In my inbox, a letter from a fellow writer: “How are you, really?” she asked, not just to me, but to all the writers she knows. She asked because she, too, is living through this time when every week brings a new, devastating knife to our society’s heart. She knew we are all suffering.
How are we, really?
It’s hard, this time we live in. I am haunted by the idea that I use words to make a living, to make my place in the world, to make myself understood. Yet I can’t figure out how to use words to make a difference right now.
I can write blog posts. I can tweet out my insights. I can post my thoughts on Facebook. I can write poems, essays, short stories, or a novel and try to get them published.
But none of that will make any difference.
The only “likes” I would get would be from people who already agree with me—preaching to the choir, as it were. Other people would pounce on my words with hostility, “triggered” to rain venom on me for daring to offer a different opinion—here, in our bastion of democratic ideals, our melting pot of different cultures, values, and thinking, which used to be something we were proud of.
…our bastion of democratic ideals, our melting pot of different cultures, values, and thinking, which was something we used to be proud of…
No matter how many words I publish, I know with dread certainty that I will not change any minds in today’s polarized society. Those most in need of messages of inclusion, universal love, charity, kindness, helping hands, rising tides floating all boats, and we’re-all-in-this-togetherness have already been cemented into hatred-fueled perspectives that reinforce selfishness, ostracization, leader-approved violence, and bigotry.
I fear speaking out, because I already spend all my days in an industry defined by rejection. But at least rejection from publishers doesn’t come with death threats.
I feel like I should raise my voice against hatred, against bigotry, against tribal warfare (us vs them, however that’s defined). But I know that my words will, at best, accomplish nothing, and at worst, put my own life, career, or family at risk.
I am profoundly despondent. I despair for our nation, which for nearly 250 years has had many problems, but has still embraced an overall striving for life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness for all (even if that last ideal has taken two and a half centuries and counting to drag certain mindsets out of the dark ages and is frequently derailed by greedy powers-that-be who are themselves reflections of their own shameful eras). Where our painfully slow progress in the past has always been, admittedly, two steps forward and one step back, it was still generally an overall net gain towards positive goals.
I am gut-punched at the thought that our “noble experiment” of democracy is being corrupted by wealthy fear-mongers and fame-seeking power-addicts. I fear we are witnessing the end of our democracy/republic. It is not just faltering. It is being actively dismantled. Our democracy may not be a perfect solution, but we’ve always thought it beats the heck out of whatever’s in second place, especially when whatever’s in second place involves oligarchs behind closed doors.
I fear we are witnessing the end of our democracy/republic. It is not just faltering. It is being actively dismantled.
We no longer seem to be moving forward. Instead, we are back-sliding. And the only thing behind us is a cliff of self-destruction. Backsliding will lead to ruin, and I feel helpless to stop it. All my words are nothing more than shouting into the void.
My father (Vietnam war) and my father-in-law (WWII and Korea) both fought for our democratic beliefs. On this Memorial Day, I think of them with tears in my eyes, and not just because I miss them.
So how am I, really?
Impotent, dejected, discouraged, and a hundred other dire emotions from Pandora’s Box.
But somehow, I am still trying to cling to that spark at the bottom of the box—that ember, that tiny glow of heat. That hope.
My words may be useless. But surely someone, somewhere, has words that will save us. Surely.
I only hope we hear them in time.