Political Consciousness Isn’t a Luxury

We can’t afford not to care

Photo by Sabrina Figueiredo-Vaz Holder on Reshot

If writing is thinking out loud then thinking is the only way to push back against rising authoritarianism and the erosion of civil liberties in America.

But although it’s free and everyone can do it, not everyone can be bothered.

To preserve their sanity, some folks are quick to boast they’ve mindfully disconnected from the news and choose never to discuss politics.

Ignorance is a privilege not everyone can afford, especially when your identity doesn’t fit the current regime’s idea of an American.

Having the luxury of not worrying about your own safety or survival in those dark times remains alien to many — if not most — people in America.

Despite the color of my skin, I don’t have that luxury: I’m a woman, I’m an immigrant, and I’m a sexual assault survivor, the latter something I had managed to set aside for many years, until the 2016 presidential election happened.

Insulating yourself from the current political climate comes at a cost, maybe not to you directly, but to many others.

It matters not whether you find the regime abhorrent: When you refuse to take an active interest in what’s going on then you’re letting down those whose safety under the current administration is no longer guaranteed.

Sticking your fingers in your ears isn’t pushing back, it’s rolling over with nary a protest and empowering the regime with your silence. Granted, it’s easy to feel powerless and disenfranchised — I do, several times a day — but is that a reason not to engage your brain, educate yourself about the issues at hand, or speak up?

As long as we enjoy free speech as a right guaranteed by the Constitution, our voices will remain our ammunition.

Free speech is a weapon of mass patriotism; silence is acquiescence.

“Yeah, but fake news…”

There’s a quick and easy fix for that: You can diversify your news sources. Instead of supporting legacy media who flirt with Trumpism for clicks and bucks, find publications that do not have a vested interest in keeping this regime in power.

For example, many foreign news outlets publish in English. Finding out about how the rest of the world sees us is the quickest way to cure American exceptionalism as reliable reporting will never perpetuate delusions of grandeur to keep people docile.

And there’s no shortage of organizations dedicated to debunking Trumpian propaganda, both at home and abroad.

As a woman, I still don’t understand the elevation of a self-confessed sexual predator to the highest office in the land.

Not only does Trump reflect badly on us as a nation, but half the population is diminished by his presidency.

Every. Single. Day.

Like many women, I’m so angry there are no words to convey how utterly betrayed I feel by our institutions and this administration.

Instead of being a proud American, I’m an embarrassed, ashamed, and apologetic one. America is the last place I expected to slide into authoritarianism, unhindered. Our daily life reads like a bad sensationalist TV show that keeps getting renewed.

To many, the cognitive dissonance between who we thought America was and our current reality is insuperable.

Occasionally, I trawl the depths of my frustration for clues on how to remain hopeful in uncertain times. Chronic depression makes this task twice as hard. As the invisible force field in my head continues to hold me hostage, it feels like the current administration is doing the same.

Lest I should stand accused of being unpatriotic, I actually chose to live here. Back in 2013 it made sense, but since November 2016 I’ve been consumed by the frustration of being in something but not of it.

My Americanness feels like an organ transplant that didn’t take, all the more as I inherited something I had no say in.

I became a citizen in December 2016, despite filing for naturalization as early as I could, hoping — like thousands of others — that I’d be able to vote.

We cared so much about America that our enthusiasm created a nationwide naturalization backlog, which has only gotten much worse since then.

Amid the constant cacophony, it’s becoming harder to listen and harder even to speak.

Everyone is talking at the same time, jostling for eyeballs and clicks, the next fix of hope as we search for some magic bullet that’ll keep us going.

But the solution has been here all along: it’s us.

You’re it, I’m it: We are our greatest hope.

No Lycra-clad superhero is going to come and save us from the mess we made by failing to take Trump seriously while we gawked at him on the glowing screen.

As we kept sucking on the teat of the bitch goddess television in our never-ending quest for entertainment, he happened.

And he keeps happening, one tweet, one rally at a time as fellow feeling continues to evaporate under the auspices of a regime promoting profiteering over personhood.

Meanwhile, resistance in its many incarnations is quietly lining its pockets with an ever-growing selection of consumer goods because capitalism isn’t partisan.

But civic engagement is more than a $40 shirt or a pink knitted hat. It’s not what you wear, it’s what you do.

Moral and ethical alienation is what leads many of us to the page, calling out the abuses of Trumpism and rejecting it wholesale. In a country so openly contemptuous of culture it sometimes fails to understand how vital public libraries are to the edification of its citizenry, thinking out loud is almost seditious.

Now that normalization is a done deal in many circles, speaking out is the only way to push back.

For to be complacent is to be complicit.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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