I want to talk about the bend towards cynicism and hopelessness.
Last week I felt hopeless. That there was an inevitability to what we are seeing across the country. Another death gone viral, another name trending, more misinformation, another defense of a young man who headed into a community to sow violence with a deadly weapon, caravans of crews headed into Portland to antagonize and provide footage that adds credence to enable campaign footage, another life lost in a confusion of chaos, meanwhile thousands continue to die, folks plant seeds of doubt that this is even real, cases continue to go up, everyone is having to make individual decisions and trying to make sense of everyone else, more people unemployed, no help given to the families who are struggling. All the while lies pervade, all the while information gets weaponized not to solve a problem but to point a finger in the other direction. People love to dunk on “how we got to the point where these are our choices” The feeling settles in, we are failing.
We like to look backwards, to imagine the other timeline where America made a different choice. Some like to reinforce that it didn’t have to be this way.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can DO something about this.
If you have made up your mind and are supporting the current administration this post is not for you. You do you. There’s nothing I can say or give you to alter or change your mind. Let’s just leave it at that.
But if you haven’t, if you’ve felt conflicted, I need to share what is on my heart.
Over the next 9 weeks, we will all witness and hear some of the most insane things we can imagine, we will be convinced that the issues we hold in our hearts are not in fact the issues we should be talking about. The coverage will shift to the predominant b-roll designed by a campaign that is incentivizing images of violence and threatens that the only way to resolve problems is brutal use of force, of absolute crack downs. The more violence we see on screen the more we think we will be victims of violence.
The tragedy of protests and violence being made the central part of a campaign is that it ensures that there is no incentive to address the problem(s) between now and November 3. I want a president that when a tragedy occurs doesn’t either A. say nothing. or B. use it to incite division and score political points and abdicate any and all responsibility.
I’ve come to realize that hopelessness is the point. The inevitability, and the depression that comes along with it, the sense that there’s nothing we can do is a designed message to get us to despair. If we despair, we give up the opportunity for change.
I encourage you to make a list of the issues that you value you most. Think of your top 3 issues, write them down and return to it. Then write down the qualities you look for in an administration, write down the things you would never accept a government doing, and then return to that list again and again and see if the list matches a particular candidate. Over the last 4 years each of us has experienced a moment that went beyond the pale, where we couldn’t stay silent in the midst of our outrage. Return to this moment for you.
But we can DO something about this.
Despite what pundits, polls, news coverage, and the many many stories and opinion pieces can tell you, nothing is set in stone. Polls are snapshots in time and can change. ALL of this is on us. Each of us.
I write this because maybe you are annoyed by what you perceive as a seemingly endless screed into politics. You might say to yourself “I don’t like to talk about politics” or “why is everything so political these days”. I understand this sentiment, I do. I too would love to live in a world in which we can engage in meaningful discussion and then debate and argue over different ways to solve that problem, and then hold a vote in which people have one choice or another and we move forward with the decision. That is not the world we are living in. We are living in a world in which 80% of people agree on a lot of American policy from everything from common sense gun reform to student loans, to healthcare. What we DON’T have is a system that even takes up these issues. Look at how many bills haven’t even gotten a vote in the senate because the leadership in that body would rather protect its members, then to have them being on record as having voted NO on a subject.
I also say this because politics has directly impacted every facet of my life. Politics is the reason I am married. Politics is the reason I can no longer be fired or beaten or discriminated against because of who I love. Politics is how I was able to use federal loans to be able to afford college when my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents had never gone to college. Politics is how my church is able to partner with grants to help give out food to families that are in need. Politics is how I was able to get a mortgage using incentives that allow us to be first time home buyers. Politics is why my classroom has students of color when only 60 years ago the campus rioted when a black student attempted to register. Government and politics impacts all of our lives, and we should not abdicate our responsibility to participate in the process.
Let me be clear, there is no points you score by being able to “both sides” this election. There is no comfortable middle ground that allows us all to feel safe because you didn’t like either of them. We have to make a choice.
We can do something about this. I want to hold true to the values of the America I want to see. The one in which we are aware of our problems and pursue paths towards fixing them. I want to see a return to shared norms of truth and data based decision making. I want America to face its realities of existential crises like automation and climate change and DO something about it, not simply go — LOOK OVER THERE.
We can do something about this.
Reach out to people you know. Use your voice, in your own words. It is easy to hit share, but speak form language that is personal you to you about why YOU are participating in this election. Each week I started sharing my reasons why I’m voting in this election to help people relate to similar struggles.
Avoid getting caught in the punditry loop. Here’s the reality none of us can control what the party or the candidate does, what they say, how they say it between now and November. What we can control is who WE talk to, where WE place our energy, and it can change things.
We can make calls to voters, we can reach out to people who know who have never voted. We can talk to our friend who suggests that they “don’t know enough” to vote, or who feel like who is or is not the president makes no difference in our lives. No matter how small, no matter if we impact 100 people or 1 person, we can do something about this.
Ask your friends, are you registered to vote, invite those who never talk about politics to have a phone call or a facetime with you.
We can also avoid in engaging with people who argue in bad faith. In 2016 I met people who said emphatically that they didn’t like Hillary at all but who said “they would have loved to see someone like Joe Biden”. Then when Biden clinched the nomination and I reached out to them they said “I would never vote for Joe Biden”. There are people who are going to look for any reason to absolve themselves of the decision to either not vote, or vote 3rd party, or vote for Trump which they were going to do in the first place. They will use micro issues and mini elements as a proof, as if to say see — THIS is the reason. I argue that it’s no longer worth trying to win this fight.
This election is not about the elevation of one man, though truly it is part of that, but it is about a repudiation of the kind of world we’ve seen over the last 4. We need a resounding mandate that we will not accept this kind of politics, this kind of behavior that tarnishes and destroys the beautiful fabric of our country.
The outcome we see in 9 weeks is entirely up to us, and let us take the necessary steps to be able to say on that Tuesday that we did all we can to work towards the country we want to see.
Believe in possibility. Believe and then act.
I’ll see you all on November 3.