I’m Done Drinking the Draught of Despair

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 5:30 am

I’m Done Drinking the Draught of Despair

I’m out.

I’ve been feeling tired, depressed, and overwhelmed. I’m having a hard time concentrating, and I’m mad at seemingly unimportant things. I know what this means. Mirah Curzer described it perfectly in this piece that you absolutely must read. In it, she stated something that I never before thought would pertain to me:

“Most of us are not ready to take on the mantle of the resistance. There are things we can do now to get ready, but if we don’t, the ranks of would-be activists and resisters are going to thin out very quickly.”

When I read that, my first thought was, “Ha! Ask a Black person about resistance.” But that’s a stupid thought, and I knew it immediately.

Things are different now, and the “Standard Black Resistance” is a false equivalency of resistance in this new regime. The levels of racism and xenophobia we’re seeing now are in no way normal, even taking into account America’s long-standing love of racism and xenophobia.

Do I really need to destroy this horcrux?
Until recently, my social media stream was primarily positive. My consumption of negativity was relatively small, and limited to normal bread-and-butter American racism and misogyny. That I can handle.

Now things are different. Now the negativity I swallow includes the frontal assault on everything: woman’s rights, science, the media, the arts. The attack is against everyone who’s not a white nationalist Christian and everything else those who are squatting in Our People’s House want to destroy.

This is a lot to handle for any of us. Especially for someone who tends to consume information at a pace that is already unhealthy.

But I read it all. All of it. Because I need to know it all. I need to see it all. I feel like I’m standing in a cave of darkness drinking the draft of despair because I’m the only one who can destroy the horcrux it protects.

Of course that’s a damn stupid thought.

Looking Outward
Drinking this liquid is not helping me accomplish anything. It is certainly not helping me sustain myself for what will need to be a significant and sustained effort. More to the point: it is actively harming me.

I am not ready to take on the mantle of the resistance.

So I have decided to make myself ready. I’ve signed off Twitter (except for automatically posted things like Medium essays). I’m not drinking the despair from the media firehose. I’m not on Facebook, but am stepping away from basically all other social media.

I’m also limiting myself (for the moment) to two news subscriptions: The Washington Post (U.S.) and The Guardian (Britain). I will periodically check in with Al Jazeera (whom I write for as well), the BBC, The Hill, etc., but I’m not following the big aggregators.

I will also follow specific people — people like Terrell Starr and Sarah Kendzior, who are professionals in their field, know the issues, and are looking smartly and strategically at them.

Overall, when looking outward, I am limiting myself so I can stay informed without drinking the entire draught of despair.

Looking Inward
Looking inward, I will be focusing on things that increase my energy and strength, rather than drain them.

One of those things is writing. I will be focusing much more on writing — writing for the resistance. Mostly focused on essays and books. My goal is to write much, write well, and write strongly. Writing will be my weapon.

I can only write strongly for the resistance if I am not writing cleverly for tweets.

Another thing I’ll be focusing on is my family. I don’t want to miss my kids’ childhoods while I’m constantly checking on destruction caused by President Trump. I also need to focus on walking that balance between allowing them to have a good and fun childhood while simultaneously turning them into the soldiers of civil rights I want them to be. I need energy and strength to keep this balance. I can’t sew up Luke Cage costumes for Halloween if I’m constantly distracted by social media.

The last big thing I’ll be focused on is local organization. Working with local community leaders to help make my region resilient, strong, and safe — especially for the +25 percent Latinx population we have living here.

Local organization will allow me to make tangible steps at protecting and supporting actual people.

There are other focuses too: yoga, reading history and fiction, hiking, meditation, seeing our local friends more, playing music, baking bread (even though it’s too fatty and my wife will kill me). In short, I will be focusing on the positive things that make a life worth living. We all, every one of us, should be doing more of this.

How to find me
If you know me well, you probably already know how to find me.

Come to the shire and have a cider. Call or text me. Email me (well, unless one of my essays has blown up and my inbox becomes a house of monsters). Plenty of details here.

I have also left my Twitter DMs open, and routed them to text messaging — so until my texts become a house of monsters, you can reach me that way as well. But note that I probably won’t respond via Twitterbecause that would mean signing in — and I don’t really care to do that for a while. If you DM me, leave an email or a phone number. (Update: People actually doing this made me realize Twitter only sends the first 120 characters in text, so that’s not the best method.)

Finally, let me end with some final words (formatted using an aesthetic decision that will make my friend Clay Rivers very happy):

I hope to see you all well and strong on the flip-side of this catastrophe! Peace!

This essay was originally published on Medium.

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is a writer, cidermaker, software developer, and managing editor of the experimental literary magazine Gorge Literary Journal. His writing can be found on Medium and Al Jazeera.

Share Your Reflection


  • Suzannah Kolbeck

    I signed off of most social media for the past week and feel ready to dip a toe back in. It has made all of the difference for me.

  • Ruby Mendez

    Great piece! Please don’t stop organizing and writing for the resistance ever.

    That is to say, for many, this is a catastrophe, for others Trumpland and Trumpism was always a governing force shaping their lives.

    I implore you — before Trump, there was real work to be done to fight for the rights and wellbeing of many (healthcare still isn’t/wasn’t reaching everyone, certain groups were/are still living with a lot of physical and financial vulnerability, there were/are systemic barriers that affect certain groups and not others).

    You have a mighty weapon and wisdom and strength — please never stop using it to fight until we live in a world where every single child born has an equal shot at health, wellbeing, and opportunity.

  • Diane

    Thank you for your courage and being and leading with your truth.

  • Joy in Midtown

    Thank you for this.

  • Gabby

    I agree with you that many people spend an unhealthy amount of time consumed in and by news and some also in fretting incessantly to each other in ways that do not particularly advance the causes they care about. I applaud your being selective now in what you read.
    When it comes to the question of leaning in further or pulling back, vigorous other-care or immersion in self-care, I think each of us needs to look in the mirror to ask ourselves about which way we really err and how we would want others to act were our necks on the line.
    I think many people naturally and habitually, if somewhat guiltily, settle into to their own comfortable places, popping out only when it is easy, who could very safely and fairly sacrifice more and engage more, rather than leaving the hard front-line work to others almost all the time.
    And there are others on the opposite end, who live leaned in and full-throttle, always in the thick of fighting for others, really working at it and sacrificing for it without regard for themselves, never thinking of the fact that they are human, and running themselves totally into the ground.
    Each of us needs to think about what we can afford to do given where we stand or can afford to do better than those who have no choice.

    • Melinda Fleming

      Well said. Athletes know they cannot perform without proper rest and nourishment. Why should activists be any different? It’s both an art and a science to push ourselves to our true, living edge. Sociopaths don’t need nourishment: they don’t feel an onslaught. Sociopaths sleep undisturbed. We need to manage ourselves to remain useful.

  • Holly Kline

    That’s a shame. Resistance does not have to be overwhelming. One small phone call, made daily, makes you a force without making you crazy. There are plenty of us going hard and leading the way. We need you, and everyone like you, to back our plays. I can’t imagine anyone healthy who cannot take one minute a day to be the change.

    • Melinda Fleming

      It sound like there might be a “response gap” that you are acutely aware of. Can you share (here, or elsewhere) more about that, so that those of us who are only now waking up to activism can see the ways to better support you? How can we better “back your play”?

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  • Tina Castanares

    John, your writings are unique contributions. To the Resistance, yes, but to life. Thanks and best wishes.

  • Melinda Fleming

    Those of you in the trenches right now – we are NOT abandoning you. We are preparing ourselves to join you. We are teaching ourselves to be more resilient, like long distance athletes, or round-the-world sailors. One phone-call a day is all some of us can manage right now. And “writing for the resistance” instead of “clever tweets” (although clever tweets are necessary too), is not exactly withdrawing either. Like the the little girl in the old fairy tale, who was gifted a skull with shining eyes to light her way, we will be able to look at the darkness without blinking, without being destroyed by what we witness. We are preparing ourselves.

  • Ellen Whitehead

    Balance. It is all about balance. We must resist, but focus on what touches our heart the most. I will be marching in Washington DC for The People’s Climate Movement March. Great article! Namaste!

  • Lynn Deen

    Thank you for this! It helps, and will help, me to stay focused on my life. I am also pulling out of the hysteria, negativity and fear, but remaining aware thru specific sources to keep informed. Kind of like reading the “main newspaper” and avoiding “Star” —
    Some friends and family are doing the same. We all want to be of service to he country we love and know is still here, but don’t want to be fragmented by the hate and fear.

  • Paul

    Thank you for writing this! I needed it. Solidarity!

  • Gloria

    Excellent; I too am trying to reclaim my life while still standing for what I believe. If everyone reading this would commit to making phone calls to elected officials, we could begin to make a difference. Add the phone numbers of Congressperson, Senators even the president to your phone. I put ‘political’ in the ‘company’ line so when I type ‘political into the phone these numbers come up. I have a list of issues important to me: ACA, the environment, Trump’s tax/ financial conflict of interest, Russia’s involvement in U S politics and I call each person daily on one issue. My calls are short “I’m Gloria, a constituent calling from (zip code). No response needed (makes it quicker). I’d like to voice my opinion on ….. ” Truly it takes a minute or two to make these calls. Then I go on with a day trying to spread kindness and thoughtfulness. Please join me.

  • Thank you for sharing your approach. I think that great peace and re-centering can come from taking a step away from the chaos and constant outcry of social medias approach to the political situation. I’ve retreated to my parents’ farm for a few months to live slower and do more pottery. It provides peace and space to think, to figure osut how I want to get involved, to make true movements in the direction of inclusion and acceptance and welcoming – it all seems a bit harder out here in rural Minnesota than it was in Chicago. It’s good for me to work harder to find ways to live out the love and equality I’m compelled to promote.

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  • Ashley Demonbreun-Chapman

    Love that this message is out there. Getting strong, grounded and centered will make the resistance strong. Thank you!

  • Roy Reichle

    America’s long-standing love of racism and xenophobia.
    I am all for loving resistance and self-care in the face of social warfare, but statements like that one above condemn too many people who do not fit the generalization. I assume you are American–maybe I shouldn’t–as an American do you love racism and xenophobia? If not, you are proof your generalization is to some extent a lie–immoral and wrong. So stop it.

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