PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Strategy For Surviving These Trying Times

It is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, I am a citizen of a country whose leader is taking rogue actions, like assassinating a foreign general — albeit an evil one — without informing, to say nothing of having the support of allies or members of Congress.

In addition, President Trump has been impeached for abusing power and withholding aid from another foreign country. His administration has refused to cooperate or provide information, and now the Senate seems to be refusing to hear from a witness who has firsthand information about his actions and is willing to testify. In other words, a coverup in plain sight.

We are also on the brink of a potential war in the Mideast, with the leader of our country boldly claiming he wishes to commit war crimes by targeting cultural sites. You know, the kind of thing “the bad guys” do, not a country that has prided itself on democratic values or the rule of law.

And I am not even covering the abuses of children at the border, the amping up of policies that will increase the threat to our globe through climate change and pollution or the xenophobic rheteroric and racist and anty LGBTQ+policies.

On the other hand, I want to be able to function and stay sane. I want to be able to go to my job and do the work I am called to do to “be in the city for good” without being overcome with rage or cowering in the corner for fear of what will happen next. I want to “be the change” that the world needs, and obsessing or spending every waking hour following the news will keep me from doing that.

There is JUST SO MUCH NEWS, and I am utterly overwhelmed.

If I follow it, I can’t do much else. And if I don’t keep up to date, then that is precisely how autocracies succeed. They slip things past us because we are looking elsewhere. But we need to look because the normalizing of atrocious behavior is degrading our democracy and our values. What previously was unheard of has become de rigueur.

We each have to develop our own strategy for “constant vigilance” and maintain a life that allows us to still be actively engaged as agents of change in the world.

Here is the recipe that I have been using, which allows me to not become overwhelmed but also not be an ostrich. Every morning, I listen to “Up First” on NPR as I am getting ready for the day. Depending on the news and my energy, I either switch over to “Morning Edition” or perhaps listen to a Rachel Maddow podcast or Trevor Noah as I am going into work.

During the day, I largely focus on work but track the briefs from the Washington Post push notifications or articles I see on Facebook from people and sources I trust, when I am taking a “Facebook/bathroom break.” As I drive home, I listen to Nicole Wallace on “Deadline White House.” As a former Republican, appalled by what is happening and who is still conservative, I like her take, and it reminds me it isn’t partisan. It is about core decency.

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