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Lupita Tovar died at the age of 106 on November 12, 2016.
November 12, 2016.
Like most of the people I know – many of which voted differently than I
did last Tuesday and are just now realizing the ramifications of it –
I’ve still walking around in a stunned daze, four days later. I had to
fly to New York on Wednesday morning, and I found it impossible to even
look people in the eye. I simply cannot believe what we did last
If you’ll forgive me, I am not quite up to speed and back on my game just yet, so if you are looking for some solace or wisdom in the wake of our country’s collective decision to hit itself in the face with a two-by-four – and I doubt you were looking for it here anyway – I’m afraid I am not yet consisting of the proper fortitude. There is no two ways about this: This is a disaster. We’re already seeing kids attacked at school in the name of Trump, and people bringing Confederate flags to Veterans Day parades in California, and Peter Thiel and that crazy-ass Milwaukee sheriff being central figures in the new administration, such as it is. This is going to get so much worse. I’m worried about my children, my family, my profession, our future. I keep looking for silver linings to this. I haven’t found one yet. (If you find one, seriously, I’m all ears.)
So I want to talk, briefly, about optimism.
I am an optimistic person. It might be the driving force, along with work, of my whole believe system. If you try not to give in to the darkness, you won’t. The thing that people don’t realize about optimism is that it is a choice. I know things might not work out. Hell, I know things probably aren’t going to work out. But what does the realization of that knowledge get me? If we are all on a journey to a certain destination, and we only have a certain amount of control over that destination, then what is the point of spending that whole journey fretting and preparing for the worst?
I do not accept that we are all doomed. But if we are all doomed, we have two choices for the ride. We can spend all that time girding ourselves for the pain that’s coming, or we can believe, against all odds, that it’s all going to work out. The advantage of the former is that, when/if the doom comes, you get to say, “Hey, I told you the doom was coming.” But I see no other advantage. This does not make the pain of doom any easier. You’re going through the same doom that everybody else is. Girding yourself just doesn’t help; it just makes you more miserable to be around. Meanwhile, while you were skulking around waiting for the world to end, the optimist was out there smiling like an idiot, thinking somehow this has a happy ending. This is a much more pleasant way to spend that journey. Does it make a difference whether you’re scowling when the guillotine lands or if you’re laughing? Not afterwards, no: You’re both just heads in a wicker basket. But it sure makes all the months before the blade falls more pleasant. And isn’t that all we can control? Pessimists think they’re making it easier on themselves by being prepared for the worse. But you’re never prepared for the worst. So why bother? Try to enjoy the time you have.
I have seen friends in the same daze as I have been over the last few days. But I have also seen people congratulating themselves, like they all saw this coming, like they knew humans were terrible and now have the vindication they were searching for. Not that this knowledge is helping them. Not that the self-regard has a reward. They’re in the same soup as the rest of us.
So I prefer to continue to look forward. Am I a little more jaundiced? Probably, but only temporarily. My eyes are more wide open for what we’re capable of, but, frankly, they should have been more wide open long before now. But I still believe people are good. We open the door for strangers. We help people in pain. We do not walk the streets feasting on the weak. If I broke my leg right now – while trying to execute a particularly difficult dependent clause or something – the world would be organized in a way where strangers would help me and fix me and make me well again. We are organized around goodness. We are not organized around perfection: We screw up, all the time, constantly, every second. We have institutional sins to deal with, from race to gender to ethnicity to a creeping lack of a sense of community: We are suspicious and scared and quick to judge and demonize. But we are inherently good. We want to be good. I refuse to believe otherwise.
One positive outcome of Tuesday has been the number of people looking for some sort of actionable to make sure nothing like this ever happens again, some way to make the world a little bit better, in any fashion they can. They’re volunteering. They’re protesting, to show that this is unacceptable, that this is not who we are. They’re going to schools and telling kids that they are welcome, that they belong. They’re just trying to be a little kinder to people than they might have otherwise. They’re getting more politically active. They’re doing more than just complaining on the Internet. They’re trying to reach out.
I’m trying to figure out how to do this myself. I’m not sure what’s next, or how’s it’s done, or what the best course of action is. I’ll get there, though: This has been a life-changing event for so many people, particularly those with young children who suddenly see an entirely different, far darker, meaner universe ahead for them. This is not something to be taken lightly, and I – and millions of others – will not do so. I’ll figure out what to do. But in the short term, I can continue to believe it’s going to be OK. I won’t just blindly hope: I’ll go out there and try to make as much change as I can. But I will believe it will work. Maybe I’m kidding myself. Maybe we’re doomed anyway. But I’m sure as hell not going to sit around waiting for it to happen and pat myself on the back when it does. I believe it’s going to be all right. What good does it to do believe anything else?
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
- College Basketball Is the Most Universal Sports This Country Has, Sports On Earth. The one thing I wrote after Tuesday that didn’t feel like numb, gotta-get-through-this professional obligation.
- An Updated Ranking of MLB Tortured Fanbases, Sports On Earth. To think at one point I was upset about the Cubs.
- “Arrival:” They Can Hear Us Now, The New Republic. This
is a good movie about an alien invasion, but I’m still in the head
space of trying to imagine how President Trump would react to everything
in movies, and it’s terrifying.
- Do We Really Care Who Athletes and Coaches Endorse? Sports On Earth. The last thing I wrote Before Tuesday! We were so young!
- Which MLB Teams Are All-In for 2017? Sports On Earth. I have no recollection of writing this.
- What Sports You Missed During this Election, Sports On Earth. The less said about this one, the better.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly
newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to
subscribe to one of the four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, chatting about “Doctor Strange,” “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Snatch.
The Will Leitch Experience, previewing the college basketball season with CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander.
Culture Caucus, no show this week.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, asking me to talk into a mic for two minutes 12 hours after the election results was probably not the best idea.
Also, here’s this week’s Pro Football Now, which I’ll confess I was maybe not in the best headspace for. But hey, I’m a pro!
I will be back next week, I promise. I’m going to go watch football and tailgate and put the boys in headlocks and hang out with my dad who’s in town and try to giggle for a while. Be safe out there.