May 4th, 2020
I feel overwhelmed. Can you relate?
It’s just so extreme.
We have a narcissist president who lies constantly — about science, about the record of his speech, about the benefits of ingesting bleach. On the low end something like tens of thousands of people will die because of his lies and his incompetence. Yet tens of millions Americans still support him. Following the ideology he represents like worship, thousands of his supporters have been rallying to re-open the government — some of them carrying confederate flags and white nationalist symbols.
Against the advice of experts, republican governors are re-opening parts of the country; where these governors have done so there have been massive spikes in cases.
Our alternative to the current president is a candidate who has doubled-down on his opposition to Medicare for All. Who has a credible sexual assault claim against him.
I know the above to be true. Reality is so weird that I admit, I have a hard time determining much else: events, details, etc. Scrolling through Facebook, having conversations with friends — it’s hard for me to determine what’s real and what’s, ugh, “fake news.” Not knowing which parts of reality are real makes me feel a little, and I’m using this term properly, crazy.
It can feel a little helpless too.
I caught myself feeling a flash of anger at work today. I was helping a former Uber/Lyft driver file for Unemployment. The phone call was taking longer than usual. I’m usually empathetic and understanding during these phone calls, but it occurred to me that because this phone call was taking a long time, it meant I couldn’t get onto other calls and help others. I could feel my body getting tense. Then I felt guilty for being angry — like so many others, he was really, really suffering. Then I got confused. Then I breathed in a few times, returned to base line, and continued helping him.
After work I debated with myself for a good chunk of time how much cardio I should do. Seriously debated.
It’s so strange, existence — the clash of the mundane and the extreme is so jarring.
In “normal times,” it’s hard even to begin to fathom the amount of suffering in the world. This pandemic has highlighted the absurdity of the limits of empathy. Hell, it’s just highlighted the extremes of everything.
To most of the people who are reading this, everything I’ve written above is really, really banal.
And that’s so so deeply sad to me — that so many recognize what seems to be so obvious, and so many don’t, and…
What are we to do?
I’m OK. I’m so privileged to be OK. These are just some feelings, and maybe I’m hoping that expressing them can make some others who are feeling similarly know that these feelings are valid to have.
May 20th, 2020
I guess I’m surprised and also not surprised. That’s the best way to describe how I’ve been feeling today. We live in an age where the issue of “we should take measures to avoid mass exponential human suffering and death because COVID-19 is a real thing” is a political issue. Like, of course it is a political issue. And also, how is this a political issue.
I can wrap my head around that. Also, how are we to wrap our heads around that. You know what I mean?
End of the day: Please wear masks. Please social distance. Please don’t contribute to mass exponential human suffering and death because mass exponential human suffering and death is a bad thing.
June 1st, 2020
If you’ve been looking for a time/moment when your political action will mean a whole lot, these new few weeks and months will be it.
All across this country we literally have police shooting at unarmed, non-violent protesters. We have a president who is openly calling for this violence — a president who is very literally setting the stage for martial law, and who is already trying to seed false doubt in the legitimacy of our next democratic election.
Millions of people are unemployed.
People are dying of the virus, disproportionately black people.
The federal government refuses to help those suffering.
I try to be extremely careful with the words I use, and yet here we are — I feel confident in these words — living in a fascist police state.
Time will tell if this is a revolutionary moment. What scares me is that it very well may not be. That’s up to us — and if real structural change happens, it will be up to us to decide which way the political pendulum swings.
I’m sure you can feel it: it is very real, it is very possible, that the politics in our country will veer even further and sharply to the right. For fascists to have their day, for even more black and brown bodies to be murdered, for more and more people to suffer the horrors of poverty.
Yet if we make the decision to take action, we may be able to create a new world. Truly if there ever was a time, that time is now. But only if we decide to take action.
July 7th, 2020
There’s a part of me that fears even naming it because I don’t want to validate it, but:
I worry that many people are just feeling overwhelmed to the point of Nihilism. I don’t use that word lightly. It’s something approximating, “Things are so catastrophically bad that, f*ck it all, who cares anymore. I’ll just do whatever I want — I’d be in too much psychic pain otherwise — and it’s not even that I don’t care that (for example) carrying on as if we’re not living in apocalyptic times will lead to the deaths of those around me… it’s that ‘caring about mass death’ is not even really a conscious thought in the first place. I’m willfully and sort of un-willfully ignoring my empathy for human life.”
I’d go so far as to say that I even get the appeal of Nihilism in these times. I do notice Nihilism within myself at times, and I do make at least somewhat of a conscious effort to remind myself that, yes, it is worth limiting my outside exposure if it means I will not contribute to others’ deaths.
I guess the thing I would say to those who are feeling Nihilistic is — I agree that I don’t see a scenario in which hundreds of thousands or more people don’t die. But you are going to have to live with your conscience after all this is over, probably. Eventually you might have the opportunity to look back. And you will have to live with yourself and think about your role in these times.
Take your identity, your values, and your choices seriously.
July 15th, 2020
I’ll say this, and I don’t mean this as a positive re-frame, I don’t. I say this as sincerely as I can say it:
The current sociopolitical climate we live in — the pandemic, the racist police violence, our cartoonishly fascistic president, etc. — it all makes me feel closer to history.
Like, on an *intellectual* level I understand that all the historical atrocities we’ve heard about from old folks and from history books happened and that all these atrocities have led humanity to the present. But I guess there’s always been at least a small disconnected part of me that has believed “oh humanity, now we’re better than that.” There’s always been a small disconnected part of me that has believed, oh if things became obviously bad enough — say, 138K people in this country dead, and 100Ks more to come — we’d all come together and at least make small efforts to one another… say, I dunno, overwhelmingly wear masks.
It’s not even that I feel less confounded by history… I feel more connected to humanity as a whole.
I was buying groceries today. I saw so many Sacramentans not wearing masks. And on one level, it is so maddening, and it is so, like, do these people not realize the harm they are doing to their fellow humans?
But I’ve come to recognize that the same ‘spiritual darkness’ (sorry, couldn’t think of a better phrase) I see in people who don’t wear masks, and the same ‘spiritual darkness’ that we know about from history… I too have that darkness. There have been so many times these last four months when I just wanted to say, f*ck it, I’m young, I just want to go to the gym, who cares if I possibly infect others. There have been so many times I’ve wanted not to stay informed with the news (and wanted not to put the effort into parsing through what is true information). There have been a few times — if I’m being honest to myself — I’ve questioned the purposefulness of my career as an organizer.
This is such a cliché thing to say, but I feel it so deep in my bones now more than ever: we wake up every morning, and it is a choice whether we want to live an ethical life with service to others, or to become self-contained and only serve ourselves. And it’s a real choice. It’s a totally, totally viable option that we choose not to live as members of a society. Many people have chosen that over and over. But in that there is a choice — and a real choice — it makes living meaningfully more powerful… there is nothing stopping us from destroying ourselves, and that may very well happen, so it really, really, really is up to you.
I also think in recognizing the darkness within myself it makes me have empathy for — as an example — people who don’t wear masks. I get it. I really do. And in understanding it, I think that opens the potential pathway to true communication and conversation. An internal philosophy to organizing that, “If I could go either way, I can understand why others might too, and so let me engage with this person I’m talking with as a total equal, without expectations or judgement, and I have faith that in a true dialogue, truly in touch with myself and with the person I’m speaking with, something new and productive will be created, and the world might become a better place.”
I think removing that ego from sociopolitical discourse — and recognizing the pain that drives a lot of us to organizing in the first place, and healing from that — is probably totally essential to be an effective agent of change.
Woah… this post got a lot longer and weirder than I had originally intended it to be lol