As often happens in the dead of winter in New England, I’ve contracted some sort of vague and nebulous upper respiratory virus. The kind of thing that manifests as a more virulent cold — congestion and coughing, sniffles and body-shuddering sneezes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal. This sort of seasonal affliction is par for the course; it hasn’t even caused enough distress to make me call out sick from work.
What it has made me, though, is tired: even more tired than usual. This illness has permeated my body with a sort of listless lethargy, a deep-seated desire to curl up in a nest of blankets and sleep for hours, perhaps days. It makes my eyes heavy, my limbs weak. Snuffling, I move from bed to bus to train and back again, wishing fervently that I could merely rest awhile.
This sickness though, this tangible, nagging illness, isn’t the only thing making me ill these days. The terrible, lingering sickness I feel each morning, the breathless nausea that grips me day after day? That sickening feeling comes as I keep abreast of our national state of affairs, not from the virus currently battling it in glorious conflict with my immune system.
You see, each and every time I think out new administration has hit rock bottom, some new absurdity comes to light. The executive order to ban refugees and immigrants that is both a flagrant constitutional violation and an unmitigated disaster for our anti-terrorism policy. The installation of President Trump’s personal advisor, Steve Bannon, onto the National Security Council, ousting experienced generals and staff. The firing of the acting Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, who dared speak out against the ethical and legal ramifications of supporting the ill-conceived immigration order.
I wake up every morning, take it all in, and struggle not scream. Over lunch, I scroll through news updates, quietly seething over salad and seltzer. By dinner, my fury has petered out, tempered by exhaustion and misery. Passively, I write my lists of actions for the following day: congresspeople to call, books to read, events to attend. Even my activism is exhausted, and we’ve barely just begun.
Even as this sickening feeling spreads throughout my days, though, I won’t give in. Just as I wake up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, grit my teeth and live my life through this pesky, nagging illness, I’ll keep working through this pesky, nagging dictatorship-in-training. We all will, won’t we? It’s a matter of sheer determination. A matter of indomitable will. The spirit of our activism must not be allowed to burn out. Together, we can push past the resentment and the anger and the fear. We can speak up and speak out.
Because being sick? Feeling sickened? It’s miserable. It’s annoying and grating and a slow grind of exhaustive fear. It’s also temporary.
A few days from now, I’ll wake up capable of taking a deep breath once again. Instead of squinting against the glare of the sun, I’ll tip my face up into its light. At the end of the day, I won’t curl up into my blankets, isolated and afraid, but leap out into the world, excited and exuberant.
I genuinely believe that if we all work together, it will get better. It may take weeks or months, or perhaps years, but if we cooperate, collaborate and coordinate our response to these atrocities, we will make progress. We will not go back. Sickness is temporary. Let’s push through together.
Day 30: January 30, 2017