Remember what it was like, all those years ago, when we could wake up in the morning and not wonder what political disaster might have befallen us? When we could actually go a few days, or maybe even weeks, without thinking about our government leaders? When our social media feeds were filled with pictures of puppies and memes about growing up in the ‘80s?
Yeah, that all came to a brutal end four years ago when he-who-shall-not-be-named became a dark stain on U.S. history.
Since January 20th, however, I feel like I can breathe again. These days, my first thought in the morning is no longer to fearfully check the news to see what fresh hell awaits us. I no longer want to puke over oh-so-unpresidential tweets. I no longer go to bed filled with rage and wake up with rage and feel various shades of rage all day long.
The adults are back in charge again. Thank. God.
We can collectively exhale for the first time in four years.
But that does not mean we can go back to our “I don’t do politics” mentality. Because there’s just too much at stake. There was always too much at stake.
I will be the first to admit that I was privileged to be able to turn off politics from time to time. Pre-2016 I didn’t know who was in the Cabinet, nor could I have told you what U.S. policy on Syria was (admittedly, I still don’t fully understand this one because it’s really freaking complicated). But that all changed a few years ago. The horror of the 2016 election and the past four years have changed me in deep and fundamental ways. There is no turning back.
The past four years, and the past year in particular, have been eye-opening in so many ways. People have shown their true colors. Folks who I had thought were “good people” turned out to be selfish, spiteful assholes. Issues I had passed off as “politics” turned out to be about fundamental values and our basic, human rights. I realized that politics weren’t just something for well-connected, Ivy-league educated, power-hungry people; politics are for everyone. Politics aren’t a topic of conversation to be avoided during dinner parties; politics are what is happening to actual lives. And politics aren’t something you can only pay attention to every four (or maybe two) years during an election; it’s something we need to pay attention to every single day.
Quite frankly, we can’t avoid to return to our benign neglect and self-imposed ignorance when it comes to politics. We need to keep that fire in our belly that we’ve felt for the past four years. We need to stay active and be involved. Because the world didn’t magically change into some grand utopia on January 20 (though it did take a giant step out of the pit of hell we had been in).
White supremacy still has a hold on this country. The LGBTQ community still faces bigotry and discrimination. There is still staggering income inequality. There is still a shit ton of work to be done to make the world a better place. And we can’t back down. Especially those of us with an ounce of privilege, those of us who aren’t marginalized, those of us who had been politically asleep for the past several years (or decades). As they say, to whom much is given much is expected – and if you had the luxury of turning off politics when you wanted, then you have the responsibility to keep on fighting the good fight.
Could we use a break from the political abuse and gaslighting of the past four years? Yes, for sure. We need time to rest and heal. We need to catch our breath. We all need to recharge so we don’t burn out. So take a minute to catch your breath. Then roll your sleeves up and get back to work.
Tell your legislators to support Biden’s bold immigration plans, increase the number of admitted refugees, and end the Remain in Mexico policy immediately.
Support increases to minimum wage in your state. Tell your local officials to commit to more affordable housing developments. Urge your representatives to vote for aggressive COVID-19 relief legislation.
Sign those petitions. Make those calls. Write those letters.
Be active. Stay involved. Don’t look away.
The last administration dug an enormous hole for this country, and we have our work cut out for us to not just repair what has been broken but to make this country better. So sure, take a deep breath and exhale. Let that weight be lifted from your chest. But then it’s time to get back to work.
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