Columnist Sara Weinberger: Coping with Politically Induced Insomnia
Posted: 06/20/2021 11:03:04 AM
These days I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Summer is here and COVID vaccines have allowed us to let go of our virtual worlds and reassemble safely and masklessly with friends again – a joy to see. I am grateful for a boring president who shows intelligence, civility and diplomacy. With Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, the prospect of passing legislation that promotes equality and well-being fills me with hope.
What to be grateful for! So why do I want to cry? Trump no longer lives in the White House. He may be banned from Twitter and Facebook, but his henchmen in Congress, state legislatures, and our courts continue to march to the beat of his authoritarian drum, further weakening our already fragile democracy.
I had hoped to be reassured by the unwavering steadfastness of President Joe Biden, his resolute position in favor of the unification of our divided country. For a while, the insomnia that had plagued me for the past four years took a break, providing a much needed rest from the chaos. Recently, however, a good night’s sleep has been elusive. The New York Times on June 13 reported that complaints of insomnia rose from 20% of adults last summer to almost 60% last March.
COVID may be on the decline in the United States, but Republican demagoguery is on the rise. A daily dose of topicality can contribute to insomnia more than swallowing a can of Red Bull before bed.
The Times article suggested keeping a journal of your worries an hour or two before bed to avoid insomnia. I tried it a recent night. Here is part of my list:
■ Trump’s obsession with finding out who was leaking information to the press about Russian influence in the 2016 election led the Justice Department to secretly subpoena the files of congressional lawmakers, journalists, and even legal counsel to the former president. Trump’s Justice Department was anything but fair.
■ Five states have banned the teaching of critical race theory, essentially banning the teaching of black history. Another victory for white supremacy.
■ The majority of Republicans in Congress continue to promote the “big lie” that Democrats stole the presidential election. The truth is irrelevant.
■ Convinced that their man is the rightful president, scores of Republican lawmakers resurrect Jim Crow, enacting voting laws restricting access to the vote and giving Republican lawmakers the power to overrule election results if Democrats win . The right to vote hangs by a thread.
■ Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, has announced that he will not support HR1, the For the People Act. He refuses to support a filibuster to make sure Americans don’t lose the right to vote. Too bad for our majority in the Senate!
■ Republicans in 34 states have introduced, and in several cases already passed, 81 new punitive anti-protest bills, according to US Protest Law Tracker and the International Center for Nonprofit Law. The right to assemble, as well as the freedom of expression, will they be a thing of the past?
■ Trump believes he will be reinstated as president in August, and people believe him. Remember how we laughed at the idea that Trump might be president?
■ Republicans killed a Congressional inquiry into the January 6 insurgency. Domestic terror gets a nod and a nod from Republican lawmakers.
Needless to say, my worry journal didn’t promote a good night’s sleep.
I’m not the only person struggling to reap the benefits of sanity in the White House. Fears of Democratic losses in 2022 and 2024 were the subject of conversations at dinner parties, but fears that Trump’s loyalists might gain in 2022 have not prompted Democrats to act. People are tired. They want to take a break from phone banking and postcards to take advantage of their newfound freedom from COVID restrictions. Many delude themselves into believing at the end of the fairy tale, where American exceptionalism is winning again. Meanwhile, the Proud Boys, QAnon cultists, and nearly half of Congress are working overtime to deliver a victory for white nationalism and autocracy.
It will take a powerful populist movement to prevent this country from becoming another Belarus. Enjoy the beach! Have a barbecue! But invest time to save democracy. I changed my worry journal to an action journal. Here is my local list:
■ Join local activist Paul Spector, along with people from across the country, for a hopeful recap of the issues and opportunities for action. The group meets Wednesday at 8 p.m. or Friday at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3gHxBvX
■ Subscribe to 413 Stay connected https://bit.ly/2TOISCM for a listing of actions, meetings and events across Western Massachusetts.
■ Donate to the Northampton-based Movement Voter Project. Since 2016, MVP has helped donors invest more than $ 120 million in more than 700 grassroots organizations in 47 states. Better yet, consider becoming an MVP Supporter with a monthly pledge of $ 22. https://mouvement.vote/
■ Join the League of Women Voters to help realize the vision of a “democracy where everyone has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate”. https://lwvma.org/
As Spector said, “the best antidote to political fear and despair is collective political action.”
Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is Emeritus Professor of Social Work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at [email protected]