Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Everything is terrible and nothing is OK. If you’re feeling depressed and maxed out too, trust that you are far from alone.
– A global pandemic has killed more than a million people, including more than 220,000 Americans, and is swelling into what public health officials warn will be a brutal second wave.
– The Trump administration failed to manage the virus the first time around and seems to have no plan to make this second go any better.
– A Democratic relief bill has been sitting for months, but Senate Republicans – led by Mitch McConnell – can spend the few days before a national election rushing through the confirmation of a far-right Supreme Court justice who seems likely to use her spot on the bench to undo progress on women’s rights, voting rights and health care, and could thwart efforts of democratically elected representatives to see progressive legislation upheld and carried out.
– The existing Supreme Court had already signaled its willingness to suppress American votes, ruling that mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day in Wisconsin are invalid.
– In the meantime, millions of Americans are unemployed, furloughed or facing tenuous employment futures, and President Trump is playing footsie with conspiracy theorists and telling far-right groups to “stand back and stand by.”
Oh, and wildfires continue to ravage the Western states.
In what is for many Americans a truly terrible year, waking up into Tuesday – as Covid-19 rages on, and with the hangover of misbegotten Supreme Court confirmation – manages to stand out as particularly awful. With maximum pandemic stress rushing in, maximum stress from the impending election, everything – democracy, our lives – feels at stake. It’s enough to make you want to fall apart.
So how to deal?
It’s easy to get caught up in endless doom-scrolling, to sink into a pit of despair. It’s a rational reaction to this moment, when so many of our fellow citizens are dead, sick, or hurting, and when a whole series of basic rights many Americans took for granted are freshly vulnerable.
It’s OK not to feel like bucking up, to want to hide under the covers and melt into a sea of misery. Go ahead.
Just don’t stay too long.
But remember, take care of yourself. Listen to Doomscrolling Reminder Lady, Karen Ho: Stand up and walk around. Take some deep breaths. Roll out your wrists and wiggle your shoulders. Log out of the apps that make you anxious. Get away from screens awhile. Put on your mask and go for a walk outside. Call a loved one.
Then, do something. There is still time to convert despair into action. You’ve voted, right? Or if you haven’t voted, what’s your voting plan on Election Day? What’s your plan if lines are long?
Both presidential campaigns are doing lots of get-out-the-vote work right now, but people are often more likely to vote if someone close to them gives them a nudge. Have you talked to your family members about their voting plan? Your friends? Your colleagues? Your acquaintances from high school who you’re connected with on Facebook?
Are you talking about voting for the president, but also for the down-ticket races? Are you connecting voting to the basic day-to-day issues Americans face – and emphasizing that who wins this election will decide how much economic relief Americans get as the economy fails them (under Trump, it’s been no relief for months) and the future of American health care (expanding the Affordable Care Act under Joe Biden; destroying it under Trump).
And don’t forget. There is also life beyond this election. One candidate will win; the other will lose (and hopefully, we’ll know who’s who by next week). There may be more despairing yet to do, or there may be a moment of hope.
No matter who wins, there will most certainly be work to do. Maybe it will be continued resistance against the worst excesses of an administration that leans toward authoritarianism, coupled with redoubled individual efforts to stay physically safe and financially afloat with little assistance from the government.
Or maybe it will be putting the pieces of a broken country back together. That will mean reconciling or reaching détente where we can. But it will also require working to figure out how so many Americans have so quickly accepted abject cruelty, embraced hyperpartisan animus, and descended into fringe conspiracy-mongering (and while these ills are concentrated on the far right, they are not exclusive to it).
Real reconciliation and healing is a slow, difficult and intentional process; it won’t happen with Kumbaya cliches or an agreement to disagree. But if we want to stitch our frayed nation back to one, it’s what we will have to do – all of us.
First, though, we need to make sure that as many Americans as possible have their voices heard at the ballot box. When so many are sick, grieving, and going hungry, not everyone has the ability to engage politically, push despair aside, and encourage others to vote.
But those of us who are physically and mentally capable don’t have the privilege of complacency. The next week shapes everything – and then there is much more to come.