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I try not to define my years by a theme. I know they’re arbitrary time periods. I know they’re more complex than that. I know persistent themes are more likely to stretch over much more of my life than one year.
Still, knowing all that, I can’t help but feel 2017 is the year of tired.
Some of that tired is entirely literal. Something, probably perimenopause, has been messing with my ability to stay asleep most mornings. Given my nighttime insomnia, that’s meant highly disrupted sleep. Add in thermal dysregulation that falls just short of hot flashes, and I started the year as a zombie. Make that a mentally ill zombie whose coping strategies have long relied on thinking my way through trouble but was now too tired to think.
Trying to treat all this made things worse, at least for a while. In 2017, I tripled the classes of drugs that have pushed me into narcolepsy. A few years ago, I lost a summer to a tricyclic antidepressant that was supposed to help with my migraines. This year, I lost about six months to SNRIs and SSRIs that were supposed to help perimenopause issues, including the worsening mental health. I still have no idea whether any of those drugs did what they were supposed to. I spent too much time napping or in withdrawal to find out.
That made 2017 the year of the sleep study too. Well, the year of the first sleep study, the one that didn’t contain the differential test for narcolepsy. You see, I’m overweight and I’ve been known to snore when I fall asleep somewhere other than my bed and I only experience a full range of narcolepsy symptoms when I’m on a drug that can treat anxiety, so my problem is obviously apnea. Only I don’t have apnea. I do have a pattern of REM sleep that could indicate narcolepsy, though.
So there will be a second sleep study when I’m up for telling the clinic I really don’t want to try a CPAP for my lack of apnea. As it turns out, advocacy is also harder when one is tired, even after one has become thoroughly tired of bullshit.
I did a lot of being tired of bullshit in 2017.
I came into the year tired of people, mostly men and white people, who thought voting for Trump would make people respect them again. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I did make a promise to myself after the election that I was done with my experiment in politeness. I started it about five years ago, when advocating for codes of conduct at conferences got me called things like “dogmatic” and “strident” and “uncivil”.
I knew the problem wasn’t how I said things. I knew the problem was that I said things that required changes to the power structure in the atheist and skeptic movements. But I also knew I was good enough to say what I needed to say very politely and that doing so would demonstrate the lie that my choice of words and tone was the barrier to equal treatment. So I did that and reaped exactly what I expected.
Then I stopped for 2017. Mostly that meant I stopped pretending everyone had ideas that should be taken seriously on every topic. I asked people (mostly white men, because reasons) why they would drop such uninformed arguments into conversation. I asked them whether they were embarrassed to say what they said. I laughed at them. I told them when they were rude instead of just letting it pass. I pointed out the difference between trying to get at the truth of the matter and saying any silly thing to try to win an argument.
In reality, I’d stopped coddling bad arguments on important topics in 2016 with the election looming. In 2017, I made it a habit.
2017 also saw me grow tired of particular arguments overall. I wasn’t exactly fresh on people using mental illness as a stand-in for bad things they don’t want to deal with at the beginning of the year, but watching my friends equate restoring gun rights to people with mental illness with not wanting to address violence broke something.
What broke? My sense that I had any real place in this political resistance mostly. I know. Right after the inauguration wasn’t the best time for that, but I didn’t choose it. I didn’t opt to be people’s cardboard cutout representing the probability of violence either, but as long as we’re not going to talk about entitlement and toxic masculinity, here I am. I can fight when I’m up for it, but I don’t always know quite what it is we’re fighting for. I just know it’s not me.
Maybe we’re fighting for the right to say macho, anti-intellectual crooks have dementia? I’m sure that right is under threat. Goodness knows it’s more important than forcing anyone to do anything about those crooks. If we don’t compare him to my grandmother, how else would anyone know that this corrupt, violent, lying man who’s disassembling our government, threatening our rights, and destabilizing the world should be taken out of power?!
Could it be that we’re fighting for our right not to grapple honestly with racism? The reason Trump is terrible at his job is that he’s never been remotely qualified to be President. The reason he’s president anyway is a national racism so powerful it would rather see us all be the filthy and ragged characters of a Dickens novel than share any of the fruits of a reasonable government with people who aren’t white.
Another reason, of course, is that we’re so unwilling to talk about that racism that we’ll pretend he was ever some kind of reasonable choice instead of a desperate backlash against racial progress. Sexism too. It must be that’s he changed since the election, not that we collectively found it so strange that a woman who had spent her life serving our country would want to do it some more, or that millions of people found her eminently qualified to do so.
Nope. Couldn’t be sexism. Couldn’t be racism. Couldn’t be that grossly racist and sexist Trump appealed to people on those qualities. Has to be that a Trump presidency would have been a good idea at some point—until he became one of those people with some kind of grotesque mental disorder. Because he was the good kind of racially discriminating, investor-swindling, sexually assaulting, bullying braggart right up until he became mentally ill or developed a personality disorder or got dementia or whatever he did that absolves us about talking about we did as a nation, about who we chose to harm.
That argument was tired the very first time someone laid out all the pieces for everyone to see. Nonetheless, we finished 2017 with yet another round of “Can we call him demented yet?”
Not only that, but some people are still trying to play the “If you object to me calling Trump irrelevant names he’ll never hear, you’re the reason he won.” Talk about tired.
There are lots of reasons Trump won. The conviction in this country that landowners (or people who live near landowners even if they can’t afford any significant land of their own) are more valuable than city dwellers is a major factor, along with the way this is baked into our constitution. The weakening of Voting Rights Act enforcement, along with the disenfranchisement of voters that courts have deemed legal even under the VRA. A media that paid so little attention to a threatening and violent backlash against the democratization of power online that it failed to notice or take seriously Trump’s role as an avatar of that backlash. Sexist media coverage driven in part by a group of men who were still assigned to cover Clinton despite their blatant and long-standing biases.
I mean, I won’t tell you that nothing about Trump’s win is attributable to indignant privilege aghast that anyone would dare to speak to it that way. That’s exactly what “How dare you claim the black man and the white woman are (at least) our equals?!” is. But if your response to being told your actions have consequences, and to having these consequences made visible to you, is to find Trump appealing, you’re the person responsible for Trump. Not me. Not Black Lives Matter.
Backlash isn’t inevitable. Newton’s Third Law applies to physics, not social interactions. If you choose to support Trump because someone advocated for you to treat them well, that’s a choice you’re fully responsible for. And if you didn’t do that personally but still claim people who speak up are responsible for Trump, then you’re absolving everyone who chose to vote for him.
Well, you’re trying to absolve them. I’m not about to let you. I’ve never not been tired of that “argument”. And unlike much of the rest of 2017, that’s the kind of tired that moves me to action, so expect more of that in 2018. I hope you’re up for it. Are you feeling well-rested?
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