A funny thing happened to me on the way to work on Wednesday.
I realized how stupid Rush Limbaugh sounds.
He’s one of a few people for whom that sentence will inspire one of two responses, either “how dare you?” or “duh,” depending on your political persuasion, and it’s for this reason that many people who know me are shocked that I listened to him as much as I did as a teenager, and that I still occasionally tune him in now. I started back when I was in early high school, I believe, while I was online in the old BBS days (if you don’t know what that is, it was the internet in “preschool,” as opposed to infancy), because I was going through my Malcolm X phase, and people kept throwing his arguments at me. Since I loved those kinds of debates, I started listening to his show to try to gain an upper hand, and found myself buying into a good 45% of what he said. My father is more than a devout Liberal – an admitted socialist, actually – so for me this was a major departure from how I was raised to think. But a lot of Rush’s ideas made sense to me, and not so dissimilar from a lot of the views of the Nation of Islam, which reminded me of Marcus Garvey’s alliance with the Klan. Politics makes strange bedfellows in thought, it seems, if not in action.
I owe Rush for one important thing, my love of politics, which continued long after I stopped listening to him regularly, and as I grew as a person, moving on to college and grad school, I started learning more and more about the ideas he covered. I was able to extrapolate, form my own opinions based on knowledge I gained in school and in life, and my Liberalism grew and grew, more specific and defined than it had ever been before. While I still consider myself an independent, I am a LOT more Left-leaning than Right, and that Wednesday, hearing him talk about things I had heard just the day before on NPR, about how Twitter’s earnings report was leaked and what that meant, his take on the Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage, and his views on the media and what they cover and why, I found myself screaming at the radio a lot. I pulled apart his logical fallacies, as I usually do, and saw how he had created a narrative that existed primarily in his head, that he filtered everything through, exactly the same way he accused Liberals of doing, no different from how he always had. As I swallowed my disgust, I realized something.
I think differently.
To me, this was a really important realization, as important as learning that it takes four attempts to make a first down (which allowed me to love football), that all it takes to lose weight is to raise your heart rate for thirty minutes a day (which allowed me to lose weight), and that Los Angeles only exists because we irrigate to create rain (which made me believe man could really cause climate change). It was a realization that addressed a fundamental realization about the nature of life that probably seems obvious to most, but means a lot to me, that people really can change, as I had.
I resisted going into therapy for a long time, because the counseling I had in middle school after my mother died didn’t do much for me, but my sister kept pushing it. When I saw how significantly she had changed from a fragile, insecure person uncomfortable in her own skin to the confident and successful independent woman who makes a lot of money (not that it matters) which she attributed it to therapy, I started to believe, and when I began therapy myself after going onto dialysis, I started to experience the change, but as my sister warned, it was painfully slow. As she put it, “you don’t always feel better when you go to therapy. Sometimes you actually feel worse. But gradually, over time, you do feel better,” as she did and as, I realize, I do now, because my thinking has changed.
While I am not the super dynamic person I want to be yet, I recover from negative thinking a lot faster than I once did. I look better, make better decisions, and most of all, feel better about myself. I stress this because most people don’t believe this is possible, saying things like, “people don’t change,” as people like Rush Limbaugh, admittedly, never do. Why not? He doesn’t want to. That’s what came through loud and clear as I was listening to Limbaugh’s broadcast. Limbaugh is saying the exact same things he’s said since I started listening to him as a teenager and is still rich, fat, unattractive, and angry. I have long believed that being overweight or not caring how you look is a sign of depression (don’t know if there’s any psychological basis for this), and while Limbaugh extols capitalism and the acquisition of wealth above all else, I can’t help but look at him and think about Chris Rock’s joke, about how no white person he talks to would ever trade places with him, and he’s rich. Limbaugh has created a narrative, a paradigm that nothing can break – any counterexample has a rationalization or a lie, and anything that validates it he has to share with the world to prove that he’s right, which he tells us over and over again. That doesn’t look like happiness or success to me. Just hand-wringing and insecurity. It leads to wealth, though, because there are a lot of people like him.
Thankfully, what I realized by listening to Limbaugh again is that I am not one of them. Not just in the sense that I don’t share his views, but that I definitely no longer believe in creating narratives that lock in your thinking. For all his virtues, my father used to do that, and I hated it. It’s the reason he is where he is now. Realizing that I have a chance to avoid that trap, even at my age, because my thinking can change, and has, was a major revelation.
Now let’s see what I do with it…!