A Letter from Me to Your Defeated Self
Here are a few samplings from my online mailbag this week, a typical week in these times:
“I am so depressed. The Republicans are going to take control of the House and Senate in November!”
“I can see now there’s nothing we can do. Trump is going to run and win in 2024!”
“The insurgents and QAnon are taking over and the Democrats are incapable of stopping them. There goes our Democracy.”
“I’m all alone. Haven’t seen any family in two years. Life generally sucks. I didn’t sign up for any of this. I’m sick of this pandemic. It’s given me too much time to ponder this central question: Why haven’t I achieved my original dreams? Nothing seems to be what I thought it would be.”
Almost every day is like this when I open up my email. With 10 million social media followers, and nearly 650,000 free (and paid) subscribers to my Substack, I get a lot of mail. But lately the letters have not just been about political despair. Over these two years of the pandemic, the content and tone has changed to the personal. People now write me about a deep personal loneliness, an understandable depression brought upon them by this plague which has uprooted our way of life.
These letters, both the personal and the political, are bone crushing. They have me worried, anxious, and unable to know how best to respond. My heart is sad, my soul shares their despair. I want to offer hope, but I don’t want to lie to them or to you. Things are bad. The Right is off its rocker. They are now willing to kill. They’ve got close to 400 million guns — more than the entire Russian and Chinese armies combined.
So yes, I too now feel a darkness closing in. And each day it becomes harder and harder to keep hope alive, to find a way to not give up.
But I don’t give up. And I’ll never give in. And the main reason I don’t is because I actually don’t believe the bad guys are going to win. First, as I’ve said many times, there are far more of us than there are of them. By the millions! Each year there are four million more American teenagers who come of voting age. By landslide numbers they are refusing to register as or vote for Republicans. By the time of the next election, that’s 16 million new youth voters. The numbers are wildly on our side. Take huge heart in this.
And the large Democratic base of voters of color — by the end of the decade, nearly 40% of all American voters will not be white. For the past decade, the majority of first graders who have entered American schools have not been white. Already, 10% of all states no longer have a white majority, including our two largest — California and Texas. When you think of Texas, do you think of it as a white minority state? Of course you don’t. But the numbers don’t lie: Only 39% of Texas is white. A whopping 57% is Hispanic, Black, Asian or Native American. We're two decades — or less — from the first American elections where whites will be the true minority. You need no other explanation than this as to why so many white men (and sadly way too many white women) don’t want all the votes counted in 2022 or 2024. The racial demographic changes now underway are why whites want to make it harder for minorities to cast those votes, why they want to keep gerrymandering districts so they can rig their control of Congress, and why they seek to frighten and oppress those who will soon take power.
But whether the insurgents and Trumpsters like it or not, their days are numbered. And one day soon, the majority of the country won't be them. So we must not sink into a wrong-headed despair, stuck on a belief that the Right is taking over.
And if you keep repeating that it is, then you are doing their work for them. Your enemy isn’t them — it’s the weak, ineffectual, always-ready-to-throw-in-the-towel Democratic Leaders. Their inability to lead, to even just get their message straight so the public understands how much life is really better under Biden — they can’t even do that! But if you, my sisters and brothers, keep bemoaning how the Republicans “are going to win,” well you may just be wishing that into existence. Stop concocting a story that you want to tell yourself, to scare yourself and others, especially when it isn’t true. When children do this we try to calm them down by leaving a light on in their room to show them there are no monsters in there. Please, do I have to come and turn on a night light for you? I’m not saying don’t be vigilant, and yes you must be ACTIVE, but you must also be brave and self-assured, knowing that the Republicans aren’t Martians with superpowers who are able to kidnap our Democracy with a magic wand. The Republicans are no more than frightened earthlings who are not that bright and worship an Orange Man who dances to “YMCA.” They are over. They know it. Let’s do our best to peacefully shut them down — and promise them the great universal heath care we’re going to get passed, which will come with many free and much-needed prescriptions for their final years. Senior rest homes that will look like resorts, brought to you by Generation Z and their older Millennial siblings who will have sent planet destroyers like Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis packing. THAT is what is actually going to happen.
IF we activate, IF we force the lame Dems to do their job, then there is no way Trump is coming back, and we will have 52 or 54 votes in the Senate next year, thus making Manchin and Sinema — “Sinechin” — irrelevant. THIS is best way to cure depression. Run for City Council. That helps, too.
You are not alone, my friends. These last two years have changed how we lived in ways none of us were ready for. Some of you have lost family members. Some of you have lost your sense of taste and smell and are wondering if it is gone now for the rest of your lives. Some of you were hoping this would be the year you would find the love of your life — but that year was 2020, and now you haven't even dated in over two years. The human touch seems a distant memory. Remember lips? Covid hopes you don’t.
As for work, there’s no way to even get into this. Let’s just say to the 20 million who’ve quit — good on you! You probably shoulda done that 10 years ago. Many of you have used this time to create a new idea of what your work should be and how you want to do it. You’ve committed to living the rest of your life on YOUR terms. YES! A lot of the time it won’t be easy, but you’ll be happy. You’ll take better care of yourself. And then BOOM! In walks that love of your life you were looking for back in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017…
If you haven’t already started to read more books, start tonight. If you have a list of 20 movies you’ve always wanted to see, start tonight. If you don’t have a list, I’ll send you one (it’s actually at the bottom of this letter).
As for your kids, they’re going to be OK. They’re resilient, unlike a lot of us. They find us a bit odd. But they are also amused by us — and that’s good that we can provide them with some daily entertainment. You and I are incapable of teaching them trigonometry or Mandarin, but you can have them write you a short story. A poem. Sing you a song. Have them keep a diary of their life in this time. Your great-great grandchildren will be grateful for this history some day, just as they will be relieved that your daughter eventually started a movement from an idea you gave her by watching a documentary one night during the pandemic that told the real truth about why it wasn’t climate alone that was destroying the earth— and it was her leadership in her 20s that helped turn it all around. To think she may had never have had the time or the chance to figure this all out if it weren’t for her parents agreeing to stop fighting and to do something that might make the world a better place — now if only Mother Nature would give us one last chance.
She will. And we will all take that gift and create that better world. What if this plague became the impetus we were looking for, and though the virus would never thoroughly leave us, we learned to adapt, we let science and love lead the way, and while we were gripped in depression we threw off those chains. And we did it with others who had had enough and decided it was finally time to bake a loaf of bread, to go for a walk amongst the redwoods, call an old friend, check in on an elderly neighbor, breathe in some fresh air, listen to a deep cut on Bridge Over Troubled Water, then kiss each other’s sweet vaccinated lips while we share the biggest smile and laugh we’ve had since way back in 2019.
I’m convinced some, or all, of this will work. Rise up out of your despair! I’m doing it with you! We will find our new and joyful way, and none of this will require drinking Clorox.
Yes, Michael, your message is exactly what so many of us need. As a retired, but not tired, Unitarian Universalist minister, I'm participating today in a Husky 4 Immigrants campaign launch (CT). I'm 79 years young, still full of P & V (petulance & vigor, or...yes, the other version), and keeping hope alive for and with my family, friends, strangers, and even those folks I know who still haven't realized that they're part of a cult, on the right that isn't. Take care of yourself too. Watch the Olympics. Take a long shower. Look in the mirror and smile at your beautiful self. You are, soul-deep, a gift to this planet and all of us who are transient guests here. Bravo, with gratitude--from Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull, Middletown, CT
Thank you. This message came to my inbox like a candle in the darkness. I am in awe and am inspired by your tenacity and hope.