On Tuesday night after the debates, I logged onto Facebook for a few minutes. As soon as I arrived, I could practically hear the howling: “I need a shower after that!”, “My kindergarteners behave better than Trump!”, “Chris Matthews is The Worst Moderator Everrrr!”, “Disgusting!”, “Disgraceful!” “Embarrassing!”, “What the Hell was That!!??” I logged off, feeling like I needed a shower.
I didn’t watch the debates for two reasons. One, I knew neither candidate would offer any new information that would affect my vote. Two, I knew there were going to be shenanigans that would make me angry, sad, and afraid — probably for days. I was right on both counts.
What confuses and troubles me is that so many good, smart people did watch. None of them received any new information either, and many of them are still upset. By putting their eyes on garbage, they also fed the kind of spectacle that’s poisoning our society. So why did they do it? Why do we allow ourselves to be continually traumatized? To be baited and hooked yet again?
There is no good reason to watch these debates. There is no good reason anymore to listen to Trump’s voice. There is no good reason to look at his face. There’s no good reason to watch more videos of police brutality or violence against protestors. You don’t need more data.
Doing so is not about being informed, or a responsible citizen. This is not you participating in your democracy. This is you being electrocuted — unable to let go of the very thing that is killing you. Surely you can unhook yourself from FOMO when the thing you’re missing out on will give you insomnia, nightmares, indigestion, panic attacks, paranoia and rage?
Unless you like the drama? The outrage? The humiliation? The horror? Perhaps you’re holding out some hope that maybe this time it will be different? That someone (in power) will finally do something? That there will be a glimmer of positivity you can cling to for a few days? If so, then I fear you may be part of the problem.
Stop exposing your heart, brain, mind and soul to violence. Your chronic outrage isn’t action. Your chronic fear isn’t making you stronger. Your despair isn’t supporting your creative problem-solving ability. There are folks who manage to avoid gluten, dairy, sugar, coffee and/or alcohol but consume the equivalent of Hot Cheetos, circus peanuts and Mountain Dew in social media and news every day. This is not healthy.
To be clear — all emotions are welcome, and it’s not my place (or anyone else’s) to tell anyone how to feel. Ever. Anger is an appropriate, healthy response to disrespect and violation of what is sacred. Fear is an appropriate, healthy response to real danger. Indeed, disrespect, violation and danger are happening. The problem isn’t the emotions — the problem is us exposing ourselves repeatedly to more triggers, which debilitates us. The problem is living in these emotions and being addicted to them.
What if we gave up our addiction to drama and (re)trauma and protected our hearts, minds and souls instead? What would then be possible?
We are not going to survive this — much less stand a chance of winning any battles — if we don’t change some fundamentals about how we view and interact with the problem. If all we are is Resistance, what is left when our arms and voices falter from inevitable exhaustion? If all we are is Fighting Back, when will we know when it’s over? When will we forget what we’re fighting for? Resistance and Fighting Back are both defensive postures, and therefore already losing.
We must stop being defensive. We must stop believing in our powerlessness. We must make difficult, conscious choices. We must protect our tender hearts, sharp minds and delicate souls from further injury. We must protect ourselves like we would protect our children, and for the same reasons. We must stay calm, stay sharp, stay clear. We must plan and prepare. We must stop hoping for a miracle or searching for a messiah to save us. No one is coming.
We must stop being shocked and surprised. Stop being chronically outraged. Trump has consistently shown us who he is — not just since 2015, but since the 1980s. Many of our other leaders have consistently shown us who they are and how little they think of us. They’ve shown us and told us, clearly and outright. It’s a fatal mistake to not believe them.
What if we believed our eyes and ears the first time, instead of being chronically shocked and outraged? What would we then see?
One lesson we women who have been in abusive relationships (sometimes) learn when we heal is that when a man tells you who he is, believe him. You don’t need more data — accept your knowing, take it seriously and act accordingly. Continuously being shocked and outraged wastes your energy and reveals your denial. Saying “that can’t happen here” increases the chances that it will. Saying “this is America!” is American exceptionalism at its worst, and deeply naïve. It can happen. It is happening.
We must stop participating. The Roman elites gave the people bread and circuses to placate them as their empire declined, and our elites are giving us the same as ours declines. You don’t have to attend the circus. Stop giving life to social media, the debates, the latest uproar and other shenanigans by participating and consuming. Starve them with your lack of attention and energy.
What if we stayed calm, sharp and connected? If we planned and prepared together, instead of being seduced by bread & circuses? What would we then accomplish?
We must also be realistic and shrewd. Our democracy has been in decline for a long time. We liberals and progressives have played by the rules, been overly polite, and squandered opportunities to make powerful change when we were in charge (like eliminating the electoral college, the filibuster, private campaign finance and gerrymandering). Now the Right has repeatedly broken the rules and normalized personal disrespect, bald faced corruption and disregard for the will of the majority. It’s not time to abandon our principles, but it is time to be scrappy, strategic, and unapologetically fierce. Read what to do next on Medium!