Saturday, January 28, 2017

Save Yourself!

I am proud to be part of a group of the most empathic, caring, generous people in the country.  They are my friends and my political allies.  They have been on guard with me since November 9 as our country became a radical, right-wing dictatorship run by a madman.

We have put aside our personal pleasures and responsibilities to try to slow the tide of hatred and power mongering that has completely altered our country's path in just one short week.  We worry, we have trouble sleeping, we feel anxiety and outright fear for ourselves, our loved ones, and those who are more vulnerable than we are.

From time to time, we enjoy the feeling of unity that comes when we march, when we speak out, when those of us who are on the inside of this now closed group of leaders leak information about those who hold the power, when those with voices more powerful than ours speak publicly.

But then we return to the reality of the rights that are being taken away from us all every day -- every moment -- of this corrupt presidency.  We have seen a Congress that has blocked progress for eight years and has salivated at the thought of complete control jump into lawmaking with a vengeance, and stand silent as the appointed leader of the country makes insane claims followed by bizarre and totally undemocratic executive orders.  He damaged our country's image and stoked fear throughout America and the world before he took office; since then he has confirmed our worst fears.

Yet we continue to reach out to each other as we attempt to persuade our leaders to stop this insanity, all the while trying to ease the fears of our children and calm our own anxieties.

What we need right now is to learn ways to survive this nightmare.  We need to regain our faith in ourselves, we need to find again some joy in our lives.

In December, overwhelmed, I went incommunicado for two weeks.  Up until then I hadn't been able to turn off the news; I woke in the middle of the night with obsessive thoughts of what was happening to our country; it had been difficult for this voracious reader to sit and read with pleasure or even concentration.  Those two weeks may not have changed reality, but they brought me back to myself.

As we try to fight what may be the greatest evil we have seen in our country's short history and in our even shorter lives, we need to walk away from time to time.  We need to shift our perspectives and rethink our goals.  Here are a few ways to accomplish that.

Let's all accept that we cannot fight all the battles.  We can support all the groups that are under attack without signing every petition and reading every link we are sent.

Take some time to focus on what is most important to you.  If you are most worried about Trump's immigration decrees, stay on top of that and make it the focus of your energies.

Learn what you can about what is happening in the areas you are most concerned about.  And let others know what you learn.

Unite.  Don't stay home and worry.  Use social media, form lunch groups, get together and protest.

Play to your strengths.  If what you do (what I do) is write, then write:  blog, email, letters to the editor, letters to congress.  If you find it easier to call, call your local TV station, call your representatives.  When you can't reach the White House comment line, follow Bernie Sanders' direction and contact one of Trump's hotels.  If you like the idea of confronting your member of congress face to face, do it, and if you can, do it with a friend or a group.  Don't get angry at yourself for not doing it all.

On the other hand, try something new.  I went on my first march since 1969 last week, thanks to the invitation and urging of a good friend in Maryland.  Others have described that wonderful experience far better than I could.  In short, it gave me energy and hope.  Phone calls may not be as difficult as you think.  I have learned in the past couple of years that it is far easier to talk to politicians than I once feared.  Do it, and whether you decide to do it again or not, feel good about it.

Reaffirm your family and friends.  It may take energy you don't think you have to make that phone call or go to a movie.  Don't think too much about it; just pick up the phone or put on your coat and do it.  If you are concerned about someone who seems to have become more isolated, reach out.  Call, email, get together.  And next week, do it again.

For gods' sake, remember how to laugh.  When I am close to the edge, humor is what brings me back to life.  We owe a debt to our country's comedians, from Alec Baldwin to John Oliver to the great Samantha Bee.  But we also need to laugh with our family and friends.  Silly things are still happening.  And our government is now funnier than it has ever been.  Minimize the power it has over you by laughing at the ignorance.  The Orwellian creepiness of "alternative facts" was diffused not just because it was wrong, but because it was hysterically funny.  As funny as KellyAnne's inauguration dress.

And, by the way, since KellyAnne told us about those "alternative facts," Orwell's 1984 is back on the best-seller list.  And since Trump went all ballistic on the media that day after the inauguration, even people like Chuck Todd (not my idea of an objective and righteous reporter) finally confronted the newspeak we have been hearing from Trump and his minions for two years.

Which brings me to my last thought.  We need to hold on to what is right and good.  The things that make us smile and laugh.  By all means talk to your kids about the things that are going on that are wrong, but make sure to step away from it all and play a game or watch a movie.  Have a glass of wine with friends and get silly.

They can't take that away from me.

Speaking of which, watch some Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.

Or go out dancing.

And if there is anything that will put this shitshow in perspective, it is a few words of wisdom from Monty Python.

Writing this has picked me up a bit.  I hope it helps you as well.  We need to be there for each other, and we need to remember why this fight is so important.

America has been in some bad places in the past, and we have come back and gone forward, as recently as 2008.  We may not have wanted to fight those fights again, but here we are, and we aren't going to back down.  And whenever we can, we are going to enjoy this fight, and especially the victories.

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