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I have grown tired of politics. I find enjoyment in the argument, the organizing, the thinking and especially the consideration of different perspectives that you get through engaging with politics as a field. I consider myself a progressive and consequently my outlook tends to be a dissonant mix of hopefulness and cynicism. I see a better future in front of us and look back towards the strides that have been made even just in my lifetime. That being said, regardless of these strides, it’s easy to often just see a less terrible world in front of us. Let me explain.
I’ve heard so many people talk about relative feelings of time. Since March 2020, we’ve lived through seeming decades of time within weeks, as well as months in what feels like a few days. This is just one example of a collective derangement many of us have felt due to quarantine, the pandemic and politics; just one way of understanding every minute of the “unprecedented times” we’ve been living in for more than a year.
The frustrating thing I’ve found is the distinction between the intense spans of unprecedented time we’ve lived through and the detached spans of disbelief as we reflect on those times. Part of these feelings is understanding that you’re inside of this hopefully small span of time that we call “quarantine.” It’s a time of indeterminate length, but also one that we believe and hope will be short in the grand scheme of life. Imagine walking up to a small mountain–maybe it’s 100 meters front to back. You enter a cave on the front of this mountain, knowing it will eventually leave to an exit on the other side. You know that the mountain is only so large (100 meters front to back), but the tunnel through it could go up and down and all around for who knows how much distance.
Living emotionally through this unclear, small scale of time called “quarantine,” especially as a young adult, I can already feel my normal conceptualization of time changing. We’ve been spending so much time waiting for quarantine to end so things can “return to normal” as we say and so that we can get back to the normal programming of our lives. This hyper-focusing on the end of the tunnel has been disillusioning towards the “middle future,” which is that strange space between the distant and near future. During the quarantine all we had was the near future (taking things day-by-day) and the distant future (the end of the tunnel where society functionally returns to something that we’d call “normal”).
There was no “middle” future during quarantine because it was always on the brink of ending or extending again. This is what brings me back to politics: the world where we cynically or hopefully live our lives revolving around a lot of possibilities of the “middle future.” Political events of the present or near future like civil rights protests or coming elections easily hold our attention in the moment. Political events in the distant future are just that – distant. Distant events are distant because we can hardly see them or we might not know what they are yet. Something like climate change is in the middle future because of how enormous it is on the horizon.
I’m impatient. Especially when I’m tired, I’m impatient. The frustrating thing about the events of the middle future is that they tend to be the most uncertain as well as the ones with the most visibility over time. Regardless of the importance of a lot of issues and political talking points, they will be discussed endlessly during election cycles especially and then pushed to the middle future once elections are over. Whether this is Trump’s incomplete border wall that everyone seems to forget Mexico was supposed to pay for or Joe Biden watering down promises of COVID relief and student loan forgiveness, things that will occur eventually always seem to be in this middle future.
Throughout the “unprecedented times,” expectations are high in terms of immediate needs of relief and medical security for the near future, but we are more lenient that other issues realistically go back off into the middle future. Climate change, normal government welfare programs or whatever it may be can go off into the middle future to be addressed seriously after the pandemic.
I’m tired because I feel like I’ve forgotten how to deal with these middle future issues mentally. After spending a year going from hot-button event to event (events as opposed to issues that are simply discussed), it’s almost a feeling of forgetting how to address these middle future issues with fervor. We dealt with historic civil rights protests and riots, an incredibly high stakes election and an historic storming of our Capitol building.
It’s easy, in a way, to react immediately and readily to these things where our feelings are often more clear and polarized. But now we’re moving back to the same old questions of how we might solve climate change in the coming decades, or thinking about what we might like government healthcare to look like in a decade, or discussing how we might like to see our justice system reformed bit by bit. The questions are so important, but feel so unfairly stale after everything that has occurred during quarantine.
It almost feels as if we invested so much emotion and frustration during quarantine and now we have very little to feel relieved about other than the presumed inevitability that quarantine would end. Maybe this impatient frustration is something I should savor as I’m still young. Maybe it’s something that I’ll be disillusioned from feeling to a large degree after what may be the most significant political year of my life (certainly of my young adult life) from March 2020 to 2021.
I’m still quite tired, but this too shall pass, for better or worse. It’s times like this where I know I have political convictions, but I feel emotionally apolitical. I find it hard to feel the use in caring or staying informed, but I will keep trying. I’ve been trying to channel a philosophical outlook here. I’ve always found reading depressing philosophy comforting in that it reminds me that people have been grappling with gross unanswerable questions for centuries. There’s something warm and fuzzy about sharing confusion with each other.