Getting Past Cynicism: Why We Need to Organize Like It’s 2017

Getting Past Cynicism: Why We Need to Organize Like It’s 2017

Here in the US, there’s been yet another school shooting. Not long after yet another grocery store shooting (that one caused by a white supremacist). And I have heard sooooo much cynicism this week. This blog post is designed to empathize with those who are cynical but also to call those who are cynical (and others who may be overwhelmed and frozen) toward fighting for change moving forward, however you’re able.

See, we need you and your efforts.

They matter.

All of our efforts matter.

Even when we don’t reach the results that keep us and our kids and other vulnerable populations safe, our efforts matter.

And they are sublimely worth doing.

My Context and Standpoint

Before I dive too far in, though, let me quickly remind you where I’m coming from here—I grew up as a pastor’s kid in a right-leaning moderate denomination in the Midwest US.

I went on to become a communication scholar who studies and teaches about stress, trauma, and conflict com, smack dab in the middle of a discipline that’s spent decades trying to understand propaganda in things like WWII and how to stop crap like that from happening again.

And yeah, I’ve had plenty of circumstances in my life that could have pulled me down the cynical path. Let’s just say I’ve had my moments. I personally find studying and teaching about stress and trauma stuff really grounding for me because it reminds me that cynicism itself is often closely tied to stress and trauma. It also shows me that it is not absolute.

So yeah, also: in early adulthood, I was a single-issue abortion voter, just like so many others. These days I’m a strong “single-issue” “save democracy and try to actually help people” voter.

Personal Experience that Things Can Shift in Good Directions

So yeah, I guess I’m saying that part of my reason for refusing to be cynical right now is knowing that people and things can change how they think.

I know this because I did.

I Get the Reasons for the Cynicism, Friends

And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know a lot of the cynicism going around right now is about the NRA (and the GOP) continuing to have SO MUCH RIDICULOUS power.

I know the concerns aren’t so much about whether individuals can change their minds about things (though Lord knows we’re anxious about that too, especially with SO MUCH PROPAGANDA going around).

I know the concerns are about the stranglehold the gun lobby and other corporate interests and rich and other powerful people with narcissistic and sociopathic traits, etc., have over the actions of our government.

And yeah, let’s be clear: that is true. AT PRESENT.

Grieving and Shouting about The Sucky Situation

And it absolutely and totally and completely sucks. It really does.

And yeah, it’s true, at present. That all of these powerful interests that don’t care about, well, human life are out there, spewing out tons of really ugly propaganda as well as buying the votes of our representatives.

And Yes, We’re ALL Tired of Dealing with the Talking Points!

Goodness knows I know too many of us are flat-out allergic to these talking points by now. It’s soooo d*mned tiresome to combat them, isn’t it? But I believe it’s so important to keep going on that. Hang with me while I explain why.

And Yet….The Very Dissonance Is a Weird Kind of Gift

Anyway, the propaganda meeting the current situation is, I believe, one that gives plenty of scope to persuade reasonable people to vote for change.

See, it’s not every day in which you have the same governmental representatives arguing that we should f*cking arm teachers, yet that they can’t be trusted to teach real American history. Or peer-reviewed scientific fact.

It’s not every day you have the same people arguing that shootings (by white males) ONLY could possibly come from a “mental health crisis,” AND that our children ought not be taught how to empathize with others or deal with feelings (because that would somehow make them into “soft” people).

Pause for All the Eyerolls

Please give me a second as I work my way through several zillion eyeroll emojis here. (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

The Gift of Excellent Soundbites and Memes

But here’s the thing, folx. This particular rhetorical situation, as they call it in my discipline, sucks, yes, absolutely. But the very ridiculousness of the rhetoric is a weird kind of gift.

Let me say that again: In a moment where the rhetoric is SOOO STARKLY ridiculous, we have an opportunity moment. IF we don’t get all cynical and shut down from the overwhelm.

See, there are soooo many good, real, reasonable soundbites coming out of this.

And those soundbites? Those talking points? They are IDEAL for making change in our current society, with its mediated environment.

We have sooo much good material here. Let’s use it, friends!

Memes and Soundbites Can Work—If We Organize Like It’s 2017

And yeah, let me clear: soundbites aren’t going to work on their own. But they can in a galvanized and engaged activist content. This can work: if we act like it’s 2017 all over again.

Remember 2017? Things seemed so intensely dark and ridiculous. And they were.

But in 2017 we let the dark ridiculousness drive us to all of the things. We marched. We called our representatives. We wrote postcards. We got out the vote. We voted in ALL THE RACES. We were unapologetically political on behalf of a better world.

Our Efforts in 2017 Didn’t Fix Everything, But They Did a LOT

Remember what happened in the 2018 midterms? We won back the House, friends.

And then we won the Georgia runoffs and won back the presidency.

Of Course the Continuing Problems Are Grief-full and Horrifically Frustrating

Am I mad as hell that after all of that we’re still dealing with school shootings? That bills are still being stonewalled in the senate? That the oligarchs and the NRA still have this much sway?

You bet I am. Absolutely.

As I said, it sucks so hard. I hate it.

The Importance of Looking for—and Being—the Helpers

But alongside the cynical posts this week, I’ve seen people galvanized in a way I haven’t seen for quite awhile.

I see helpers everywhere, friends.

And frankly, I believe we can do it again. And keep doing it.

This Needs to Be Done Sustainably

Is it tempting for me to give up and quit, friends? Absolutely.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m absolutely taking breaks on things. Sustaining my energy for the long haul.

As I’ve said many times, it’s a relay marathon.

We Can Do This Thing

But yeah, we can do this, friends. Don’t quit: rest. And then get back up off that mat and continue. We all need you to so we can take a spell and then keep going as well.

And remember, none of us has to shoulder the weight of the world on our own. And none of us is responsible to make the world fully safe for anyone.

All we have to do is whatever we can, where we are with what we’ve got.

Convincing Ourselves Out of the Fallacy of Helplessness

I know this much is true. My voice matters. Before I started this site I had convinced myself (been convinced by my socialization, actually) that it didn’t.

That there was no point in starting this because it might not go anywhere.

But you know what? This project has grown and continued because I had the courage to stand up and believe that my efforts would matter.

I’m so thankful for that choice, and thankful for all of you who have been following along. You’ve helped me keep going.  

Let Us Carry Our Hope For One Another…and Keep Moving Forward

Even if you can’t believe right now that your efforts in the world matter, I’m believing that for you. Please join us, friend, in doing whatever you can, where you are, with what you’ve got, to make the world a healthier place for us all.

What We Can Do to Make a Difference

And yeah, if you’re in the US, note that sharing memes matters too. Voting matters. Speaking up to bullies in public forums matters (probably not in persuading them, but someone else persuadable is likely listening). Supporting organizations that are doing good ongoing work matters.

Sharing healthy rhetoric also matters, friends. If you’re looking for some posts from here to share, I previously wrote about the “good guy with the gun” myth here, the truths about stress, trauma and gun violence here, and white male aggression and white Evangelical theology here.

And getting out the vote matters tremendously, especially in swing races, but in all places. In fact, is key.

Let’s Not Give Up Our Power—We CAN Make a Difference

Because let’s be clear: the lobbyists and the gerrymanderers have quite the grip, yes—but there are a ton more of us than there are of them. And if we can get great voter turnout, we can elect people who can change the system.

Vote the crappy folx out, friends. VOTE THEM OUT.

A Final Charge

Go team #AssertiveSpirituality. Let’s continue to do what we are where we are with what we’ve got. We can do this thing.

Want to donate to keep this work going? I finally, after 4 years of this project, set up tip jars at Venmo and PayPal so you can help keep the lights on and such. Here’s the info:

Venmo: @assertivespirituality


Looking for more resources toward speaking up for what’s right and dealing with the conflict that results?

Boy, do we have got a free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls” for you. It actually helps you with conflict both online and off. To get it, sign up for our email newsletter (either in the top bar or by checking the appropriate box when commenting on this article). Once you’ve confirmed your email address, we’ll send you the link to the guide in your final welcome email. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stick around for our weekly email updates. As soon as we feasibly can we’re hoping to offer more online courses and other support resources for those advocating for the common good, and if you stay subscribed, you’ll be the first to know about these types of things when they pop up.

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One thought on “Getting Past Cynicism: Why We Need to Organize Like It’s 2017

  1. My husband runs sound and plays bass as fill in as needed for adozen churches in our valley. We know a lot of pastors and ” christians”. We are the only christians we know who do not follow Q and trump. We are desparate for community but asvulnerable adults we do not take chances when it concerns thiscovids virus. I find this site comforting and it gives me hope.

    Cynicism has become my middle name and I am not happy about that. I would love to replace cynicism with hope.

    Thank you

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Getting Past Cynicis…

by DS Leiter Time to read: 7 min