ll also look at why you should give yourself permission to break up with the president and be less hooked on the news.)
The takeaway this month is that we all do it. We’re primed to do it. Sometimes, it’s about running away from what we dislike. But just as often, it’s about taking off the old, wet T-shirt that weighs us down.
As for what happened in April: Barbara Bush passed away. Say what you want about her— there’s a lot to say about her — but she was a First Lady! An American icon. Plus, she was a champion of literacy, and my mother was a librarian. Several days after Barbara died, I invoked her in casual conversation.
“You know she died, right?” came the reply.
No, I didn’t.
Follow us all month long at GREAT ESCAPE.