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The world will not end on Nov. 8 (fingers crossed)
What are your plans for surviving the midterms?
Sometimes when I think about the trauma of the pandemic, I forget that even before Covid showed up, we were already reeling from the four years of constant anxiety that came with that presidency. Every morning we woke up braced for the next headline, each one more disturbing that the next, wondering which group that administration would be targeting today. Doom-scrolling was a thing before the pandemic started. We’d had plenty of practice.
I’m reminding myself of this not because I in any way want to re-live those four years, but because the mid-term elections are coming up and I feel that anxiety threatening to re-surface. I’m feeling the trauma of those years lurking in the back of my mind and so I’m thinking of strategies to head it off at the pass. I’m trying to find the sweet spot between taking care of my mental health and being a responsible member of the human race. When did this become such a hard fucking thing to do?
Let me start by saying that, of course, I will vote in as informed a manner as is possible.And that I believe that collective action can make a difference. I’m a sociologist, after all. I volunteer. I give money to organizations. I show up to protests and demonstrations when I can. And I teach. I teach about inequality and social justice. Not when I feel like it, but all the time, because that’s what sociology is.
I believe that whether you take intentional steps to change the status quo or do nothing, you are actively creating the world we all live in. Doing nothing is a vote for the status quo. I would never advocate for a blind acceptance of the world as it is, because the world right now is fucked up in some serious ways.
On the other hand, I’ve also realized that there’s a limit to how much attention I can pay to the news and still live a healthy, sustainable life. What happens “out there” is important, but I have to remember that I live here, not in the headlines or Twitter fights. When I’m not looking at social media, I am discernibly happier. Maybe other people are better at finding the perfect balance, but, for me, the struggle is real.
The mid-terms have the potential to bring back all the trauma of the 2016 election. And then the 2018 election. And also 2020, when just at the moment it seemed like things would be okay, things became very, very much not okay and like this whole democratic experiment was about to come crashing down. Let’s be honest, elections have become traumatic in the U.S. Armageddon-ish, as campaign e-mails want us to believe.
There is a lot at stake in elections, no doubt. A lot. But if we learned anything from the four years under that president, it’s that we can survive some pretty horrendous shit. Not without serious consequences to our lives and health and freedoms. Not without scars. But we’re still here.
Elections aren’t the only way that change happens. They matter a lot, but they’re not the only thing that does. After that president was elected in 2016, I remember taking a walk down to the river in the dark, reminding myself that the river was still there. The hills. The trees. The streets. The next four years would be bad and they were, in ways I couldn’t even imagine. But some things would go on.
If that’s not enough to comfort you (and I get it—shit is scary), I offer this. I live in a red, red state. A red, red congressional district. A red county. A red town. And yet, last week I gathered in a room with over a hundred other people who were there to rally around the issue of restoring women’s reproductive rights. In Madison, Indiana, friends, and people were fired up.
There were young people and old people. Women and men. Gay people and straight people. Republicans and Democrats and Independents. Nurses and college professors and business owners. I sat next to a woman who works at the local grocery store and is married to a retired steel worker. She wasn’t the only person at the table who’d been sent to “Facebook jail” for their political posts and were pretty proud of it. This was a varied demographic collection, is what I’m saying, and they were mad as hell, but also hopeful. If we can gather over a hundred people in the reddest of places, that has to mean something.
Regardless of what happens on November 8 or in the aftermath, I’ll keep that moment with me. I’ll go back to the feeling of being in that room with people who cared enough about the world to show up on a Thursday evening. Sometimes change happens through elections. Sometimes not. But if you look hard enough, there’s always some reason for hope.
How are you feeling about the upcoming elections? Nervous? Scared? Indifferent?
Happy Halloween! Thanks for showing up and reading and linking and commenting and sharing! You’re awesome!
If you go to the homepage for the newsletter, here, you’ll see I’ve added a new section to the newsletter—Notes on the Writing Life. More sections are on the way, including one for book reviews and writing classes/resources. Writing classes and resources will be available for paid subscribers and everything else will remain free. If you’re not interested in hearing me babble about writing or books I love, you can unsubscribe from those sections and still receive the regular Monday post.
This week I was startled to read this story about how climate change might not be as horrible as we thought. Hurray for slightly less horrible! I’ll take it.
I also enjoyed Saeed Jones’s ode to Leslie Jordan, here.
In doing research for the revisions of my gender textbook, I came across the concept of “the stare,” which is like the ableist equivalent of the male gaze. Staring or the stare is, according to Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, “the ritual social enactment of exclusion from the imagined community of the fully human.” For people with disabilities, the stare marks them as different and, yeah, potentially less than human. I’m thinking about all the other ways in which our staring is a way of excluding people from their fully humanity.
And if you need some more cuddly, happy vibes, here’s the squishmallow one of my students bought me, because I did not know what a squishmallow was and now I do and the world is better for it.
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Though I did read that a group of people in the White House spent months figuring out how to buy Greenland from Denmark just…because? It’s big and close to us? And when Denmark finally said no, the great leader suggested we trade Puerto Rico for Greenland. I couldn’t make that shit up. It’s hilarious and terrifying!
I say as informed as possible because when you live in the sticks like I do, finding information about local candidates is hard. There are radio interviews, but if you don’t catch them when they air, tough luck. There’s also some coverage in the local paper which, I know, I should have a subscription to, but do not. That’s it. All the national ballot initiatives fall off the end of the earth when you try to find out about the county council candidates in Jefferson County, Indiana. So mostly, I take note of yard signs. As in, if the sign appears in that person’s yard, do not vote for them. It’s less rigorous, but maybe just as effective?