Recently my neighbor Barry asked me how I was doing. Sighing, I responded, “I think I have Covid Fatigue. The months and months of confinement, uncertainty, bad news, and fear have worn me down, and I don’t have much energy or enthusiasm,” I told him.
“It might not be Covid,” Barry said. “Maybe you’re like me and have Outrage Fatigue.” Because so many bad things are happening every day, he said, he and his wife were shutting out the news as much as they could, to keep from shutting down completely.
Barry is not a doctor, but I think he diagnosed my problem perfectly: I have both Covid Fatigue AND Outrage Fatigue. And perhaps some of you suffer from this dual affliction as well.
Covid Fatigue is easy to define and understand, because we have been locked down for nearly 20 months. Ennui is the most common sign.
As for Outrage Fatigue, I suspect that it is confined to active Democrats, Independents, and old style (I.E., Pre-Trump) Republicans. To figure out if you are suffering from it, just ask yourself how you respond to any of these news stories:
The rising death toll among the vaccinated;
Covid’s disparate impact on the poor and minorities;
Republican-led efforts to restrict the votes of people of color;
The media’s distorted coverage of anti-vaxxers;
Governor Ron DeSantis’ insistence on keeping Florida ‘open;’
The Texas abortion law;
South Dakota Governor Kristi Hoem’s sending her state’s National Guard to monitor the Texas/Mexico border;
Florida Senator Mario Rubio’s daily Biblical platitudes;
Maine Senator Susan Collins’ regular expressions of ‘concern;’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to negotiate with Democrats on anything;
The GOP’s refusal to condemn the January 6th insurrection;
Or anything coming from Trump or his sons.
If your internal temperature rises and your dander is up and you have to force yourself to calm down, you already have Outrage Fatigue, or soon will.
The outrageous ones have a distinct advantage, because they are focused on making us angry and impotent. They know how to push our buttons. They have been doing it long enough to put us on the sidelines. Because these are largely single-issue folks, they don’t get tired. They wake up every day pumped to defend the January 6th insurrectionists, or to protest mask mandates, or to work to suppress Democratic votes, or whatever their cause happens to be.
Unfortunately, most of us care about ALL of these issues. And because most of us have a limited capacity for outrage, that’s putting our country at risk, as I see it. We care, and right now it hurts to care–but if we shut down and let the outrage triumph, we stand to lose our country to these quasi- or neo- or actual fascists.
Turning off the news may work for my neighbor, but if we all were to adopt that strategy, the bad guys would win. I think we have to pick our issues, focus on two or three, and trust that others on our side will take care of the rest.
I hope some of you will decide to focus on what’s happening in public education, because public schools are in the eye of this hurricane we are experiencing and their survival is threatened. Radical conservatives have always hated the notion of public education, and COVID-19 has offered them numerous opportunities to undercut the enterprise.
For example, Republican legislators in most states have introduced some form of voucher/tax credit, ostensibly to give public dollars to parents to spend on education as they see fit. Of course, the amount isn’t enough to cover private school tuition, so the benefit would go to families whose children are already in private school and to families who can almost afford it already. Left behind would be the poor and those with disabling conditions, IE, the children who are most expensive to educate. “Many scholars and observers have raised concerns over the equity impacts of pandemic-era private schooling trends, with the situation in San Francisco providing a stark example: A year after schools first closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the one-third of students in the city enrolled in private school—disproportionately high-income or white, or both—by and large have the option to attend school in-person full-time. Meanwhile, public school students—disproportionately low-income or students of color, or both—remain in full-time online instruction.”
Organized rabble-rousers are focusing on School Boards that are considering mask mandates, often attending and disrupting meetings and threatening violence. Here’s one example from California. “US school board meetings have become battlegrounds for culture wars this year as schools debated how to resume in-person classes amid the pandemic. Parents have disrupted meetings, refused to wear masks and threatened school board members. A school board in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that was considering a temporary mask mandate cancelled its meeting last week after a crowd of 200 protesters surrounded the building, banged on doors and shouted at police.”
This situation has gotten so bad that the National School Boards Association has asked President Biden to intervene. “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” reads the letter signed by NSBA President Viola M. Garcia and NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven. “The National School Boards Association respectfully asks for federal law enforcement and other assistance to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
Teachers are horribly stressed, as are parents. Kids need to be with each other–that’s a critical part of growing up–but they need to feel and be safe.
So, if you want to control your own Outrage Fatigue and at the same time be a force for good, please support your local public school system. A national organization that is trying to coordinate supporters is the Network for Public Education, a non-profit entity.
Thanks, and stay safe…but also stay active!