A Year of Living Selfishly

Drama. Life unfolds in a dozen different ways, with a dozen different dramas. Life as a cable box, switching from one channel to the next, one a soap opera…another a news channel and another a sitcom. Some are melodramas, some comedies…and some are hugely important events that happen in real time, but seem strangely distant from the personalized soap operas we linger on.

It was over a year ago that I lingered on one channel–my personal soap opera channel.

Prior to the cliffhanger I’ve been hanging on to for the last 14 months, awaiting the denouement that will never come, I was a channel surfer extraordinaire. The sitcoms and the news were my favorite personal programs. But it was the news…the massive changes, the undeniable lies and the tidal currents of history, the events that affected me and the human future…that’s where my attention span seemed endless.

It’s who I was. Who everyone knew me as…the historian, the skeptic, the human drama king. My attention to detail and dedication to deciphering the sour notes in the cacophony of media voices kept me busy. Very busy.

Then I was distracted. No, I was obsessed. Consumed with a new drama…my personal melodrama. My life fell to pieces. I fell to pieces.

She may have done what she did partially because of my news-show couch potato lifestyle. Perhaps I should’ve been more focused on the other channels of my life. Perhaps I should’ve been watching my soap opera more, and I would’ve been surprised less. Or not surprised at all. The plot twist that felt more like a knife twisting in my heart…maybe it would not have happened.

But it did. And my laser-like gaze turned away from the news and from the unfolding of history and rested squarely on the details, the characters and the melodrama of my personal pain. I obsessed. Now all the details of that betrayal are…like the ins and outs of modern history, of fascist ideology, of the CIA and US foreign policy, and of 9/11 and the advance of American empire…accessible to my computer-like memory. What made me a formidable historian made me a pitiful person.

But I still was awake. Barely, at times, but still conscious of the news and the world. Yet, I stopped paying my full attention to our national truth debt. I left 9/11 alone. No more soliloquies. No more recitations. No more passionate pleas to people to just take a look. Just my pain.

Last week…a week of Charlie Sheen and V for Vendetta…I was hit with the larger context and a staggering amount of perspective. I was hit with my own wallowing selfishness. I lost some of the obsession with my personal melodrama because I faced, once again, the desperate human drama that trumps all else.

While I selfishly thought of myself over the course of a year, others were working hard. Working against their own self interest by taking risks…risking the sort of marginalization that ends careers, brings ridicule and dares the establishment to knock them down. Over the course of that year, the cable box of my life ran new productions…created new programs that go further than ever. Further in showing, with startling images, tireless investigations and bold veracity, the full extent of the lie that our national life and the world’s geopolitical life continue to be based on.

But I wasn’t watching. I ignored the full schedule of programming on the cable box of my life

Last week, Charlie Sheen came forward to put the lie of 9/11 to the test. To force the media to stop cowering. And I woke up. I got activated. All those facts and questions and anomalies came flooding back. So, I shifted my gaze and looked once again into the abyss. People have been doing amazing work. Compiling video, gathering the stray facts…demanding answers.

My melodrama seems, in light of their efforts, a bit melodramatic. My year of living selfishly must relent. At least a bit. That soap opera, with it’s startling revelations and love and pain and hurt, will still be with me. It’s still running on that channel. But I am surfing again. Or, I am just deferring the obsession with that pain for the less personal, but no less important, pain of being lied to as an American, of having tens of thousands of innocents killed in my name and seeing our Constitution and the well-being of our soldiers and the world put in jeopardy.

I still hurt. But there is more pain for me to feel. And that pain requires my attention. It requires my mind and my ability to collate data. I have to change the channel…at least long enough to see what else is happening.

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