The news this past week featured an inexorable flood of astonishing headlines. It is difficult to keep up. Three major developments dominated the news.
First, recent mass killings in Buffalo and Uvalde have finally convinced Congress to pass meaningful gun safety regulations. While the bill falls far short of what some wanted, Senator Chris Murphy’s admonition that “we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” applies here. Any bill that enhances gun safety is a victory against gun violence and the legislation passed by Congress would have been a robust cause for celebration except that on the very same day, the Supreme Court expanded access to guns through the right to carry a concealed handgun outside the home for self-defense and that “sensitive places,” heretofore exempted from this provision, do not include crowded urban areas. Ah, one step forward…
This week, of course, also saw the Supreme Court’s definitive ruling overturning Roe v. Wade (and a half-century of legal precedent), thereby denying women the right to seek comprehensive reproductive services, including abortion. The court’s stuck-in-the-past argument that the right to abortion is not specifically covered in the constitution is especially spurious since women are not specifically covered in the Constitution and most African Americans at the time of independence only counted as 3/5 of a person.
One of the most striking things about the decision was the harshness in its tone. Gone was the traditional nuance in judicial announcements—and along with it, seemingly any aspect of mercy or empathy for the plight of women as they make agonizing decisions about the autonomy of their bodies and if and when to give birth. The roots of this judicially cruel language can be found in the incivility that has become normative during the Trump years. And while Justice Alito said that other rights to privacy are not in jeopardy, his credibility runs about as deep as the three Trump-appointed justices who declared in their confirmation hearings that Roe is settled law.
Finally, there are the revelations from this week’s House Select Committee hearings. We learned that Donald Trump knew he actually lost the 2020 election but proceeded to overturn the election, that he went to extraordinary lengths to recruit Justice Department staffers and assorted election officials to help with this scheme, and how callous he was when the life of his own Vice President was threatened.
And then, in a “surprise” hearing, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson offered startling testimony about how the President tried to enable his armed supporters to reach the Capitol without having to pass their weapons through magnetometers and how livid he was when Secret Service agents sought to re-route his motorcade back to the West Wing instead of on to the Capitol.
These headlines emerged against a backdrop of two ongoing crises: unprecedented levels of inflation impacting everything from gas to groceries and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Russia sank to a new low in depravity this week as they bombed a crowded shopping center, killing at least twenty (as of this writing) and wounding scores more.
It is all so overwhelming. How do we cope with this crushing onslaught of difficult news?
First, recognize that these are all vital issues (along with others like climate change and the ongoing crisis at our southern border) and that it is impossible for any one individual to significantly address all of these concerns.
Second, determine which issue is most important to you—gun violence, reproductive rights, the defense of our democracy, the economy, war in Ukraine—and then develop a plan for undertaking small, concrete ways you can have an impact. Let additional things go—trusting that others will likewise contribute their energy and imagination to those causes. Remember, if you try to turn multiple tides at the same time, you’ll simply drown under the weight of so many pressing, life-threatening concerns.
But if we each address “just one thing,” then together we have the possibility of building a caring mosaic that can help heal the world.