Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Troubled Times Guest Post: Stephen Shumaker on Don’t Feed the Bully

In Troubled Times: Don’t Feed the Bully
By Stephen Shumaker

The last presidential election changed me, as I imagine, it changed a lot of people.

My change was wholly unexpected, and wildly out of character for me. I went from being slightly political to rabidly political. The closer the election came was like watching a car accident as it happened over a period of months. I watched it the same way I watch horror movies—with an anxious trepidation that becomes overwhelming if I let it.

Once the crash finally happened, and we got the result that everyone feared, I couldn’t stop watching this horror movie that had become American politics. Is that an exaggeration? I don’t think so. I turn on Rachel Maddow or Seth Meyers with the same nervousness that I feel when I watch American Horror Story or those cheesy movies about demonic possession. I want to be scared; I like that feeling, enjoy the thrill.

The difference is that this new thrill that I tune into could—and likely will—hurt the people that I love, in ways that I don’t know how to stop.

The thing that is attached to this new old thrill that I have when I watch these political shows, that I try to fight every day, is a sense of helplessness that is so deep it threatens to paralyze me. In a few ways, it has paralyzed me; writing hasn’t exactly been nonexistent, but it’s been so much harder. It’s so easy to get lost in the political mire of Trump said this, Trump did that. So much easier to watch the horror show unfolding across the country, with the latest “what our President-elect Tweeted” and the chaos unfolding in North Carolina and the attacks on people of color or LGBTQ running rampant because our incoming Chief approves such actions. So much easier to lose myself in the horror show than to focus on doing something.

Disconnecting from these horrible things is the better option, of course. It’s undeniably better to focus on making something that will bring joy and fun into the world than it is to lose myself in the chaos and the negativity. After all, if I don’t stop paying attention to the world and focus on these goals of mine, I’ll never get anywhere. I’ll never push myself to become better and get my crap together.

My wife took the direct opposite approach for her election hangover; she couldn’t watch anything about it, and gets angry at the random exposure to what Trump’s doing next that she sees on Facebook. My reaction—to focus more on politics—confuses her, and probably scares her a little. She and I have been about as apolitical as we could get. Part of my knee-jerk reaction is because I’m scared to death that some moron is going to do something random and horrible to her because she’s Asian-American.

But it’s not healthy to use the time that I have—the small amount that I have available to me that I can use to better myself—to lose myself in political bullshit. And that’s what so much of this is; half of Trump’s actions are a thin veneer of smokescreen to try and distract anyone looking from what he’s really doing. The other half is straight up power grab. Five steps backwards for anyone in the US with a genuinely well-meaning agenda; one gigantic step forward for neo-Nazis and billionaires across the country.

The anger that I feel at the people who voted for him is useless. Here we are. There isn’t anything that we can do except figure out the best course forward. I have to figure out the best way to put more good in the world in order to counteract the hate and bigotry broadcast across the world by a powerful man-baby’s use of media.

In the end, that’s all anyone can do to fight such a thing. Take the idea that “Love Trumps Hate” to new heights. One of my heroes, Kevin Smith, was faced several months ago with an internet troll who attacked his daughter, and responded with such great wisdom that it has stuck with me. “…If you hate me (or my kid) this much, the better use of your time is to make YOUR dreams come true, instead of slamming others for doing the same. The best revenge is living insanely well…Don't bitch or punish the world: just create.”

While I understand that this is a simplistic solution to a complicated problem, it’s also a solution that is more accessible than ever. I’m writing this piece for a blog that I know only some people will read. I am also a firm believer that we are all born creators. Some of us create documents, some create books, and some create healthy environments for children to be raised in. We all create what we see in our heads. If we all envision a happier world, and aim to bring that world into our reality, that’s what creation is. We can all make the world a better place, even if it seems bleak and cruel. All it takes is the right perspective. And creating that perspective is easier today than it ever has been before.
Stephen Shumaker lives in the Silicon Valley with his wife and two daughters, studying technology and writing science fiction and fantasy. He hopes to own a house and live off his writing, and that whatever world his girls get is worth their time. And is not post-apocalyptic. He can be found on Twitter ReTweeting The Muppets and Bruce Campbell: @sshumaker2149

Photo by Achim Hering; licensed under Creative Commons.

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