The News and My Feelings

The News and My Feelings

By Elizabeth Harper

It’s my own fault. I charge my phone on the nightstand by my bed. I don’t jump out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed each morning. I sit in bed and check my phone: the notifications, the news app, email, and worst of all, Facebook. I do this to see if there is anything urgent I need to respond to, and also because I’m not ready to get out of bed yet. But scrolling through the news and my friends’ posts makes me not want to live in this world, much less get out of bed.

I know the news is not about my feelings.

I know I’m coming from a privileged place–a home, a bed, access to technology, no obstacle to obtaining food except my own lack of appetite and will to live, etc.–to even have the luxury of having feelings about what is happening in the government and to other people. On the other hand, given my own lack of energy and preoccupation with obtaining and paying for my own health insurance, I must say the spending of effort and funds to make people’s lives objectively worse galls me.

What was the price tag on the recent ICE raids in Mississippi? Was that a good use of time, resources, manpower? Whose interests did those raids serve? And speaking of costs, I don’t just mean financial. There are emotional costs to wars, inadequate healthcare, imprisonment, and many more injustices, including these latest immigration/ detention/ ICE policies that are getting so much attention. But I’m saying something obvious here. Apparently everyone already knows this, as I see post after post about traumatized children.

When I first saw the news about the ICE raids in Mississippi and how many people were involved, 680, and what kind of businesses, food manufacturing, especially chicken processing, I thought, aren’t these raids bad for business? Won’t they hurt those industries by causing labor shortages, lower productivity, supply chain issues? How does this make any sense at all?

So I started searching on the handy-dandy internet, looking for more information to confirm my suspicions, to try to understand. And I do find a statement explaining that yes, indeed, these raids are bad for businesses and communities. I found this and this and this.

But I also found more about how some see these raids as retaliation against workers standing up for their labor rights. Some speculated that one of the raids was retaliation against workers because of a sex discrimination/ harassment lawsuit.

One of my friends posted that it was common knowledge that, when workers join a union, their employer calls ICE–on their own employees! Some do it so the raids happen on payday, so they won’t have to give workers their checks, and then they can just have a job fair and hire a whole new batch of immigrants, who will also be potential targets of ICE raids if they dare to advocate for treatment in accordance with state and federal labor laws. Here’s an article claiming a company used the threat of ICE to intimidate employees. Here’s an article about how some unions are supportive of immigrants while others are not.

Is this common knowledge? If I didn’t know it, then I should have. But then I think, maybe I did know this, and maybe I forgot. Maybe it wasn’t forefront in my mind because I was worrying about my own life, aka, what to do about health insurance. Or maybe it’s that if I kept all the terrible stuff going on in the world at the forefront of my mind all the time, I couldn’t function in my own life. Why would I want to get up, get dressed, eat, wipe my ass, play my role, complicit in the system of violence and exploitation that pervades every aspect of my life and makes it possible?

Why is this so upsetting to me? It’s the duplicity, cynicism, the populist pandering to disguise the most egregiously unethical abominations of capitalism. It’s being afraid of the government, the abuses of power, but also the shortsightedness and incompetence.

I can hear my friends’ voices in my head say, “Elizabeth, why do always act like you just woke up? Atrocity is nothing new. Class warfare, racism, Karl Marx, capitalism needs an underclass, politicians need a scapegoat, etc.” Yes, yes, I know. I know all of this. I read Marx as a teenager, and Hegel, too. I’ve read plenty of history and theory (anarchist, Marxist, feminist, queer, post-structuralist, crip, economic, etc.). I’ve written at length about the Chinese Exclusion Act, Trail of Tears, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more, so much more. But I don’t know everything. No one knows everything. I read, but that doesn’t make me an expert on a particular industry, issue, or country. I bite my tongue. I can’t be confident in what I say until I collect more information. Maybe I don’t have access to all the data. Who has access to all the data? Is there more to the story? Why is this story getting the attention? Is it a distraction from something else?

Meanwhile, the loudest voices prevail. The ones that oversimplify, gloss over complexity, distort the truth to serve their own agendas, pander to the desperate and disenfranchised.

And even if all the news is always old news, even if exploitation and violence and misery are the same old same old, that doesn’t make it any less of an affront to my feelings, my desire for truth and decency and integrity and for things to work in a way that makes sense and for history to progress towards freedom and flourishing for all.

I know terrible things were happening before the current US president took office: an overpopulated prison system in which prisoners don’t get appropriate medical care or due process; torture at Guantanamo Bay; drone strikes killing civilians, etc. Still, the blatancy of the current racist, xenophobic, populist rhetoric is disturbing, unsettling.

My Facebook newsfeed is filled with a Diary of Anne Frank quote and comparisons to Nazi Germany. If the comparison is so apt, why aren’t any of the political representatives able to nip this nonsense in the bud? Are the majority so lacking in intelligence and integrity? You would think people in power would want to stop it for the sake of their own self-preservation.

But what do I know? Maybe all my questions are merely rhetorical, and I’ve already answered them all myself. Thus the feeling that I don’t belong in this world where people repeat the catchphrases of debunked ideologies and lie with impunity.

Here’s a poem:

Journal Entry 8-8-19

The news makes me sad
I try to understand

Something feels very wrong
I reach out to a friend

He says it’s class warfare
As if I didn’t know

But if feels like more than that
Populism, ignorance, resentment
A very bad show

I wonder, is it the news or is it me?
What’s making me so upset?

Why do I pay attention?
Why am I so distraught?

Something feels very wrong
I hope my efforts aren’t for naught

I collect information
Try to read between the lines
Make sense of the contradictions
Look for signs

Yes, I know, systemic racism, but …
Aren’t ICE raids bad for business?

Whose interests are being served?
Who benefits when people are scared
And truth is obscured?

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