How To Fight Fatigue In The New Era Of Civic Engagement

Life & Culture Editor
05.12.17 10 Comments

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Quick question: How did the news of FBI Director James Comey’s firing hit you? We’re not talking about your feelings on the actual firing — although reading that Comey learned of his dismissal via television may have resurfaced all those memories of high school pettiness — but what you felt next. Did you read a few news clips, say “that’s that” and switch off your phone? Did you text your friends in order to gauge their reactions? Or did you, like so many people, spend the rest of the evening with your palm firmly rooted to your face as you devoured take after take after take?

How did that work out? Did you feel more and more helpless? Like there was something you should be doing, but couldn’t? Welcome to the club. It feels like every day some strange new piece of governmental chaos comes rearing its ugly head, reminding us that the world is a strange, chaotic place. And as we grow more confused, we begin to wonder whether all the tweet storms we’re reading, the marching we’re doing, and the phone calls we’re making to our elected officials are actually changing anything.

“Could I do more?” we ask ourselves as we rush from work to appointments to studying for finals to political rallies. “Will it be enough?”

First the good news: If this describes you, it’s great that you’re becoming more aware of the complex political landscape and our society’s pain points. Dr. Rachael Goodman, an associate professor in counseling and development at George Mason University tells us that in a world that’s casually tipping closer and closer to disaster, it’s important to know where your values are.

“Sometimes it’s helpful for me to think on the positive side,” Goodman says, “and the positive is that many more people are becoming aware of injustice, paying attention, and seeking ways to act. It’s heartening to see so many people want to act.”

But how do we act? When every crisis feels like it’s the BIGGEST CRISIS — climate change, the immigration ban, the border wall, women’s rights, science — the pressure can be debilitating. And unless you’ve got lots of time on your hands (and most of us don’t), it can also feel like whatever you do is inconsequential. Especially if you’re trying to do more than one thing at a time.

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