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The 2020 election has been over and done with for months. However, there are still people that are unwilling to let it go. And I can’t understand them. It’s like debating the outcome of the Super Bowl XII and thinking it matters. Both the game and the election are now part of history. There is no going back, no changing the results, and continuing to brood over it can’t be healthy. (PS: I have no idea who won Super Bowl XII because it’s over and still doesn’t matter.)

Our stop in upstate New York was marred by an event that is really a poster-child for this discussion. 

We were in Skaneateles, NY, for lunch with Sheri’s cousins. It’s a lovely little lake town with the shores lined with rich people’s houses. I heard that one of the guys from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy has a home there and that Justin Bieber even got married nearby. I guess people were excited about it! Weird…

While walking around the little downtown area, we saw a die-hard Trump supporter doing a one-man parade. He was waving a flag all decked out in Trump gear. He may not have helped Trump’s political career at all, but he was undoubtedly bankrolling him. This guy must have spent a fortune on all that gear. The joker was at least wearing a mask, which was encouraging, except that he had the front of it completely cut out.

But the most comical part of this scene was that he was waving an ‘Indiana For Trump’ flag. Let me remind you  – We’re in NEW YORK!!

This area of New York is a mishmash of politics. The rural areas lean Republican while the cities are Democratic, reflecting most of the country. The cousins we were meeting were Trump supporters. But even they were embarrassed by this guy’s antics. I noticed that most of the people around us were shaking their heads and laughing.

“Idiot!! This is not Indiana! You’re embarrassing yourself!”

It was rather refreshing to see this kind of response to the extremists in their own party. We need more of this. Any extreme or crazy or blatantly ignorant talk from either party should be met with derision and mocking, and then silence. For the last ten years, the political conversation has been controlled by the loudest and craziest voices in the room. We need to remind ourselves that they do not represent the majority of either party and should simply be ignored when they get too loud.

As it turns out, most of our friends and relatives are Republicans. I don’t understand why we seem to attract them. However, none of them are extreme like Wrong-state-flag guy. On occasion, we will discuss politics, but it doesn’t come up for the most part. Yet, when it does, I find that we agree on more than we disagree.

The relationship we have with our Republican friends is an example of what we need in politics. We need to agree to disagree and find what we can agree on, rather than trying to shove our own ideology down each other’s throats. Neither party is perfect or has a monopoly on good ideas. Nor does either party want to destroy America or even represent ‘real’ America.

This country is not its political parties, and we need to realize that. We need to move beyond our past and work together for the future. Rehashing, debating, or pouting about an election isn’t going to accomplish anything for anybody. America as a nation is tired of the bickering and name-calling. We need a leader who can walk the extremely thin line between the parties to bring us together. And we as Americans must be willing to allow that to happen.

Have you ever found yourself glued to the television or following a particular news story, your attention laser-focused on the outcome of the event? Focused as if your life depended on the result or even as if you could influence it? It’s this last belief that I want to address.

It all began with a genuine interest in the dumpster fire that is our president. I then found myself refreshing the news site every few moments to ensure that I had the newest and freshest updates. Events were moving so fast that I couldn’t afford to turn my attention to other things because my attention was needed! The end result required me to stay focused.

Or so I believed. So we all believe to a certain extent.

Some scientists believe that humans have an innate tendency toward religion. I think that it is less about a higher being than our collective ability to influence the world around us. Essentially, an inherent faith in the power of belief or a belief in the power of faith.

However, I believe that this instinct is more a group focus than a religion. We believe that our attention on an event can influence that event. I call this the Attention Effect. It is similar to the Observation Effect in Quantum Mechanics, where “the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon.” The Attention Effect is the belief that “the focused attention of the observer on the phenomenon can influence the phenomenon.” Not only can we change the phenomenon by observing it but can consciously change the result.

“We must have Faith” is another way of saying this. But rather than focusing our attention or faith on a diety to influence events, we have sidestepped the need for a diety with belief in our own ability to directly control events.

The secularization of society has redirected our faith away from religion to other outlets. The news cycle, the drama of social media, sports, the stock market, and currently, in my case, politics need our attention and influence to move in our favor. We have convinced ourselves that we can nudge the events by watching by paying attention.

In my case, politics is much like watching sports. I couldn’t afford to miss a single play because the entire game may hinge on that one moment. I needed to Pay Attention! Because of the Attention Effect!

Rather than a diety, society has turned our superstition to other things. Our institutionalized faith is now focused on the news cycle, sports teams, politics, or a celebrity’s love life. Our attention has been siphoned off, bottled, and monetized. And, yet, still has no effect on events. None…Nada…The same nothing as always. But marketing and capitalism have conspired to give us the warm fuzzy feeling of participation and accomplishment. But it’s illusory. Yes, we participated in a cultural moment, but that moment will ultimately be lost in the static of every other cultural moment.

The hours I spent focusing my attention did not accomplish, influence, or earn me anything.

In the meantime, my novel isn’t finished, I have not mastered German, I still can’t play Crazy Train, and all my goals of youth, of last year and even yesterday are unaccomplished, sacrificed on the altar of attention. If Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci or Shakespeare had had access to the internet, we wouldn’t have the masterpieces they created because they would have been too distracted to do the work. Their attention would have been needed, nay demanded elsewhere.

So, the next time you find yourself glued to the television or the internet for no constructive purpose, TURN IT OFF. Turn it all off and walk away. Get some work done. CREATE!!