It’s only May, but here in the US, the political season is already heating up, and we have a long eighteen months to go until our next national election.
Whether you are highly politically active or just want the whole circus to be over already, each of us needs to manage our responses to the impending onslaught of the primaries and general election. Here are some suggestions for getting through to November 2020 with your sanity intact.
How Much Energy Do You Have For Politics?
The first question you have to ask yourself is how much do politics mean to you? If A) you don’t care a whole lot, B) your mind is made up, and/or C) you don’t have a lot of time and energy to engage, then you’ll need to be proactive about insulating yourself.
Make sure to register your phone number on Do-Not-Call lists, mute political hashtags in your social media feeds and avoid going near a television if you can possibly manage it. In addition, you’ll need to be polite but firm with those who wish to draw you into arguments: “I appreciate that you feel strongly about [X], but I want to talk about something else.”
Here’s how to mute words and hashtags in your Twitter notifications and timeline.
Where Do You Want To Invest Your Energy?
If you wish to be politically active, know where you want to spend your time and energy.
Do you feel most comfortable discussing politics with people you know well? Engaging with close friends and family is most likely the right choice. Perhaps you feel inspired to educate and motivate undecided folks out in the world. If so, it makes sense to volunteer phone banking or knocking on doors. Perhaps you feel like you’re most persuasive in writing rather than in real time. Participating online gives you time to think your arguments through and reason with people you’ve never met.
Knowing your strengths and limits lets you use your energy wisely.
What Are Your Goals?
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you hope to achieve when talking politics. Are you most interested in:
- Persuading people with differing views?
- Inspiring the like-minded?
- Defeating apathy or disgust at the political process?
- Shouting at people you disagree with?
The first three activities are a positive use of your time. The fourth is not.
Think about the last time you flip-flopped on a position about an issue because someone yelled at you (either online or IRL), called you names, insulted your intelligence or was otherwise unpleasant. Most people won’t even listen to your point if your tone is hostile. Barking at folks on the other side of the political divide might feel delicious and exciting — even well-deserved — but don’t kid yourself that it changes minds.
Furthermore, if contentious encounters leave you ruminating and vengeful for days afterwards, choosing to battle regularly falls under the category of self-harm. As Anne Lamott writes in Crooked Little Heart, “Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” Anger is a kneejerk response to pain that only harms ourselves. Rather than getting heated, the power move is to disengage.
Additionally, consider the possibility that there will be very few undecided voters this election cycle. Your energy might be better spent motivating a reluctant voter to get out to vote rather than trying to change someone’s mind.
There will be a ton of garbage and hate pumped into the United States’ political bloodstream in the next eighteen months, and outrage fatigue is a real phenomenon. Grinding people down with outrageousness is a political tactic designed to turn people off from the process. Be wary of the deluge of horror stories, misinformation and discord that will drive each news cycle as voting gets closer.
The antidote is to stay true, stay fierce, stay kind, stay brave, stay in love and take breaks when political toxicity threatens to overwhelm your sanity. Choose your media outlets carefully, remain skeptical and step away from screens if it all gets to be too much. A mindfulness practice that helps you to remain centered and grounded in the moment can also be helpful.
It’s not my intent to discourage anyone from getting politically involved this season, since the stakes simply could not be higher.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.” Millions of people across this country will vote to decide the fate of world history next year, no doubt about it. Each of us is responsible for maintaining our well-being during what is sure to be a divisive process.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry, a self-help book for sex workers available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and wherever else ebooks are sold. Get the audiobook version here. Contact Davina at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina, as well as on Facebook.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.