[Part 3 in a series where we talk about ways we’re dealing with things that are completely out of control]
When we were young tikes we watched The Smurfs, and it’s kind of weird that the villain is genocidal? Like, how lazy is it that She-Ra’s foe is just openly evil and delights in the actual pain of others? Inspector Gadget fought a bad guy who… just hated Inspector Gadget? (Wait, is that right: that was the whole conflict?) Captain Planet stops enemies whose motivations are just “wow I love spreading pollution all over”? I mean, none of these were antagonists with a lot of depth. It was confusing when we were young because who is even like that in real life?
Jack: If I could kill every mosquito on Earth I would. I want each of those tiny creatures dead for reasons they don’t even have the cognitive faculties to understand. I’m in my mid-30s and my 5-year-old self wouldn’t get that now I completely identify with Gargamel. I’m just a cat short of being the Mosquito Dr. Claw. Not only do I want them all dead, I can’t stop talking about how much I hate them and want them all dead. I sit up in my massive house all day scheming up ways to rid my life of mosquitos. Shall I hang up an electric light that will incinerate them alive while I watch? Maybe spray toxic chemicals all over the plant life?
There’s a lot of terrible options for dealing with the mosquitos in our life, and by far the worst option is doing nothing. We’re not keen on a bug zapper, as it’s both inefficient and nondiscriminatory in the bugs it zaps. We want to keep the nutrient-rich biomass that took over our yard and use it to fertilize some flowers, grass, and veggies, so spraying our yard is strictly out of the question as we can’t find any non-toxic spray. The short term method we’re using is coating ourselves with gross bug spray every single time we go outside. Sometimes we try the “ignore it and do nothing” option, and we’ve never not regretted it. It’s always a mistake.
We love ignoring problems as much as the next person does, but it’s so rarely effective. Even when it is effective, sometimes it’s still not the right option. When we drop ice cubes on the kitchen floor – the quintessential problem that can be solved by ignoring it! – Emily still picks them up.
Outside of our home, past the annoyances of the mosquitos, there are innumerable real problems in our society that cause actual human suffering. Families are routinely devastated by problems we shouldn’t have in this country. Many of us are choosing the “ignore it and do nothing” option day after day, and it’s for sure the worst option.
We know if we continue the good work we’ve put into our yard, we’ll have few things that mosquitoes love, like overgrown plants and standing water, and many things that mosquitos hate, like marigolds and lavender. We don’t have to figure out what’s effective because it’s a solved problem. Lot’s of people have usable yards! Human beings have the solution to this problem already!
Likewise, the proper way of dealing with the issues in our city, state, and nation is to be civically engaged. One great example of that is being an informed voter. Go ahead and google “voter guide” – there are lots of high quality ones. We recommend the League of Women Voters and VoteSaveAmerica.com.
Beyond that, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with who represents you. Now that we’re in a new zip code, we need to find out which US Congressional District we’re in and which state legislative district we’re in. We also need to know who runs our town and what the issues are. It’s a lot of reading! Where to start?
Our strategy is to start by finding the names. List every single person that represents you, personally, from the current President down to the local comptroller. For each of those names you’re trying to answer the following questions:
What issues do they care about? Maybe you’re not well versed in consumer protection law, but your US Senator has sponsored seven bills on it? Maybe it’s worth being aware if your rep has an overwhelming positive or awful impact on others? You may be surprised!
What do their strongest critics say? Once there was a candidate we were lukewarm about until we saw the most legitimate shade his opponents could throw was “he said he quit smoking last year, but he was caught with a cigarette on the campaign trail! What else is he lying about??” It calmed our concerns about him. We’ve also been thankful to learn about concerns someone’s allies fail to talk about or address all that much.
Do they know what you care about? They need to. A lot of them even have staff specifically to help them learn how to more accurately represent you and your interests! Did your State’s Attorney General commit to anti-discrimination policies? It’s important to send Likes when they do positive things!
Do their actions line up with their words? This is as important as it is easy to answer. Your State House Rep says she kept each of her campaign promises? It’s great to know that she said that, but if you fail to research 1) what her promises actually were, 2) whether there are results or not, and 3) if she did anything whatsoever to cause those results, then you’re a 200 year old Russian literary classic exploring moral ideals, and you’re not a 200 year old Russian literary classic exploring moral ideals are you?
If you’re behind, then get started. Keep going until the problems are solved and we can all walk outside and just enjoy part of the Earth for a while.