Tonight is the worst my anxiety has been since the immediate days after the election. For a while, I was able to push it down, breath through it, ignore it. I put off my fear because Trump wasn’t actually in office yet, but now – four days in – and there is nothing that comes from the White House that doesn’t horrify me. Nothing.
The EPA is in jeopardy of losing years of climate data – agency officials unable to keep websites from being scrubbed or taken down. Government offices are being told not to interact on social media – no tweets. No talking to reporters. No sharing research.
His cabinet choices are a continuous line of who-is-the-person-most-likely-to-ruin-or-take-complete-advantage-of-this-department.
I know there are checks and balances, but I don’t know how they work – and if they’re going to be able to hold the weight of so many lies and injustices. I’m a middle-aged mom, sitting alone on her couch after midnight. My dog is asleep at my feet, he keeps letting out loud whimpers from his dream and I think, dear lord, even my dog is having nightmares. The TV isn’t on, and most of the lights in the house are off. I can hear my bed sheets spinning in the dryer.
The only thing that calms me is remembering an interview I heard this week with Rebecca Solnit. Staying true to my stereotype, I was listening to NPR’s “On the Media” when the show’s host, Bob Garfield, interviewed the author and environmental activist about her book “Hope in the Dark” and its message that we are not doomed.
Halfway through writing this post, I went back and read the interview transcript – multiple times – and realize two things. 1.) In addition to reading the book, I should probably read this interview every morning for the next four years; and, 2.) I’m doing exactly what she says we shouldn’t, focusing only on my despair.
When the Garfield asks her, “…can’t we be morose and desperate” about all that is happening under the current administration, this was her response:
You’re talking about two different things, how do we feel and what do we do. And I’m not telling people how to feel, I’m telling people that there is scope for action. One of the great conundrums is that unless we believe there are possibilities we don’t act, but the possibilities only exist if we seize them. And so, a lot of what I’ve been trying to do is encourage people to recognize there is an extraordinary history of popular power in the US but also around the world.
Her point is that the future is up for grabs – still. We don’t know what will happen and history has proven time and time again, that the most extraordinary things are born out of the darkest times.
Listening to the interview in my car, I was already sold on ordering the book, but then she read the following passage and I nearly pulled off the road right then to call my local bookstore and ask them to order it for me.
She was reading a passage about how she didn’t want to indulge in what she defined as “The Conversation” – in her words, “…the tailspin of mutual wailing about how bad everything was,” just before George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004:
The certainty of despair – is even that kind of certainty so worth pursuing? … Stories trap us, stories free us. We live and die by stories. But hearing people have ‘The Conversation’ is hearing them tell themselves a story they believe is being told to them. What other stories can be told? How do people recognize that they have the power to be storytellers, not just listeners?”
After already hearing the interview, and then reading it again tonight, my first thought was how much I missed the slight, and mostly manageable, despair of the George W. Bush’s years. And then I realized I’m still doing it – I’m lounging in despair, getting nostalgic about Dubya…of all people!
Solnit’s premise – that history keeps proving our world’s capacity for grand possibilities is true even in this instance: Would we have been so fortunate to elect President Barack Obama if we had not had the George W. Bush years? Tonight – this is what I am holding on to. I know, in my own life, I have arrived at the brightest of days after believing all hope was lost. I can be horrified, but I can also believe that everything is still possible.
“The future is not yet written. What the story is depends on what we make it, and that’s really what I’m here to say,” says Solnit at the end of her interview.
If you want to read the transcript yourself, or listen to the full interview, you can find it here: On the Media, Rebecca Solnit on Hope, Lies and Making Change.
Also, here’s a link to purchase Solnit’s book: Hope in the Dark.