Rage Against the Machine: Waging War from the Keyboard at my Family’s Expense


About this time last year, two grown men threw a full cup of soda that exploded at my feet in the grocery store parking lot while I was holding my then three year old son and jostling multiple grocery bags. One of them leaned out the truck window and yelled ‘If you love abortion so much, you should’ve had one!’ In my stunned momentary paralysis, I thought they must have mistaken me for someone else. After a few moments, I realized they were referring to my bumper sticker indicating my preferred presidential candidate.

Judging by the stickiness of my shoes, I prepared myself for a contentious political season. But who could have predicted how truly nasty it would become?

Here we are a year later after having endured the most divisive and ugly election cycle in recent history, and perhaps ever. And although the election is behind us, the idea of tranquility still seems far out of reach. The streets are filled with protestors and marches on a weekly basis. The media is in a state of total chaos with each network being labeled fake by someone. Our social media feeds are awash with the next horrible thing, piling one on top of another. The black hole that is the comment section is a wasteland where otherwise decent people transform into raging villains. Even Voldemort would blush. 

In the last year I’ve been called a snowflake, libtard, crybaby, sore loser, and communist by people I genuinely like. I could not bring myself to type the names I’ve been called by total strangers. And while I don’t use profanity or resort to name-calling, it would be disingenuous to pretend I’m completely guiltless of this type of behavior myself. More often than I care to admit, I have put my children in front of a screen while I engage in social media debates or yet another exasperating conversation with family who couldn’t be any further away on the ideological spectrum.

I am reminded of one of Lincoln’s most famous statements where he cautioned that ‘a house divided against itself, cannot stand.’ Nowhere do I see this warning more exemplified than in my own core family. 

Last weekend before we rolled out of bed, my husband turned to me and said ‘you never sing in the morning anymore, it’s been a long time.’ I choked back tears with the realization that he was right; it had been a long time. Even more surprising was the discovery that he actually missed my annoying habit of frequently belting out an over the top rendition of ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ to get the day going. I sometimes see worry in his eyes when he comes home in the evening as I begin unloading the avalanche of daily briefing. ‘Well, did you hear about this? And this? And this?’

The gregarious girl who has always been game for a laugh has given way to a more fretful and often agitated demeanor. 

Numerous well-meaning friends and family have suggested that I simply stop following the news and concentrate on my own family. And while I agree that blissful ignorance would certainly be easier, it fights my nature. In high school while my friends were winning ‘Miss Popular’ and ‘Best Smile,’ I took home the label as ‘Most Opinionated.’ The activist spirit has always run through my body, and if anything, has only intensified since becoming a mother. What I am searching for is the balance between my instinctive tendency to feel the weight of the world and cultivating peace in our home. Without question, it is a privilege to do so, but it’s necessary for my own well-being as well as the other human beings who live under this roof.

What does it matter that I shouted the world’s injustices from the rooftops, if I make my family and myself miserable?

Challenge for the Happy Activist

Just Keep Scrolling

Fellow contributor Stefanie Dalton wrote an inspired post a few months ago called “The Social Media Conundrum” in which she deftly describes the ‘backfire effect.’ In essence, no one is ever swayed from a deeply held ideological belief by an antithetical comment. If anything, the opposing idea only deepens the original resolve. And while giving a particularly clever zinger to someone who is so ‘clearly wrong’ may give a brief feeling of euphoria, it quickly fades. That adrenaline rush often morphs into anger as the repartee can so quickly erode into the worst of our natures. It’s just not worth it. The next time you see something outrageous, just let yourself feel the heart skip, wait for it to pass, and let it go. The outcome will be the same, and your blood pressure will thank you. If it’s a repeat offender, the ‘unfollow’ button is a beautiful thing. Also realize that you may be the one being unfollowed at some point and that’s ok. Odds are you can maintain a more peaceful relationship with someone with whom you disagree on practically everything if you don’t have to see it daily.

Manage the Noise

You don’t have to bury your head in the sand. But it is possible to be informed without being inundated with information. I recently counted and discovered that I was following over twenty-five news outlets, most of which repeat the same stories. I narrowed it down to two that I’ve always trusted. The result is distilled information and more room for kittens and babies!

Words into Action

Channel feelings and words into tangible action. Focus on a cause or two at a time and volunteer, donate what you can, demonstrate, and call your government representatives. Contrary to popular belief, you can feel strongly about something and make a difference while still caring about other troubles in the world. Understand that your areas of interest may change over time, but ultimately doing will always feel better than ranting. Think globally, act locally. 

Seek Beauty when the World Gets Ugly

Listening to my boys play and the feeling of warmth and taste of that first sip of coffee are easy wins. Simply taking a walk or a bath can calm the spirit. The smallest of joys can balance the heaviness of the world. Be mindful of the beauty that always surrounds us in the midst of the chaos. 

Keep fighting the good fight my friends, and may we remember those closest to us while we try and save the world.


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