RIP Ginsburg: A 2020 Reality Check
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Passes Away & Taking Responsibility To Engage With Bad News
This is the first blog in my bi-weekly series 'Liberal Media Bias' which will examine politics, current events and filmmaking from a (mostly) progressive, liberal position.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died today at the age of 87. She lived a remarkable, full life, and died fighting for liberal ideals, and women everywhere. This blog was prompted by her passing, but its not about her. There are more qualified journalists and writers who will talk about her legacy. Instead, I felt a strong urge to talk about what I am feeling and where I think we're headed going forward.
I am starting to think that blaming 2020 is a terrible mistake.
When this news broke, I was driving and got the message on my watch. I swore out loud in my car. Later, on Facebook, I was tempted to pull out the same trope we've all used this year, personifying 2020 as a terrible monster that will soon die and leave us better circumstances on January 1st, 2021. I understand the desire to believe that, even subconsciously, things will get better, but I am starting to think that blaming 2020 is a terrible mistake.
Not only will the pandemic be with us in 2021, but Category 5 hurricanes, apocalyptic wild fires, dictators threatening war and even Donald Trump will still be with us in 2021. Even if he loses, Trump and QAnon will be empowered and cry foul over the results. Corporations will still consolidate power and destroy small business. China will continue to dominate the world and chip away at free speech, even in western democracies. (Check out my blog on Mulan and China's influence on Hollywood for more on that.)
2020 is not the end of the pain, it's just one more year of escalation. We said the same thing in 2016 when extreme weather events, some bad movies, celebrity deaths and Trump winning cemented that year as 'the worst'. Perhaps doing that, comforting and natural though it was, contributed to a bigger problem. Our inability to accept that this is not an anomaly or a phase that we will outgrow.
This is the new normal.
This is the new normal. This world of constant distress and growing cataclysm is merely an expected escalation, and unless we change our approach and get on board with the idea of our new reality, we will be claiming 2021 or 2024 is the worst year ever. Okay, maybe 2020 was particularly bad, but as far as novel coronaviruses go, Covid-19 wasn't even THAT bad. Scientists have been worried about much worse and so far, they've been right on the money worrying about our future.
There is still a path to a better world. However, it is a narrowing path. As with the millions of variable futures Doctor Strange examines to battle Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, only one path offers the victory we seek. With every climate disaster, with every migration crisis, with every right wing extremist government elected to chip away at democracy, we find the path to a better tomorrow growing more narrow. That is why it is so important that we reevaluate how we view the present.
No, this is not a 'phase' in wester democracy learning to cope with unchecked capitalism. This is not a 'bad year' that we will get over and talk about to our grandchildren. Because if things keep going the way they are and you're a younger reader, you won't have grandchildren, or you won't live long enough to meet them. That isn't hyperbole, we have to change now. Unfortunately, positive change is not a forgone conclusion or some destiny out of Star Trek.
Now is not the time to live for tomorrow and dream of the holidays we will take and the movies or concerts we will see and the parties we will attend with friends. Now is the time to accept the present situation and work our asses off to make sure 2020 really is the anomaly we hope it is. I don't believe in the Secret and I'm not particularly religious. I don't believe in the power of prayer and I don't believe hoping for change will bring it about.
This will not pass. Not with a 'bury your head in the sand' mentality.
The outcome we need will only occur with engagement every single day. Almost every friend I know, and some family too, cannot watch the news every night because it is 'too negative'. They tell me it's not like we can do anything, so why get depressed by it? After all, our mental health is fragile in these trying times. We should weather the storm, hold our breaths through the smoke and this too shall pass. Sound familiar?
This will not pass. Not with a 'bury your head in the sand' mentality. I am not here to tell you how to engage, only that you must engage, every single day. You could volunteer, you could run for office, you could make art or entertainment or write about it. You can even hassle your friends on Facebook about fake news and challenge them about dangerous politics. Don't be afraid to make enemies, admit you're wrong or ask questions. Always ask questions and never surrender to ideas you know are harmful.
This year I have lost 40 pounds in a year where most have gained weight. I will leave the specifics for another post, but I will tell you the secret to my success. For me, it was the ability to take it one day at a time, and just do one thing every day towards my goal, even if it was small. I did not make promises to myself about a goal weight or a deadline. I just said, I am going to chip away at this until I can see a dent, and then I'll start making larger dents, and the momentum will do the rest. What does that have to do with engagement you ask? If you're not engaged, and don't know how to do it, or if you should, just start small. Read one newspaper or watch one good news program every night. Information is a luxury we still have, even while it too may be in danger.
Something else happened this year to make it suck even more. Two family members of mine were diagnosed with serious, likely incurable cancer. It's possible we'll end this year or begin next year saying good-bye to one of them. When you have cancer, you don't live in denial, you don't just go on living your life hoping for the best. You fight hard, you look for solutions everywhere. You go in for drug trials, you take the chemotherapy, you change your diet and you change your whole life to give yourself a chance at seeing tomorrow.
2020 is the year our cancer metastasized. It's no longer dormant or benign. If your doctor told you to monitor it and just 'wait and see', now they're telling you to check in to the hospital for emergency surgery and begin radiotherapy. If you don't fight like your life depends on it, your life will not be the same ever again. The dream of a middle class, comfortable life and retirement is gone. Your freedoms are being eroded, your planet is going to kill you. This is reality, here and now.
This reality, this year, is not the result of some higher power or personified demon of the calendar... Though, Neil Gaiman really should write that book, I'm sure it would be a hoot. No, this reality is of our making. It is the result of decades of deflection and focusing on our individual wants and selfish desires. The entire Boomer generation is practically defined by it. Millennials might think we're unique, but we're falling into the same traps as our parents.
To succeed, we have to defy out nature, and fight together when it is uncomfortable.
To succeed, we have to defy out nature, and fight together when it is uncomfortable. If one more person tells me they cannot stomach the nightly news or can't handle politics, then turns around and doesn't vote or votes without knowing what they're voting for, I swear to you, I will engage that person relentlessly until they understand the consequences of their actions or unfriend me. In this time, we should all prefer to lose friends who refuse to listen and change, not because they disagree with us. Engage, and push others to engage like their lives and yours depend on it.
So, to recap... The great RBG has passed, and while we grieve Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are popping the cork on some champaign. It took McConnell just two hours after her passing to justify a conservative replacement before the election despite refusing to do so for Obama 4 years ago, it will finally be the end of any semblance of balance in the US judiciary.
Already, McConnells ramming through of Trump appointees to federal courts after blocking them under Obama has created a conservative leaning court system for an entire generation. It will now take Democrats over a decade of victories to restore balance. That was before RBG lost her fight with pancreatic cancer. If there is a legal nuclear option available to Schumer and the Democrats to stop this, I don't know what it is.
It's just one more nail in the coffin, one more degree of temperature in the proverbial boiling pot of water that we are stewing in. Time is running out. I love escaping into movies and games and fantasy worlds more than almost anyone I know, but I still make time for the real world, because I know information is key to changing the outcome.
You can do the same, if you want to.