This isn't me, but it accurately portrays how I've often felt over the last four years.
“Bad (people) need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good (people) should look on and do nothing.”
John Stuart Mill, 1867
(I'm going to assume Mr. Mills would be okay with my use of "people" instead of "men."
In his day, women's and children's voices weren't commonly heard.)
I've had a lot of trouble focusing.
The only way I can describe it is to say that it's like I'm living in two parallel worlds: one normal and one upside down.
In one, I'm a normal person who cleans my bedroom, eats meals, sees my family when I can, goes for walks, makes lists of what I need to do next, and so forth.
In the other, I'm trying to get used to the fact that the world as we know it might burn up in 20 or 30 years unless we start changing the way we live. That's if we can survive the current US presidency, which seems bent on destruction for the sake of wealth and power. Not to mention the numerous countries who have nuclear weapons and might decide to use them at any time.
At my core, I'm a fiction writer, but over the last three or so years, I’ve pretty well given up the struggle to even try to write anything because there's just too much reality going on around me. Even though I’ve often used fiction to attack things I see as wrong, such as racism and sexual abuse, over the last few years, even trying to make up a story felt like escapism. I should be doing something more useful.
Added to that, since last October I’ve been working through the breast cancer process, so everything in my life was kind of set aside. The only things I could realistically do, aside from eating and looking after myself, were read, watch some TV, and do some jigsaw puzzles, a few pieces at a time.
And think. I couldn't stop thinking.
I’m feeling somewhat more like myself now; however, I tend to sit here, trying to focus, but feeling overwhelmed and confused.
- Running water into my fancy pink glass bottle reminds me that there are glaciers melting in Greenland and other places because of the unnatural heat. And that there are First Nation people in our country, as well as people in Flint, Michigan, and all over the world who don't have healthy water to drink or in which to bathe and wash their clothes.
- Getting out my fall and winter clothes makes me think of the growing number of homeless people, some of whom will freeze to death this winter.
- Buying new towels seems wrong when there are asylum-seekers being mistreated and even dying in concentration camps where they don’t even have a cot to sleep on.
- Working on a new chapter for my LoveChild memoir, which I began years ago, reminds me of abortion and the Roe vs Wade debate that’s still ongoing. Many Republicans and Canadian Conservatives want to make abortion illegal while at the same time limiting access to sex education and birth control, in spite of the harm that will do.
- Editing a mystery story I wrote a few years ago, which involves the dead wife of a mayor, reminds me of “Fake News.” And that reminds me that the President of the United States, a country that in the past has prided itself on being a world leader, has been documented as lying more than 10,000 times. Probably up to 12,000 by now. And he's not the only politician lying. Truth is at a premium these days.
- Moon of the Crusted Snow—a YA fantasy I picked up because a lot of people I follow were talking about it on Twitter—makes me wonder how we could survive during climate change. Like, practically. What would we have to do? But it also reminds me that when I was in university, I taught a Sunday school class that had kids from the Brandon Residential School in it, and I feel sick. No one told me what was going on there. I truly was oblivious, and I find that horrifying.
- Watching TV when an election ad filled with lies and half truths comes on reminds me that I voted for Stephen Harper even while I hated his attack ads. I shudder. I honestly though it was the PR people from the party who were responsible for the terrible ads, and not him. What was I thinking? And now Sheer is following in the same path, and there’s no way I’ll make that mistake again.
- I hear in the news about hurricanes and the death and devastation they cause. Back to climate change. What are we going to do? Do we have a plan that might work? And how could we ever get all the stakeholders to agree?
- I look at our tiny back yard garden filled with perennials and a few annuals, and am reminded that acres and acres of trees in the Amazon basin have been intentionally burned, resulting in the loss of not only the lives of people, animals, and plants, but also the loss of vital oxygen and carbon dioxide. Which means death for the world itself comes closer.
- Every week there seems to be another gun massacre, typically in the US, but not always. And I see Evangelical Christians saying that the abundance of guns aren’t the problem, but it’s the lack of prayer in schools. Seriously? What world are those people living in? Most of the massacres have been carried out by white supremacists. And white supremacy is rampant, even here in Canada.
- I hear several of Canada's politicians, in the leadership debate this week, vowing to decrease immigration into Canada and at the same time give less money to help other countries. And I shudder. I know that, all over the world, ordinary people who aren't as fortune as we have been, are running from violence and certain death, and instead of finding compassion and help, are being locked in concentration camps where they are being tortured, sexually abused, and even killed. And we should do less to help them, not more?
And I realize that I'd be crazy not to feel overwhelmed!
I need to tell you up front that I consider myself an evangelical (small e) Christian, but I am not, nor have I ever been, an Evangelical (capital E) Christian.
In my opinion, what Donald Trump and the Republican Party are doing in the United States is despicable.
But the fact that many Evangelical Christians are not only supporting Trump and his enablers, but venerating, and, in some cases, idolizing him, makes me sick to my stomach.
And yes, I know there are people like this in Canada too.
- People who believe they know God's will better than anyone else.
- People who use a ministry for God to justify or cover up their corruption.
- People who believe black and brown people are somehow less "human" and therefore of less value than white people.
- People who think it’s okay to lie and cheat as long as you “win.”
- People who call themselves “pro-life” but could care less about what happens to the babies after they’re born.
- People who believe women are intrinsically worth less than men and should know their place.
- People who absolve rapists and abusers while degrading and causing further abuse to the victims.
- People who hate those who are queer, and refuse to give them equal rights.
- People who refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees with them.
- People who seek power regardless of the cost to others.
I'll be honest. I'm scared. I don't know what kind of world this is going to be in ten years. Okay, maybe one year.
And some days, my brain gets stuck in a loop that goes over and over these and other issues, and I get mired in a helplessness. What can I possibly do to make a difference? Especially while I still have low energy from the last year of breast cancer.
I feel overwhelmed.
But then I remember what I believe.
And who I believe.
Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?”
Jesus answered, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”
Matthew 22:36-40 (NCV)
The Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do. We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other.
Galatians 5:22-26 (NCV)
I remember growing up during the Cold War.
Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe at the UN. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam. Bomb shelters.
Walking to school after lunch just after hearing on the radio that John F. Kennedy had been shot. Seeing my teacher shed tears as she told us the President of the United States was dead.
The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy. The Civil Rights Movement. Richard Nixon. Watergate.
In Canada, the FLQ, Residential Schools, the Pickton murders, more than 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women....
Ugliness isn't new. Neither is a fear of the unknown.
I also remember that I prefer to face reality rather than to pretend things aren't happening. To know the truth. To deal with things the way they are and not the way i wish they were.
And I realize that the one thing I can do right now, and do well, is to write, which, thankfully, doesn’t take a ton of physical energy.
So I think I’ll write about some of the things that have been on my mind over the last few years.
At the very least, I won’t continue to look on, feeling overwhelmed, but doing nothing.
I do think the challenge of these days lies in navigating the waters without going under. At least that is true for me and, as I listen, I keep hearing the same desire in others. How do we carry the weight of so much, and with more coming at us daily? All you’ve written here is true and widely felt.
For me, figuring out where the boundaries need to be is crucial. Where is the boundary between staying informed and just heaping more fuel on my fire? But to say it was that alone would be simplistic.
In Acts 13, David is credited with serving God “in his own generation“ and that is something I always hear as a call. I’m here at this time and in these circumstances. Given that, I ask God, Where do my hands belong, my thoughts belong? It’s an almost daily ask and then it’s on me to follow.
Also, this, which I read whenever I see nothing but darkness:
“In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”
– Alistair Cooke
I so hear you. And I have also had to remind myself that there never has been a time in history when there weren’t hideous human rights atrocities and genocides, corruption, injustice, wars and despair for the future. Sometimes for my own mental health I have to take a break from news and social media. How to balance being a voice for truth and justice with self-care? I need to remind myself of the heros in our world: the IJM, Doctors Without Borders, brave political activists. I also believe that the arts are important. They keep us connected to our humanity and to joy. I feel most connected to myself when writing poetry or fiction. I have also written to raise awareness and funds for the IJM and the Salvation Army, and about the treatment of First Nations people. But there is a vital purpose in play and laughter. They are gifts of God to keep us healthy and strong.
Wherever God directs you in writing, embrace it with joy. May you be blessed.
Great response, Marianne.
Yes, evil is always with us and good is always struggling to keep its head above water.
And we so need to use our creativity as much as we can. And our other gifts, or course.
Thank you for empathizing.