A couple of weeks ago, while the campaigns were still going on, I stumbled across this old Tomato Nation piece from 2003, about Iraq. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, “Wow… Replace ‘the war’ in this with ‘the 2016 election,’ and it perfectly captures how I feel right now.”
It still does.
I’m not going to comment on the outcome. I’m not going to talk about whether I agree with the results or not. It wouldn’t make any difference, first of all; and second of all, I’m beyond sick of the whole thing. I was beyond sick of the whole thing by February. I’m glad it’s over; that’s all I’m going to say about it.
Except it’s not really over, of course. It won’t ever really be over. The media’s been reporting about how divided the country feels, and I’m seeing that myself, too. Especially online. My Facebook feed in particular is split between people celebrating and excited, people who are genuinely terrified about the future, people announcing that they’re un-friending anyone and everyone who didn’t vote the way they did because anyone who voted differently obviously must hate them, posts saying “If your candidate lost, don’t despair,” other posts saying “Everyone stop telling me not to despair; I don’t even recognize this country anymore”… I can’t take it.
I’ve never liked discussing politics much. As Homer Simpson famously put it, “It makes me angry. Angry and tired.” Almost all political discussions do. So completely, and so viscerally, at this point, that my immediate response is to shut the discussion down as swiftly as possible, no matter the topic, whether I agree or not. My husband and I have had the occasional clash about that. And usually it’s my fault—he’ll mention something political, and I change the subject immediately, or sit silently and don’t say anything, or we disagree about an issue and I just start yelling. I know that bothers him, and I hate that I do that. I really do. And I try not to do that, but I usually don’t succeed… And even when we agree completely, I still get mad. I wish I didn’t, but I do. That’s true of anyone I talk to. If we disagree on politics, it’s an endless argument. And if we DO agree, it’s still anger-making, because it all starts to feel pointless. Hopeless. Okay, we agree that [whatever situation] is fucked up… but what can we DO about it? What can we DO that will actually change something? Actually make a real difference? So often, the answer seems to be, “Not a damn thing.” And if that’s true…why bother?
For the record: I hate that I feel that way. But I don’t know how to change it.
From the essay linked above:
I hate that I do that, that I only read the headlines, that I would rather talk about lip tint, that I go around singing “this ain’t no party / this ain’t no disco / this ain’t no fooling around” under my breath. I hate it. I hate myself for doing it. But it is a reasonable hate. It is a candle of hate, confined to a decorative holder, hot to the touch but judicious, controlled. I can go with that festive little home-furnishings hate, or I can become a human torch of hate staggering in the direction of the entire race of man and bellowing incoherently through the charred remains of my lips about arrogance and corruption and the correct pronunciation of the word “nuclear.”
That’s exactly it. That’s exactly how I feel about the state of things at the moment. That’s why I avoid talking politics, as best I can, as often as I can. Because I feel like “a human torch of hate” when I don’t avoid it, whether I agree with who I’m talking to or not, and then all I can do about it is sit around hating everything about the world and feeling helpless to change it, and I cannot stand that feeling.
Later in the same piece:
I do it because I can’t face believing the worst—about human nature, about the government, about any of it. I fear that, if I do face it and if I do believe the worst about human beings, that I won’t see any point even in going out for a few bottles of beer after that, that the “why bother” will burn me to ash from the inside out, but invisibly, like radiation. I don’t want to lose faith in people—a strange thing for a woman so regularly annoyed by people to say, I suppose, but people bug me precisely because I expect better from them most of the time, and I don’t want to think that better instincts can’t prevail, or generally don’t prevail even if they can, or whatever. I can’t live like that.
I can’t live like that, either. It’s so easy to slip into that place… but I can’t let myself stay there. If I stay there, I might not find my way back, and I can’t live like that. I want to have faith in people. I want to have faith, period. And that’s hard enough most of the time. It’s so much easier to just avoid talking about it. To spend time watching TV and writing content I can sell online and designing pretty websites, instead of Debating The Issues. Trying not to be involved…does that make me self-centered? Does that make me a bad citizen? I don’t know. And if it does… can I change? I don’t know that, either. I feel like I should try to… but then I start thinking…why bother? What difference will it make?
And so it goes on.
All I know to do about it is just keep on living my life, no matter who the President is.
And I’m really, really, really hoping to see my family over Thanksgiving and Christmas and not talk too long about the election. There are strong opinions on both sides… but I’d much rather discuss–well, almost anything.
In the meantime–I’ve been seeing this passed around these past few days. Let’s all try to take it to heart.