I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an old Matchbox Twenty song. Laugh if you want, but if you read the lyrics for “How Far We’ve Come,” the hairs on the back of your neck might stand up so sharply they’ll fall clean off. What seemed ominously catchy back in 2007 now makes singer/songwriter Rob Thomas like a Caesar-haircut-wearing Nostradamus.
“I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world,” Thomas sings to an insistent drum beat, before declaring, “I believe it all is coming to an end / Oh well, I guess we’re gonna pretend.”
I agree, Rob. There is no way, if we are paying attention, that we can pretend that we are not in a mind-blowing amount of trouble. The leading candidate of a major political party is very open about intending to run a dictatorship on the first day of his potential presidency, punishing his enemies, including the media, and deporting immigrants who may poison “our blood.”
You know who “our” is, and who it’s not. This person and his supporters want to end democracy. And if we let them, we will never get it back.
Don’t bother telling me I’m overreacting, because they aren’t even being subtle. Even the allegedly less extreme candidates mostly agree about ending the bodily autonomy of women, the existence of trans people and the fact that they don’t like Black people that much. Meanwhile, the incumbent president has pissed folks off for appearing to not do everything in his power to stop a genocide, while his political foes are trying their best to impeach him for something so he looks at least as bad as their guy. They don’t have the evidence now, but by God, the truth is out there! Somebody call Fox Mulder!
I have been trying so hard to not fall into an existential dread, but as 2023 stumbles to an eerie close, it does indeed feel like the end of something. It feels so helpless, so hopeless. And yet, in this time of resolutions and promises, all I can do is set some personal intentions, both small and lofty, for the world I want to see and to help prevent the one I don’t.
Resolution #1: Stop doomscrolling
My favorite song of all time is Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” a soberly optimistic classic from 1986 acknowledging the forces coming “to build a wall between us” while vowing not to let them win. The “they” on social media, from the trolls to the owners of certain sites, want us to be scared and powerless enough to give in, and perhaps not vote, so they flood us with the most dire pronouncements 24/7. I endeavor to read one or two reputable articles and then log off. Otherwise, it’s not healthy and zaps my strength to fight.
Resolution #2: Push back against disinformation
I am not trying to get you to start fights with Uncle Herman and Cousin Petey at the next family gathering when they start spewing conspiracy theories and craziness. But I am asking you — and me — to not confuse silence for niceness or peacekeeping. If you know the truth, and hear someone using easily debunked talking points, say so. Have receipts. Be prepared to walk away and maybe have a Filet-O-Fish in the parking lot instead of staying for a full meal. We can’t polite ourselves into oblivion.
Resolution #3: Be honest with my kid about what’s going on
My son has been raised by a journalist, so the news is often on in the house, albeit with my finger on the remote control just in case it gets hairy. But he’s been asking me questions since he was young: about Donald Trump and Joe Biden, about the war in Gaza, about whether the planet is dying. I don’t want him to be scared or paranoid, but I also don’t want him unprepared in this ever-changing society. There are kids his age dying all over the world, and even in his own city. If he has to absorb the consequences of that, it’s only fair that I explain it to him. Information can save us.
Resolution #4: Stay connected …
I mean this both in a “you’ll need all hands on deck in a bunker situation” way, and in a “don’t let the world isolate you” way. Technology has made it possible to reach out to people all around the world in a matter of seconds, but at the same time, the pandemic, disinformation and that aforementioned sense of dread has made us feel physically and philosophically alone. Check in with your friends the minute they pop into your head, because maybe it’s random or the universe trying to tell you something. Be constant in your contact with people. Don’t be alone.
Resolution #5: … but not to people and situations that harm you
Remember Herman and Petey and the folks who talk a never-ending game of lies and hate? You can love them from somewhere else. Silently. There was a viral X thread (since deleted) about a white woman bemoaning that her biracial daughter, who disowned her for voting for those who’d take away the daughter’s rights, had been brainwashed by “wokeness.” The number of adults with similar stories who had to go no-contact with families who chose hate and delusion over them was sad and shocking. But their truths were liberating. You don’t owe anyone, including your family, access to you if, — to paraphrase U2 — all they’ve got is hurt.
Resolution #6: Vote for democracy
Look, I know it seems useless, like it’s all the same party and that party just wants your money and complacency. There are no saints or heroes at this point, just the ones who don’t openly wish away anyone who’s not white, straight, Christian and willing to have lots of babies in a cornfield. Or a detention camp. Vote for those who want to give rights to people rather than those who want to take them away, especially from people that have nothing to do with them. Be the change you want to see in the world, and vote in 2024 like you’d like there to be a 2025.
Resolution #7: Use my platform for good
I will continue to write about reality television and dating and celebrity hijinks because they are fun. But I promise to also use this space to speak truths, even those that make people uncomfortable, and particularly truths others haven’t been able to articulate because of their lack of access. I’m proud that I have a digital soapbox and I’m always going to try to make the best of it.
I know this isn’t an upbeat way to end a year or start a new one. But me and 2007 Rob Thomas want you to look around to what we’re waking up to — and resolve to do something about it.