A while ago I decided to unplug from my social feeds and mainstream media. I was so fatigued with watching our federal representatives slow-play every issue, the unprecedented amount of filibusters from the minority agenda, and the constant political memes of the president with the inaccurate one-liners attached. Especially the altered photos that made the president look like a clown or distorted his features. And not just the president but other representatives that were vilified and lampooned on a meme.

I was irritated with the demonstrations, listening to the protesters whose rhetoric made absolutely no sense, and the media's sensationalism as they edited only parts of the whole story creating the hyperbole they search.

Another reason I unplugged was because I was starting to experience physical pain. The emotional component of engaging in conversations over political/religious context was literally causing me anxiety and physical pain.

I was losing relationships, too, some by choice, but I was clearly seeing that certain political and religious beliefs were becoming a big red flag for me.

Work relationships were suffering as well. I found that being an activist and writing my personal views in public formats was inadvertently causing issues from my coworkers. I guess being a firefighter was making it look like I was writing on their behalf. It just became too conflicting over my constitutional freedoms and the perception that my voice was somehow their voice. So I stopped.

I also was burned out on having to spend time researching the issues. I found that while I was researching, I was reliving past arguments and conflicts. Again experiencing some level of angst.

Lastly, I was sickened by loud-mouthed overly opinionated blowhards who literally researched nothing other than the one-liners on a picture. Loudmouths that allow 25 percent of the population to dictate who is in office or how my tax dollars are spent because they never exercise their right to vote.

So during the last months of the Obama administration I decided to unplug and get away for awhile.

What I have learned while on my sojourn into "unplugdom": To impugn on somebody's identity serves no purpose other than keeping us divided. Politics and religious beliefs are the worst and most exploitive.

Fear drives the majority of narratives in our country.

Hate is constantly covered on all media outlets.

The fringe of examples are typically made out to be the norm.

Media outlets have a format that creates anger, and before you can reconcile an issue they move on to another issue. Guns, abortion and racism, for example, get recycled and rotated through like a playlist.

People may be predisposed to being conservative or liberal. Google conservative vs. liberal minds to see the studies. There might be more nature than nurture. If so, then we are processing information differently, and if that is the case, then unplugging from the designed, constructive and orchestrated propaganda is the only way we are going to find common ground again.

Here is the worst: "We are all brainwashed by what we immerse ourselves — and what we immerse ourselves in maintains our individual identities."

Those same institutions give us a tool set to self-perpetuate that brainwashing.

Unplugging allows time for perspective and self-healing.

And, finally, somebody reading this will process it in an obtuse way and feel like they have to teach me a lesson or chew me out.

Whether you agree with me or not doesn't matter. What really matters is that I believe America is great and the experiment of an altruistic society that doesn't discriminate or alienates our neighbors is still achievable if we simply start by unplugging and doing a reboot.

Remember that all of us are in this together, and we are all searching for common ground. I know for a fact that common ground is peace: Peace of mind and a peaceful life.

Jeff Heinle, a San Jose native, has been a Bakersfield firefighter since 1992.

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