Retreat Is Not An Option

I’m tired. Aren’t you tired?

This week we’ve seen more and more insurmountable evidence that the president of the US has used his office for criminal behavior. (Raise your hand if you’re surprised. Anyone? Didn’t think so.) We’ve seen the corresponding assertion by the US Senate that they’re officially going to do fuck-all about it.

And most seriously, we’ve seen the UK vote decisively to leave the EU, and all the misinformation and racism used in that campaign is very much twin to what we’re seeing here.

It’s huge. It’s too much. What can I do to fix it? Not a damn thing. I vote, here in my blue state, and my vote means less than the vote of an uninhabited acreage in Wyoming. I’ve protested, and that helps, but I think it mostly helps me instead of any cause. I contribute to causes, political campaigns, help lines, food banks.

It’s insurmountable. Nothing I do is enough. Nothing any of us do is enough.

And it’s not local anymore. The UK vote wasn’t precisely a surprise – I pay enough attention to understand some of the issues plaguing the Labour Party – but it brought home the fact that this is not a US problem. Rising fascism is a global problem, and the divide-and-conquer strategy of oligarchies and dictatorships seems to actually be working.

I have this theory that Joe Biden maintains so much traction because people are nostalgic for the Obama years. To which I’ll say two things: 1) Obama wasn’t a progressive, not really – he was slightly to the left of Reagan; and 2) the structures, institutions, and social norms of those times have been completely destroyed in a way that isn’t going to allow us to reconstruct them with a wave and a sigh of relief. This administration is championing racism the way the Reagan administration championed materialism: loudly, proudly, and with the implication that those who’ve been told it’s wrong have been unjustly cheated out of their God-given right to express their sincerely-held beliefs.

Religion’s a whole other thing. I’m an atheist, although I’ve had some education in a variety of religions. In my opinion, faith isn’t the issue. I have in my circle believers in a number of faiths, and their social convictions and mine line up just fine.

But that’s the thing: I know these people, and I know how they live their faith, and it seems to me, looking at the larger religious issues in the US, that a lot of organized religions are failing their followers in some pretty huge ways. Every religion I’ve ever studied has some version of the Golden Rule, and damn, we’ve forgotten all about that one, haven’t we?

Or maybe we’ve just forgotten we’re all in this together.

I’ve been struggling for the last 24 hours (and really, a lot longer) with trying to figure out what we can do. What I can do. Because what’s become clear – what I feared on November 9, 2016, but is now indisputable – is that this is a longer, larger fight than any of us thought we’d have to fight. And it probably won’t be resolved in my lifetime, or before things get much, much worse.

And I’m tired.

But retreat is not an option. That’s not a statement of strength or bravery; it’s just the truth. We all live in this world. We all live on this one planet, this one place we have to live right now and for the foreseeable future. (No, kids, we’re not decamping to Mars any time soon.) We can become rigid, demand reality shift around us, stand on sincerity as we’re consumed by the chaos.

Or we can act.

Will it matter, in the long arc of history? Probably not. But maybe…maybe it can matter today. Just today. Because when it comes right down to it, today is all any of us have.

Today, I will:

Be kind. This means actively looking for opportunities. Small things count, like being nice on the highway. (Look, I live in Massachusetts. Even when we’re not driving aggressively, we’re driving aggressively.) Letting someone with fewer items in their cart go ahead of me at the grocery store. And if other opportunities arise – someone short a few bucks for a coffee, someone having trouble talking with a store clerk, someone being belittled or harassed – I will step forward and open my mouth and do something.

Fight falsehoods. This is an easy one for the armchair warrior, because falsehoods are everywhere on social media. Today I will read news articles critically, I will ask questions, I will push back on friends who’ve posted. I will retweet/repost useful information. And if I get something wrong? I will admit it, and correct it.

Make art. All art is political. All art is subversive. Even if we never share what we create, the act of creating gives us strength, perspective, power. And when we share what we create, we let others know they’re not alone – that they too have strength. Today I’ll write, and every word will be true.

We focus, every time, on our own local issues, on our own nations. But what’s happening today is happening all over the world, and I keep thinking there has to be a way to fight this on a larger scale than backing my local progressive candidate, or even my favorite presidential candidate. I don’t really know how to proceed with that; the internet lets us connect, but we live in the real world, and we’re subject to different climates, different problems, different levels of immediacy. We all have fires in our own backyards, sometimes literally, and those need to be dealt with.

Is it enough, to let each other know we’re not alone? It’s a beginning, at least.

We’re not alone. So let’s begin.

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