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Today is Thursday. The top headline from the NY Times is “Supreme Court Limits E.P.A.’s Authority on Emissions”. A bit further down is “Case on State Legislatures’ Power Over Elections Will Go to Supreme Court”. I did not write down the headlines from last Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. We knew that decision was coming, but a punch in the gut hurts no less for being able to see the swing. You just suffer longer knowing what’s coming.
I am usually good at compartmentalizing, at putting aside the horrible news of the day that does not immediately affect me and simply moving forward with my life. I do not think, by the way, that this is an admiral quality, but it does make maintaining equilibrium possible. I think, too, that it is very very human to simply continue on.
I read a lot. Mostly fiction. I would argue that fiction and history are both excellent genres for reminding yourself that the world has always been awful. And everyone just keeps trucking on.
Sometimes people ask those of us with children how we could stand bringing a child into the world in the face of global warming or various political instability. I have a longer, more-complex answer to that but my short answer is to gesture to the plague of the 14th century, to the world wars, to other eras where death and/or poverty dominated. A species given to despair cannot survive.
Still. The pandemic continues unabated. Indeed, the official policy response seems to be that frequent re-infection is simply inevitable and that we will simply have to live with the consequences. This is hard enough to cope with, but that despair keeps getting shoved to the sidelines by the news of the day.
In the spring of 2020 the racism of police brutality was at the forefront of the news. That awfulness has existed in this country since before we ended slavery, but perhaps you’ll forgive me for admitting that, for a very brief moment, I truly believed there might be some hope for change. From there we had the 2020 election and the anxiety of wondering if it would be a repeat of 2016. Then on Jan 6, 2021 there was the attack on the capital. It seemed both an answer to the question of whether there would be a peaceful transition of power, and an intensification of the question.. The inauguration was a welcome relief from that particular thread of anxiety, though we still do not know what the consequences will be to those who planned the attack.
Meanwhile, the balance of the Supreme Court shifted in precisely the way that everyone predicted it would. And I find myself here today, reading the headlines and feeling just as punched in the gut as I would have had I not seen any of it coming.
I am searching for hope and finding it hard to spot. I have always voted Democrat and will continue with the vote blue no matter who strategy, but I hold little faith that the Democrats will take any bold action. I am skeptical that even a sweeping blue wave in November would lead to much decisive action.
I am not sure what my next steps are. I cannot wallow in despair and, aside from the pandemic that carries on sickening and disabling people, none of the awfulness is currently on my doorstep. It is tempting to just accept that awfulness rages outside the borders of my home and yard (to which I mostly confine myself on account of that unmanaged pandemic) much as it always has. From there I could reclaim my equilibrium, continue to work and live and raise my child as if time isn’t running out on climate change, as if evangelicals aren’t winning the so-called culture war, as if people in other states have not just lost their right to bodily autonomy and health care, as if the same could not happen here whenever the Republicans regain the executive and legislative branches, as if there isn’t more of the same stripping away of rights to come.
The truth is that while my politics skew left of liberal I have never been an activist. As much as I claim to care about injustice, I have never done much to combat it. I could offer all sorts of excuses but the truth is I have always managed to be comfortable in my complacency. This is seeming less and less like a viable strategy.
So the question that I have to ask myself–have to find the will to answer for myself–is “what am I going to do about it?”
What am I going to do about it?