Yes, this sucks. But we can’t afford to despair

If, like me, you live life on the progressive side of politics – or perhaps even if you live on the conservative side but nonetheless view climate change as an emergency, and see racism, poverty, and xenophobia as serious issues – you probably spent the evening staring at the election results in growing horror.

(Honestly, I felt so nauseated after a couple of hours that I switched off the coverage and stuck in our Keating! The Musical DVD. I mean, I figure I did absolutely everything I could to make a difference in this election – I could skip the aftermath with a clear conscience.)

And look, it really is pretty awful. The Coalition is not going to do a single positive thing about climate change, and we now have another three years of people on Newstart living below the poverty line and being harassed by robodebts and programs that are designed to punish rather than help, and people who need the NDIS being unable access it. We will have three more years of cruelty to refugees and three more years of cuts to the ABC, while Murdoch gets free rein over our media.

Also… we have just shown both major parties that running a scare campaign with basically no policies wins over running a policy-driven campaign. And that’s really depressing, because it means we’ve just taught Labor not to bother running on policy.

I’m not going to sit here and try to say that it’s all going to be fine, that we need to stay positive, that it’s alright. A significant proportion of or population voted out of fear or ignorance or just a lack of empathy or imagination, and we are all going to suffer for it, and it’s OK to feel stunned and angry and sickened and upset and depressed. The future looks pretty scary right now, and we need to come to terms with that.

We need to take time to grieve, and to be angry, and to be numb, and to do whatever we need to do to find a way to accept the reality we now find ourselves in.

And, honestly, that’s going to take time. I mean, I’m white, I’m mostly straight, I’m employed and reasonably financially secure, and I’m healthy. I’m several steps away from being directly impacted by most of the government’s awfulness, and I’m still terrified and deeply sad about the direction we are moving in. I can only imagine how people more marginalised than me must be feeling right now.

So I think step one for all of us right now is to grieve as we need to. That doesn’t mean we can’t do other things later – that we shouldn’t find our own ways to fight for what is needed, to protect our friends who are more vulnerable than us, to move forward so that there is still something left to preserve by the time we reach the next election.

But we don’t necessarily have to do all of that right now. And we definitely don’t have to feel guilty about not doing *everything* right now. If you need it, this is me giving you permission to take the time to rest and to find a way to be OK. You can’t fight the good fight when you are desperately wounded. Give yourself time to heal.

Because it’s  going to be a hard three years, and I need you to survive it, OK? Whoever you are, if you are reading this, you are needed, and you are wanted and you deserve to be OK. No matter what the government may say. So step one is definitely doing what you can to make that happen. Hang out with friends, read something fun and escapist, throw yourself into work, go for a bike ride, join a community choir – whatever works for you. Take care of yourself. Please.

Step two… step two is for when you are feeling less fragile. But when you get there, step two is to find the thing that you care about and the thing you can do. Maybe that thing is volunteering or donating money. Maybe it is being a good friend to someone who needs that. Maybe it’s raising the next generation, or maybe it’s joining a political party and taking the fight to them.

(Step Three is recognising that there is only so much that you, personally, can do, and doing that much, and not feeling guilty about not doing all the other things. I’m still working on step three, to be honest.)

For me? I’m going to sleep for four hours and then get up and try to enjoy Eurovision. And then I’m going to have another nap, and avoid news coverage and social media for a bit.

But step two for me is definitely going to include writing to my local member and anyone else in the ALP who I can think of and thank them for running a positive, policy-driven campaign. I don’t know if we’ll see another campaign like that after the way this one failed, but positive behaviour should be rewarded, and this much I can do.

Please take care of yourselves.

(And who knows… maybe the early votes will save us. But I have to admit, I’m not optimistic at this point.)

Edited to add: I wrote a post on self-care a few years ago.  It has belatedly occurred to me that it might be worth linking to from this post.  So here it is!

Post-Election Blues…

I’m not going to comment on the US mid-terms here.  I’ve seen people who are very happy about the results, and people who are really disappointed and unhappy, and while, as always, I have plenty of opinions, I don’t feel sufficiently well-informed about US politics to comment on what this result means.   So I’m going to leave analysis to commentators who are more directly affected, and probably more knowledgeable.

I was going to post here today about how shocking and mindboggling I find the way elections are run in the US (how is it that a candidate for election can be responsible for running that election?  I asked one of my Professors, who is from Georgia, how this can possibly be legal, and he just threw up his hands and laughed ruefully), and write another hymn of praise to our lovely Australian Electoral Commission, but that felt like unseemly bragging.

So instead, I’m going to go somewhere completely different with this post.

To me, this result looks cautiously hopeful.  But I’m not American.  The results don’t affect me directly, and I know there were a LOT of things on the ballot that weren’t just about picking a Republican or a Democrat.  I don’t know what will be the last straw for someone who is already struggling.  The 2016 election was the last straw for a friend of mine (TW: suicide), and I would hate to see anyone – on any side of politics, frankly – succumb to this one.

So here are a handful of resources for people in the US who may be finding things difficult right now.

Stay well, everyone.

CRISIS SUPPORT IN THE USA

  • The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (24/7)
  • Crisis Text Line – text GO to the phone number 741741 in the US, or 686868 in Canada
  • IMAlive – Online crisis chat! Support in a crisis for people more comfortable with online chat than phone or text.  (I completely love that you can now chat to counsellers via text or computer, not just on the phone.  Sometimes, a real live person on the phone is just too hard.)
  • Everything is awful and I’m not OK – Self-care checklist
  • Suicidehotlines.com – a list of crisis hotlines and services for a wide range of demographics.
  • LGBTQ Crisis Hotlines – a list of crisis hotlines and resources specifically for LGBTQIA people

(Thank you to Kit Fox for finding so many of these links and sharing them earlier today.)

I’ve also made a list of small things you can do for self-care, which includes crisis lines for people in Australia specifically, as well as a link to a site with a lot of international crisis lines.

Or, alternatively…

FUN AND FRIVOLOUS THINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICS

  • Colouring in for adults (some of the art ones are fantastic!)
  • The Great Museum Dance Off – you’ll have to scroll down to find the various videos, but basically, it’s an annual competition between museums for the best (?) dance routine.  Here are five of my favourites
  • Three brilliant NetFlix shows:
    • The Good Place – the funniest sit-com about ethics that I’ve run across.  But don’t believe the Australian accents in Season 3.
    • Nailed It – a baking competition for people who can’t bake
    • The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell – a gothic baking show, with muppets.  The cakes are astonishing.  The plots are alarming.  (My husband just likes the bloodthirsty muppets…)
  • Australian Firemen with cute animals.  (You can buy the calendars, too, and they support charity!)
  • Tam Lin Balladry.  If you like old folk songs and fairy tales and want to dive deep into a rabbit hole of stories, songs, reviews and history of the Tam Lin ballad, this is the website for you.  It was Abby’s website, and it’s a truly encyclopaedic resource for all things Tam Lin.

Computer update: The lovely people at JMC were able to get my old computer up and running again, but it’s clearly nearing the end of its useful life.  Thank you to everyone who ‘bought me a coffee’ using the link on the right – even though the need is now a bit less urgent, it’s clear that I will need to replace my computer before the end of the year if I want a reliable machine for the Federal Election, so I very much appreciate your support!

Fear

I’m afraid.

I’m deeply afraid for my American friends, who are, by and large, left-leaning folk in a country that is becoming increasingly and terrifyingly right-wing.  I’m afraid for my friends who are gay, for my friends who have chronic illnesses, for my friends who are people of colour, for my friends who are women, for my friends who are Muslim, or really any flavour other than straight, white, Christian, male, and conservative.

I’m afraid for the people who will lose their health coverage or their homes or their livelihoods if election promises are kept.  I’m afraid that people will lose their lives when Obamacare is repealed and they can no longer get coverage for a chronic illness, when they are refused terminations for pregnancies that are killing them, when they make the mistake of being black or transgender or hijabi in the vicinity of someone who needs to Stand His Ground. No, not afraid – horribly, miserably certain.

I’m afraid of a world where Trump’s victory is just another symptom of a growing movement away from kindness and compassion and cooperation towards isolation, hatred and fear of the other.  The Brexit vote, which could spell the beginning of the end of a union that had kept peace in Europe for a longer period than ever before.  The tragic popular vote in Colombia against the treaty that would have ended a civil war.  And we have nothing to feel smug about here in Australia, where we elected four Senators from One Nation, and where our fifteen year obsession with protecting our borders has led us to imprison and torture desperate people seeking our help.  (And let’s not forget our ongoing lack of political will to work with indigenous communities to find ways to close the gap in life expectancy, to prevent deaths in custody, and to fix the intergenerational social problems that our policies caused.)

I’m afraid of the implications of this.  Of war, certainly, but of all the other things we lose without mutual cooperation.  Global warming threatens our existence as a species (and we’ll take a lot of other species with us when we go), and requires a global, cooperative response.  The global refugee crisis requires countries to work together to find a way to help people in crisis and share our resources without impoverishing ourselves.  Poverty and terrorism are difficult problems but not impossible if enough countries are committed to finding a solution.

I’m afraid – and, frankly, disheartened and angry and sick to the stomach – because I’m a woman and it hurts on a far more personal level than I ever expected it to that America chose a man with no experience in the role, and who has shown every sign of being a dangerously chaotic leader at best (and one who, setting aside his boasts about assaulting women, has chosen a running mate whose vision for America is straight out of the Handmaid’s Tale) over an intelligent, level-headed woman with detailed, well-thought-out policies and thirty years of experience in the role.

I’m afraid because I’m writing a public blog post about this election, and even though I’m on the other side of the world, I feel as though I have to censor myself in order to be safe.

For the first time, I’m glad I don’t have children.  I have lost my hope for the future, and much of my faith in my fellow humans.

I do believe that love is stronger than fear, but I’m at a loss for how to apply this now.  Especially when so many people are facing very real threats to their existence.  And it is distressing – devastating – to know that so many people are choosing fear, taking their own fear and projecting it onto others until we all have to be afraid.

I keep thinking back to the late 1990s, when the Wall had come down, and we thought that war and extremism and the threat of nuclear strikes were done with. We were reducing CFCs and shrinking the hole in the ozone layer. I don’t *think* climate change was on the agenda, but there was a will towards international cooperation about the big issues. At least, I think there was. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.

I can’t believe we’ve gone so far backwards. I want the alternate timeline, where we kept Keating and never had John Howard and children overboard and demonising refugees. I want the timeline where we somehow got things right so that there was no rise of extremism and terrorism leading to 9/11. I want the timeline where America got a president who cared about climate change and healthcare and poverty. I want the one where everyone turned out to vote against Brexit, rather than assuming someone else would do it for them.

(In addition to losing my faith in humanity, I’ve lost my faith in time travel.  If it existed, surely someone would have fixed all this by now.)

To my American friends – I don’t know what to say. I don’t think there are any words that can help. So I’ll just repeat what I said yesterday. May your country hold together in hope and love and compassion, and may you all stay safe and well, today, tomorrow, and thereafter.

I’m thinking of you, and praying for you, and will stand with you as far as I can from this distance, and I hope you will be OK.

What you can do

I don’t like to leave a post which is just angst and sorrow with no constructive place to put those feelings afterwards.  But this one, we can’t fix with a single action.  It seems to me that a lot of the big battles have been fought and lost this year, and we can’t fight them again just yet, but that still leaves the small, everyday things.  We can still be kind to each other.  We can still listen to each other, and try to learn and to understand.  We can do small things to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us.  This may sound facile, but it isn’t – nobody can fight the big battles day after day, without taking time to regroup.  It’s going to be a long road back for the whole world, I think, so we need to conserve energy, but also to do things that keep us in the habit of caring and of acting.  We need to find places where we can act as individuals and have a few easy victories so that we don’t give in to despair.

Here is a highly incomplete list of really small, easy things you can do for yourselves and for each other.
  • Donate to a charity on behalf of someone else.  Oxfam Unwrapped will send a friend a card on your behalf, telling them what you donated in their name.  The bag of pig’s manure seems like an appropriate choice right now.  So does the Women’s Rights gift, that trains women in Bangladesh for leadership roles.
  • Bake something delicious and give it to someone.  I feed my colleagues a lot (but not tomorrow, because I’ve spent all evening writing this.  Sorry, my scientists!), but dropping something in to a local homeless shelter, or for the doctors and nurses at your local hospital is a nice touch.  Or you could do this.
  • Write a letter to a politician thanking them for their work on something you appreciate.  Or write a letter or a card to a teacher or friend who has helped you, telling them how much you value them.
  • If hand crafts are your thing, make a quilt or a cape or knit a teddy bear for a sick or traumatised child, or check out one of these campaigns.
  • If you are in a choir or orchestra or other musical group, get a group together and see if there is a local retirement home, or hospital, or detention centre, that might like a short concert.
  • Recommend a book to someone.  Buy it for them, if you can afford it.  Make it something fun and clever and escapist and quietly feminist.  (My recommendations this week are Sherry Thomas’s book A Study in Scarlet Women, which is a really clever gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes; The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman, a fantasy adventure with secret agents, alternate worlds, and stolen books; and anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, but especially Paladin of Souls.)
  • Ring someone who you know is having a rough time right now for a chat.
  • Volunteer for a tree planting day, or at a wildlife shelter.
  • Download Mapswipe, and help Medecins Sans Frontières find people in disaster zones (note that you will need good eyes for this activity)
  • Take a bath, turn off your phone, and have an early night.  Books, music, favourite TV programs, partners and pets might all be part of this arrangement.  It doesn’t have to be tonight.  But give yourself permission to take a night off from the fear.  You can afford one night.  We all can.