When I was younger, I was a total nerd and read my grandmother’s Time, Life, and Look magazines from cover to cover, Time especially. As a grade-schooler, I knew what was happening in the world. I even audio-taped Richard Nixon’s resignation speech (I still have the tape).

Then as I got older, girls and sports and all kinds of normal life things got me out of my nerd phase. The consequence is that I became a little more ignorant about what was happening in the world. Sure, I knew who the president was, about elections, and so forth – I just cared a lot less. 

As I entered adulthood, I cared even less. It was the 90s, and life was good; the economy was booming, I was making money, and I had the cool apartment, car, and girlfriends. Who cares about tax cuts and all that boring stuff? 

Didn’t affect me; I was living the dream. 

Fast forward to 2000. I had started my own business and had more time at home to check the news. I watched the whole debacle of the Gore/Bush hanging chad fiasco. It made me think I should pay better attention. 

Then 9/11 happened. 

From then on, for about eight months, I was glued to CNN, waiting for the next terrorist attack. I did not sleep much – I’d stay awake on the sofa until all hours with that news crawl on the bottom of the screen, giving me the latest scary news. Finally, when I recognized it was fucking up my mental health, I stopped. I canceled the newspaper, I stopped watching any kind of news, and I stopped listening to the radio (this was a big deal because I was a huge Howard Stern fan back then. I found out about the first plane on 9/11 from Howard.) When we would go out, I’d put my back to the TV. People at work discussing the news? I’d change the subject or walk away.  I did this for about a year. Of course, this was easier to achieve in the days before social media. I’m not sure how I’d fare today.

I was happy when Obama got elected and then reelected. I watched both inaugurations. The second one, I cried because that year, I had cancer, and my insurance got canceled. If it were not for Obamacare and the Affordable Housing Act, I would have been bankrupt or dead and would certainly have lost my house. 

The political climate has changed. Everything now is meaner and more conspiratorial. Reality is whatever the guy or gal says it is, even though you know what he or she is saying just might be batshit crazy. The new normal is anything but.  

There is a lot on the line for this midterm: Abortion will be put to the vote in five states. Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota are all considering whether to legalize recreational marijuana, as 19 other states have. Don’t forget to vote! You can see your polling location and what’s on your ballot here.