Touch Your Self Help
Touch Your Self Help: On Control
By Chad Fifer
Sep 10, 2008

When McCain added Sarah Palin as his VP pick, I thought it was a classic Cousin Oliver move – adding a new kid to the show in order to bring in viewers. Palin is Scrappy-Doo, no doubt about it, the annoying, peppy sidekick drawn in next to a confused old dog who can’t dig up any new tricks. And the Obama campaign seems to agree; despite the media fascination with Palin, they feel that once the “newness” wears off, the public will start asking the right questions: What mysteries did Scrappy ever solve? Isn’t Scrappy just an advocate for the same old spook-hunting tricks? And, most importantly, if Scooby were out of it, could Scrappy step in and stand up to ruthless villains like Momba Womba, the Ghost of Benedict Arnold, or that Faceless Zombie who keeps demanding a “COIN”?

My left-leaning clients aren’t so sure that Palin’s nomination is a “jump the shark” moment, however. In fact, they’re freaking out. Why?

“Because for a while it felt like people in this country were finally done being tricked,” says one of my clients, Beverly. “Then, McCain comes in with an OBVIOUS pander, and everybody just falls for it! He faults the media for being sexist, when being a woman is clearly the only criteria he used to select her. His campaign wanted ‘their Obama,’ and that was it. Were it a gender neutral selection, he would have picked somebody more qualified – somebody he actually knew. And this is the guy from the party that fights AGAINST affirmative action. It’s just so transparent and embarrassing – Palin herself should be offended.”

“Shut up!” adds another of my clients, Beverly’s verbally abusive husband. “I got a better way to say it. It’s like… it’s like when Facebook started stealing market share from MySpace, and then suddenly MySpace started adding all these features that were just like Facebook’s. But people were all like, ‘you’re not fooling me,’ and they just kept using Facebook, because it’s still more awesome. It’s like that.”

“But that’s what I wish people would do in this election…” Beverly chimes in.

“Shut up! Why don’t you put on some MORE makeup?”

Why indeed?

For Beverly, her jerk husband, and the countless others who grace my couch each week, this election year is causing enough anxiety to negatively impact their quality of life. There’s Tim, a data entry clerk who got fired because he couldn’t stop checking in with CNN to read polls. Or Christie, who despite making nightly calls to voters in swing states, still feels the presidency slipping out of Obama’s fingers. Or Baron Communazi, the evil Eurotrash genius who just can’t figure out what to do now with his robotic imitations of Tim Pawlenty.

For these Democrats, life has become unmanageable. But does the fault really lie with Palin? No. Their anxiety is caused purely by the illusion of control. These people think that if they only talk enough, donate enough or read enough they can somehow turn this election in their favor. But they can’t.

Please don’t misunderstand – all of our voices are valuable. Our votes. Our donations. Our arguments throughout the Blog-romat™. But in the end, our decisions are made in aggregate, and no one person can force a result. We’re all pushing against the planchette on a giant electoral Ouija board, and nobody knows what crazy bullshit it’s going to spell. It could be “Obama,” it could be “McCain,” or it could be the name of an ancient Babylonian demon that craves to reenter our world (ironically, that name is Kucinich).

So what can one do to stave off these feelings of anxiety? Well, once you’ve made your push, your donation, your blog entry – BACK OFF. Let the news chatter fade into the background and go enjoy all of the things that won’t be influenced by the election at all: good food, a nap, or time with junior. Even better, divert some of the energy you’ve poured into the election toward actually helping others. No president can keep you from making small, beneficial changes in the world. These children left behind you keep whining about – go volunteer to read or tutor for them. These mistreated veterans you’re so angry about – see if you can raise some money to help them. Go sweep the sidewalk – anything! When you abandon the illusion of control over the big picture, you’ll not only feel your anxiety disappear, you’ll be amazed at the small, substantive changes you can actually make in the world.

Of course, Scrappy-Doo would just mock me for advocating community service, but I’ve already tuned her out.

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