After two days of non-stop politics I was extra fired up to watch the AFC and NFC championship games Sunday.
But a little before the first game started, I had a visitor. It was that same nasty guy who’d been dropping in on various friends, family and colleagues last week. You know, the guy who has everyone running to the bathroom, their butts on the toilet seats and faces in a garbage pail. I like to call him Flu Diamond Phillips, but maybe you know him as Flu Reed or Captain Flu Albano?
Moments after the Falcons scored the weekend’s first touchdown, I was making like Flusain Bolt (last name joke, I promise) to the bathroom. I then collapsed half-dead into my bed, where I remained with the lights out for the next 16 hours.
Achy, nauseous and unable to fall into a deep sleep, I found myself waking up constantly from stress dreams and random thoughts. I took a rare sick day Monday, and lay on my couch recovering, consuming endless hours of cable news, podcasts, tea and toast, allowing my brain more time than usual to process all that is going on in the world.
I decided to use this space this week to share my thoughts from sick bay.
• Let’s start with alternative facts. My initial reaction to hearing that phrase was to chuckle at the unintentional comedy of it all. It’s just really bad spin at the highest level of politics.
Having covered politics for more than a decade, I’ve seen my fair share of Revlon on a political pig. There’s usually some level of truth in a spokesperson’s remarks, though, and a degree of shame conveyed from the spin. The person being interviewed is essentially giving you the reason why a certain decision was made, minus the political motivation.
The “alternative facts” ranting from Sean Spicer to the White House press corps Saturday was the opposite. It was all politics, minus the truth.
While it’s OK to laugh when he’s talking about size mattering, it’s not going to be very funny to millions of Americans when we’re hearing alternative facts about climate change, gender and racial equality and the economy.
• A lot of media was very quick to defend the reporter who put out the misinformation about the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. While he was fast to correct his mistake and apologize, it was still pretty shoddy reporting.
In the day of instantaneous headlines, reporters must still take measures and ask a few questions before reporting observations. This is something we’re all a little guilty of sometimes, but a message we must not forget.
• In defense of Mr. Spicer, I must say a lot of the comparisons I read about the ratings of recent inaugurations and the crowds at the Women’s March on Washington vs. the Trump inauguration failed to mention a couple of important variables.
Comparing ratings from 2009 to 2017 is just plain silly. We watch things totally differently today. I was bouncing around on various Facebook live streams to view the inauguration Friday. I’m far from a Trump supporter and I still watched. I think anyone suggesting in their reporting that people felt indifferent about this inauguration is just plain wrong.
At the risk of diminishing the importance of what’s believed to be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, I do think it’s important to note that the march was held on a Saturday and the inauguration Friday. It wouldn’t have had nearly the impact on a Friday and the inauguration would have certainly drawn tens of thousands more supporters on a weekend day.
• At what point are celebrities going to realize they’re not always helping liberal causes with their actions? Madonna and Ashley Judd both came off a little bonkers during their remarks at Saturday’s march. At a minimum, they seemed to lack self-awareness. Hollywood has helped liberal causes for a very long time through fundraising and networking, but celebrities can be awful mouthpieces. Both speakers could have had greater impact talking specifically about the double standards in their own industry.
One famous person who I believe has used his notoriety properly to speak out against Trump is NBA coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Historically a very tight-lipped coach with an on-the-court résumé that rivals just about anyone’s — and a personal background that includes military service and a flirtation with a career in the CIA — he has been speaking with both substance and clarity on politics these past few months.
He’s not standing on his soapbox because he can, but rather is telling it like it is in very clear terms. A refreshing idea in these times.
• Speaking of the march, I was really proud of my wife for making the trip to D.C. and happy for other friends who ventured to the Capitol and other locations to demonstrate. In a column I wrote the morning after the election, I suggested that “the next four years should be filled with protests and civic action the likes of which this country hasn’t seen in decades.” It was that line that rubbed a lot of readers the wrong way and perhaps needed to be nuanced a bit.
I didn’t necessarily agree with a lot of the protesting immediately following the election, but what happened Saturday is something people should cheer, not fear.
Saturday’s march, combined with the results of the presidential election, seem to indicate that middle- and working-class Americans — from the Rust Belt to the Beltway — are waking up.
Protests are an everyday occurrence in most parts of the world, but it’s been many years since that was the case here.
We regular Americans need to spend far less time attempting to build consensus on social media and more time trying to be heard by the people we send into office. This march was the best example of that I’ve seen in this country in my lifetime.
Top photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
The author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected].