I might be the only political person in the country (aka voter aka person who cares about the outcome of the election) who is not watching election coverage. As someone with anxiety, I have to draw a boundary to protect my mind. I cannot abide the ambiguity. If I were to watch ANY coverage, the calculations, the iterations of the possibilities, the ifs then thises, the going down the rabbit hole….. it would make me explode.
No. That kind of exhaustive extrapolation is how my brain attacks itself, and I’m not inviting that in, because my brain is actually kind of functioning for once! Watching the results would not make me more informed, it would only make me suffer. Give me the results when they are available. I can wait.
I know I have done what I can. I returned my ballot a couple weeks ago, I wrote postcards to Wisconsin and Michigan voters, and I am SO THANKFUL that yesterday is in the past. I have never been more grateful for the passage of time (and my/my family members’ continued health) because the anticipation has been brutal. For more than a year, we Americans have been tortured with the pre-election circus. On top of the psychological torture of a pandemic and the societal torture of administration (and fellow citizens) that don’t care to put in place/cooperate with orders to protect public health so that fewer people literally die.
If I had a nickel for every time over the past months I digressed about public health and mortality………… (fuck this administration, they will rot in hell).
Digression reclaimed: I have done all I can do. I cannot control anything else from here on out. It is now up to time and actions. The actions of good people, both submitting and counting ballots. Time to make sure every single voice is counted.
And I fully recognize that I do not have as much at stake in this election/this year than others. However, it is huge to me regardless. The soul of our nation is at stake. I can only cling to my hope in our country until we have a final tally. I need to believe in the basic and widespread good of my fellow citizens as long as possible.
So no, I’m not watching the in-between part. I’m listening, to music: soothing folk and jazz, and to loved ones’ voices. I’m rewatching a movie about a playwright and finding your own voice. I am basking in the glow of the birthday love my amazing friends and family have shown me over the past week. I am hoping that the good in the country overwhelms the bad in a way that pleases its antiquated system (that drastically needs to be amended, cue my next read Let the People Pick the President). I’m breathing. I’m praying thanks for all the love and joy in my life and clinging to them. I’m treating myself nicely. I’m planning out birthday/holiday gifts at independent bookstores. As per always, I’m writing letters.
And I’m hoping. I’m hoping so hard that people care about their neighbors and science and the environment and voted accordingly. I am hoping the blue wave can drown all this hatred and madness.
And right this moment, I’m going to order a 2021 calendar.
During warmups for club softball games, I had a tendency of losing focus and completely not noticing when my teammates were throwing a ball at me. It was easy to get caught up in conversation; those girls are some of the funniest, smartest women I know, and I’d talk to the people next to me, or daydream, only to snap back to focus when a ball was in air, midway towards me. I don’t remember if I ever got hit or hurt, but I definitely got embarrassed. I made sure to (jokingly, but seriously) communicate to subsequent throwing partners that they needed to make sure we had eye contact before sending a ball my way. I did the two fingers pointing at my eyes and theirs for emphasis. Though I should reasonably have known that they would throw it to me since we were playing catch, plus I was wearing sunglasses, so they couldn’t even see my eyes, I asked them to call my name to make sure I was paying attention.
These days, my attention is similarly challenged, but instead of social distractions, I have my thoughts. And my cell phone. I notice it most with my cats. If I am looking at my phone, they will stand up and paw my legs, or jump on the nearest surface and try to knock the phone out of my hand. They want eye contact. If I give in, put down the phone (inevitably, I was not doing anything essential anyway) and look at their little faces, they light up. They love the undivided attention. They can tell when I’m focusing, because I put in the real effort (and give the good pets).
Never before one to comment, I viewed people who argue with acquaintances (or strangers) on facebook as people with too much time. My stomach tightens and my heart beats as if I am under attack when even reading people comment on (aka argue about) politics. This week, I delved into this world for a post or two, able to read through all of the comments, racist and reprehensible as well as measured and logical.
Let me save you a bunch of time and energy and say: it’s not super worth it to argue. Post what you’re going to post, and most people will either agree or disagree with you right away. I say right away because there are few people willing to look past their knee-jerk reaction and attempt to see from a different perspective. Every political discussion boils down to the same thoughts, from whichever side you’re on: “you’re an idiot,” “you’re brainwashed,” and my favorite–“open your eyes!”
If both sides want the other to open their eyes and quit being sheep swallowing empty political promises, to what are these eyes supposed to open? As a librarian, I am passionate about finding good, trustworthy information. The ability to identify reliable information is called information literacy, and you likely heard about it with the proliferation of fake news. Good sources mean the difference between fact and fiction/opinion/interpretation/wild conjecture/conspiracy theories. Knowing where to look is only part of the eye-opening though; the rest is critical thinking.
This is what causes the educator in me to cry, because a closed mind asks no questions. Critical thinking is allll about asking questions. Questions like “assuming this belief/fact is correct, who benefits?” or “who is missing?” Let’s practice: people are clearly very frustrated with both political parties for the various paths/candidates they have chosen. A manifestation of this: a person online said essentially all politicians are crooked, so there’s no reason or point in having faith in any party or the process. I believe this is patently false, and beyond that, it is harmful (and this type of cynicism is in itself a tool of voter suppression–why even vote? Nothing matters!).
However, asking some questions of this viewpoint might look like “Who is missing from that perspective?” I would have to respond with a hearty “literally everyone different from the person speaking it.” You are allowed to have your fond feelings for Reagan, and I know there are multitudes of reasons to dislike Bill Clinton. However, your personal experience is not true for and does not speak for everyone. Reagan’s policies targeted scores of public services and groups of people disproportionately. There are millions of people in this country; it is not just yours. What works for you may not work for anyone else! If all of the politicians are crooked, I at least want to support and get into office the ones who will enact policies that help the most people (by which I mean grant the most freedoms–freedom is kind of our thing). The current administration closes its eyes to people of color, immigrants, the poor, the sick, the queer and the gender-non-conforming. To support the president is to ignore the reality of the racist, classist system we have. I much prefer looking at my cats to looking at these harsh truths, but they are necessary to see.
And, I have to say, the educator (and human being) in me is disappointed with all of the constant personal attacks in these threads. I learned to attack ideas, not people, and I find myself asking “who raised you???” which isn’t fair. The question “who hurt you???” seems more apt (though the answer might be the same). Because the bottom line of “you’re an idiot!” is the belief that you are better than the person you are arguing with. Spoiler alert: you’re not. “Open your eyes” is less of a judgment and more of an invitation to ask more questions. If you are telling others to do so, do it yourself. If your beliefs exclude freedoms for people who are different than you, consider why you believe you deserve more. Ask questions of yourself–look for your blind spots. Then look to learn more! Learning is not always fun nor in the form of a worksheet! It takes time and discomfort. And books, y’all. Actual reading. (At the very least, intense listening to people different than you.)
And last soapbox moment, for all that is holy, if you wouldn’t say something while maintaining eye contact with them, don’t put it out into the digital world either. It makes you a coward, a bully, or a dick. Or all three.
I don’t ask others to make sure I’m looking now–I know it’s my responsibility, and so I read (and therefore learn) all the time. I find there’s so much I didn’t know I didn’t know, and more angles to every topic than I could have anticipated. I ask questions, and I keep an eye out for new resources and perspectives.
Still, the immediate reaction to an opinion starkly opposed to yours may be anger and judgment. But after that, look for the holes. Can you consider that you are wrong? Or if not wrong, that you are thinking too locally and excluding anyone who isn’t exactly like you? Can you attempt to see where the other person is coming from? Or is the ‘opposing’ mind too closed and any efforts will bounce right off? Call out lies, call out injustice, but if yes to the last question, maybe save your energy. Closed minds are closed for business (Hannah Gadsby), and I prefer politicians and fellow citizens whose eyes are open to a united way forward out of this divided hellscape.
For required reading, visit the end of this post and add the following: