Written by Mitali Shukla
Politics truly exhaust me. So much so that I actively avoid the news. But I also feel a lot of guilt when I don’t know what’s going on in the world and even more guilt associated with not helping those who need help.
After Trump’s election in 2016, I remember that I refused to read the news or be up-to-date with what was going on in the world. The only thing that was able to bring me out of this cave of global ignorance was Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Despite my desire to remain inattentive to what was going on around me, I knew I had to get vocal; the activist in me couldn’t stay quiet.
Being an activist is unforgiving, painstaking work. One of my favorite feminist authors, Sady Doyle, wrote a piece detailing the detrimental effects that the 2016 election had on the mental health of women in America. She calls out the never-ending, “24 hour analysis” of Trump’s pitfalls and the effects it has on us.
The only time I feel comfortable talking about Trump is when he does something profoundly stupid that we can all laugh at. In all other contexts, he is a dangerous man: dangerous for women’s rights to their own body, dangerous for immigrants seeking asylum and dangerous for religious minorities. His rhetoric is violence-inducing and I believe it has contributed to the skyrocket in white-supremacist-based mass shootings. Hearing the negative things Trump does and says is exhausting. That’s why I struggle keeping up-to-date with the news; it drains me.
It’s not just me; Doyle mentioned a 2017 study published by the Journal of American College Health regarding college students’ emotional response to the 2016 election. The study revealed that 25 percent of students developed symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Students also experienced “clinically significant” levels of stress that could be comparable to those who had witnessed a mass shooting.
I wasn’t even a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. Her husband’s 1994 crime bill and her own super predator comment put a bad taste in my mouth. I was weary – as I should be. As many American men who listen to the Joe Rogan podcast so fervently mansplain to me: wanting a woman to be president isn’t good enough. It doesn’t matter what their gender is, only that they do a good job. As Dave Chappelle said in his Netflix special “Equanimity,” “It didn’t feel bad voting for her, but it didn’t feel as good as it should’ve.”
But of course, I wouldn’t know anything about what it felt like actually voting in the 2016 election – I was one year short. I was 17 at the time of the election and it’s not that I thought my vote would have made a huge difference. But it would have felt less like I watched and did nothing as we take huge steps backward when it comes to gun control, the right to choose and climate change.
I’m excited to vote in my first election. I’ll be 21 when the time comes around. I hope that it feels better than Chappelle said voting for Hillary did. I just hope I don’t have to choose between dying from a gunshot or dying from a thousand papercuts.