A Normal Amount of Election Day Anxiety

I spent most of today trying to avoid spiraling. It is election day as I’m writing this, though this is going up a week later, and this election feels particularly fraught. Perhaps more telling, though, is that this level of anxiety is starting to feel normal for elections. After all, the past four major elections (two presidential elections and mid-term elections, specifically, since there’s been a lot more of the local ones than just these four) have been either a step directly toward fascism and authoritarianism or a desperate attempt to move further away from it. I know that the situation we’re currently in is the result of decades of effort so it’s not like any of this stuff came out of nowhere, but that’s not really comforting to know that given how much of it happened before I had any say in the matter. What would be comforting would be knowing that our elections are fair and safe from a bunch of far-right facist fuckers worming their way into enough positions of power that they can thumb the scales by disenfranchising voters or outright meddling in the elections. What sucks the most about that thought is it feels on the same level as all of my “what if I won the lottery” fantasies.

Growing up in the 90s and 00s meant that I had a front-row seat to the gradual decline of the US. I was the right age to start distrusting authority after the destruction of the world trade center in 2001 and was ready to question just about anything that was presented to me without preamble or explanation. While it took me a while longer to truly understand what was at stake and how to read between the lines all of the propaganda, I was already trying to figure out what was going on beyond the stuff my parents told me or allowed me to learn (they did their best to prevent us kids from learning anything about the world other than through them). After all, I’d learned my parents didn’t really know what was best at an early age and it was an easy step to apply that to politics and the country I lived in.

I grew up in a very black and white household, and while I don’t think my parents were single-issue voters, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover they are. I genuinely don’t know how they’ve voted in recent years and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover they voted mostly republican. Nor would I be surprised to discover they voted entirely democrat. They’re in a weird grey-zone politically, but they’re not really hateful people. Just sort of inept at being good parents on the emotional and identity sides of things and really not the sort to work on improving themselves outside of the values and prescribed methods of their religion. Which meant that eventually discovering all of the grey that existed between their black and white representation of issues opened my eyes to a complex world of nuance that really filled in a lot of the details of what I’d observed once I sort of became aware of the wider world. After all, that’s the effect that the post-terror attack propaganda had on me. I didn’t really buy in to all of the stuff being spewed by the news and political machinery of the world, but I did start looking up all the places they talked about.

As a lifelong storyteller whose survival as a child relied on being able to read between the lines and understand the difference between what people say and what they eventually do, it was not difficult to realize there were problems with the way things were described. After all, it was pretty easy to understand that trickle-down economics was bullshit when it got explained to me in high school since I already knew that my dad getting a raise did absolutely nothing for my allowance. Plus, growing up in a household with mostly four and then five kids on a single parent’s income meant I got a lot of first-hand experience about what it meant to budget, to save money, to shop economically, and how the economy impacted a middle-class family beyond the “everyone in the US with a house and a job is successful and wealthy!” sort of suburban messaging that was everywhere in my childhood.

I don’t think I have any special insight into the world because of my life. I think anyone who grew up when I did and who paid attention when I did would have seen the same thing. The only advantage I’d claim is that my personal history meant that I started paying attention to things beyond my small world a lot sooner than the average person. We all grew up watching the world slowly collapse into it’s current chaos and near-ruin. It’s a process that has been going on for over fifty years, specifically in the US anyway. Since the invention of unrepentant capitalism, really. Maybe the industrial revolution is a good marker? I don’t know. Even thinking about it this much is stressing me out and there’s enough bullshit going on that all my google searches are returning a bunch of US election bullshit that doesn’t really address my core question of “when did we start on this path?”

Honestly, I just hope things don’t get worse. I want things to get better, but that’s going to take a while since we’ve not only got to counteract all of the horrible shit finally bearing fruit but we’ve got to start by breaking the momentum that fascism and authoritarianism have been building over the last few decades. All of that starts with voting. There’s tons more work to do after that, but most of it won’t even be possible if people don’t vote and do their best to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. I don’t know that my ideal voting outcome will make the country I live in better, but I do know that anything other than democracts increasing their power in the government will be actively making it worse. I just hope the country and elections as a concept still exist by the time this goes up. Otherwise I’m probably going to need to rewrite this entire post.

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