It’s Okay to Not Watch

Everything is scary. And yet, last night, the first of three Presidential debates happened. Somehow things seem scarier.

But I did not watch. I will not watch.

September 2020: It’s Okay to Not Watch

  • “Harmony” — Clinic
  • “Her Hollow Ways” — Danger Mouse (w/ Daniele Luppi)
  • “Any Other Way” — Tomberlin
  • “Is This Desire?” — PJ Harvey
  • “Gold Purple Orange” — Jean Grae & Quelle Chris
  • “Rare Thing” — Frances Quinlan (w/ Hop Along)
  • ”Faith Alone 2000” – Bad Religion
  • “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” — Jarvis Cocker
  • “Tryin to Breathe” — Talib Kweli (w/ Killer Mike)
  • “Knock Knock” — Madlib
  • “Easy/Lucky/Free” — Bright Eyes
  • “Tokyo” — Julien Baker
  • “In the Mouth a Desert” — Pavement
  • “Pencil” — GZA (w/ Masta Killa & RZA)
  • “Dixon’s Girl” — Dessa
  • “Short and Sweet” — Brittany Howard

That might sound like a bold call to action, but I will absolve myself of any real activism: I may have skipped the debate — I did watch a YouTube video on how to make Crêpes Suzette instead — but that’s only technically true. I also spent considerable time scrolling through Twitter, catching the fallout.

“Catching the fallout” has become my new hobby over the past few weeks — my twitter feed is an echo chamber of people who I still consider to be logical humans with empathy, and so my doom-scrolling has come with equal parts despair and commiseration. It’s been a real swing of emotions as I move from the energetic outrage of my Twitter feed into the reality of public discourse. I live in a red state that’s openly denying the seriousness of a pandemic. I am still confronted by not just systemic racism, but outwardly proud racism. I find myself surprised, but then remind myself that it’s always been there. It’s just been hidden. It’s just been shameful.

Never before have I spent so much time balancing the line between overreaction and complacency. Things aren’t as bad as they seem; they’re amplified and twisted. Or, things are worse than we think; they’re suppressed and glossed over. We balance between perception of the President as an over-his-head fool and a bloodthirsty tyrant. We seek hope from a system that has managed to keep things together, or so we think.

It’s this rollercoaster of fear and acceptance and excitement and relief and despair that made the debates a completely unnecessary watch, at least for me. I know who I’m voting for — can you believe watching that debate as an undecided? — and felt at ease watching the spin from my chosen echo chamber.

But it really wasn’t enough.

I woke up agitated, again. I am nervous for the future. I didn’t watch the debates, but I still know everything that happened. None of us need to purposely submerge ourselves in abuse; this first debate was not required watching, the next two will not somehow improve things. We can move on knowing that there are some brave souls who will document and broadcast the results.

But it’s harder this time around. Last night, a sitting president refused to condemn white supremacy, and then called them to action, out loud, during a nationally televised debate, which he then followed up with a non-transparent call for voter intimidation. This is not a hidden assumption anymore. It hasn’t been this way the entire time.

Not viewing the debates doesn’t change it. It doesn’t change the need to move forward.

And so I get stretched in two directions. I want to stay engaged — to know exactly what’s happening, to keep my anxiety raw and ready to pounce. I also want to stay healthy — to shield myself from unneeded agitation, to keep that same anxiety calmed and productive.

I don’t have to watch. You don’t have to watch.

But we still have to care.

I follow a Twitter account called @tinycarebot. Last night — while I was faking the Crêpes Suzette but definitely immersing myself in hot takes — they posted this:

And that’s exactly what I was doing. I was just scrolling. With my hand on my face.

I have no answer for this, but many others do. You can look for articles on how to calm anxiety during the election season, regardless of your connection to the candidates or ongoing political turmoil. You can find ways to calm yourself in a sea or racism and sexism and tyranny and the downfall of reliable information.

You don’t need to dive deep into every horrible thing that is broadcast. You don’t need to read every article. You don’t need further examples to convince yourself that things are going to be better, or that things are going to be worse. You can take a break. You should take a break.

You can take a few breaths. You can turn off the TV and pause Twitter for the night.

But you also should keep caring. You should speak up when opportunities present themselves.

You should vote. And you should vote early.

And until then, help if you feel led. Distract yourself if you need to. Listen to music. Care about people. Enjoy this month’s mixtape.

Do what you need to do. Get through November. Then, hopefully, we can all help rebuild.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 30th, 2020