Chacos column: How does a liberal activist get her spark back?
I have a picture from early January of a group of concerned citizens at their local brewpub posing for what felt like a momentous occasion. We came together showing solidarity opposing the incoming administration’s proposed policies and beliefs. We felt we could change the world.
That picture seems like it was taken a lifetime ago. I stumbled across it cleaning out my desktop making room for fun topics to write about this summer. I wanted to talk about the latest blockbuster movie or the best places to wine and dine.
Instead I’m talking about the political shift that’s occurred in me since I headed out to march in Washington, D.C., six months ago. I wish I could report that I’ve decided to run for office or that I’m heading up a nonprofit for immigration rights or even fighting for better health care. I’m not doing anything remotely like that.
I’m currently uninspired, unplugged, unenthusiastic and apparently unapologetic about it all. Unfortunately, this country cannot count on my activism, energy or passion until I can tap into my motivation once again. But why am I so unmotivated?
For starters, I’m tired. Burnout started gaining traction as early as the first week of February. At first I felt our community bonding over politics. Our collective enthusiasm was at an all-time high. I wrote postcards to politicians, made phone calls to offices all over Washington, started a web page for other resilient activists and connected with a ton of like-minded individuals. We were all feeding off each other’s passion, and it was powerful.
I reasoned that putting together smart, caring and thoughtful individuals could change the world. Our energy would drive the pendulum swiftly in the other direction because the alternative was just too bizarre to be plausible. Then one day I just stopped opening my emails that contained words like action steps, political, solidarity or resistance. I learned that passion alone can’t change policy — it’s the elected officials who really do. Margaret Mead forgot to add that part to her famous quote.
Next, I found debating other people’s opinions pointless. I wrote about my issues and articulated them the best I could. Everyone else seemed to be doing it too. The entire world was critiquing our government. I could report nothing new, witty or noteworthy. I lost my motivation the day I phoned in on a town hall meeting and had nothing to say that wasn’t already being addressed.
I felt my momentum waver and, soon after, I didn’t bother replying to the political bait set out by others. Debating opinions didn’t seem to change people’s viewpoint, it was the experiences that personally affect someone that seems to do the trick.
I also had to acknowledge that I’m motivated by clear goals coupled with a quick turnaround. I’m reluctant to put my focus on things that don’t have traction or purpose. I anticipated steps in place that would streamline the removal of our president within 100 days. I believed his administration would implode, and I secretly wanted a front-row seat. Somehow our president is still in office.
Now I see there was never a clear plan from the outset. At times I put my energy behind Planned Parenthood, then I focused on Standing Rock, and I then I made calls in opposition to our secretary of education. I grabbed onto anything that appeared marginalized.
I lost some more of my motivation when we all just continued to talk about gender equity issues and religious tolerance. Although talking about these issues brought awareness to the populace, it didn’t mean anyone really wanted to put their rhetoric into daily practice. By June I was completely deflated.
In the end, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around what to do next. Instead of pulling myself up by the bootstraps and running for local office, I’ve become the stereotypical lazy, liberal activist. Crafting laws and passing legislation is part of the power of politics I want others to do for me. I know I don’t have the stamina, confidence, effort and attention to detail to get it done myself. I want my political party to rise up and represent the constituents it claims to represent. I need to get my spark back, and I need some help.
I hope there is a person who can rise from the ashes having the strength of character to take a shared vision for our country and to whittle it down into tangible goals. I’m ready to jump in, but we need a solid plan. I have to trust we all really want what’s best for our families, our friends, our countrymen, the human race and our planet. Surely someone can help us find common ground from that overarching starting point.
I’m ready to fall in love with politics again and need a heavy dose of motivation. Is there anybody out there?
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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We can’t always put it on government to completely solve a problem, especially one with so many challenges and so much nuance such as homelessness.