Saturday, November 5, 2016

On Emotion and Politics

I just counted my Xanax pills to make sure I haven't been taking more than I thought (or more than I'm prescribed.) I'm good—I've got more than enough until refill day—but I can't remember the last time I needed to do that. I've been here before, make no mistake. My anxiety has been severe enough that I needed to be sure that I wasn't overusing them, because I have abused them before. (When Mom was sick and after her death I acted like Xanax and wine were bread and water. And going back farther, when I was in college I didn't always bother to count the pills in my palm before swallowing them. These are stories from 15, 20 years ago that are now just context, thankfully,)

But that's how terrifying this election is to me. I always get anxious about election season, during a normal year. This is not a normal year.

This. Is. Not. Normal.

To me, this election is a referendum on human decency and American dignity, not to mention the very obvious issues of how we see race and gender.


To illustrate: It's 2016 and my daughter's female schoolmate conducted an impromptu poll on the schoolbus: "Who do you wish was President?" To the three kids who answered Hillary, this girl told them she doesn't believe women should be the President. My girl and her bestie were completely shocked.

To illustrate: I never would've imagined a year ago that the GOP, largely comprised of religious voters, would have chosen Trump as the nominee. I never would have imagined that Trump would have since the rhetoric about banning Muslim immigrants sunk even lower and gone on to a drawn out tirade against a Gold Star family. That he'd back up the anti-Mexican statements with racist accusation against a federal judge.

Yes, I agree that the revealing of Trump as a sexual predator was decidedly un-shocking. The language that was recorded was unbelievable—not the vulgarity but the explicit statements about not getting consent to kiss and grab and his stating with shocking transparency the exact crux of rape culture; that men with power can assault with impunity.

He has made a frightening number of statements that undermine our entire democratic process, he's insulted every minority group I can think of, and he's been disgusting in his aggression toward women in too many ways to name.

And the polls are so close right now it's just upsetting. And yes, literally upsetting. I'm an anxious wreck, and I'm afraid. I'm livid and I'm disappointed as hell in the country. I've had numerous discussions about why I get emotional about politics, and only one of those was with a woman. (She understood; she listened. And she agreed.)

The reason this question bothers me is that the measure of some illusory emotional norm is the behavior and reaction of straight white men. The people who are bewildered by my passion for identity politics are those who benefit from the power structures questioned by these politics. And they don't believe, generally, that that privilege exists.

So why don't you care more?

This candidate is a cruel bully, an alleged sexual predator who has many accusers, none of whom receive anything but vilification. He is—as documented in his own speeches and other sources—a misogynist, racist, Islamophobe, effectively a Russian sympathizer, and 70% of his public statements are lies. He wants to jail (not try; JAIL) his opponent. He has a demonstrably thin skin, and does not understand why we don't use nuclear weapons.
And none of that is a dealbreaker for almost half of voters.

You're goddamn right I'm emotional. You're goddamn right I'm angry.

Why does this not keep you awake at night?

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