My husband is not guilty of crimes against the state. The state may be guilty of crimes against him.

The news about what is happening or not happening in Washington, D.C. is robbing him of his optimism and faith in the future.

I watch him going down as he reads about venality, greed, the partisanship that forgets the common good, and failure to act upon the pressing issues of the day. Top that off with doses of real tragedy and unconscionable actions or neglect–no wonder he looks droopy.

By nine am each morning, after spending a piece of his prime time reading national newspapers, he emerges with a hang-dog I-can’t-believe-what-they’re-doing or did-you-hear-what-just-happened look. So much for the rest of the day.

OK, many of us are suffering, but after seeing what the news is doing to him, I decided to take drastic action.

For the record, I believe in the importance of educated citizenship. But what good results from keeping up with the news if it leaves one feeling hopeless, like there’s nothing that can be done? Broken spirits will not save the country.

That’s why he’s under house arrest. Unlike the fictional, aristocratic hero of my favorite vacation read, A Gentleman in Moscow, who lived under house arrest for twenty-six years, my husband can still go out.

News of the world will reach him through NPR as he travels to his morning coffee conversations with his guy friends. And I can’t prevent them from talking politics.

At home, though, strict limits are called for.

Here’s what must be banned:

  • Washington Post headlines as well as articles.
  • New York Times headlines and articles.
  • Teasers on Facebook or social media (he’s not too susceptible).
  • Spending too much time thinking about the Supreme Court.

I haven’t decided whether he can read the Guardian. Consumer Reports is OK.

What he can do:

  • Give money to causes he already knows are important.
  • Vote intelligently and give money selectively to campaigns (and no, he can’t support all the worthy candidates.)
  • Give time to LOCAL causes. He is not likely to fix the national health care crisis, but he has a good crack at contributing to preserving the future of health care on our island.
  • Take naps and read novels.

I am NOT denying him his deep compassion for the unfairly treated of the world.

I do want him to try laughing again.

I don’t suggest that we should all tune out, just that we need to pay attention to how the news flattens us.

Perhaps my husband is a special case because of his age and heart condition. But I doubt a regular diet of heartbreak is good for any of us.

I can’t place YOU under house arrest, but my cautions still apply. Stop absorbing news when you feel it weakening your spirits, your resolve, your compassion or your heart.

Then go find the one small thing you can do.

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