It's Okay to Not Feel Like Everything Will Be Okay

[Content Note: Emotional policing; gaslighting.]

Soon after the 2016 election, I published a piece with the same title as this one, in which I wrote:
Something has been upended that cannot be easily righted, and I'm not going to feel okay about the fact that every breath in my chest just got a little tighter.

And they were already pretty tight, even before this.

I know how to live in a space of survival. And I will persevere, for as long as the fates allow. That does not require me to concede that everything will be okay.

And, at least in this space, it's okay if you don't feel like everything will be okay, too.
In February, I wrote a follow-up, in which I wrote:
How can I possibly believe everything is going to be okay?

The fact is I don't.

And I'm not saying that, publicly and straightforwardly, as a resignation. To the absolute contrary, I don't believe that things can be okay if we aren't all fighting as hard as our grim circumstances demand; as hard as though we all know that things won't be okay without a leviathanian effort from each and every one of us.

We have to acknowledge the precipice on which we find ourselves, if we're ever to back away.

I don't feel like it's going to be okay.

That motivates me to fight with perseverance and resilience. And yet there are vanishingly few places where I can express that without reflexive and hostile pushback.
I am angry about a lot of things right now. Among those things is the relentless stream of cheery bromides that assure me everything will be okay.

Because everything isn't okay right now.

The Trump Regime is tearing families apart and detaining children in cages. The Republican Party has abandoned all pretense of loyalty to the working people of this nation, and actively seeks to harm us by denying us healthcare, rescinding our rights, busting the unions that advocate for a liveable wage, and in every other conceivable way making it more difficult for us to survive. Climate change has stopped knocking at the door and is now aggressively pushing its way across the threshold. And I've barely gotten started.

Things are bad and they are going to get precipitously worse, quickly.

I need to say that aloud, and I want to make space for other people who need to say that aloud, without being silenced by wretched pablum about how "we've got this" or shaming criticisms for publicly expressing despair.

I understand what is happening, better than most people do, because I have made it my business, day in and day out, to understand. Shit is grim. And there isn't an easy or quick way out of it. If there even is a way out of it at all, lots of people are going to suffer along the journey, and I am grieving hard about that reality.

And I don't need to be smugly informed that people have always been suffering in this country. I know that. That's why I have been doing this work for 14 years. My concern is that it will get much worse.

We are losing so much, and I need a moment to grieve about that without people reflexively responding with aphorisms or scorn, admonishing me that we just need to "work hard and vote!" to fix everything — despite the fact that everything progressives have been working hard to achieve for decades is being swiftly obliterated with maximum malice and despite the fact that a huge majority of us voted in 2016 to avoid this very outcome and yet here we are anyway, for reasons that have not been fixed.

As I have previously noted, an awful lot of unlikely things have to happen for us to get this train back on its tracks and prevent it from careening over a precipace.
Is the political press going to suddenly become responsible?

Are the Republicans suddenly going to hold Trump accountable? Are they going to suddenly realize that they can't keep prioritizing party over country and change their ways?

Are we really going to have free and fair midterm elections, despite voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money, and Russian meddling? Would we even have a peaceful transfer of power if Democrats won?

How can the erosion of trust in our public institutions be restored?

Are social media executives going to spontaneously start valuing democracy over profits?

How are we going to magically eradicate the misogyny that prevents far too many people from listening to and respecting women who are the most urgent heralds of the perils facing our republic; misogyny so impenetrable that people who have made careers in government and federal law enforcement and political media thought it was fine for Michael Flynn to lead "LOCK HER UP!" chants and for James Comey to insert himself into the election and and and... because they all just saw Hillary Clinton as "that bitch" instead of "our last hope for democracy against the Nazi who Russia wants in the White House"?

Is Trump's entire base going to turn off Fox News and set down their guns?

None of that is going to happen, no less all of it.
I understand that bluntly expressing that grim reality makes a lot of people uncomfortable. For Christ's sake, it should. We should all be uncomfortable as fuck right now. Not a single person who cares about the fate of this nation should be finding ways to make themselves or the people around them more comfortable in this moment.

Of course we must engage in self-care and community-building around subjects beyond politics, and we must be kind to ourselves to allow time to process and recharge. We must also stay uncomfortable with what's happening.

I am agitated, and I don't want that agitation to be assuaged.

I don't need to be told to work hard. I don't need to be told to get out there and march. I don't need a lecture on checks and balances and the resilience of our institutions. I don't need to be told that voting will fix everything. I don't need to be told that Bob Mueller will save us.

What I need is the respect that I'm despairing for a reason. That reason is because I understand how difficult it was to achieve the things we're losing, because I was one of the people who dedicated my life to trying to achieve them.

What I need is to not be accused of "giving up" because I insist on being honest about where we stand. If I had given up, trust that I wouldn't be writing these words.

What I need is understanding that not all of us are motivated in every instance by optimism, and that, in this moment, exhorting me to display an optimism I'm not experiencing feels oppressively smothering.

What I need is to not be fucking gaslighted.

I'm not telling anyone else how they should feel in this moment. Feel how you feel! I'm asking people to understand and respect how I feel. And how lots of other people feel. I'm asking for the space for us to express that without pushback.

Surely, in this moment, it has to be okay to not feel like everything will be okay.

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