As someone who’s far removed from these horrors, I’m having a hard time processing the fact that ethnic cleansing is happening right in front of us, right now. Knowing the government is tearing migrant families apart and literally torturing children has changed me as a person. At first, I just felt stymied by my powerlessness. I donated money to groups fighting these monsters, signed up for an ICE rapid response training. But it didn’t feel like enough. “You’re not DOING anything,” I’d chide myself as I scrolled through social media streams festooned with dispiriting headlines. During the day, when other tasks begged my attention, I could make myself put the phone away, push the thoughts aside long enough to do chores, raise my kid, look for a job, the usual.
At night, when my parenting duties were done, I’d get online again. Often I’d drink as I scrolled. There are just so many reasons to imbibe under the combined nightmares of Trumpism (a relatively new terror) and neoliberal capitalism (been creeping my whole lifetime). But most of the reasons are negative, and frequent drink takes a toll. I found myself exercising less, feeling more anxious. Eventually I reached that point in the summer, when the drama and tension that always seem to accompany long, sun-beaten days became so high-pitched I had to shake myself free of my bad habits and take an honest look at what was eating me. Why was I doing this to myself?
And because I now go to therapy, sometimes meditate, and usually try being nice to myself, that question quickly turned into, “Why the hell should I self-destruct because these shameless fascists are in power?”
Why should I drink for comfort (making me sluggish and cranky later) because they use their power to exploit, torment, and snuff people out?
Why should I attack myself for “not doing anything” when they have almost all the power? And what am I to accomplish if I’m feeling sluggish and cranky?
Why should I subject myself to scrolling through a constant stream of misery on Twitter when I could be organizing people and making friends in real life?
As an active socialist, I strive to be a humble cog turning within a larger, people-powered machine that will eventually dismantle these cruel, exploitative systems and institutions. But no one learns to be an effective cog by sitting alone in a quiet room, staring at a device. What I need more than a simple solution I can accomplish all by myself is a community. I need more people of good conscience who’ll look out for me just like I’ll look out for them. I need leftism that shapes my everyday social life, but doesn’t alienate from those who feel disengaged. I need a reading group. I need to be accountable to others in doing the political work that is important to me. Because when I am accountable to others, I don’t slack off as much.
But here’s the catch – I’ve been living in this town for just one year and I know little about building community because I’m not a people person. I am a hardcore, unabashed introvert who loves spending time alone. Between my husband, my six-year-old daughter, the few friends I’ve made, and my various gigs (both paid and voluntary), I’m not exactly sure how I’m gonna make room for this chosen family I’m just starting to assemble. Until a couple years ago, I never saw myself as someone who particularly needed other people to get by. But when I ponder the future, and wonder what will be left if those in power persist in their rampage, I’m absolutely certain the only thing that will save us is each other.
And so I present The Introverted Comrade – a literary accompaniment to this community-building journey. I’ll present writings on a variety of subjects; I like using bits of memoir to talk about the human condition, so you’ll see a lot of that. Naturally I’ll talk about politics and social justice, though not from a journalistic standpoint. Guess I’m more of an amateur sociologist. In any case, I no longer know how to write about the world I see without talking about race, gender, and class, so you can expect all that to come up quite a bit as well. And through that lens I’ll discuss pop culture, because that’s a personal passion and a way I connect with others in writing and in conversation.
Thank you for being here. Writing is one way I can seek your companionship and understanding, even when I very much need to sit alone in a quiet room, staring at my device.