Those of us who expected the news cycle to calm in the days following last week’s midterm elections were sorely disappointed.
The distressing events came one after the other: There was the White House’s decision to ban a CNN journalist and release doctored footage of him appearing to strike a female intern, the spreading of baseless conspiracy theories about “election fraud” in Florida, Georgia and Arizona and President Donald Trump’s firing of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which could jeopardize the special investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign and its alleged collusion with Russia.
In the Trump era, time has become something of a myth.
Americans are forced to exist in a nonstop continuum of events that range from frustrating and concerning to utterly devastating. The role of politics in our day-to-day lives has vastly expanded. In exhausting (and often debilitating) times like these, all we can really do is take care of each other — and certainly, take care of ourselves. The ability to survive and fight within oppressive spaces, under regimes that operate with the singular goal of terrifying and draining us into submission, is political and necessary — and it’s an ability that only comes from responsible self-care.
To be clear, for many groups, rhetoric and policy decisions from this administration aren’t just tiresome and annoying, but mark existential threats to their ability to live and participate in American society.
For Americans who have been on the receiving end of mounting hate crimes inspired by then-candidate and now-president Trump, the Trump era has been a time of unprecedented danger. Migrant families and domestic abuse survivors seeking asylum are turned away, separated and deemed criminals. Low-income women are now vulnerable to losing access to fundamental reproductive health care that allows them to live safe and autonomous lives. Transgender people face erasure and demeaning attacks on their right to exist; LGBTQ people broadly live with the reality of discrimination; and survivors of sexual assault are repeatedly traumatized by this administration’s policies.
The ability to balance survival with active, daily political resistance is a big demand for marginalized people in America. That said, it’s absolutely incumbent on allies to help carry the weight and fight the fight on the behalf of the marginalized. Yet, even for those of us who are not directly affected, it’s OK to admit that the news cycle is exhaustive; that we’re tired, stressed, anxious and need a break.
When it comes to awful news and this administration’s dangerous policy decisions, we know there’s always something around the corner waiting for us. We can’t choose one single mountain to die on; our energy has to be smartly and responsibly rationed to ensure we have the capacity to participate in this fight and support vulnerable Americans for the long haul.
Sleeping, eating, resting, being with loved ones, streaming Netflix, sitting back and putting on a face mask — we need to prioritize our wellness in a political landscape that is hellbent on wearing us down to the point of haggard apathy. This action, in itself, is political. Doing whatever it takes to protect and maintain our ability to resist and fight back for those who can’t is a political act.
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke frequently about how it’s necessary to preserve one’s health through vital self-care as an act of radical activism. There’s no shame in sitting out one battle to continue fighting the war.
But, as with everything, the key to self-care is balance — ensuring that we are constantly pushing and challenging ourselves to be the most engaged citizens we can be; taking care when we must, but calling our representatives, knocking on doors and volunteering for Planned Parenthood and other vital human rights groups, when we are able.
Our priorities, values and moral beliefs will always be challenged, and stepping up and taking action might be inconvenient and require sacrifice on our end. There will always be times when we prefer to sleep in a few extra hours rather than show up to a morning volunteer shift or local rally. But in those scenarios, when we will ourselves to show up anyway, that action will be all the more powerful.
Kylie Cheung is a junior majoring in political science. She is also the blogs editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “You Do Uterus,” runs every other Wednesday.