Warning: Stop reading immediately if you: (1) have NOT seen The Princess Bride AND; (2) are NOT in the "Pit of Despair" about 'Murica 2016. If you troll me on this post, I'll know you didn't heed my warning, and I will not engage.
Still with me? Okay.
I've been thinking about that scene in The Princess Bride. The one where the Albino (aptly-named given the white supremacist tenor of the past week and since he looks exactly like Steve Bannon) is holding Prince Westley hostage in the Pit of Despair.
"Where am I?" Westley asks. "The Pit of Despair! Don't even think about trying to escape," the Albino answers in a raspy voice. But later, Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) saves Westley, noting that he is "only mostly dead" because he is sustained by true love, and provides a chocolate-covered potion pill that brings Westley back to life and ready to vanquish his enemies.
I won't lie: I've been in my own little Pit of Despair this entire week, but after much thought, tears, hand-wringing, and conversations with like-minded people, I have made three concrete resolutions on how to move forward in the wake of something that I (along with many others) consider to be UNBELIEVABLE, VERY UNFAIR, and a BIGLY civic DISASTER of unknown scale and consequence for the nation, one which we all must now live with.
1. #PutItDown: I decided I need to manage my intake of news and social media much how I learned to manage food after years of eating disorders. (The hashtag is copyright Geoff) I don't think it's realistic to cut myself off from the world's information sources, nor is it responsible. The fact is our phones are good tools for social justice. We need social media to connect with one another. But there's a fine line between staying informed and poisoning yourself with too much (often erroneous) information from filtered or curated sources. In other words, I'm going to try to subsist on a healthy diet of vetted information, rather than binge and purge on the equivalent of a pan of half-cooked Duncan Hines brownies 25 times a day.
2. Set Boundaries and Forget About "Changing People's Minds": We all have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to the things we care about in this world. To that end, I have decided to stop trying to engage people who directly or indirectly pulled the lever for Donald Trump. My energy is wasted on these people, because I have nothing to say to them (but I take heart in the fact that I'm in the company of more than half the country in rejecting Trump). The fact remains that while each individual Trump voter is not a white supremacist or a misogynist, when given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to answer the question: "are either of those things a deal-breaker for you?" their answer was no. I therefore have nothing in common with these people and nothing to talk about with them. It's a personal boundary. It's not a question of "listening to other people's opinions." I read somewhere that "respecting someone else's opinion" is okay for things like "I don't like hot sauce," not things like "I don't like black people." So there you have it. Goodbye to all that, and I am turning to devoting my limited time and energy to #3.
3. Direct Limited Time and Concrete Energy to Productive Things: An interesting byproduct of my malaise is that I feel like I don't exactly want to live in the world that is coming (or perhaps that I have merely just awakened to). I would never harm myself in any way, but I suddenly feel a big and liberating loss of fear about what happens to me in service of mitigating the consequences of whatever is destined to happen next. So I am going to get more active in my community, and engage more with my elected officials. I am going to join a few more boards, keep writing (both for myself and to help others feel less alone), and keep raising my kids to be conscientious objectors to the inevitable toxicity to follow.
To quote Miracle Max, "there's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive." Democracy as we know it may be "mostly dead," but true love is still the most powerful weapon in our arsenal.
Have fun storming the castle!