Despondent. That’s the word I’ve been looking for. Depressed was close, though it didn’t go far enough to portray drooping shoulders and shoe gazing. Listless was also an option, but one not articulate enough to depict the quiet brooding. That’s the wonderful thing about vocabulary, though.
There is a correct, accurate word for anything.
Despondent. It lilts and weighs down any sentence it populates. It is mournful for its loss of hope, disheartened at its lack of courage. It floats, lonely like a ghost and hanging around its noun’s neck like a crucifix or rosary, choking out reason and logic and stifling any resilience or ability to find something good to hold on to.
It is, in short, the very worst of feelings.
My mother is despondent and has been since the election results returned confirming her worst fears: that President Obama would be elected for a second term.
“I’m just so depressed, Cyle,” she said to me late at night as the election results returned. “I just cannot understand why anyone would vote for the man. He is single-handedly ruining our country and turning it into something that I don’t even recognize any more.”
I stayed silent as the polls poured in.
“I mean, I keep asking myself, ‘What should I do? How do I protect my family?’, and I don’t have an answer.”
“I don’t think that I do either,” I said quietly, not sure of what to say and what not to say. We have had this discussion before. We have had this argument before. While I do not share many of my peers’ passion and fervor for the man, neither do I share my mother’s fears and deep seeded hatred of him. As far as I’m concerned, he is just a man who, as the writer Augusten Burroughs once said, is made up entirely of flaws and stitched together with good intentions*. He is neither good nor bad. He simply has a particular view of how the country ought to look and is willing to do something about it. I neither champion nor begrudge him this.
My mother does not understand this detachment of mine.
While I love a good discussion regarding politics, I do my very best to avoid political arguments of any kind. They do not interest me in the slightest because there is nothing constructive or particularly enlightening about them. Ideas are best spoken, not shouted and unfortunately, it’s the latter manner that many choose to express themselves and their convictions. Because of this, the line between discussion and argument is so blurred and trampled upon that a person cannot mention politics, even in the abstract, without riling up someone or other. Tensions quickly escalate over the most innocuous of comments or sympathies. A person’s intelligence is questioned, friendships become strained, acquaintances destroyed until the only people that we can bear to be around are the ones who share our exact, specific views.
I am not sure when things became so black and white. I cannot remember when listening to NPR made me a liberal douche, nor can I remember when believing in fiscal austerity made a person a “tea bagger” (which may or may not be the funniest political insult around, as far as I’m concerned). I only know that these distinctions are made on a regular basis and that they sadden me deeply (well, except the “tea bagger” thing- that makes me laugh).
What I have become sure of is that it is becoming a near impossibility to have a discussion with the woman who is now much more a friend and confidante than a mother about politics and the issues that concern our nation and the both of us. Somehow, we have lost the correct and accurate words to express ourselves about the specifics of why she believes that more spending and government oversight will only hinder growth and efficiency and why I believe that it’s hard to champion small government and individual liberty while also legislating what a woman may and may not do with her body, dictating who may marry whom and what other countries ought or ought not to do within their own borders.
But at least I have the correct and accurate word for how it makes me feel.
The fate of our nation is not, as so many believe, on the shoulders of who we elected on Tuesday. The fate of our nation is on each of us, on a day-by-day basis, as we go about our lives, interact with one another and pursue our happiness and liberties. Let’s recapture our own correct and accurate vocabularies independent of pundits, news anchors and their respective cable news networks. They, like each of us, are all a little bit right and a little bit wrong. They, like each of us, are made up entirely of flaws and stitched together with good intentions. Let’s remember that we are each of us privileged to form, hold and communicate opinion without fear of incrimination. Let’s further remember that it is a far more dangerous thing to be incriminated by one another than by any government- that if anything can single-handedly destroy our nation, it is separateness and an inability to listen to and consider one another. Finally, let’s remember that, regardless of who you chose to vote for and what your political leanings are, there is indeed a difference between discussion and argument and that where one is inherently good, productive constructive and informative, the other is, in equal measures, not.
Let’s not be despondent. There are many better, accurate and correct words for us.
*It is worth mentioning for equanimity’s sake that I believe the same of Mitt Romney.