Remember to Take Breaks
In the wake of Election Day, I wrote a piece called Now We Organize. I was unsatisfied with each section, feeling I had more to say. As I waffled, some aspects of Trump’s administration started to take shape, meaning some revision was in order. Rather than publishing, I have expanded it into a series of blog posts and will release it all by inauguration day.
The axiom of progressive politics is that problems are systemic. Even if you acknowledge that there might be an individual dynamic to who is in poverty, that there is poverty for people to fall into is social. Further, that acknowledgement has limits; poverty for some is the bad luck to be born without the privileges of others. If you are feeling exhausted watching Trump’s administration take shape, that has a profound impact on your responsibilities as well.
Your individual choices cannot solve systemic oppression.
This means that you can take days off and sit out certain fights.
Two things must be acknowledged. First, being able to sit out fights is a function of privilege. But, MacIntosh unpacked the invisible knapsack, she found privileges we must give up and privileges we must expand. The right to take breaks is one that must expand. Insofar as you are sitting something out to recharge, you are doing your due diligence. Mental health is an axis of oppression, and taking care of yourself is a radical act. Being mindful of the ways in which you can do more is laudable, but guilt about not stretching yourself thin serves no one. Second—and this largely goes without saying—you still have to deal with individual manifestations of oppression, including your own. Basically, you can turn off the news for day, but you still have to point out your coworker’s racist behavior and consider the ways you are being sexist.
Let’s take this logic one step further. Part of what we must do is leave room for people to take a breather. Cover for each other. Encourage stressed people to check out for a day or two. Normalize therapy. Kindly but firmly ask people not to shame those who are not 100% engaged 100% of the time. The “real issues” rhetoric is toxic, apart from the ways it often marginalizes whatever group is labeled distracting, because it suggests that there is a narrow script we must follow. The progressive project is about building space for those who need it; that must include those who need space to breathe in our work.
We have a lot of work to do. Get some rest and we’ll tackle it in the morning.