I didn't watch the State of the Union last night for the first time in what seems like a very long time indeed. I didn't watch it out of some form of virtue-signalling protest. I didn't watch it because it started at about eight o'clock at that is prime time for bedtime for the kids. And anyone with kids will tell you: you don't mess with bedtime.
Also, I just didn't care. I know in some areas of the flaming dumpster fire that is our political discourse these days that's a hanging offense. "You didn't care? How dare you not care! Aren't you against [insert controversy of the week here]?" or my favorite, "Well, you have the privilege of not caring about this stuff." No, it's not about my privilege. (That's an entirely different conversation.) I just genuinely did not care, because it did not matter.
Both ends of the political spectrum live in parallel universes, I decided. They're going to listen to the same speech and come to wildly divergent conclusions and those conclusions are so wild and so divergent that at this point, why even bother listening? The President could have announced he was ending the war on drugs, emptying our prisons and using the savings to implement Universal Health Care and it still would have been denounced and the actions of a dangerous authoritarian possibly on the payroll of Russia's FSB. He could have announced he was moving the capitol to Omaha, ending tax breaks for the NFL and giving every American a free AR-15 and it would have still been considered a Star-Spangled Awesome speech.
So, I didn't watch. And I am surprisingly at peace with that decision, because as I predicted, the wildly divergent conclusions are already competing with each other to see just how wild and how divergent they can be. For instance, Donald Trump Just Asked Congress to End The Rule of Law. To be fair, I haven't read the transcript of the speech, but I'm betting that if I do, I won't find that specific request anywhere. HuffPost's take was all about the 'hidden extremism' in the President's speech and charmingly tried to insist that the real story was all about what the President didn't say. (Though if that's your angle, then you can deduct just about anything you want from what the President didn't say. Aliens are real! Chemtrails exist! We didn't actually land on the moon! He didn't say it in the speech, so it must be true- right?)
The reaction on the other end of the spectrum was no less telling. Alex Jones (while warning that the Deep State may soon nuke Washington DC, amongst other things) hailed the 75% approval rating for the speech. Fox was more interested in how glum the Democrats were looking and USA Today wanted to talk about how the President is learning to govern with 'heart.'
In the times we live in today, the truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in the middle. The reactions to the speech I've been reading this morning and have been generally positive. How much of the policy proposed in the speech will actually come to fruition? I've no idea- but generally speaking you can say that same thing about every policy proposed in every State of the Union speech I've ever heard. It's the President saying, 'hey, things are okay- and if they're not okay, at least we're all breathing, right?' and usually, this sentiment is followed up with "hey, wouldn't it be nice if we did a bunch of stuff." Those two sentiments don't necessarily translate into policy becoming reality.
So, in general: the State of the Union has become the President reassuring the American people that things are more or less okay and wishing for things most of which probably won't come to pass at all. On a good year, it's an informative way to check-in to see what the President is up to. In years like these, when people will pick the truth that they want to see from it, no matter how crazy it seems, it's just exhausting.
I didn't watch the State of the Union last night. And I didn't care.