Last week I had a sobering conversation with my husband. It was about politics – something we rarely talk about because he’s a Republican and I’m a bleeding heart and so most conversations, despite our best intentions, just go sideways or end in heated (not personal attacks, just heated) exchanges or him surrendering (talk about it later) and before we know it an hour, or three, has gone by.
But this one ended with an understanding. I said something aloud that I’ve thought for awhile – ever since November 8 actually. But saying it aloud instead of just thinking them or writing them seemed to make it more real for me, and perhaps more real for my husband: I’m scared.
What I actually said was: “I’ve been political since I was, like, seven and I’ve never been afraid before. I hated Nebraska government and life under Bush, but even at its worst, I was never afraid. Now I am. I can’t not be. I’m terrified. I’m scared for loved ones, friends – I’m scared for the future of this country. That we’re about to cross lines and even if there is a drastic turn in 2018, we won’t be able to repair the damage – not with the lines we’re about to cross. It won’t be fixable.”
Yeah, I remember what I said and yes I am often longwinded, but I meant every word. I’ve already talked about the things people should be paying attention to. There is so much smoke and mirrors – this country’s politics have become a sideshow – literally. But I think because there is so much, all the time, that people need to focus on what is actually happening. Like the “10 Bills” social media circulation about what Congress has proposed. If you’re on any social media platform, you’ve no doubt seen it. In my last post I broke down the fact of the bill (including language of the bill and official comments from its originator), what it will mean for us, and then I give my own slant because I had to say how I felt, but I separated it by making it its own paragraph under the tagline: This Bleeding Heart’s Take. It was important for me to keep them separate. But here is the thing, that circulation – not one of the bills is false. As in, it has been proposed and it is what it looks like. Only two bills on the list could be considered slight exaggerations based on how they are presented in what’s circulating. By exaggerated, I mean 80% true rather than just straight-up fact.
Here is the truth: we live in a trying and terrifying time. A time of firsts and repeated mistakes. Right now, our system of checks and balances does not exist. This has been proven when Congress is at historic ties, just to have them broken by Vice President Mike Pence. Journalists are under fire (and not allowed in the White House pressroom) because they report facts instead of what Trump wants. In every dictatorship – journalists are among the first attacked. Our Attorney General committed perjury at his confirmation hearing without consequences and has instead asked for nearly every sitting U.S. judge to resign. A Nazi is chief political strategist. Our President has obvious ties to Russia and has already violated his oath of office several times. Of course, when he is impeached, we’ll be left with Pence, who is worse. So what does that mean?
I wish I had answers, but I don’t. The truth is, I am scared and tired and bewildered and angry and depressed. I feel like our country isn’t going to come back from where we’re headed for a long time. Once the damage is done, it’s like a spark that starts a forest fire. You can’t put out the fire with a single bucket. I can’t even get my metaphors right, but basically I just keep feeling like, “We’re f**ked.”
One thing I know however is that this is a time when no one can be paralyzed by their cynicism. No more sideline observations, no more head down, and pretend like you don’t see what’s in front of you. No more silence. No more inaction. No one can afford that.
My husband says I feel things so deeply, for other people. It is one of the reasons he loves about me, but it can also get in the way. I am that way – total empath here. I can’t not get swept up, I can’t not think about everyone affected and scared. Those who will lose their health coverage. Women who will no longer be the decision-makers for their bodies. People who are being profiled because of their race, religion or national origin. LGBT people who are afraid of losing their most basic human rights.
Right now, I can’t be on the frontlines of protest and legislation. So, I kept thinking of what I could do because I have to do something. Resistance takes many forms, I don’t have to march to resist. And then I had my great idea and was set to start up a nonprofit aimed at helping people with disabilities. I’m still set, still going to do it, but I’ll admit in these times, the times when something like this is most needed, it can be hard not to occasionally feel like, “What’s the point?”
Yes, this thing could do good, but will it be enough? Will it be worth the work and efforts – mine and others? What’s the point?
These aren’t the normal pieces of doubt in taking something like this on, because every single thought is rooted in a headline. Or a bill. Or an official statement. Or another hate crime. Each doubt or depressing seed of – I’m not sure – is caused by these times – a snapshot of our country today. Part of me wants to look for tomorrow, and another part of me is terrified tomorrow may not come for some because of current realities – or tomorrow could be so much worse in general.
Some days, I feel defiant despite these soul-sucking reminders. Some days I feel so tempted to give in. I question myself, my mission, the future, and if it’s worth it. But I never do give in. Sure, sometimes I need to take a minute, take a breath. Sometimes I need to tell people, “Don’t talk to me about X. I just can’t hear it right now.” It’s not because I am someone on the sidelines – I just need to deal with it on my own – pace myself and take care of myself.
I’ve had 32 years to get it right, and I feel like I finally have. I made the joke the other day when writing/researching some of the bills introduced to Congress: “I feel like I’m writing dystopian fiction. Except I don’t think I could come up with something so dark.”
I meant it, which makes it more sad than funny. But I just have to remember what I hope other people are remembering: We live in a terrifying time. Now is the time you can no longer stay silent – where you can no longer “not act”. The stakes are too great. The more hopeless a time feels, the more hope is needed. Every voice, every hand, every ally. I’m not interested in political issues – I see them as human issues, and I am most certainly interested and invested in that.
There is no wrong way to resist. You cannot help others if you don’t take care of yourself, but you also should find a way to do both. It’s all about finding the balance between radical activism and radical self-care. It’s a balance I feel I’ve finally found – I hope it keeps.
Courage is not the absence of fear…
….but the triumph over it.
…but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.
…it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.
Remember that no one ever feels ready to be strong; they’re strong because they have to be. You may not be ready, but you’re needed. And that has to be enough.