I awoke this morning to the sound of my husband’s key on the other side of our front door, locking it before making his way to the airport. He is traveling to Las Vegas before the crack of dawn for a business trip. My first thought was, “Oh, I missed him. I didn’t even say goodbye.” It was 5:30 and I was awake, so I did what I do most mornings and checked Facebook.
The first thing I saw was the news that a mass shooting had occurred on the Las Vegas strip while we slept. There were reports of over 20 fatalities and over 100 injured. Within minutes, before I could even connect with my husband, those figures jumped to over 50 killed and over 200 shot or injured. I was worried for my husband and family and friends who call Vegas home.
We are so, so broken, America. And I am so, so tired of our inability as a nation to fix it.
My little guy woke up just a few minutes later, running into our room and asking after his Daddy. Shortly after that, my big guy woke up, making his way to our room, too. The last thing I wanted my boys to learn was that the city where there Daddy was headed just experienced the worst mass shooting in history. Nope. No radio, TV, or Facebook for me until those boys were dropped off at school.
And then, out of the blue, my older son said to me in the car, “Mama, the news makes you mad, so I think the best thing for you to do is don’t look at the news.” We talked about that. I confirmed that, yes, he was right, most days the news does make me mad. Then we talked about the importance of staying informed and not ignoring bad or sad or difficult or challenging news.
We agreed that the best thing would be to strike a balance between being informed and not feeling so overwhelmed with the poor state of America right now, and how it is going to hell in a hand basket, and that our POTUS is a pathological narcissist, and that our governing party is hell bent on erasing any progress that America’s first black president made, and that people care more about political sparring on social media than they do the lives of people of color, and that the seeming vast majority of white people are utterly incapable of acknowledging racism and the role they play in it, and that World War III may very well start on Twitter, and that angry white men with guns and hate in their heart are killing at an alarming rate, and that the NRA who bought and paid for so many politicians still wants more guns and more ammo in the hands of more Americans, and how the wealthiest of Americans seem perfectly content to let everything play out as long as they get a tax cut protecting their billions.
Okay. Not really. Not that last italicized part. That part is just me letting off some much needed steam because I am worried and fearful and angry and don’t know how we, as a nation, work our way out of this mess. Especially in the vacuum of leadership we currently have.
My son knows me well. He sees me struggling every day. I try, as his mother and protector, to keep it from him, but I do struggle in maintaining that balance of being an informed and engaged and, yes, woke citizen and becoming overwhelmed with the muck of it all. I work hard to be cheerful and kind and pleasant and grateful, but it is hard and it feels like it is getting harder every day. The amount of hate and ugly we live with is reaching epic proportions.
As a kid, I used to think it was so cool to say that I was “a child of the 60s.” Born in October 1969, I got to exercise the naive claim of being birthed in a decade I associated with “flower power” and “love not war” and giving peace a chance. Sigh. I had not a single clue about the riots of Stone Wall or the blood that spilled in the name of civil rights or how damaging or traumatic it was for Americans to live through the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy.
America has perpetually lived in a state of messy evolution and transition, I know, but there are eras and periods that are more known for this than others. The Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Era. Each of these times had unique challenges that featured America at its worst.
I believe fully and confidently that the Trump Era, these times we are clawing our way through right now, will join those other eras in history books as a time America struggled deeply. Following that in the news and media is not something I will ever be able to turn away from or ignore.
It should be no surprise to you, dear reader, that I have always been a bit of a news junkie. I used to plead with my parents to stay up late to watch the 10PM news, and we all gathered around the TV on Sunday nights to watch 60 Minutes as a family. Consuming news and current events is just a part of my nature. I’ve always had blue eyes, fair skin, rotten teeth, and followed the news, often to my detriment.
Today is a hard, hard day to be an American. It is a hard, hard day to parent children in America.
My son is telling me something when he observes that the news of the day makes me angry. He wants me to be less angry, my mood less tied to what is happening in our country. As his mom, it is my job to listen to him and honor his experiences, his concerns. To reassure him that he is safe and cared for and protected, at the very least from my angry moods. I can do that. What will be harder will be to remain that engaged, informed, woke citizen that he also needs his mom to be, without being overcome by anger and fatigue and feeling overwhelmed. That’s gonna be a hell of a lot harder.