I Need Less Wishful Thinking Right Now

It is wishful thinking to say, “I’ll bet he gets impeached.” It is wishful because it clings to  the hopeless expectation that the machinery of Congress, which is manned at present by a Republican majority that has, practically to a person, fallen gleefully in line, has any will to act against him. It does not. Furthermore, aside from public demonstrations of opposition like last weekend’s marches, Democrats and progressives have no executive or legislative–and soon no judicial–power to oppose whatever this new administration wants to do.

Nobody is coming to save us.

I can’t remember where I first heard the axiom, “Prepare for the worst; hope for the best,” but I’ve been recalling it often these past weeks. It is my response to wishful thinking.

I hope the agenda of repealing healthcare and building a border wall and freezing immigration from Arabic countries and torching the climate by dismantling regulatory agencies and green-lighting new oil drilling projects en masse–I hope all of that is thwarted. But I am preparing for it not to be.

I hope the President changes his posture towards the TV and print reporters whose job it is to hold the White House to account on behalf of the public. I hope he develops a respect for accuracy in public pronouncements. I hope he becomes less reckless with his language. But I am preparing myself for him not to.

How? How do you prepare for the worst in a time like this and not become consumed by outrage or, alternatively, completely detached and cynical?

My first step is to restrict my consumption of news to a daily newspaper subscription and some weekly and monthly magazines. Refreshing Vox.com hourly is going to kill me. This time demands perspective, and the blaring headlines on my Facebook feed about the latest executive order don’t have it. I can wait until tomorrow to read about it, when a reporter has had time to gather and quote some sources.

My second step is to prioritize elegance more than before in my sources of information and analysis. Breathless bullet points assume more veracity than they can deliver. This month’s Harpers is a great start. I need more sentences in my life like this one by Wesley Yang:

In lieu of the social-democratic provision of childcare and other services of domestic support, we have built a privatized, ad hoc system of subsidies based on loose border enforcement — in effect, the nation cutting a deal with itself at the expense of the life chances of its native-born working class.

It sounds weak–even to me–to call reading preparation. But the pit in my stomach that has grown since November 8th is trying to tell me something, and that is that I know nothing, and neither do all of the up-to-the-minute prognosticators jamming my Twitter and podcast feeds. The people who know the things we need to learn right now are taking days, weeks even, to reason it out clearly and express it beautifully.

3 thoughts on “I Need Less Wishful Thinking Right Now

  1. Your strategy might seem weak but is there a better way of opposing lies than diligently pursuing truth? Is there a better way of not falling prey to the spectacle than slowing down and looking at the deeper things? Opposition to the very real dangers posed by these executive orders will take many forms but one surely must be to not play by the rules of the oppressor.

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