Because the last election was so filled with lies, hate, fear, and hypocrisy, culminating in the election of an unstable, needy man who rose to power by promoting the Big Lie of President Obama’s not being an American citizen, it is easy to go off the rails. One is tempted to withdraw or become intoxicated by rage.
While every person should choose the path that appears most beneficial to oneself and others, here are a few thoughts about surviving the continuing turmoil.
Assume that the next two years will be a domestic political disaster
So far, the good news is that Trump’s connections to Putin make him vulnerable to Congressional investigations and that he has not inspired many people beyond his existing base. Think how bad you would feel if his approval ratings were at sixty percent instead of a bit over forty percent. Nonviolent political opposition has made a difference.
At best, we will avoid the domestic catastrophe of authoritarianism and the international cataclysm of major wars against powerful countries like Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China. So long as the People, Congress, Courts, and media retain enough power to protect our shared, core republican rights to personal freedom, free speech, freedom of conscience, and the vote, we have time to transmute our corroded Republic into a force that overcomes the growing threat of environmental catastrophe as effectively as it battled totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century.
Decide how much daily information you need
For the past few weeks, I have rarely read or watched anything political. Bad news still travels fast. Friends and family members informed me about Ryan’s proposed heath care plan, the latest example of the brutal class war consistently won by the rich. While it is worthwhile to periodically peer into the belly of the beast to understand the gravity of our situation, one can rot by spending too much time there. When you react to every Tweet, you may end up dancing to someone else’s twisted tune. It is particularly important to avoid trolls’ commentary, because it tends to make you despise the often-deluded followers as much as their ruthless leaders. It is as upsetting to read that every Trump voter is a racist as it is to be told that liberals don’t care about their country.
Participate, if you can
Fortunately, there are many tough and brave souls who document and analyze daily atrocities. Many admirable people have decided to commit their lives, if only for a while, to political organizing and dissent. The Tea Party showed the value of attending Congressional town halls and making life uncomfortable for those politicians who hold millions of our fellow Americans in so much contempt that they don’t care if those vulnerable, younger people suffer from horrific disease and premature death. Right now, I don’t have the will to be part of such discord. If you are at Standing Rock, thank you. Please avoid violence’s temptation.
Perhaps, for one reason or another, you can’t be a political hero right now. Maybe you tried to join a local political group but were repelled by the unrepentant smugness of Identity Politics. You observed how the traditional Left increases Trump’s divisive power by demanding complete compliance with an existing litmus test that has failed to create the broad political majority needed to shift our society in the right direction. Furthermore, people often turn very competitive when participating in politics: they jostle for attention and position. Politics is an inherently hierarchical occupation. Do you really want to hear a bunch of platitudes before being assigned to lick envelopes?
Or maybe one of your children is ill and you don’t have time and money. Why feel self-aversion when encountering one of the most challenging spiritual practices imaginable? Furthermore, there are other, equally valid ways to rebuild our shattered community aside from partisan politics. Join a church, participate in a book club, feed the homeless, joke with a stranger, go dancing. They want us to be atomized and disorganized, satisfied with whatever consumer goods we can get.
This is a particularly dangerous time to withdraw completely from politics
Waiting to vote in 2020 is not enough. That single gesture has little influence. Nor is a check for 200 dollars very important when the billionaires and their corporate media determine most of the content within the public arena. Demonstrations are influential, but temporary phenomena.
The one percent commitment
So what is to be done by those of us who can’t or won’t commit to political immersion? You can vow to spend one week in the fall of 2018 helping Democrats win contested Congressional and local elections. Donate one percent of your time to reduce the power of the One Percent. Perhaps you can take a driving vacation to some place like suburban Ohio, upstate New York, or Texas. You commit to six or more hours a day registering voters, driving voters to polls, and licking those damn envelopes. During time off, explore the community, perhaps with some new friends. If enough of us work in these contested areas, our additional energy might make the difference in terms of controlling Congress. We only need one legislative branch to investigate the current administration’s already stunning record of corruption and malfeasance and to derail the next phase of the Republicans’ vile legislative agenda.
Notice the immediate benefits of this simple commitment. There is no reason to feel guilty for not always reading The Nation, watching Rachel Maddow, studying judicial opinions, reviewing bigoted and counterproductive immigration plans, or attending the next demonstration. You are not just going to commiserate with allies and argue with opponents. You will soon act in a way that might make a real difference. You will do something they definitely do not want you to do, because our time can defeat their money. Should the Democrats blunder their way to another defeat in 2018, commit to another week in 2020, perhaps by working on behalf of a less subservient Democrat during the primary. Maybe it becomes a biannual habit. After all, younger generations may one day ask, “What did you do during the Environmental and Class Wars of the early Twenty-First Century?”
In the meantime, take care of yourself and others. Meditate, practice Tai Chi, walk the dog through the snow, drink some water with lemon juice, and then listen to someone like Norah Jones or Billie Holliday.