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The Mueller Report Taught Well-Adjusted Adults to Unplug From Political News

It can be hard to separate news from speculation these days, but if you can quit the latter and embrace the former... do it.

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For two years, I followed the twists and turns of the Mueller investigation. I spent Fridays waiting for indictments. I read deep dives into the major players. I listened to podcasts. I talked about the former FBI chief like I knew the guy. My stress ebbed and flowed with the political news I crammed into my eyeholes from Google News and Twitter. Then, Attorney General Barr Released the Cliff’s Notes version of Mueller’s final 300-page report. Was it all a bust? Only a handful of people know and I’m not one of them, but I know that the report wasn’t worth the energy I sunk into it.

Did snacking on all those tidbits — those incidents and accidents, those hints and allegations — fill me up? No. I’m hungrier for chasing the morsels. So, for me, the conclusion of the Mueller report is this: I need to rethink my media consumption, specifically around politics and definitely before the 2020 race starts in earnest.

To find a contrast to my style of political news binging, I need only to roll over in bed. My wife is not one for news. What did she think of the Cohen hearing? She didn’t. But it’s not as though she’s ill-informed. Like the vast population of Americans who consume their political news in moderation, she can navigate her civic duties on the strength of the broad strokes. By the time she needs to cast a vote, or call a senator, or make a donation, the political story has been well formed. It doesn’t matter to her that candidate Beto O’Rourke likes to stand on tables. She’ll wait to give a shit until he has a real platform.

She didn’t hang on the Mueller Report. She waited. Like an adult. And lived her life.

At times, this has bothered me. I want someone to gossip with — and it is gossip — and she’s not there for me on that level. But, now, with the Mueller fizzle in full effect, I’m thinking it’s time to follow her lead and detox my feeds.

Here’s an example of the problem facing folks like me: Recent reports have covered the attempt by Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to defund the Special Olympics. When I found out about this, I was furious. I had nasty things to say about DeVos (and still do, FWIW). Then, suddenly, the president reversed the decision made by his own people and Devos came out and said she was relieved as the snake ate its own tail. And this was all in regards to a budget that will be rejected by Congress. So what did that rage at DeVos get me? A couple of news cycles worth of raised cortisol and compounded depression.

It makes me think back to January of 2017 when I was in the habit of projecting my political dismay into my social media feeds. My brother-in-law texted me, “I worry about you, man. If you’re this crazy now, how are you going to be years from now? This is how I felt every day of Obama’s presidency.”
Partisan trolling aside, he was right. The issue was not how I felt about the direction of government, it was that I was missing the forest for the leaves.

I should thank Barr, who you can rightly assume I don’t respect a great deal, for his four-page summary of the Mueller report. In its careful obfuscation of Mueller’s 300 pages of evidence and investigation, I found something very important: an excuse to walk away.

The news I should be focusing on is the news from my children’s day at school or my wife’s day at work. I should focus on the news of the neighborhood, including births and deaths, lost dogs and unclaimed toys found at the playground. I should focus on the news of the coming spring outside my window. I should focus on the news my body is reporting daily — my increasing weight and my sleeplessness. These are the things that matter to my life, and they are too easily drowned out by the shrill squeals of political news that turns out not to be news at all.

It’s time to refocus on my own life, which is worth investigating. Could it be a little better? I think so.