It was in high school — sophomore year AP Government, to be exact — when I first developed an interest in American government and politics. The class was interesting, yes, but it wasn’t what initially inspired my passion. My teacher liked to have us debate hot topics, many of which we never should have been debating at all. On this particular day, we were debating on whether or not systemic racism exists and this kid sitting behind me decided to say, “I actually think that white people are the most oppressed in this country.”
I like to tell this story because it was from that day forward I decided I never wanted to be as ignorant or as bigoted as that kid was. I began reading the news, doing research and getting into arguments with anybody who wanted to debate with me. It was only a few months later that I decided to ditch my dream of becoming an engineer and major in political science instead. It was a welcome change. It’s something I am incredibly passionate about and love discussing with others. But, even though I love my major and I love learning about politics, sometimes I wish I could have simply continued to be oblivious to the political culture around me.
I am tired and I am worn thin by everything going on the last few weeks. My heart broke when the drafted opinion from Dobbs v. Jackson was leaked, and I’m pretty sure it shattered after the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. My rights are being taken from me and children are dying yet again in this country, and it seems like the only thing I know how to do is cry. And these are only two examples I could’ve mentioned from the recent news cycles — there are many more disheartening stories to choose from.
The day after the leaked Supreme Court opinion, I remember clicking through people’s Instagram stories and seeing so many people celebrating the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade. I had spent the night crying because I was so scared and pissed off. Meanwhile, people I followed — and maybe once considered friends — were overjoyed that the court would potentially rule in favor of their position.
I struggled with this news, and I still do, to be honest, because I watched it happen slowly over time. This wasn’t sudden, and it most definitely wasn’t a surprise to me and many others. I know how it happened. I know how it could have been stopped. After reading the draft opinion, I now have to worry about the overturning of other unenumerated rights that everybody once thought were untouchable.
If it had only been the leaked draft opinion, maybe I would have been okay, but that wasn’t the case. The hits just kept on coming. It took me crying in the Chicago O’Hare airport looking at news articles of the recent shootings for me to realize that this anger I have been building up isn’t healthy. I am aware it is a privilege to not have to pay attention to politics and current events, but prioritizing our mental health is especially important in high stress times like these.
I thought I needed to know everything about everything taking place in America in order to be a good student and a good person. That’s simply just not true. I can still be empathetic and knowledgeable without knowing every last detail of the horror that takes place in this country day after day. I never want to know as much about the unforgivable acts of tomorrow as I do about Uvalde. This information will haunt me for a long time.
If you’re like me — tired and angry about everything that is going on — I find that limiting the articles I read and turning off Instagram and Twitter has helped so much. Even unfollowing people who don’t have the same views as me, no matter how close we once were, has made me so much more sane. I am all for keeping an open mind and debate, but when human rights and lives are discussed I have little tolerance for anything other than empathy and understanding.
I’ve been told I’m cynical and a pessimist. I’ll admit it’s true, even more so after getting into politics. But even if I see the glass as half empty, I still want to be happy at the end of the day. With all the information I was constantly reading, I wasn’t happy, and I recognize that now. Paying such close attention to the American news cycle and the political aftermath does that to a person.
America has a trend of doing nothing when action needs to be taken, so when something devastating happens, as it inevitably will, I know now what I have to do. Keeping just a smidge of my sanity at the end of the day will make these hard times much more bearable.
Livia LaMarca mostly writes about American politics and pop culture. Write to her at [email protected].