Columnist Sara Weinberger: Dealing with politics-induced insomnia

  • SARAH WEINBERGER

Published: 6/20/2021 11:03:04 AM

These days, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Summer is here and COVID vaccines have enabled us to abandon our virtual worlds and once again gather safely and unmasked with friends — a joy to behold. I am grateful for a boring president who displays intelligence, civility and diplomacy. With Democratic majorities in the Senate and House, the prospect of passing legislation that promotes equality and well-being fills me with hope.

So much to be grateful for! So, why do I feel like crying? Trump no longer lives in the White House. He may be banned from Twitter and Facebook, but his minions in Congress, in state legislatures, and in our courts continue to march to the beat of his authoritarian drum, further weakening our already fragile democracy.

I had hoped to feel reassured by President Joe Biden’s unwavering steadiness, his resolute stance in support of unifying our divided country. For awhile the insomnia that had plagued me for the past four years took a breather, providing a much-needed rest from the mayhem. Recently, however, a good night’s sleep has been elusive. The June 13 New York Times reported that complaints of sleeplessness have grown from 20% of adults last summer to almost 60% this past March.

COVID may be waning in the U.S., but Republican demagoguery is on the rise. A daily dose of the news can contribute to insomnia more than gulping a can of Red Bull before bedtime.

The Times article suggested journaling one’s worries an hour or two before bedtime to stave off insomnia. I tried it on a recent night. Here’s a portion of my list:

■Trump’s obsession with finding who was leaking information to the press about Russian influence in the 2016 election led the Department of Justice to secretly subpoena records of congressional lawmakers, journalists and even the former president’s legal counsel. The Trump Justice Department was anything but just.

■Five states have banned the teaching of critical race theory, essentially banning education about Black history. Another victory for white supremacy.

■The majority of Republicans in Congress are continuing to promote the “Big Lie” that Democrats stole the presidential election. The truth has no relevance.

■Convinced that their guy is the rightful president, a slew of Republican state legislators are resurrecting Jim Crow, by enacting voting laws restricting access to voting and giving Republican legislators the power to undo election results if Democrats win. The right to vote is hanging by a thread.

■Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, announced he won’t support HR1, the For the People Act. He refuses to support a filibuster to make sure Americans don’t lose the right to vote. So much for our majority in the Senate!

■Republicans in 34 states have introduced, and in several cases already passed, 81 new punitive anti-protest bills, according to U.S. Protest Law Tracker and the International Center for Nonprofit Law. Is the right to assemble, along with freedom of speech going to become a thing of the past?

■Trump believes that he will be reinstated as president in August, and people are believing him. Remember how we laughed at the notion that Trump could be president?

■The Republicans killed a congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. Domestic terror gets a nod and a wink from Republican lawmakers.

Needless to say, my worry journal did not promote a good night’s sleep.

I am not the only person having trouble enjoying the benefits of sanity in the White House. Fears of Democratic losses in 2022 and 2024 have been the topic of dinner conversations, yet concerns that Trump loyalists may win in 2022 have not spurred Democrats into action. People are tired. They want a break from phone banks and postcarding to enjoy their new-found freedom from COVID restrictions. Many delude themselves into believing in the fairytale ending, where American exceptionalism wins again. In the meantime, the Proud Boys, the QAnon cultists, and almost half of Congress are working overtime to deliver a victory for white nationalism and autocracy.

It’s going to take a powerful populist movement to prevent this country from becoming another Belarus. Enjoy the beach! Have a barbecue! But invest some time to save democracy. I’ve changed my worry journal to an action journal. Here’s my local list:

■Join local activist Paul Spector, along with folks from across the country, for a hopeful recap of the issues and opportunities for action. The group meets on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. or Fridays at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3gHxBvX

■Subscribe to 413 Staying Connected https://bit.ly/2TOISCM for a listing of actions, meetings and events across western Massachusetts.

■Make a donation to the Northampton-based Movement Voter Project. Since 2016, MVP has helped donors invest more than $120 million into more than 700 grassroots organizations in 47 states. Better yet, consider becoming an MVP sustainer with a monthly pledge of $22. https://movement.vote/

■Join the League of Women Voters to help realize the vision of “a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.” https://lwvma.org/

As Spector has said, “The best antidote to political fear and despair is collective political action.”

Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is a professor emerita of social work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.


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