When I was asked to write an OpEd on the “current political climate” I didn’t realize how much time I
would spend overthinking the topic. How to describe all that’s going on in Florida, America, and the
world in 500 words or less?
OK, how about three: Fear, anxiety, and extremism?
Fear, anxiety, and extremism dominate the news, and with good reason. So far this year, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a more-than-50-year-old precedent on access to abortion, there has been a mass shooting (four or more victims) on average every day, and 500 laws restricting LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced nationwide. Between March 7 and May 5 (44 working days), Florida’s legislature passed laws banning books with LGBTQ+ content, restricting legal abortion to six weeks, removing an advanced placement African-American high school course, making gender-affirming medical treatment of transgender youth a felony, legalizing concealed gun carry without a license or training, reducing voter access, and telling corporations how they can invest, among others. Our governor is suing Mickey Mouse and running for president on a platform to the right of Donald Trump, who appears on track to win the Republican presidential nomination, despite multiple civil and criminal indictments.
WTF (Welcome to Florida)!
I have a theory that helps me make sense of these things: We are all – all – suffering from PTSD. Events such as 9/11; the election of Donald Trump (or Barack Hussein Obama if you prefer a MAGA cap to rainbow flags); two years of isolation and more than one million deaths to COVID-19 (seven million worldwide); the rise of AI technology we don’t understand; and increasing gun violence are truly frightening for most people… and out of our personal control. While PTSD usually is associated with single traumatic experiences, research on repeated or chronic trauma describes similar effects: anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, heightened emotional responses such as impulsivity or aggressiveness, substance abuse (e.g., alcohol or opioid), difficulties in relationships, feelings of shame or guilt, even loss of one’s sense of self. Not everyone responds similarly to ongoing stresses, to be sure, but still, don’t some of these reactions ring a bell?
Right or wrong, this lens helps me navigate today’s political climate. If I’m struggling with fear and anger, others may be, too. Being open to that possibility helps me find a path away from escalation toward empathy. Yes, I know some people are asses, but even asses generally respond better to kindness than contempt. It starts with small acts.
About Susan Gore
Susan discovered Gulfport in January 2015 and moved here in July. She is an active community volunteer, currently serving as board president of the LGBTQ Resource Center. The opinions she expresses here are hers and hers alone.