Late one recent night, while trying not to wake my husband with the glow from my cell phone, I finally had to admit that I had a problem.
Instead of setting hopeful intentions and making bold, new resolutions for the incoming new year, I was reverting to old and unhealthy chicken or egg habits: doomscrolling because I was unable to sleep, and unable to sleep because I was doomscrolling.
Only one thing made me feel slightly better about this relapse, and that was other doomscrollers admitting to the same.
“hi, are you doomscrolling too?” read one tweet.
“oh no I’m doomscrolling again!” read another.
“officially in the doomscrolling stage (again.)”
In our defense, we’re stuck in an apocalyptic loop that no amount of self-care, no meditative app or walk in the woods or (toxic) positivity will change.
Schools are closing down (again) as COVID-19 cases rise (again), hospitals have returned to suspending elective surgeries amid an unending pandemic that has claimed more than 826,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
Stop and linger on that number, won’t you? More than 826,000 mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, tíos and tías, lolos and lolas, gone. People died afraid and alone. Whole families, wiped out. Children, orphaned.
Incredibly, we are not united in grief. Huge swaths of Americans don’t believe that the pandemic is a national, or global, tragedy. They believe the virus is overly hyped, that science is a scam, and that wearing masks is like giving in to tyranny. And many of those same people believe the deadly insurrection that unfolded in the nation’s capital last Jan. 6 was completely acceptable.
More than 700 people from 45 states and the District of Columbia (including 62 from Pennsylvania) have been charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, with defendant after defendant now saying in court that they were remorseful and insisting they had fallen under a Trumpian spell. But I wonder how many of those who professed they had seen the light and were ready to embrace reality were just trying to stay out of jail?
“Law and order” Americans who fly thin blue line flags on their lawns and slap “I Support The Police” decals on their cars are unmoved by those prosecutions, or by the jarring footage of “patriots” beating and tasing Capitol police officers during the attack, which left five people dead and scores injured.
“My understanding was that a lot of it was pretty peaceful,” Paul Bender, a self-described conservative from Cleveland, told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
He’s not alone. Fewer than half of Republicans believe the Jan. 6 insurrection was violent, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Forget the hours of brutal television video. Forget the dead and injured. Forget reality.
Likewise, Donald Trump absolutely, unequivocally, definitely did not win the 2020 presidential election, but according to a CNN poll, 78% of Republicans don’t believe President Joe Biden won.
With that level of denial, it’s hard not to agree that “every day is Jan. 6 now,” as a recent New York Times editorial warned, especially with the rise in harassment and death threats directed at election officials and GOP-pushed measures to make it harder for Americans to vote — and easier for Republicans to overturn results they don’t like.
We are now the country other countries are worried about.
A Canadian political scientist recently warned his country that it needs to prepare for the collapse of American democracy.
“A terrible storm is coming from the south,” Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote in the Globe and Mail, citing the idea of Trump running again in 2024 and Republican-held legislatures refusing to accept a Democratic victory.
By 2025, he wrote, American democracy could collapse.
By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.
It’s easy to dismiss that as hysteria. A reckless exaggeration. This is America, not some failed despotic state! But the America of 2022 includes tens of millions of citizens — and hundreds of elected politicians — who are loyal to a man who openly attempted to discard the will of the people and seize power, and we have no reason to believe he wouldn’t try to do it again.
As if to clear up any doubts about where he stands, Trump on Monday endorsed Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s far-right prime minister who has wasted no time dismantling democracy in his country.
These often feel like hopeless times. Except — and this might be some of that positivity kicking in — for every Trump zealot who believes in the Big Lie or insists COVID-19 is a hoax, I believe there are plenty of other less visible and vocal people who are pushing back in the name of decency and sanity.
In Philadelphia, we know election officials — Al Schmidt, Omar Sabir, and Lisa Deeley — held firm in the face of death threats and ensured all votes were counted, no matter who would end up winning. It was a simple act, in a way — they just did their jobs. But it illustrates why it’s vital for us to hear from other Americans who maybe haven’t gotten attention for fighting back, in their own ways, big and small. To preserve democracy. To reject hatred. To show up and speak out. Here’s a resolution: Tell me about these people, and I vow to share their stories.
During the long history of American democracy, we have looked beyond our shores and seen dictators rise and nations fall, all while comforted by an unshakable certainty that “it can’t happen here.” We now know it can. And it will require the resolve of real patriots to use their voices and their votes to salvage our democratic ideals.
Biden said the 2020 election was a battle for the soul of the country. It was a great line — stoic, simple. But that battle didn’t end in November 2020, or Jan. 6, or even when Biden was sworn in. It’s still going on, which is why we can’t wallow in depression or anger, or leave the work to others.
We have a country to save.
And we better get to it, otherwise, it won’t be long before we’re marking the anniversary of the end of our democracy.