I have a friend of long standing who, last week, gave me some great advice. I had lamented to her in an e-mail that I was feeling overwhelmed by the news.
- It had just been revealed that President Donald Trump had intentionally misled the American people about the severity of COVID-19.
- Fires fueled by global warming are burning out of control on the West Coast where friends and relatives live.
- There are new reports of foreign election tampering and an administration effort to squelch that reality.
- The likelihood of election tampering from within as Republicans work to suppress mail-in voting during a pandemic.
- And finally and most importantly, the likelihood that none of it will matter enough to dissuade toxic Trumpers from voting to re-elect an impeached criminal as president.
Overwhelming? That’s putting it mildly.
That friend I mentioned — a most excellent friend I’ve known for more than 20 years — has the benefit of not living in this country. She’s thoroughly and wonderfully Irish.
Do I always agree with her? No, but that’s just because I’m stubborn. She’s the kind of person who, even when you don’t quite agree with her, you still weigh her words carefully because just when you’re surest she’s wrong, that’s when you’ll discover she was right all along.
So when I was feeling most indignant about the state of the world and ready to go screaming down the street, my friend upended me with this:
“Understand. But you have to turn your mind to good things when you feel overwhelmed, because otherwise you’ll get depressed and what’s the point of that?
“So, walks in nature, turn off the news, switch radio to music only stations or play music on Internet or stereo. Watch good documentaries, dramas or comedy programs. Read interesting books. Go foraging for blackberries or whatever safe wild fruits you can harvest and make pies. Cook great food. Do a free online course on Futurelearn (everything from archaeology, science, nature, psychology, etc. in 2-4-6 week stints). Just do things that turn your mind and focus from the mayhem, towards things that make you happy, calm, relaxed and satisfied.
“I understand how you feel and I get overwhelmed, angry and despairing too at the state of society and all the evil mankind wreaks, but you have to turn your mind from it sometimes and focus on good things. Otherwise you add to the slew of negative thoughts, anger, anxiety, and that serves no one and makes matters worse.
“So go out, gardening, walking, pick up trash, find a little spot and care for it, make things better. It’ll heal you of sadness and despair. Focus on all that’s good and wondrous in the world. And add your voice now and then, lobbying your Congress people for better environmental protection, animal welfare, climate change mitigation, etc. These things matter.
“Just ‘be’ and do good things. That’s the way forward.”
I was looking for someone to share my outrage, but instead I received good advice. How annoying! I knew my friend’s words were wise, but still couldn’t help thinking that the whole reason we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess is because too many Americans already tuned out and never came back.
Unable to find anyone quite as angry as I was feeling, I threw up my hands and decided to take the advice by making tomatillo salsa with ingredients purchased from a local Mexican produce market — the kind of place no Trumper would be caught dead inside because, you know, it’s run by immigrants and everybody inside wears a mask to protect themselves and others, all nice and courteous like.
See? It’s always possible to add a little vinegar to whatever peaceful thing you’re doing. I guess the trick is to just keep it on a slow simmer!
Here’s my recipe for tomatillo salsa, and like all my recipes, it’s kinda “earthy,” meaning that it’s just a little of this and a little of that with no real measuring. Your results may vary:
GLENN’S TRUMPER ANTIDOTE GREEN SALSA
10-12 fresh tomatillos
1 ripe avocado
½ onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves
1 carrot, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-3 fresh jalapenos (depending on your heat tolerance)
1 tbsp. cumin seed
1 tsp. olive oil
salt to taste
Remove the leafy wrappers from the tomatillos and boil in salted water until the color changes from bright green to olive colored.
Saute the onion, garlic and carrot in the olive oil for a few minutes. Add the cumin seed to the hot pan at the end to toast it a bit.
Add everything to a blender with a half cup or so of the boiling liquid, then blend the shit out of it.
Give it a taste and add enough salt to make it taste good but not enough to make your heart stop, at least not until you’ve voted for Joe Biden.
Eat with chips or try some in your scrambled eggs.
So now you know why this political post also appears in the WordPress cooking section, there really is a recipe!
But here’s the thing: We have to be of two minds going forward.
Yes, we have to preserve our sanity by doing things like making salsa, baking pies or going for long walks in the woods, but we do not have the luxury of looking the other way all the time. For now at least, we still live in a democracy, and that means we have a duty to pay attention.
We have to understand the issues. We can’t be always wasting all our time looking at cute kitten videos on YouTube. We have to stop looking to “get around the pay wall” and instead become invested in good journalism! For crying out loud, spend a few pennies a day of your own money so you can be assured the news you get comes from credible sources.
By all means preserve your sanity, but at the end of the day, come back to reality, horrible though it may be. Because when you don’t, the Donald Trumps of this world take root, flourishing in the potting soil of ignorance that sadly defines the American electorate. The proof is as we see it.
Thanks for paying attention. Now go make some salsa!