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What to Do When There's Nothing We Can Do

Stay AWAKE, and don't forget our powers.

Every day, I get my news from an email called Next Draft, edited by Dave Pell. He lets me know what I need to know, in a way that I want to know it.

I say “my” news, because I don’t believe anymore that there is “the” news. What I receive, what we all receive when we get our news, is information processed through the lens of whatever ‘camera’ we trust most. I recognize it could be (is) skewed, but I trust Dave Pell’s ‘camera,’ so there it is.

So I’m supposed to read the news, and see images like the one above — and not forget about my own ‘powers?’ What powers? My soul can barely handle what’s coming at us day and night. I don’t know where my strength or power even is, so maybe I’ve already abandoned it.

]There’s a weird disconnect I feel from the chaos, the criminal violence, murder, rampage

going on with no seeming consequences. I feel impotent and numb, and I’m trying to stumble my way back into real connection, however I can. So I’ll take you through my attempt at figuring out what to do, when there’s nothing I can do.

  1. I open the “Next Draft” email to get my news. Today’s first article is called “The Mile High Snub: Colorado Kicks Trump Off the Ballot. A Tree with a Message.” I start reading. Maybe I have a little hope. I read down to the first link. I click on it to flesh out my understanding of this topic.

  2. It’s an article from The Atlantic, called “The Colorado Supreme Court Just Gave Republicans a Chance to Save Themselves.” That’s where I learn more about how this “kicking off the ballot” is not the last word. There are a lot of ways this Colorado decision could still get overturned. The last word will have to come from —

  3. — and then there’s an ad. Here’s what my eyes see next:

4. A moment for the wry smile. Really? You want me to shop for diamonds and gold from JC Penney right now?

5. I fight to find where to finish the article about the legalities of keeping a traitor on the ballot. But in mere minutes, there’s this:

PAUSE. Am I paying attention?

Not to the Atlantic article, or to the interruption of the ads.Am I paying attention to what they’re doing with my attention?

I have to ask myself: Who benefits from distracting me over and over — from turning my mind away from the world’s desperate situations, and toward buying stuff?

I come across a strip of ads like the one above and feel a kind of ill-defined rage. My country — actually, the humanity and dignity of my leaders, and even the world — is devolving right in front of my eyes, and they want me to think about racking up miles on Delta? They want me to buy a walk in shower? Come on.

6. So let’s just say I’ve been mindful enough to notice what’s going on. Now, I drop down a level.

I feel the desperation of the war (Israel/Palestine, Russia/Ukraine), I see the images of dead children and weeping mothers, I register all the Trump crimes and I realize that an astonishing number of people still support him — and then I watched our capitalistic culture weigh in with an affordable walk-in shower — and I shut down. No power. No nothing.

This is the gold, right here: Stay in the room. Find out what “shut down” feels like, looks like? Stay here and feel it. When you’re not afraid to feel how you feel, that’s the beginning of freedom, of wisdom, of true strength.

7. The most important moment, the platinum moment comes now. From the very center of this shut down place, I sit with the question, “What can I do?” I let the world be as completely, irredeemably horrible as it is — and ask myself what can I actually do within my circle of influence?

If you go through this same process, many ideas will come up for you — but they might be completely different. For me, it looked like this:

  • I can donate blood.

  • I can express the compassion and understanding that I wish everyone supporting Trump, and Trump myself, would use. Doing it myself is harder than trashing everyone who’s not doing it.

  • I can listen in the way I wish political enemies would listen to one another — only in my case, it’s listening to someone in my family. Really listening, in a non-commital, compassionate way. Listening in a way that leaves room for both of us, for our opposing beliefs, but also for our love for one another.

  • Instead of spouting off on social media about what I think, I can assume that what I know would fit into a thimble, and what I don’t know would fill up the Grand Canyon. And I can decide to be still.

  • I can refrain from bashing anyone. I can keep everyone’s name safe in my mouth.

  • I can ask who needs help in my immediate environment. There are homeless people who need to be fed at the soup kitchen fifteen minutes away from me. There are women’s safe houses that need volunteers. There are children in cancer wards that need laughter. Ancient people who have nobody to visit them. It’s endless.

Here are the ‘powers’ I have at my fingertips, that I can dispense, and make my world better. None of us are powerless.

For most, it’s not our job to fly to war zones and engage. But those war zones can ignite the very humanity and dignity and sacrifice we need to embrace, right in our home towns, right in our own neighborhoods, our own families, our own hearts.


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