Addiction to presidential wiretaps and other excitement

by Mary Ann McGivern

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Over the weekend President Trump tweeted the accusation that President Obama had ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower before the election. "What!" I cried, when I heard the news on the radio. Quickly I opened my computer to look for more. Since Saturday I've been watching and reading and listening to every report I can find.

But on reflection, I see that I am feeding my own inner desire for entertainment. It's exciting that a president would tweet the unimaginable: accusing his predecessor of being a sick and/or sad lawbreaker, a felon. I wouldn't have thought it in my wildest dreams. But here it is, multiple threads to be followed: a rant by talk show host Mark Levin, later covered by Breitbart News; a call from Trump via Press Secretary Sean Spicer for congressional investigations; denials by FBI director James Comey; Comey's calls for the Department of Justice to deny federal wiretaps of Trump Tower; accusations by Democrats; accusations by Republicans; and dire warnings of impending governmental collapse.

The dire warnings may be correct, but I can't do anything about them. All I can do is watch and listen and read. And my preoccupation with Trump's tweets is disturbing my own equilibrium. I'm less able to focus on my own work on prison reform and reducing the military budget. What boring topics! And if they fail to hold my attention in the circus atmosphere of presidential tweets about wire taps and Schwarzenegger's failing ratings, then how can I make a case for change to the Missouri legislature and to Congress?

I call Congress regularly, but who cares about a $56 billion increase in the military budget when Obama is accused of listening in on Trump's campaign? The absurdity makes it even harder to focus on sober matters.

This is addiction to excitement. I've known it in myself before, and I've seen it in others. I blame television's focus on serial killers and child predators for harsh sentencing rules made by legislators.

When I lived at the Catholic Worker, at the big emergency shelter, I carved out a quiet early morning coffee time with other early risers, hours when crises were rare and we could just talk. Our community established "ordinary time" on Sunday nights when no house business could be introduced. And I saw guests who, when they'd broken ties with abusers and gotten jobs and homes and children in school, threw it all over to trek to New Mexico or else back to the boyfriend; my diagnosis was that they got bored. They craved excitement.

Well, the excitement President Trump is giving us is likely to produce so much adrenaline in government that our democracy will become sick. For myself, I'm struggling to keep on gardening and writing; researching and making calls to Congress; fasting and praying. There are some devils that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

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