Letters from the Editor

I know that today is Easter, so I hope that the Christians among us have a Happy Easter. Regardless of whether today is a major religious event for you, though, I hope it is a lovely day and that the fledgling Spring weather stays around.

This morning, I am processing a novel experience. Specifically, I feel “called out,” as the kids say, by – of all things – a book review.

Take your inspiration where you find it

In my life, there have been moments when a particular piece of writing gave me the sensation of being seen and understood. Occasionally, an author has pierced my consciousness with an insight into my condition – a connection I’d never made. But never before has the vehicle of this experience been a book review.

Here’s the quote that got me:

In 2018, Hersh asked a representative sample of Americans how much time they devoted to any kind of political activity. One third said they spent two hours or more each day on politics. But of these people, four out of five also said that “not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It’s all TV news and podcasts … and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.”

The quote is not actually even from the book being reviewed (EJ Dionne’s new Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates can Unite to Save our Country); it’s from Politics is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by Eitan Hirsch.

Use your power

Now, don’t get me wrong: I haven’t read either of these books, and for all I know, they’re both garbage. The important thing, though, is that the line crystallized my current state: I spend more time reading the news than ever before in my life, and at the same time, I feel more powerless than ever before.

Reading that review, I realized that I felt powerless because I was stuck in neutral. The act of reading and processing that news only gave me the feeling of having done something (maybe a little like this). In reality, I was revving my engine, but the wheels weren’t turning.

I was feeling powerless because I was not using my power.

Anyone else feeling that way?

If so, I’ll leave you with a few words from U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm as related by U. S Representative Barbara Lee in NPR’s This American Life Audiobook**:

“Use your power judiciously, use it with humility, but use it.”

I can’t tell you what you should do, but I’m getting out of the news and getting into action.


* By the way, links to books will not take you to Amazon (which keeps prices cheap by treating people like poop, in my opinion, and doesn’t deserve your money, also in my opinion); instead, it will take you to Bookshop.org, which supports local bookstores. The extra, say, $6 bucks you’ll pay there for a book goes to a bookstore employee instead of Jeff Bezos.

** I couldn’t find this audiobook in the Juneau Public Library’s Overdrive library any more, but my notes say the Barbara Lee interview was from a Radio Diaries episode.

Letters from the Editor is an occasional feature I write when I couldn’t get a better writer to talk about something more important. If you’d like to see fewer of them in the future, please contact me to write about better things. All opinions in this piece are my own, and not those of the Tongass Democrats.

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