I have always in my heart of hearts been an idealist.
I spent most of my young life lost in my own head a bunch of the time, escaping from whatever bothered me through books.
So I suppose it should come as no surprise that I came into the world as an singularly naivé adult.
And I paid for that naivéte over and over, though I wasn't self aware enough to see it that way at the time.
I'll admit that I didn't actually think very deeply about politics. I was liberal because my tribe was liberal, and I saw our side as the open minded, kind hearted side that stood for open mindedness and egalitarian principles.
I still believe those things about myself. I don't care what color your skin is, how you self identify, or who you like to sleep with. If you're a person of good character and care about your fellow man, you're my kind of person.
But in the lead up to the 2016 election, I realized it was time to stop just voting with the crowd and parroting what people I thought were in the know. I needed to grow my own thoughts and opinions if I was going to be able to look myself in the eye and say I'd done my bit as an American who cares about the country and the society it embodies.
So I read. A LOT. And not just the New York Times or HuffPo either. I made a point of broadening my sources to include notable conservatives. I devoured everything I could get my hands on from both campaigns, and even, much as it pains me to say it now, kept an open mind for as long as I could about Trump. It will come as a shock to no-one that I voted for Hillary in that campaign, and I have no regrets about that choice. I didn't and don't love everything about her as a politician, but from my perspective, the choice was and is clear.
When the smoke cleared and the pundits and pollsters were wrong, I redoubled my efforts because I wanted to try to understand the mindset of the kind of voter who would elect Trump as president.
I want to be careful how I phrase this, because it could easily come off as an abandonment of my duty as a citizen and voter, and I am absolutely not doing that.
But what I learned did in fact achieve one goal I had at the outset. I woke up.
I learned that even my beloved democratic party is governed by monied interests which control several key media outlets which vend talking points and a constant stream of memes to a vast swath of the populace who treat them as black and white and feed them to a public addicted to outrage and ever more willing to de-humanize and villain-ize the other.
And despite the protestations of well meaning friends and acquaintances, I was utterly unable to read anything from conservatives without tripping over either overt or covert bigotry and mean spiritedness. If I ever have to read another rant on the evils of "gender fluidity" I may have a personal protein spill.
After countless hours of reading and study? What have I gained? Absolutely nothing except for perhaps the one insight that will come as a surprise to no-one. There are no white knights. Good guys and bad guys are very rare indeed, and most of the world is painted in shades of gray.
So how do I take this new found understanding of the world and parlay it into remaining clear eyed about reality and yet still be capable of living a full, productive and perhaps most importantly happy life?
For me, the answer is simple: Stop trying so hard.
I will make sure to not surrender completely to living in my bubble. I'll be sure to continue to read sensible conservative voices, but I won't subject myself any further to thinly veiled bigots and racists, no matter how good their ideas may be.
I'll read the news. I'll do my functional research when election time comes, and pick candidates to vote for who I think will vote in line with my conscience on critical issues like marriage equality, health care and a more equitable model for wealth distribution.
But that's it. Beyond that I intend to focus my time and energy on things that bring me joy like spending time with my wife and rescue dog or indulging my endless passion for the more whimsical side of technology.
That's the compromise I've come to. Life's too short to fixate on everything that's terrible, and there's only so much one person can do about it anyway. I'll exercise the minimal power that I have responsibly and beyond that to heck with it. I'm done.
To be clear, this doesn't mean I plan on laying down to die. There are issues that are important to me, and I intend to keep fighting for what I know in my heart to be right.
This is more about limiting the amount of toxin I ingent so I can stay healthy enough to fight another day :)