Recipe for sanity in a maddening election year
I’ve always been a moderately political person. I was psyched to vote in my first election at age 18 and have voted at every opportunity since. I ditched school once in high school to go see Bill Clinton speak and was so worked up on my way home that I got into a minor car accident. I watch the news most nights and enjoy lively debates as long as they don’t turn vicious. I’ve never had any doubt it’s worth the effort to stay educated and involved.
But 2015 was a watershed year for me. Maybe it was the terrorists joyfully masquerading as martyrs, gloating over bloodshed all over the world; the gun violence and blatant racism still plaguing our country; or the astonishing rise of politicians riding a popular wave of bigotry that I would prefer not to know exists in our midst — whatever the reason, I reached my saturation point.
I didn’t want to hear about that world anymore, and I certainly didn’t want to see the images. I wanted to ignore it, but when I tried to shut out the noise, it seeped in around the perimeter of my days. It popped up on televisions in public places and littered my Twitter feed with viral evidence of human brokenness.
Overexposure didn’t solve anything, but neither did willful blindness. Ignorance felt icky. It made me feel even more vulnerable, like a sitting duck — powerless over my own safety and even more powerless over the well-being of my 4-year-old son.
So I peeked out over the edge of my own exhaustion and panic and noticed something I never fully appreciated before. People in my own community were getting shit done while I was busy whining about the state of world affairs in my pajama pants. It was up to me whether or not to join them.
So I put on some pants — real ones without an elastic waistband — got together with some of those intrepid people, had a cocktail, and discovered that I’m not at all powerless. I’m a roaring, raging, mommy badass with a fire to keep my kid, family, and friends safe from harm and free to live their lives — and I’m far from alone in that effort.
There are a whole bunch of folks tucked in amongst our tree-lined streets who not only give a damn, but who are doing something about it. Every day. And they are not old and crotchety with nothing better to do, like I previously would have guessed. They are some of the most engaging, energetic, and caring people I’ve ever met.
In his State of the Union address back in January, President Obama spoke about “daily acts of citizenship.” He talked about going above and beyond, reaching out from our secluded, narrow lives to help somebody out, to vote, to shop local, to volunteer, or speak out on an issue we care about — be it animal rescue, veterans, equal rights, gun safety, homelessness, or early childhood education.
In spite of 2016 being an election year, there will be less TV for me this time around. I’ll keep up with the basics, but after that, enough is enough. I’d rather spend time with people who give me hope, women and men who give a damn and are doing something about it — starting somewhere, doing something about something that matters.
There’s no power to be found in footage of S.W.A.T. teams on autorepeat. In that coverage, we will only find fear and loathing. Power comes from showing up and taking action, so that someday, maybe, we can all go peacefully back to our PJ pants.
Terrorists and politicians peddling hatred for a living have no place in my world, but hating them back isn’t the answer. The answer is in farmers markets and fundraisers, art classes, yard sales, and music festivals. Maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t know, but pouting and throwing things at the screen isn’t doing it for me anymore. I need action, and there’s no shortage of things to act on, right here in my very own town.