We've Been Here Before. Again.
Hey folks, the last couple of days have been nearly impossible, as I am sure they have been for you. I wanted to sit down yesterday and write about the tightness in my chest and how I’m circling proximity to tears throughout the day, or how I just can’t focus, ever since someone texted me about Texas on Monday. It’s too much, all-encompassing and overwhelming, to read about children, BABIES, murdered with an internet-purchased machine with the soul purpose of snuffing out life.
But I couldn’t. Instead, I sleep-walked through my day, getting distracted, zoning out, losing track of what was being discussed in meetings. I didn’t scream, I didn’t donate, I didn’t do anything. I just resigned myself to getting through the day. And I don’t like that chosen inaction.
All I can think about is how I wish we had more people like Beto O’Rourke in politics - willing to toss decorum aside and yell the truth (Beto O'Rourke confronts Abbott during news conference on Uvalde mass shooting: 'This is on you’, Houston Chronicle).
Because maybe it’s tragedy burnout at this point, but I worry that I’ve started to grow calloused to all of the terrible things happening. That I no longer have the big emotional reactions I used to have, that I’ve resigned to knowing that… this is inevitable in this country. Like this reaction from CA State Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks:
And it is THIS country, despite what Gov. Abbott would like to pin on mental health (care for which he defunded in his state, naturally), that suffers from the very unique hell reality of being a mass shooter nation. All you need to know: After all, Every Time There's A Mass Shooting, The Onion Writes The Same Story. Today, It Featured All 21. (BuzzFeed News).
In January, Charlie Sykes wrote about the political fatigue of our age, how
on “social media and cable television, the emotional level has been set somewhere between alarm and emotional meltdown for years now. We’ve experienced endless assaults on the public mind, with the ever-escalating goal of inciting, inflaming, and grifting. We’ve been saturated, pummeled, and battered by it for the last five years.”
Nihilism is an unfamiliar feeling to me, one I am not used to sitting in for long periods of time. I fundamentally believe in the power of change, in the arc of history, in the fact that human beings, alongside our abilities to hurt each other, have an other-worldly ability to be kind, and lift each other up. But my god, if you look at the chart below and are inclined to just log off of reality, I get it.
So… how? I ask you, genuinely. How do we lift ourselves out of the collective violent fever dream we find ourselves engulfed by?
One thing gives me a flicker of drive, from Sykes’ piece above - and yes, I’m coopting his emotional kicker here because it so accurately conveys the only thing keeping me from calling it quits and giving up on hope: “The success of anti-democratic authoritarianism depends on our exhaustion.”
In 2022 optimism-fueled action is a radical, holy act. Being able to wake up to [gestures at infinity] and choose to demand better, to choose to refuse nihilism and defeat, to roll out of bed, put your big kid pants on and proclaim NOT TODAY, SATAN is miraculous (all of the above in a completely secular sense, of course, though I don’t mind Pope Francis weighing in).
We need to foster and channel our righteous fury to tip over this pot we’re getting boiled in, like the statements a hospital CEO gave to Becker’s Hospital Review:
“Our job is to save lives and prevent people from illness and death. Gun violence is not an issue on the outside — it's a central public health issue for us. Every single hospital leader in the United States should be standing up and screaming about what an abomination this is.”
Living with, and in fear of, gun violence isn’t normal. No other country exists like this. And as that cliche says, not choosing is a choice, and so many members of the American political class choose to ¯_(ツ)/¯ , do nothing, and allow this country to become Mass Shooting USA should enrage you. Or at least nudge you out of the comfortable nihilism cocoon - and I’m right there beside you, putting on my eyemask and curling up in a blanket.
I write this, as I write most of these long form Missives, as a way to smack myself across the face, to distill my anxiety and fear into something resembling action - and I don’t know what that looks like. Send in ideas on how to act beyond voting and I will include them tomorrow or at a later date. Like you, I am tired and sad and scared, but I want to find a way out of it.
I have no eloquent way of wrapping this up this morning, except to ask: can we choose to punch nihilism in the nose and demand better?
Be kind to yourself, to others, to each other.
Thank you to Mum of the Missive for many of the articles above