First words here in, like, forever.
Hoping words might help; a little bit Scheherazade, a little bit Harold and His Purple Crayon. A life-extending story told, a world of possibility drawn. Hoping that helping me may help others which (if value there be) will in turn feed into helping me, and so on. Positive feedback loop.
For the past half dozen-plus years I’ve directed all my non-family- and self-care energies to my work, and nearly zip to writing (here or anywhere besides work). During this time I have also been pondering how, or even (usually) whether I could write any honest, valuable personal narrative that could (among other things) touch on family life and parenting, something which has been so central to me, and yet keep my kids sufficiently out of the frame, so they could do their growing up in peace.
Tried to offer some words of comfort at the outset of this reign of terror (here), but obviously my heart drained out of that project nearly immediately, when the magnitude of it all became clear.
At the time, I cast about for guidance, and found some in Kate Kendall’s words at a statewide political convening that was held soon after the 2017 inauguration. She said: “We no longer live in a constitutional democracy. We have to act as if we lived in an autocracy and dictatorship. And those of us with privilege have to use it to change this. Think: what can you do, and do that. And then think: what else?” Bracing. “We’re in an entirely different reality,” she said, “and it demands of us something different.”
Prescient words. And they more or less wiped the table of anything other than The Work. She also referenced Masha Gessen’s brilliant “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,” published in the New York Review not a week after the November 2016 election. Worth re-printing the synopsis I included in my 2017 post–Masha’s rules, with quick explication here and there by me:
- Believe the autocrat. “He means what he says,” writes Masha. And he cares not a jot for consequences.
- Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Catastrophic periods of history have always included what Masha calls “pockets of normal.” Override your brain’s ardent desire to find anything about this regime normal. My addition here: your brain will want to do this, in the same way as we always seek to impose or find some pattern or order amidst chaos. It’s a sanity-seeking impulse, but it will not help us under these circumstances.
- Institutions will not save you. Many of our most cherished pillars of democracy are not protected by law, but a presumption of decency on the part of elected officials. Thus can a majority Republican Senate hold an open Supreme Court seat hostage for a full year, clearly against the intent of the Framers. My addition here: it is up to usto save our institutions.
- Be outraged. It is utterly critical to preserve the sense of shock and indignation: never should the takeover of the executive office via foreign tampering, voter suppression, and more, be acceptable to a lover of democracy. All of us: hold on to this.
- Don’t make compromises. In Masha’s words: “This will be fruitless—damage cannot be minimized, much less reversed, when mobilization is the goal—but worse, it will be soul-destroying.”
- Remember the future. “Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election.”
Italics & highlighting mine. And again: this was what Masha Gessen said four years ago.
Oh, I went on and on and then just deleted multiple paragraphs of fulminating. We read fulminations like this over and over. Nothing I can say, fulminating or otherwise, is likely to be novel. In fact, fulminating has gone from pastime to nervous tic to a way to breathe for too many for too long. Me included. It has been four years of an infinitely sucking, black hole of ego-need, and the day that I no longer pay it any attention–they day I don’t need to react in defense of some precious institution or ethical bottom line, because he has inspired its desecration, too–that will be a good day.
Because there is a whole lot of good to be done in the world, and none too soon.