It feels like I’ve spent the last two weeks curled up in my chair scrolling through Twitter while repeats of bad television play in the background. The ugliness of the world breaks me, but ultimately this is normal for me. Every month or two I spend a few weeks unable to do anything beyond the minimum of my responsibilities. It hurts even more knowing there are awful policies to fight and to be unable to do anything. I recently heard Naomi Klein talk about resisting cynicism, resisting believing things are hopeless. It’s good advice, but when you’re depressed you can’t help but feel like nothing matters. That there is no hope. The problem I face is balancing my own sense of hopelessness with my desire for a better world. I know that it takes action to improve things, but depression is paralyzing. It would be easy to excuse myself. To tell myself I have depression and it’s okay to be paralyzed into doing nothing. It’s a comforting thought, but depression isn’t something that let’s you lie to yourself. If I could do that I probably wouldn’t be depressed. It’s a vicious cycle of self-recrimination. You can’t do enough because you’re depressed, but you then feel shitty because you’re not doing enough.
This is the point where I should offer some glimmer of optimism or some kind of answer. I have neither. I know my depression, so I’m semi-confident I’ll be feeling slightly less paralyzed in a few weeks. Writing this is the glimmer. When I’m depressed the messages of not being alone always ring hollow because I look around and I definitely am alone. The best I can say is persist through the loneliness and maybe you’ll be able to act.
If you’re a political junkie you know how bad gerrymandering is. It distorts fair representation. It allows unpopular policies and parties to dominate our political system, but it’s worse than that. The primary check on the presidency is impeachment. The courts can attempt to check the president, but if he chooses to ignore them it comes to impeachment. The courts have no real check on the executive if the president knows he won’t be impeached. Impeachment has never been a particularly good check on power. If a president is popular then impeachment is unlikely because it demands self-sacrifice. When we have an unpopular president he may not be unpopular in gerrymandered districts. Trump’s popularity could go even further down and he’d still be popular Republican districts. Congressional Republicans would have no personal incentive to stand up to him. Gerrymandering, on top of being undemocratic, may result in the death of our democracy.
As soon as I dropped the guy I care for off to go with his mom to Portland I started getting nervous. I thought I’d go on a long walk and forget the whole idea. I put on my jacket and decided to brood some more. Brooding is chain smoking smoking cigarettes, so after a couple minutes I went out to smoke. Rain made the decision for me. It was going to be an awful walk either way and I had to walk because my stationary bike broke. I could at least walk in Salem. I wanted to pick up a box of popcorn anyway and going to Salem for the march was going to be my excuse to pick one up. I got in the car and headed for Salem, it was a bit early but I had a plan. I was going to use some of the time to pick up that popcorn, then I’d drive down by the capitol building. That was my bare minimum. I figured even as anxious as I am I could stand to drive by a thing. Plus it would soothe of my fears. I worried that it’s Salem which is pretty conservative. And Portland is so close that most people would drive up for the bigger march. I’m sure some did, but there were at least a few hundred people milling about when I drove past. I was chain smoking at this point. Cigarettes are amazing for anxiety. In the moment at least, I’m sure they’re a terrible crutch. That led to step two of my plan. I needed to walk and it would be a pain to find parking nearby, so I drove down to Waterfront park and left my car there. I didn’t need to go that far to find parking, but it was a good walk and it made getting out of Salem at the end easier. I parked in an empty parking lot and headed toward the capitol. The rain and wind meant that there weren’t many people out in downtown Salem. As I got closer to the capitol building the sidewalk became more and more crowded. People with signs, people with their kids. I saw a little kid with his Mom and reflected on how different his life growing up must be to mine. My parents wouldn’t protest anything. They’re conservative Mormons so they don’t particularly care for Trump, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they voted for him. Then again, my Mom may have left the top of the ticket blank since we discussed her doing that. I got up to the capitol mall and there were a few hundred people when I got there. It was about twenty minutes before the scheduled start. I found a corner of the sidewalk that seemed far enough away from the crowd to smoke and lit up. I was sort of hiding behind a lamppost as much as you can hide behind a lamppost. It was cold as hell, but I was happy to be there, to be doing something. I chatted with a woman who came to smoke near me in what was now an unofficial smoking area. She said she moved from Seattle a few weeks ago and was happy with the turnout. We had the same fear, that no one would be there when we got there. I finished smoking and went to stand in the crowd. They were playing typical protest type music. Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, etc, before the speaking section of the event began. I snapped a couple photos of the people together with the capitol building in the background. It’s bad angle to fit a golden pioneer statue at the top of a building in with a crowd below it. I stood listening to the music and checking Twitter. I wasn’t the most active participant but my body was there and I figured that was something. Especially coming from someone as anxious as I am. About that time I started to regret not wearing my thermals. It was drizzling and cold as hell, the wind gusts brought occasional flurries of hard rain. Regretting my clothing decision became an obsession for the entire event. Around eleven they started, someone said something I don’t remember exactly. The entire speaking section was plagued with improper microphone technique. The microphones worked the entire time, but people jostled around and went up and down in volume. It make it hard to hear them in the back or even in the middle. Oregon Governor Kate Brown spoke first. She had the best microphone technique of the whole event and was the most capable speaker. Then a couple other people I forget spoke, the basic premise being unity and love over hate. I don’t mean to diminish what they said, but it slipped straight through my mind. It was hard to concentrate and to hear them. About halfway through the speakers I slipped to the side to smoke another cigarette. I was starting to feel a little boxed in. I initially stood in the back, but as I left to smoke I realized I was actually in the middle of the crowd. And more people were still pouring in. I smoked and walked to the new back of the crowd. I stood like I had for most of the event. Shivering, with my hands stuck in my pockets and my mouth feeling glued shut from the anxiety of it all. I kept reminding myself that I was there at least and that was something. They tried to rally the crowd into chants, but it was a pretty unenthusiastic crowd. The people running it weren’t all that good at starting chants either, so the crowd was flat. People were milling about, running into people they knew, and taking pictures of signs. It was a good time despite the cold and rain. The actual march section of the event held more enthusiasm. Around noon we started moving. The march consisted of going west about four blocks then around one and straight back up. It did bring out more noise from the crowd though, so it was enjoyable. Plus I’m sure moving instead of shivering kept my body a little warmer. By the time we started marching I had been out in the rain for an hour and a half. My jacket soaked through and the sweatshirt I had on underneath was getting damp. The worst was my feet. My shoes and socks soaked through from standing in the muddy grass. I felt my feet starting to go numb. My shoulders were stiff and sore. I wasn’t miserable though, but a little uncomfortable. The march was nice, we walked down the street and cheered, whooped, and chanted. Other people did, my anxious mouth still wasn’t moving. Earlier I did have a short chat with a guy about the interstate popular vote compact. Besides that chat and the one with the woman when I got there I didn’t say a word the entire time. I took an undue amount of joy in walking in the middle of the street through red lights. While we were marching you could see how big the crowd had become. I guessed a thousand and a bit. People are terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but the police estimated a couple thousand. I felt two things while marching. I felt like I wasn’t alone in the anger and upset which was a nice feeling to have. It was healing in a sense. The second was that the march wasn’t doing much for anyone in Salem. We completely avoided the downtown area where people might see the march. The weather meant everyone was inside anyway. The only people who saw the march were the people marching. I suppose we contributed to the global number. I’m sure some people read about it in the paper, so it might be meaningful. Still, it felt rather masturbatory. I’m glad I went though. We got back to the capitol mall and people started dispersing back to their cars or lingering around. I was wet, cold, and figured I needed to be home soon to be there when the guy I care for got back so I headed home. As I crossed the street from the capitol mall there was a young guy standing in a Make America Great Again hat. His hood covered it, but he looked sort of creepy being the only one there. I’d say mass shooting creepy, but it was more pathetic than that. I don’t know if he expected a counter protest to occur or wanted to revel in pissed off liberals, but it was weird. I figure if our protest did nothing else we at least made one asshole stand in the cold rain for two hours. And that’s something.
I’m at the end of my second day of a migraine. It’s subsided a little bit which is how I’m sitting in front of a bright screen with feeling like dying. My head is still throbbing though. My headaches relate to my level stress. I get a stress headache from sleeping poorly and clenching my jaw too tight. Then when I’m unlucky it will explode into a debilitating migraine. Besides listening to the back catalog of various true crime podcasts at a low volume, there’s nothing good to say about migraines. The entire month has been stressful. I wrote earlier about tackling depression with the autistic guy I care for. Right after that I received a stress inducing letter. It was a notice of a coming inspection. One of the oddities of working as a live in caregiver is that you live in public housing without being on public housing. A person on disability benefits relies on food stamps and housing benefits along with their disability. Rather than receiving a single payment which would make more sense. As a caregiver I can live in the apartment of someone on public housing. I’m not expected to pay rent which is a great benefit to my job. The downside is that you live in an apartment that must follow the rules of public housing. I don’t mind for the most part. It does mean that you have to allow an inspector in every couple years to ensure your apartment is up to the HUD standards. An inspector is a massive invasion of privacy. Even if they’re not, strictly speaking, investigating you. The prospect left me anxious as hell. When the time came my apartment passed the inspection without a problem. The inspection was two days ago, that afternoon I developed this wonderful headache. That left me wondering what stress brought on this headache. There are a few possibilities. The state of the world is making anxious. So is another meeting I’ll be having soon. I could detail the awfulness that is Betsy DeVos, Steve Mnuchin and on and on. Or the Russian interference or intelligence community de-legitimatizing a president angle. But consider Rick Perry. The man literally didn’t know what the Department of Energy did when Trump appointed him. They manage nukes. That shit is terrifying. Even if you don’t think it’s likely even someone as crazy as Trump would hit the nuke button. Hitting the button because you’re a moron isn’t any better than doing it on purpose. That said, I do have a personal anxiety bothering me. The disadvantage of relying on the social safety net for work is that it’s always under siege. That means your income fluctuates on a yearly basis and it’s impossible to make any sort of plans. This year, it appears, the hours I work will be cut. They’ll assess he needs fewer hours. Not because he needs less care. Two years ago they increased the hours of care they assessed each person needed, but they didn’t line up long-term funding for those hours of care. Now they’ve realized it’s a problem. So it’s likely that along with Trump being a terrible president I’ll be working less soon. It’s a crescendo of awful. Luckily it’ll hit it in a couple weeks. Once I do I’ll either be able to start looking for a second job or adjust my already meager budget. The first six weeks of 2017 have been and will be terrible for me. This brings me back to my migraine. Looking for work while Trump attempts to gold plate shitty Republican policies doesn’t bode well for me and I have a migraine for my troubles.
The last few day of Trump news has been a Gish Gallop of awful. A Gish Gallop is a debate technique where a creationist overwhelms a debate with a long list of refutable points, so that it’s impossible to address each point. This creates the appearance that their argument has withstood critique. The overwhelming number of awful stories about Trump and the Republican congress make it difficult to find your footing. Without your footing mounting an effective resistance is difficult. The solution is the separation of labor. There are three or four primary evils of the coming administration. If we separate each evil and let those with the power to resist we can mount an effective resistance. Trump’s corruption is emblematic of why the division of labor is important. The only chance of making corruption an effective point of resistance is the Republican House and Senate becoming convinced it’s a problem for them. That won’t happen soon, so we’re better off leaving that issue to attorneys general in Democratic states and legal advocacy groups that have the power to do something about it. The media loves corruption stories so there’s no doubt they’ll continue to stream out. But as a matter of politics for people opposed to Trump they’re a dead end. The Russian hacking and the possibility that the Russians have compromising videos of Trump is a similar dead end. It requires Congressional investigations to be effective. Then giving Congress a sense of urgency to impeach Trump. Leave that issue for foreign policy hawks and the media who again love the spy novel drama of it all. The issues we can win on now and in the future is the political agenda of the Republican congress. They clearly didn’t plan on winning. Their plans are sitting on a shaky foundation within their own caucus. The ACA repeal appears preventable. By fighting on that one issue, then on Medicare and Social Security cuts. And on and on. We can win the fights now to protect the social safety net due to Republican disorganization. Then we can win coming elections as defenders of the services voters rely on. Finally we stop Trump and end this madness.