Dan and I made a conscious decision to avoid the news during this sabbatical. As it turns out, not sitting in front of a computer all day makes it much easier to avoid the inevitable daily link-clicking and doomscrolling. And after the dread and anxiety that pervaded the last two years—obsessively following the latest about Covid, the election, the dumpster fire of a trainwreck of a sh*tshow that was the previous administration—it was a huge relief to just step away from news consumption for a bit. The circus would go on, but we didn’t have to pay any attention. We were busy being abroad, thanks all the same.
Being away has promoted some conversations between us about the state of the States—like, wow, healthcare doesn’t seem to be a constant underlying worry for folks in other countries the way it is at home, or boy, some of these other places really cracked down on Covid when they needed to, didn’t they?—but it’s all been buffered a bit by a layer of physical and emotional separation.
Then, a few weeks ago, I accidentally caught wind of the Roe v. Wade draft decision and went spiraling into an anxious place I hadn’t been to since we’d left town. Not long after, I glimpsed a headline about Buffalo (I still don’t know all the details; I know enough to know they are devastating). Then this morning, we got an email from SFUSD referencing the events in Texas, what SF schools are doing to keep students safe and how to talk to our kids about what happened. And I caved: I read the news. I cried and hugged my daughter (who, fortunately, is used to me crying randomly). I allowed myself to think about those parents who lost their babies. I allowed myself to feel grief. And I allowed myself to feel the anger and hopelessness of a country that lets this happen again and again and agin.
We grew up with the promise that every generation of Americans would have a life better than their parents. It’s becoming increasingly, almost comically clear that that’s no longer the case. Healthcare costs are already eating up a worryingly large chunk of my relatively young and currently healthy family’s income. My daughter is going to grow up with fewer rights to make choices about her body than I did. And no one can feel safe anywhere.
I’m usually so happy to return home to the city I love, but I already feel sick to my stomach about the prospect of being back in America in ten weeks’ time. It’s a terrible feeling—one that no news blackout can buffer.