This freaking year. I’ve been saying this for months and months. And I promise not to become a crazy political soapbox lady. But I’ve been saying for months that 2020 is going to crescendo in the presidential election and so far I’m feeling good on my prediction.
(Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images.)
I’m not going to get into sides here. In fact, that’s the entire point.
I haven’t been doomscrolling. I’ve been trying very hard to keep my posts selective, based on actual experiences rather than intangible beliefs, and free from explicit or hateful snark. But I do have some things to say.
First of all, I am tired. I think that we are all, at our cores, just completely wrecked this year. More emotionally wrecked than most of us have been in years. Or our whole lives. And I think this is a really good time to sit down and think about what those statistics that get thrown around actually mean.
Have you, in the same two-week period, over even the past six months, felt depressed or as if the things you used to love about life are basically flavorless now? Have you also felt a marked decrease or increase of appetite? A sense of being slowed down, mentally and/or physically? Fatigue? A sense of being adrift in it all? In your life and the world? Any new or increased feeling of guilt for things that are more or less beyond your control? A marked decrease in your ability to think clearly, or well, or anywhere near as swiftly as you used to? Like you’re starting to wonder what the point of things even are?
If even a little bit, to the most infinitesimal degree, then you’ve understood what it feels like to be the seven percent of US adults who could potentially meet the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
To be obnoxiously clear about this, I’m not saying you have major depressive disorder. I’m saying you should now have a little more empathy for those who do. Every single day. And not by choice.
I really haven’t been doomscrolling, but I have for sure been watching too much news. Not “too much news” meaning I’m about eight toes over the edge with no incentive to maintain balance. But like, too much news. I know my limits. I know when it’s time to take a break. I find socially acceptable outlets for my cornucopia of feelings on all of the things by writing about it rather than shouting about it on a street corner with a bottle of gin and no pants.
And as I was watching the abject emotion of it all gush out into street confrontations by oppositional protesters, I heard the clearest, most obvious problem we’re currently facing in America today.
“You will never know what it is to be an American,” a man in a red hat yelled at a man in a blue hat across a waist-high metal bike rack. A laughable miscalculation of the power behind both men’s’ words, and spit, and rage. “No, you will never understand what it is to be an American,” the man in the blue hat shrieked in return.
And I sat there watching wondering whether I was truly bathed in a moment or clarity or just completely insane as I thought, “don’t they both see that they are the exact same person? Does anyone not see that these two people should understand one another to the utmost, utmost degree as they wail at one another across a bike rack in the middle of downtown Philadelphia?”
I cannot be the only one who sees that we are more alike right now than we’ve ever been.
If I were an alien, descending from the heavens, into the madness that is America right now I would just think that this was how we communicated with one another.
And from my lofty view atop the center of this column, I realize, it kind of is.
And I do not understand us.
I will never, ever understand us.
I don’t know why I should need to explain to any grown man or woman that they should care about other people. And there are guilty parties on both sides of the bike rack. Regardless of who you’re rooting for right now, you are rooting.
You may be closer to or father from the center than I am, but you’re engaged in the exact same emotional response to what’s going on around you as your neighbor.
Even if one of you has a red sign in his yard and the other a blue sign.
I’ll tell you one thing. One good thing that’s come out of this utter, utter turd of a year.
If it hadn’t been for the apocalypse that has descended upon us at this moment, I would not need to homeschool my kids.
And if I didn’t need to homeschool my kids I might not be as acutely aware as I am, at this very moment, of the opportunity being presented at the center of the swirling chaos of it all. There has never been an election year, not in my lifetime anyhow, when it was easier for me to get my hands on an accurate reading of how aware I am of the workings of one of the strangest political systems in the world: our own.
So much of the controversy at this very moment, on Thursday evening, November 5, in the unholy year of 2020, is due to the fact that we are all at least a little confused by our political system. We do a lot of complaining about it. We do a lot of rhetorical dinner-table-analysis of how things should be and what’s wrong with our government.
Well? I don’t think I can remember a time in my life – and I almost hope to never experience another – when the precise mechanics of US politics has been more ceaselessly or meticulously elucidated. You can’t not be exposed to the guts of our government if you are watching the news at all. In any volume whatsoever. We are being given a real-world civics lesson right now. Do you remember all the fine points from your last civics class? Mine was about 27 years ago. And it was so abstract and inaccessible because things were, like, really calm for us in the 80’s. Comparatively speaking. There is not one single excuse why any of us, on January 20, 2021, should be ignorant of exactly why the man being sworn into the highest office in our nation is being sworn in.
Mechanically speaking. Based solely on the fundamental workings of our political system, devoid of partisan ideology or party dogma.
When I look back through history at the endless existential and essential conflicts through which people have lived, I see universal lessons those people were being invited to learn. And they all boil down to one thing: empathy.
Conflict such as we’re experiencing right this very moment, in America, shines a stark spotlight on what I personally believe to be a fundamental fact: we are all the same. Regardless of who we voted for, we are the very same.
We are all watching, on taut nerves from the sheer face of straight fatigue, as our futures unfold. What happens from this point on, we share in.
We are all in need, of something.
And we are all imbued with this divine capacity to understand another’s experience by imagining ourselves in their place.
I will never, ever understand why we choose not to put it to the very best possible use.
I cannot believe that it even needs to be explained, to adult human beings, that we should care about one another.
Every last little bit as much as we care about ourselves.