“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst.” – Aristotle
“This test is important, take it immediately.”
“Huh. George Washington, apparently. Let’s face it, could be much worse.
“Amazing and…accurate? I got JFK because I’m basic af.”
“God, we are both hilariously predictable sometimes because…yeah…totally accurate for me. I like them principled and relatively scandal free.”
“And all I want is the drama and the glamour and the tragedy and exceptional, inaccessible privilege.”
“You like the guy who dies dramatically after a couple of years in office, I like the guy who retires quietly to set a historic precedent…and then goes back to his/our ridiculous estate. Fine with this.”
“We did pick the two wealthiest presidents, so…”
“We may be predictable/basic af but we are not cheap.”
– Katarina and C.
But also remember that this is the third made up tragedy the administration seems to have referenced in a single month in office. And remember that the nearest thing to successful terror attacks in Sweden recently was a conspiracy of anti-immigration neo-Nazis.
“Why were you lurking under our window?” “Yes – yes, good point, Petunia! What were you doing under our windows, boy?” “Listening to the news,” said Harry in a resigned voice. His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of outrage. “Listening to the news! Again?” “Well, it changes every day, you see,” said Harry.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
As mentioned in an earlier post, I intentionally consume a lot of news; but occasionally I do try to step back and consider my habits. At this particular moment in British and American geopolitics there is so much happening and at such a fast pace that I have found myself trying to read more and more news on an increasing number of (vetted) platforms and relying on feeds to keep up instantaneously on coverage of a number of issues.
I don’t actually think this is healthy. For some people, perhaps, but right now, not for me. It’s not good for my focus, my productivity, or my heart rate. As someone who normally allows not a single notification alert option to be activated on any of her devices (with the exception of professional ones), I’m developing a curious compulsion to be kept up to the minute.
But more critically, at this moment I don’t think it’s good at supporting my intention to be informed. Not every flashing “breaking new” graphic (and goodness, aren’t those causing heart palpitations) denotes a fully fleshed and well sounded story. I’m trying an experiment for the next few days where I’m going to be checking in on the news once in the morning and once in the evening and going cold turkey betwixt. My theory is that not only will this free up quite a bit of emotional energy it will give the media landscape time to present more and better connected facts to me. I’m curious to see if this will turn out to be the case or not.
But this left me wondering: how do you, faithful SDS loyalists, consume your news? Do you rely on feeds, paper subscriptions, digital subscriptions, emails from well meaning elderly relatives, or water cooler chatter? How often a day do you check in with your information streams? Have you dialed up your intake of news lately, or intentionally scaled back?
“The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.” – Henry Cate
This latest news story requires its own post, otherwise the Weekend Links update will be unreadably long. The still-breaking story about Gen. Flynn’s leaving the administration after an unprecedented 24 days is ongoing but at the moment…it’s a mess. It’s a bonkers, ridiculous, upsetting mess.
Getting the timeline right still isn’t easy. By my count thus far…Kellyanne Conway has said Gen. Flynn resigned, but Press Secretary Spicer then said President Trump asked for his resignation. Spicer said Gen. Flynn was an internal issue for weeks, but President Trump last week told reporters he knew nothing of the DOJ’s or any report to the White House that the general was a potentially serious liability. Conway speaking yesterday for the WH says that the problem is that Gen. Flynn lied to VP Pence, but just two days ago said that the President had complete trust in the general, and Spicer again is now claiming that the WH knew about this issue (with the exception of the VP, apparently, who found out he was either deceived or misinformed following the story breaking). At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning.
But in summary, as far as I can make out, the fundamental options seem to be that either the then-President-elect directed Gen. Flynn to have a conversation with the Russian ambassador discussing the possibility of easing sanctions when the new administration came to power, or Gen. Flynn did this on his own volition. Either option is against the law. We’re only talking orders of magnitude at this point.
At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning. CNN is now reporting that aides for the first candidate then President-elect have been in routine communication with Russian officials for months. While not wholly unprecedented during a transition period between governments, the frequency of communications seems to have raised enough red flags to have the intelligence community alert both the sitting and in-coming presidents to the fact.
In summary again, either candidate/President-elect Trump knew both that these communications were happening–and that it was illegal or at the very least wildly inappropriate–and allowed them to continue, or he knew that it was happening but didn’t understand that it was illegal/inappropriate. Our options here are malice or incompetence.
Elected officials in general and Republicans in particular, if you think you can wait this latest scandal out, you are wrong. If after eight years of obstructing and scrutinizing an administration’s actions out of “principle,” you are suddenly unwilling to do the same now in the face of blatant incompetence and dangerous allegations of foreign collusion, you are lost as a political group. If you believe it’s more important to maintain party and partisan power than have a functioning, trustworthy, and respected government, you are unfit for office.
Congressional leadership seems to be (finally, cautiously) starting to critique the White House, but overall the response thus far from the president’s own party has been craven. Some of my own representatives have been among the worst offenders–looking at you, Rep. Chaffetz–and no one seems to be willing to be the first to stand up and say, “In the face of this many allegations, this many procedural missteps in executive action, and this level of dysfunction, I demand investigations.”
I have said it before, I will say it again. I am not cheering for President Trump to fail; I did not and do not want the stability of my government undermined. But I did not vote for him because I believed that he was a fundamentally unsafe character with unsound plans and unformed opinions/goals, based on unconstitutional principles, who would put unqualified or unvetted people into power alongside him, to chaotic effect. It’s taken less than a month for him to prove me right.
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m a self-described news junkie who has followed several platforms and branches of the news media closely for my entire adult life. And as a current American expat, a former military brat with both current active duty and retired military family members, a staunch feminist, and someone who works in a field intimately influenced by the finance industry (to say nothing of international policy in dozens of countries on multiple continents)…there’s a lot to follow! I consume a lot of news and these days, as is well documented, a lot of it makes my angry, nervous, and downright pissed. As Solange put it, there’s “a lot to be mad about.”
That being said, one of the things that I’m really concerned about in the current American and British political moments is outrage fatigue. I’ve mentioned this in some comment conversations before, so I know I’m not alone in this worry. Anger is amazing fuel, it’s carried me through more than one challenge in my life. But I don’t believe it’s a perpetually sustaining source of power; it burns out. And it can occasional burn people out as well, when the burden of rising to every piece of bad news with rage simply becomes emotionally unsustainable and politically un-organize-able. I’m genuinely concerned that there are vested interests in the US who are betting that if they keep up a constant stream of conflict and splashy actions, people like me will eventually burn out–i.e., cease the opposition, allowing those vested interests to get away with much worse.
On the flip side, I also don’t believe that outraged reaction as a policy position is terribly effective–at least not in a permanent way, though I think it can be marvelously effective in the short term on the part of the citizenry! It may surprise some readers, but I am not in favor of single minded obstructionist strategies on the part of the left right now. By which I mean that if the president proposed policy broadly aligned with liberal principles, I’d expect leaders to support it (the trouble is that at the moment, the president has yet to put forward a policy I support, but I remain theoretically open to the notion). I railed against obstructionist behavior when conservative stoned walled President Obama, it would be hypocritical of me to support such behavior now. Being consistently against something is not the same thing as having a proactive platform of your own, something that I believe played out to Democratic disadvantage in the recent election. Anger fuels revolutions, but it’s usually taken cooler heads to turn revolt into civic progress rather than a short dive into tyranny or chaos. It’s not enough to emote in response to government actions we find immoral or unlawful, you have to mobilize. That takes organization, articulation of proactive positions and not just reactive ones, effort, and long term commitment…all of which can be difficult to sustain if you are operating from a place of near or actual burnout.
I know for a fact that I’m susceptible to outrage fatigue. And I also know that I plan on being more political involved and engaged than I have been heretofore. Meaning that I’m going to need a thicker skin, a longer battery life, and several recharging stations along the way. To that end, I’m more committed than ever to emotional self care practices and keeping my emotional energy well tended and focused. I’m still learning, but if like me you’ve stared responding to “BREAKING NEWS” signs with cringes and expletives, here are a few things that I’ve found that keep me even keeled when I want to panic or smash things.
Top Tips Thus Far From Someone Still Figuring it Out:
Don’t pick fights for the sake of fighting. Plenty of people are doing that already. If you feel so inclined to join the fray, have at it, but know that you’re expending emotional energy that may be better served elsewhere and that you may need later. Personally, at the moment I’ve given up trying to change a lot of people’s minds through arguing. Where I can find respectful conversations, I engage. Where I find flame wars, I avoid.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy frivolous things that bring your pleasure–and don’t let anyone shame you for it. Yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening all over the globe at the moment. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to enjoy and share small things that make you happy. I remember a criticism leveled at me waaaaaay back in the earlier days of my blogging where someone informed me that I couldn’t be a “real” feminist because I mostly wrote humor posts at the time. A couple of years later, I was called a “stupid/shallow” woman for talking about my love of fashion and beauty. At the time, these (fairly minor) critiques caused me a lot of self-doubt…which was precisely their intent. Today my response is a bellowing, “Nonsense!” As if it’s impossible to have a sense of humor, and like lipstick, and have thoughts about the wage gap, parental leave, and social constructs all at the same time. Everyday pleasures are important and people interested in shaming you do not have your best interests at heart.
Avoid toxicity. Sometimes we need to engage in hard conversations and go to tough places, usually because there is a reward to earn or a morally good fight to be undertaken. Sometimes, there is no discernible good in exposing yourself to certain platforms or people–sometimes being in those places can cause you damage. In those cases, do not give those people or platforms your time, attention, or money.
Maintain your internal bullshit barometer. We live in a consumer media world largely based on provocation and reaction, it takes effort to maintain a critical eye and perspective. Do not get worked up over, much less share information without vetting it first. If and when you find your control over your own perspective shifting to all-to-easily agree with the last article you read or pundit you listened to, it’s time for a break.
Actively seek out things that make you feel happy. Legal and innocuous, I stress! Whether that’s time with your partner or friends, reading a book, exercise, stand up comedy, podcasts, puppy videos…no matter. It’s ridiculously easy to feel like the world is a terrible place and the only logical course of action is to ball up in a corner by ourselves somewhere. Just remember, that’s the argument that got us into our current political predicament! Go find things that spark joy and make them a part of your daily routine.
Unplug from time to time. Barring nuclear disaster (which, depending on your point of view at the moment may in fact be a credible threat), there will be more bad news coming down the pike shortly and, if you are committed to your cause, you will be required to act in some way in response. Allocate your attention accordingly.
Conserve your energy where you can. Not every tweet, pronouncement, or even action is a Defcon 1 level threat. In fact, some of the news right is laugh out loud ridiculous. Find the humor where possible, and allocate your energy where it’s needed.
What about you? What emotional habits have you had to cultivate in the 21st century news and political climate? What works for you and what doesn’t?
“The first requirement of politics is not intellect or stamina but patience. Politics is a very long run game and the tortoise will usually beat the hare.” – John Major
As you may imagine, I’ve been following political news closely over the past couple of weeks (sidenote, how the hell has it only been two week of this presidency?) but I’ve also been following my friends and colleagues reactions to said news. I’m privileged to know some really incredible people, including activists who have spent years campaigning for causes and work that are near and dear to their hearts, and I’m awed to know them.
In seeing how my more engaged friends are springing to action, I’ve been thinking about how a relative newbie like myself can do better. There are a lot of think pieces out there at the moment, about how people can and should go about political engagement, but I feel like I’ve been able to dilute everything I’ve read into three basic lines of advice. This is for myself as much as anyone else.
Read. Inform yourself on what’s going on and gather as much information you can to make sure that you are literate in current affairs. Vet your sources–when in doubt, research the author’s background or other reporting, and ditto for the platforms that articles and reporting appear on. Don’t overreact to any piece of incendiary information that comes your way without properly and critical examining. Be the first line of defense against sharing fake new or misinformation. Make it point to read credible reporting and information provided by platforms that you may usually disagree with! There is no hope of common ground where it can be found without understanding the opposing stance, and you have no hope of changing anyone’s mind if you don’t understand what their position is in the first place. Challenge your own POV as well so that you can formulate and articulate your own position on issues clearly and responsibly.
Focus. Outrage fatigue is a real threat right now (whatever your political suasion) but it benefits absolutely no one. With so much information flying around, and different issues arising so quickly, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to even start trying to affect change. My advice is to decide what your top issues are and broadly stick to them in terms of donation, activities, and effort. Attend events and meetings (including local political gatherings, protests, events with representatives, or town hall meetings) where these issues are going to topics of debate and feedback, and come armed with facts to make arguments and support your positions. Not everyone can spearhead every fight, and that’s okay. There are a lot of angry, woke people doing a lot of good work right now and you are not required to be everywhere at once if you do not have the capacity. Pick your battles, quite literally.
Act. Clicks are not actions. Sharing articles, memes, videos, or any other kind of content on social media is not action. Arguing with people online is not action, and it’s seldom productive anyway. Signing petitions, making donations, showing up in person to events, volunteering your time or talents, calling/engaging with your representatives…that’s action. Don’t confuse emotional venting with being involved.
How about you? What advice have you found useful in evaluating your involvement in politics? What actions are you taking in response to the political climate–regardless of party?
“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde
So. To recap this week. The Johnson Amendment might be on the chopping block next, we’ve hung up the phone on Australia because the president was tired and grumpy and apparently no one put him down for a nap before he talked to the head of another nation, the Mexico situation is ongoing, we’re firing lawyers who disagree with presidential orders (that haven’t been legally vetted in the first instance), we’re purposefully choosing not to mention Jews in the official statement on Holocaust Remembrance day (to which, how?), and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is less necessary at regular meetings of our security council than the president’s special adviser.
Meanwhile violence in the Ukraine is heating up (something I don’t think there’s been enough reporting on in the US, especially given that the Treasury has now has eased a sanction against trading with the FSB, also known as the descendant organization to the KGB), tensions with Iran are ticking up, the administration apparently decided on a military action in Yemen over dinner with dreadful results, the president used a prayer breakfast to needle a celebrity about TV ratings, a spokeswoman seems to have invented a massacre out of whole cloth to defend the administration’s immigration ban, and the president AND his press secretary don’t seem to be entirely sure who Frederick Douglas is or that he’s been dead for a minute.
We are so far past ridiculous now that I’m not even sure what term needs to be used.
Here are you links, kittens, and share anything worth signal boosting, political or petty, in the comments!
Speaking of, I’ve been making it a point to read and share conservative POVs this week, as part of sense checking myself and avoid my personal instinct (panic. All the time. No breaks). This piece, from The National Review is a more measured read as to why Mr. Bannon’s style may have served the president well campaigning, but poorly in governing.
Goodness. Well, let us all hope and pray for the arrival of Mr. Trumps fourth wife, in that case…
This piece from The Guardian was an interesting read and argues (as an earlier writer did) that we’ve all been worried about an Orwellian future, when we should have been worried about a Huxley-ian one.
If you’re looking for some pretty right now, this artist has appeared a ton of places and her work is a fab take on pop art. I’m thinking of buying a couple pieces eventually!