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Surviving 2020 — Election Edition

As I write this article, the United States is caught – caught in a quagmire between two candidates who is respectively making claims about the country that inspire confidence, hope, and faith in their followers; accompanied by an equivalent level of vitriol, mistrust, and anger towards the other side. I’ve picked my side, and I […]

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As I write this article, the United States is caught – caught in a quagmire between two candidates who is respectively making claims about the country that inspire confidence, hope, and faith in their followers; accompanied by an equivalent level of vitriol, mistrust, and anger towards the other side. I’ve picked my side, and I know where I stand. But this isn’t a post about politics. It’s a post about being – being well, being better, being at a time of catatonic crisis.

For many of us, the days, weeks, even months ahead will be difficult – irrespective of if you’re a Republican, Democrat, American, or non-American. Let’s face it – the 2020 US Presidential Elections are, above all other elections, a vote that matters to the world. As we await the results of the race with baited breath, let us not forget the importance of keeping our heads up regardless of the adversities that life throws at us. To do so, however, requires not an “Anything Goes” mentality, but a mindset that is equally at ease with and fully embracive of the pains and turmoil that constitute our zeitgeist.

  1. It’s OK to not know things; it’s OK to feel powerless. We are not omnipotent agents; even the most powerful humans have their limits – limits that could well be exemplified by the results of this election. There is a tendency on the part of pundits and activists to demand power – to speak truth to power, to stand boldly in face of power, to defy power structures. Yet it is concurrently fine – just fine – for us to feel helpless, powerless, and deprived of all means by our circumstances. Acknowledgment does not equate acceptance. Realisation of the truth neither justifies nor entails our acceptance of it.
  2. Stay focussed. I ended up putting away my phone for 3-4 hours prior to writing this post. I couldn’t concentrate as my eyes had been glued onto the screens, as I surreptitiously yet incessantly checked and refreshed my Twitter feed for more ‘intel’. In truth, there is no intel – much of the intel, especially at this critical juncture, is but noise, is but projection, is but the paranoid scribblings of half-accurate pollsters. So let’s give the airy conjectures a miss, and stay grounded. Stay focussed.
  3. Just remember the power of the Little Things. Every vote counted. Every person matters. You might have thought that you were in a safe seat, or that your vote, your canvassing, your every and each act did not matter. Perhaps it didn’t in the great scheme of things, but we do not live under the tyranny of Big Things – there are Little Things that ought to matter, instantiating our value, embodying our struggle, too. And these Little Things keep us grounded, they make us human.
  4. Treat others as you would want them to treat you. The best moral case for compassion – both self-directed and others-oriented – is the innate interchangeability of our positions. You could be a Trump supporter, but you could also have been a Biden supporter, had you been born at a slightly different time, to a slightly different family, under slightly altered social circumstances. You could have been the voteless migrant, the helpless refugee, or a victim of the COVID-19 deluge. You could have done this, you could have been that. Recognising that you could have been and might well be in someone else’s shoes – is the first step in achieving compassion, in turn the first step in making peace with what you have, and what you don’t.
  5. Be kind. By this, I do not mean, “Be kind to all others.”, or to devote one’s emotional energy to placating and consoling others. To do so, would be brave, would be kind – especially with the rapidly dissipating magnanimity we see in politics today. But instead, be kind to oneself. Take a break; take a walk; take a pause. Life is too short for one to berate oneself for what one cannot control; yet one can control how one spends one’s life – to fight for what is right; to stand against what is wrong; and, above all, to keep hoping, to keep loving, and to keep sailing against the ill winds of our times.
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