Mirah’s Reflections: Tense Times

Mirah Riben, author and activist
7 min readAug 24, 2020

Anxiety? Sleep problems? Irritability? Depression? Despair?

Sound familiar?

Is there any wonder? Unknowns are always a source of stress. Change is stressful. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. Life-altering unknowns that we have little control over, all the more so. The pandemic has been all of this with an added scoop of precautionary rules changing daily making us repeatedly define how to keep ourselves “safe.”

Additionally, these serious life-and-death health concerns are inexorably entangled in extremely divisive politics adding a layer of crazy-making as the current administration vacillates back and forth and argues with state governors and disagrees with his medical experts. All, occurring as business are closed and livelihoods are lost and mass confusion surrounding opening of schools, colleges and universities.

Add to that racial tensions and political discord and complicate them both by every citizen on the street and subways becoming amateur film-makers giving us what appears to be clear “evidence” of police brutality adding a whole new dimension beyond reading about news. Everyone has a camera and everyone is a “reporter” on social media. Instead of passive audiences, we have become voyeuristic eye witnesses to violence only to later see additional footage that preceded the violence or was taken from a different angle, creating an emotional roller coaster. I have seen video of what appears one way until I then see a video of what happened prior to the first one or from a different angle. But people don’t wait to or don’t bother to get all the facts. All too often a video is broadcast and rage in the streets ensues.

For many of us, national election seasons have brought excitement, hope, worries. We have, sadly, come to accept — albeit with grave dislike — dirty, mud-slinging political campaign ads. UGH! We endure and/or try to ignore. Now, the truth wars are at an all-time dizzying high. We’ve learned to be more dubious and fact-checking has become a full-time job.

All of this distress comes on the heels of three-and-a-half intense years. Never before, in the history of the USA, have we lived through a presidential term of constant 24/7 presidential “proclamations” in the form of Tweets — multiple times a day. Nor were we ever subjected to such severe nasty, mean-spirted and pejorative attacks — not against foreign enemies, but average American citizens, gold star mothers, and even American heroes such as Sen. John McCain. What has been described by many pundits as temper tantrums.

We have been subjected to outlandish, unsubstantiated claims of COVID-19 treatments and doomsday mail-in vote predictions that reached a level that Twitter and other social media began deleting them, or adding fact checking and/or warnings.

Regardless of the truth or lack thereof and the hyperbole of the content — it has been the constant bombarding; the unending, unrelenting, non-stop, day-in and day-out barrage of attention the current White House occupant has demanded. It’s been exhausting. Like driving cross-country with a neck bending horrific crashes that you try not to look at every five to ten miles, first on our left, then on our right . . . opps, that one just missed us. Many accidents tying up traffic causing screaming, cursing, arguing and road rage, even violence.

People have pulled out guns and shooting store keepers over the wearing of a facemask. Insanity.

But none of that has stopped the constant deluge of tweets, which according to Wikipedia averaged more than eighteen a day, none of which were reassuring, uniting or comforting fireside chats:

“From his official declaration of candidacy in June 2015 through the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency, he tweeted over 17,000 times. Since early in his presidency, his tweets have been considered official statements by the president of the United States.”

In January 2020 Trump set a record for most tweets in a single day since he took office: 142 tweets and retweets, according to data compiled by factbas.se. It’s leaves one breathless.

Will it — can it — get worse before it gets better? Will the turmoil end in November? Will he ever accept the vote count if it is not in his favor?

In the wide divide we currently have, it is often hard to understand one another’s views. I am reminded of the photo of a dress that was floating around the internet a year or so ago. Some saw a gold a white dress while others saw a blue and black dress.

Each side was vehement and could not see how the other side saw it as they did. I see the current situation much the same. Some of us see a liar and a bully who is destroying our country and the world. While other see a savior, who is making the courtly great. It defies all logic to both sides. Yet, arguing isn’t going to change it. I think what makes it so difficult in America is that we only have two parties. Many other democratic nations have far more. We have morphed into a country of very extremely differing view of what this is and should be. We have a very powerful evangelic movement who is willing to overlook immoral behavior to get who they want on the supreme court to push their agenda. Excellent article explaining it in Rolling Stone; The NY Times also did a piece on it. And then you those who truly believe that the US should be a white or white dominant nation and immigration is ruining that. He feeds on their fears that immigrants are taking their jobs.

Many of us see it fine for people to say Merry Christmas or not and that it’s nice for stores to be inclusive. Others see it (and now our POTUS encourages it) as “war” on their faith and beliefs. People even get enraged if an outgoing message says press #1 for English. Fear has always been used to divide us. “Welfare mothers” used to be the prime scapegoat. They are still hated, but immigrants have moved into the top slot. It’s called divide and conquer. Of course, others of us know that the biggest money sucker is corporate welfare, corruption and unadulterated greed. But some fairly intelligent people, continue to believe in trickle down.

This, despite the fact that “CEO earnings climbed over $21M in 2019, could rise in 2020 despite pandemic” according to The Hill. And the same prescription drugs in America cost many times more what they do in Canada and elsewhere. It is worse now than ever before because the divisiveness is being fed and encouraged from on top and some of the media. Trump declares Antifa terrorists with no proof and applauds QAnon because the like him. If he tells them black is white and white is black, believe it all us liars and stupid morons for not seeing it that way.

Just like with the dress, we can scream till the cows come home says: “Don’t you see it!” It seems so utterly clear to us. Yet some will argue and justify and twist facts to suit their belief system. Because that’s the thing: Beliefs outweigh facts. Once you form a belief system you bend the facts to meet that belief system. We see a cop shooting an innocent man, and some see someone who shouldn’t have been where he was or done what he did or tried to resist. Many see it is the police who are being attacked and at times that is true. Some are peacefully protesting while others are looting and seeing cars on fire and often in the melee police have been seriously hurt along with a mayor who was hit will rubber bullets and tear gas. Were the looters and trouble makers part of the protest? Probably not. But in a riot it is difficult to impossible to correctly determine who threw the first punch, though it did seem that sending in national guard escalated things at least in some cities. We are all as tense as a spring ready to pop and are being barraged with lies and counter-lies, quotes taken out of context and even altered videos. Now, *everything has to be fact-checked.*

Even basic safety precautions, such as distancing and facemasks have become hotbeds of political debate and even violence, making life these days totally EXHAUSTING and exacerbating! Once we were all naive. Then came Watergate and scandal upon scandal. Stories of the dark web. And to top it all off there are wild conspiracy theories that even some well-educated friends and family believe in And despite pizza-gate been proven no to exist some still cling to wil stories of child abuse and sex trafficking. Bottom line: Nothing either side can say will change the others PERSPECTIVE. It is like one sees the world through blue glasses and the other side through red glasses and it colors everything they see and hear and believe.

The Buddhists say that everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. This too shall pass. Just keep remembering the dress…

And remeber that all that matters is your vote on Nov. 3rd!