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  • Steve Hamelman

Give Yourself a Break



My work schedule (I'm an English professor) has been so demanding for the past two weeks that I’ve had no chance to follow the news.


Sure, I heard about the de facto end of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. He may recover physically from a “heart condition,” but politically? Bets are off. He’s 78 years-old.


But that headline was only briefly disturbing. Work called.


Also weaseling through was a televised transcript of President Trump’s dialogue with the president of Ukraine. A big story by the looks of it. Again, I was off to another meeting, not hearing the CNN panel discuss this latest example of executive duplicity.


Much else occurred, I was later to learn, during this two-week period: a plane crash or two, a measles outbreak somewhere (way to go, anti-vaxxers!), disastrous weather events, and a guilty verdict for a Dallas police officer who shot dead a man enjoying a bowl of ice cream in his own apartment.


Bad news all around.


And I didn’t miss it at all.


The Perfect Pair

Then the October 7 issue of The New Yorker arrived, featuring Barry Blitt’s cover picture of the Trump/Giuliani tag team pushing a woebegone Uncle Sam, whose feet are encased in a concrete block, off the side of a bridge.


Trump looks like Stalin after a bender and Giuliani looks like the Godfather without a trace in his face of the decency and dignity seen in Marlon Brandon’s version of Don Corleone.

Two late-phase miscreants, dumping a body at night.


Blitt’s drawing underlined the fact that for quite some time, I have needed a break from anything and everything to do with Donald Trump and his minions. In other words, upon viewing Blitt’s caricature, the frustration and disgust came rushing back, my peace of mind reaped by a two-week pause from politics instantly shattered.


Speaking of Giuliani . . .

There’s bitter irony in the spectacle of Rudy Giuliani helping Donald Trump send Uncle Sam to his death.


For lest we forget: not too long ago, Trump’s lead lawyer was hailed as a hero in New York City—for cleaning up Times Square, and especially for standing in the wreckage on the morning of 9/11—a designation even many liberals were willing to bestow on him on that tragic day.


Look at him now.


And look at the man whom Rudy Giuliani—at one time, an official whose tough policing and mayoral tactics could be tolerated even by detractors because of his concern for his city’s safety—has chosen to end his career defending.


As for Trump, who has pledged, in rally after rally, to make America great again, what has he done for the homeland aside from declaring a rash of executive orders that have failed to make America even a teeny bit better, much less great?


Fox Comes ’round

No question: the biggest thing waiting for me was talk of impeachment. It’s all the rage right now.


A growing block of Democrats, with some Republicans mixed in, believe Trump conspired with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to spy, or at least to consider the possibility of spying, on Joe Biden and his son Hunter.


This goes beyond even what Fox News can countenance. In his op-ed for the channel, an exasperated Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote:


For heaven's sake, Trump was just investigated by Mueller for two-and-a-half tumultuous years . . . and now he has attempted in one phone call to bring the Ukrainian government into the 2020 election! Does he understand the laws he has sworn to uphold? It was to remedy just such reckless, constitutionally destructive behavior that impeachment was intended.


One’s blood pressure rises when reading this—not the opinion, but the fact that Napolitano had to write it in the first place.


Once one starts browsing news like this, there’s no turning back.


And so my blood pressure spikes upon my learning that Mitch McConnell “vows” to hamper the impeachment process. From this it’s a short step to a string of reports about (1) murders in Kansas City and New York City, (2) more riots in Hong Kong, and (3) Hollywood’s contribution to world insanity—the record-breaking opening of the movie Joker.


Rip in 2019

The story “Rip van Winkle” was published by Washington Irving in 1819. The hero, a loveable but feckless husband, gets drunk and falls asleep for twenty years. During his sleep, the Revolution of 1776 comes and goes. Rip wakes up to a world radically different from the one he had known.


The story is still widely read today because there’s a little Rip in everyone. We all want to get away for a break from the same old noise.


Unlike Rip, we rarely answer the call. Also unlike Rip, when we do, the world seems worse upon our return.


I ignored the news for two weeks in September/October 2019—not nearly long enough to allow for any significant progress in human affairs. America did not become “greater” in my absence.


It got worse.


Which, ironically, is exactly why you should try it—try taking a two-week break from the din of the news cycle.


When you get back, the Democrats will still be dithering about their nominee (with one less to worry about), and the Republicans will still be obstructing justice.


In other words, you won’t have missed a thing.


But like me, you may return to the fray with renewed clarity and vigor.


My two-week sleep was a delicious break from all things Washington, all things American, all things Russian, all things whatsoever.


Now, with the election thirteen months away, I feel refreshed, ready to continue the fight.

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