Don’t Let Politics Destroy You

President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

I rarely share my thoughts on current events as I don’t think being a political commentator is my mission in life, but this post is more about emotional and mental health than politics.

There was once an individual who visited his friend who had become a rabbi of a certain city. The rabbi was hated by his constituents and was constantly the topic of emotionally charged discussion throughout the city.

The friend asked the rabbi what he got out of being a rabbi as everyone hated him, to which the rabbi responded: “What do you mean? I enjoy the respect!”

“Kavod-respect?!” asked the friend, “everyone constantly denigrates you!”

The rabbi replied:

“Let them urinate on me, let them defecate on me, at least they are talking about me.”

President Trump is an expert at the art of steering the conversation towards himself and has mastered of the notion that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Throughout the election, and indeed throughout his career he has pulled stunts (whether consciously or not) to get people to speak about him — with the knowledge that no matter the craziness of what he is saying (and perhaps due to it) staying high profile is better for his career than being irrelevant.

He’s like a friend or acquaintance with borderline personality disorder that infects your life and constantly draws you into their emotional drama.

Now, we all know people with such temperaments — individuals that we are forced to disengage with — whether we like them or not, lest they completely take over our own lives, sap, deplete and exhaust our emotional energy.

Getting caught up in each moment of their lives does nothing to help the situation, but over time wears us down until we have no ability to either protest their behavior and to live our own lives.

Merely two weeks after the commencement of the Trump presidency people’s emotional energy are already worn thin. With President Trump having a world stage each action is analyzed, fought about and debated.

While surely there are major issues that deserve dissent — as in every presidency — it is simply not worth it (IMO) to become emotionally involved in every issue.

It is simply not worth the vitriol, loss of friendships — both actual and virtual — the tension, stress, emotional weight, arguments etc.

Already, social media has transformed from being a “safe space” of sharing and healthy, mutually beneficial engagement to a hotbed of acrimonious, bitter and angry debate, where people’s emotional strings are pulled to the breaking point.

Instead of truly healthy conversation, people are quick to unfriend and unfollow each other anyhow — which essentially defeats the purpose of debate as people are merely shouting into their own personal echo chamber.

Is the stress and the loss of friendship really worth matters that most of us cannot really effectuate change?

If the first weeks of the Trump presidency inform us of the political temperament of the next four years, it seems to me that people should think long and hard before they choose to engage on each and every issue.

If not, going down the rabbit hole will surely sap you from emotional energy that could be better spent on your spouse, family and friends.

That energy and passion can be better employed to make the world a better place through bringing positivity and light into the world, rather than more arguments and vitriol.

Most definitely healthy debate on political issues is still important and individuals should demonstrate and protest the issues that they deem important.

However, it should be done on your own terms, ones that don’t damage the relationships around you and destroy existing positive means of self-expression.

Unless, a person desires to destroy their emotional health and go to years of therapy, it is (IMO) not worth being drawn into the erratic, emotionally charged world of President Trump.

It is better for those of us that aren’t political pundits or politicians that for the most part do not hold any political sway to primarily disengage – besides for primary issues or discussing these topics with friends and family that will actually listen to our views and opinions.

Better to carefully choose the battles we we wish to fight, because if we try to fight them all – and there will surely be many – our energy will quickly be depleted and we won’t be able to challenge the truly important ones.

The stress of having the weight of world issues on your chest is usually not worth it. For most of us, it is energy better spent on our families, friends, spiritual life, jobs and general wellbeing.

So for your own good, please do yourself a favor and extricate yourself from being drawn into the emotional unhealthiness of this all – I think you’ll thank me later.

(Disclaimer: obviously on issues that are central to world events and ethics a strong opinion is expected and demanded. I think though that being that each action of a president effects world events in some way, a person should think to themselves a few times whether their actions will really make a difference — beyond political punditry — before they choose to engage.

If not, we are like the scenario attributed to Golda Meir of being Prime Minister of 3 million prime ministers.)

About the Author
Rabbi Dovid Markel is the director of the Neirot Foundation of Jewish Thought and regularly writes on current events from a Judaic perspective. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Jewish Philosophy.
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