Ask Auntie Pinko
January 6, 2005
By Auntie Pinko
I really enjoy reading your advice column online and think
you give great advice! I am hoping you can help me with a problem
that I have been having with my husband ever since the election.
Since then he has been in a deep depression.
He was devastated that Kerry did not win (well he actually
did win since he really won Ohio, but that is another topic!) and
spends hours and hours everyday researching all the atrocities of
the war in Iraq, the many horrible things the Bush administration
has done to innocent Americans, the "real story of the 9/11 attacks"
(the theory that it was an inside job that the Bush Administration
knew about and approved) the civil liberties that have been taken
away with the Patriot Act and even more to come when the Patriot
Act II passes etc. etc.
He and my son are traveling to DC for the anti-inauguration
protests on inauguration day. He is convinced that he will be arrested,
taken to a prisoner internment center and that we will never see
him again. The more articles he reads on the Internet the more agitated,
paranoid and depressed he gets. His friends and family have tried
to get him off the Internet and back to the reality of life but
he is not listening to us.
We have tried to get him to see that even though there is a
lot of bad in the world there is also a lot of good. I know this
is a big problem but am hoping that you have some advice for me.
Since you are the voice of reason I'm hoping he will listen to you.
Thank you for anything you can recommend.
Thank you very much for the kind words. It's a heavy responsibility,
being "the voice of reason," (especially when Auntie doesn't always
feel very reasonable!) but I will do the best I can. Yours is not
the only letter I've received, describing such a concern for a friend
or loved one, so to begin with, you're not alone.
Let me start by saying that I, too, take a very grave view of
the next four years. In spite of my confidence that four more years
of Mr. Bush's administration will go a long way to discredit the
current leadership and policies of the GOP, that is a barren comfort
in the face of the damage that will accumulate during that time.
We are, indeed, facing a historic rollback of civil liberties, protection
for the environment and the well being of working Americans, and
the social compact that supports our civil infrastructure.
International friendships and trust critical to our long-term
national security will continue to erode. Four more years will see
this damage embedded deeply into the fabric of our civil and social
institutions, and exponentially more difficult to halt and reverse
than if we had been able to begin the process this year. In no sense
do I take these things lightly.
Two things keep me from despair and obsessive negative focus:
First, I have historical perspective and a deep respect
for the resilience of humanity. America has been through similar
periods of darkness and retrogression in the past, and the fundamental
decency and enlightened self-interest (as opposed to
the ugly me-first version of social Darwinism,) have always
Second, I have personal perspective and a deep respect
for the transformational power of caring relationships. Without
strong, loving human connections, the fight for progress and
justice is an empty exercise in moral arrogance. It risks being
a brittle and unsustainable imposition of my vision upon others.
I have chosen the responsibility of being a change agent, but
I also choose to be intelligent in how I carry out that responsibility.
The future needs me healthy, well-rested, confident, loved and
If I am not enjoying the process, there's something wrong with
the way I'm approaching it, and I need to step back, and re-examine
my motives, methods, and how well I am living the vision I want
They used to call Hubert H. Humphrey "The Happy Warrior," and
how appropriate that label was! In the fight to bring civil rights
to Minneapolis when he was Mayor; in his dedication to the War on
Poverty as Vice President; and in his many, many fights for social
justice and economic equity in the Senate, Mr. Humphrey never lost
his sense of humor, his sense of perspective, or his ability to
remain warmly connected with a large circle of constituents, colleagues,
friends and family. We all need these qualities today, more than
My religious tradition teaches me that the end does not
justify the means. In fact, close observation over a long life has
convinced me, rather, that the means shape the ends. If we seek
justice and peace through hatred and discord, our achievements will
be fragile and ephemeral at best, illusory and futile at worst.
Many methods for promoting change are double-edged tools. Used as
Dr. King used them, they bear vast power for good. Used with hatred
and disrespect for the humanity of those we are trying to change,
they become boomerangs, laying up long-term losses that will eventually
cancel out short-term achievements.
I am glad to hear that your husband and son are going to the inauguration
protests. To stand for one's principles in the face of indifferent
or hostile society can be a powerful statement. Expressing the anguish
and rage we feel, watching yet more darkness being called down upon
our nation, can be cathartic and even catalytic. But not if it is
done in a spirit of hatred and despair. Not if political power is
simply a bone we feel we have more right to than those other dogs.
Not if we are doing it only to "get back at" those we feel have
betrayed our trust.
To be a "Happy Warrior" we need a deep connection to our society,
a whole and multi-faceted life that includes elements of joy and
laughter and fun, of healthy work and shared interaction with all
our neighbors. It requires finding common ground, and when politics
offers no common ground, we must go outside politics and find connection
by other means - volunteer work, recreation, entertainment, education,
family… there are many choices.
Finally, it's important for all of us to remember that the Internet
is a wonderful tool, but it can serve as much to blind us as to
enlighten us, to isolate us as to connect us. Becoming addicted
to the cycle of rage and validation is easy on the Internet. Auntie's
been there. It's not healthy. For me, it was part of a larger health
problem, and getting my overall physical and mental health attended
to helped me. I've been more productive both in the quality and
the quantity of my contributions to positive change.
I hope this is helpful, Eileen. Righteous anger can be a powerful
force for good, and we should not ignore its promptings. But if
we want to use that anger to achieve lasting change, it must be
used right. Not with hatred and despair, but with hope and confidence.
Best wishes to you and your family, and thanks for asking Auntie
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