I remember being in Washington D.C. when we found out Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. My roommates and I had spent the night celebrating what we were sure would be the election of our first female president. When we were wrong, we didn’t know how to react. A sense of doom spread all over campus; students stared at one another with tired eyes, some choked back tears and many skipped classes, most of which had already been canceled by our equally-disheartened teachers. We weren’t just upset, we were fearful—scared to be in the nation’s capital during a time of political unrest, after the country’s votes had made very clear that “liberty and justice for all” were no longer our top priorities.
My heart goes out to anyone in D.C. who experienced fear during yesterday’s terrifying events.The people that invaded the Capitol were not protestors, they were terrorists. If that word feels a bit harsh, let me remind you of its basic definition, straight from the Oxford Dictionary: a terrorist is “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
These rioters were not stopped by the D.C. Police and Capitol Police. In fact, they were treated with far more respect and humanity than Black Lives Matter protestors ever experienced, and were met with very few immediate consequences, proving perhaps the issue with our police force isn’t an unconscious racial bias, but rather a very conscious one indeed.
This isn’t a critique of how yesterday’s situation was handled at the Capitol, though—it’s a critique on how many of us were told to handle it from home without batting an eye. D.C. citizens were not the only Americans who felt afraid, upset, overwhelmed. And yet, many of us still logged on for Zoom meetings, filled out Excel spreadsheets and pushed our anxieties deep down into our stomachs to deal with later.
The work-through-it approach is the American standard, but we need to give ourselves a break.
Many were asked (nay, expected) to work through a literal coup.
If you’re lucky, your boss sent you a message yesterday urging you to take a breath, allowing you to take some time and watch the news and worry about your projects another day. However, not everyone was granted the opportunity to sit with yesterday’s news. Many were asked (nay, expected) to work through a literal coup, and our tendency to prioritize our jobs over our mental health needs to be addressed.
What happened yesterday was not okay. If you felt like you couldn’t just get back to work, you weren’t alone. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of signing off Slack or blocking off some time in their Google Cal to turn up the news. Retail workers did not get to close up shop. Food industry workers did not get to close the drive-through or cancel reservations. The working class was expected to grin and bear it during a civil war attack because their shifts didn’t end until 6:00pm. Meanwhile, police allowed mob members to run wild.
To anyone working from home and finding themselves unable to focus right now, please be kind to yourself. If that means pretending to listen during a meeting while you scroll political Twitter, that’s fine. If it means talking to your boss and asking for a mental health day, that’s alright, too. It’s okay to be so overwhelmed and overstimulated that nothing else seems logical. But please, remember that the war we’re fighting boils down to the issue of privilege, and the privilege to work safely from home is one that can’t be ignored. Not everyone was able to sit with the severity of yesterday’s events from the comfort of their own space. If you thought you could post a black square on Instagram in June and go back to pretending the country was fine, consider this your reality check.
The working class was expected to grin and bear it during a civil war attack because their shifts didn’t end until 6:00pm.
For anyone in a position of privilege (be it one of race, location, career, etc.) I ask you to take a moment to consider how you felt yesterday, and how you’re feeling today, too. Now, consider how someone with less privilege might feel. No doubt any fear you experienced was amplified for them. If you’re tired, they’re exhausted. Your feelings are still valid, and I don’t mean to diminish them. It’s important right now that absolutely everyone make sure they are in a strong headspace—because the reality is, this is just the beginning of a very long battle.
If you have the privilege to take a moment for yourself, take it. It is your right to speak up for yourself, and if you have to email your boss or call out of work, don’t hesitate to do so, though it’s possible you may not receive the answer you’re hoping for. Regardless of company policies, know your limits, acknowledge your needs and accept that nothing feels easy right now. There is no appropriate way to react to something so jarring and (say it with me now) unprecedented. But know that accepting your privilege goes hand in hand with accepting the duty to then step up and fight for justice when you’re ready.
As terrible as yesterday’s attack was, silver linings are beginning to outline the Capitol. Congress has validated Joe Biden’s victory as the next president of the United States. Donald Trump is currently restricted from posting on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Pro-Trump officials are resigning. There is talk of invoking the 25th Amendment. Change is happening while you catch your breath, so take the time you need, but please, be prepared to join the fight when you are ready.