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BARTH KECK

As an avid news consumer and political junkie, I feel increasingly overwhelmed by all the news and all the political “junk.” As a matter of fact, I’m simply tired of it all.

I’m tired of national politics where a president manifestly lying 16.5 times a day over the past year is regarded as a normal.

It seems the country has evolved from “Trump Derangement Syndrome” — a mental state in which voters are “so angry and opposed to the U.S. president that they are incapable of seeing any good in what he does” — to a condition I call Trump Normalization Complex. That is, we’ve become so inured to Trump’s lies, insults, and hypocrisies that we now accept them as normal, as just another day in America.

I’m also tired of close-minded political conversations on social media wherein the participants are incapable of seeing beyond their biases. What’s more, I’m tired of social-media executives promising to “fix the problems of our platform.”

Sorry, no matter how many times Mark Zuckerberg says he’ll strengthen Facebook’s safeguards against fake news or improve user privacy, I’m not buying it.

I mean, when a book claiming “the world is run by a Satanic cabal helmed by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton” can climb to the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s “Censorship” list — and to No. 9 in all books about politics — it doesn’t fortify my trust in tech companies and their algorithms. But that’s exactly what happened to QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening.

Finally, on the local level, I’m tired of yet another year’s round of education discussions that leave teachers out of the discussion — especially when that topic is pensions.

Fixing the problems with teacher pensions is clearly timely and essential. But it feels like a repeat of past years — especially the way in which current teachers are ignored.

Gov. Ned Lamont has made several suggestions, most of which have received the endorsement of the Association of Retired Teachers of Connecticut as “sensible ways to put our pension funds on the road to recovery,” wrote the group’s president, Ed Messina. “More will be needed in the future to ensure full sustainability, but we appreciate Governor Lamont’s proposals, especially in the context of competing budgetary priorities.”

Among these ideas are to re-amortize the Teachers’ Retirement fund to 30 years while decreasing the predicted rate of return from 8 to 6.9 percent; to use net revenues from the Connecticut Lottery to bolster the fund; and to implement a municipal cost-sharing plan under which “each municipality or local board of education will be responsible for at least one-quarter of the normal pension cost paid on its behalf by the state.”

Municipal officials, predictably, aren’t thrilled — just like last year when former Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a similar (but more extreme) plan.

“Requiring towns to pick up millions of dollars in teachers’ pension costs without giving towns any opportunity to manage these costs going forward is simply unfair,” said Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns. “Towns have had no say in managing the teachers’ pension fund or in negotiating benefits or contribution levels.”

Hmmm. Imagine that: Having no say in a plan that directly affects your financial situation.

Last year’s deliberations surrounding the state budget and teacher pensions ended with teachers contributing more of their paychecks to the fund — up from 6 to 7 percent, to say nothing of the 1.25 percent they already contribute to retirees’ health insurance. Teachers were not asked about this increase because it’s not tied to any binding agreements; it was simply instituted, unceremoniously, as a way to reinforce the pension fund.

And there’s nothing to stop the state from requiring teachers to contribute even more this year or any year thereafter. Many politicos, in fact, applaud such an approach. The libertarian Yankee Institute, for instance, had already suggested last year that teacher contributions be increased to 8 percent.

As I’ve stated in the past, I am quite willing to pay my fair share. But how am I supposed to feel when the state fails to pay its share, as it has on a regular basis since 1979?

As Paul Hughes of the Waterbury Republican-American wrote, “A good argument can be made that decisions of past legislatures and governors not to pay the state’s full share got the pension fund into trouble in the first place.”

So yes, I’m tired. I’m tired of people who do not hold a dishonest president to account. I’m tired of social-media platforms placing profits over truth. And I’m tired of being ignored by a political and bureaucratic system that affects my livelihood.

I’m so tired, perhaps I should just take a good, long nap. Question is, will the situation only be worse when I wake up?

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition at Haddam-Killingworth High School.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Barth Keck

Barth Keck is in his 30th year as an English teacher and 15th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition.