For the last 6-plus years, I have regularly railed against the evils of the plutocrats who rule this country. They include but are not limited to the following: Republicans, oil companies, the Koch coterie, spoiled athletes (think male professional golfers), arms merchants, gun lovers, white evangelical Christians (WECs), and anyone who has supported Trump for even a minute or two. Yet despite taking the bad guys to task, they are still alive and well, dare I say thriving? And we’re on the eve of an unimaginably contentious election season. One presumptive presidential nominee is doddering and afflicted with foot-in-mouth disease; the other is an unprincipled, gross blowhard, maybe even a felon. Polls tell us that most Democrats and most Republicans will hold their noses — but not withhold their support — for these flawed candidates, so here we are. What a country.
You may think, from my writing, that I am obsessed with the sad state of U.S. politics and surrounded by a black cloud of pessimism. Not so. I actually am intentional about diverting my focus to other pastimes that help me forget about our dark public life. So here, in no particular order, are some daily activities that, when combined with the pleasures of being a husband, father, grandfather, etc., make me forget about the ugliness out there in the world. I’ll bet many of you share my welcome diversions.
- Cooking and Gardening — These activities occupy hours of each day and I can get as deep into both as I wish. Both are pleasant diversions.
- Reading — I read both nonfiction and fiction. Right now I’m reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and April in Spain by John Banville. The former book, about the Great Migration, won a Pulitzer Prize; the latter is a novel by one of my favorite Irish authors. Banville also writes under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black. If you haven’t read any of Banville/Black’s novels, you are in for a treat. Another favorite Irish author of mine is Tana French. She is the author of an excellent series of novels known as the Dublin Murder Squad mysteries as well as such standalone novels as The Witch Elm.
- Baseball — I’ve been a baseball fan for over 65 years and have my mom to thank for that. She took us to Dodger Stadium in 1958 and we saw Don Drysdale pitch. She was a St. Louis Cardinals fan and, at times, a New York Mets fan. She also had friends in Fort Mill who shared her love of the game and even accompanied her to New York for a Yankees-Mets World Series. The long season and the daily rituals of checking the scores and standings is comforting to those of us who have the baseball gene. Right now I not only follow my Mets and the Red Sox daily but am also enjoying the College World Series. Very diverting.
- Parish life — I am a member of two parishes, one in New Orleans (St. Anna’s) and one in Newport, R.I. (St. John the Evangelist). They have been a big part of my life for the past 6 years and 10 years, respectively. Most of those years I served in both parishes as deacon, so my duties were dictated by both my ordination vows and the priests to whom I reported. Now I’m retired from regular deacon duties but am still very much a member of the two parishes. In addition to seeing my fellow parishioners at weekly Mass, there are other ways we interact, both informally and on church projects. So it’s like having 2 additional families. I’m connected to both parishes in ways that are comforting and fortifying.
- Non-baseball sports, especially women’s sports — Like billions of other people, I follow sports for diversion. But there are some sports — the ones whose athletes I can’t abide because they’re overpaid and over-hyped. (Men’s professional golf, which I haven’t watched for 8 years, comes to mind.) Other sports are too violent — boxing and all the mixed martial arts events, for example. About 20 years ago I started following women’s golf — the LPGA — and I haven’t stopped. You may remember some blog posts lamenting the fact that men professionals are paid more than 10 times what women pros earn. And, now that the men’s game has become officially a subsidiary of the Saudi/ Trump partnership, I would consider it a mortal sin to ever watch a minute of men’s golf. So, for me, it’s baseball, the LPGA, women’s college basketball, women’s college softball (a recent discovery) and women’s international soccer (the World Cup starts July 20 from Down Under). Lest you think I am anti-male, international rugby, the male variety, is near the top of my sports diversions. The World Cup of Rugby begins in early September in France. It will consume me for a month.
- Good Causes — Recently I’ve written about a project that my sister Gracie and I are involved in with the ACLU of Louisiana. It provides a welcome diversion from the things that I often write about. Playing even a miniscule role in a larger struggle, in this case restorative justice, gives one a sense of purpose not found in other more self-centered pursuits, however enjoyable. Meeting new people who are similarly committed is especially life-enriching. So, ironically, our involvement with ACLU-LA in a real world struggle is a welcome diversion from the ugly side of life in America.
I hope I’ve convinced you that I don’t spend all my time thinking of ways to thwart the takeover of the country by the tacky, dishonest, avaricious, fat white men who comprise the MAGA-verse. I have better things to do.