I grew up during the Cold War. My memories of childhood include a constant anxiety that ran just beneath the surface; the fear that, at any minute, someone would push a button that unleashed nuclear war.
As I grew older, and the Cold War receded into the history books, that anxiety faded away. Sure, it was replaced with very specific concerns about ecological and international challenges, but the fear that instant doom lurked just over the immediate horizon was gone.
Now it’s back.
Trump’s election scared the heck out of me. Not so much because I thought that I would be the target of his policies, but because I have friends, family and colleagues who would be.
As it turns out, I was right to be scared. Trump has been in office for just over a week, and I’m already seeing how his policy decisions are hurting people I know in both my personal and professional life.
What’s more, many of the decisions being made have brought back that ever-present anxiety; that fear that the people in power are courting disaster in a way that puts my safety and the safety of my loved ones at risk.
That is, of course, a personal observation. Your experiences may be different. But I don’t have to be an especially astute observer to note that my feelings are not uncommon. Lots of folks appear to be scared, anxious and angry right now.
I mention this for a couple of reasons.
First, if you are, like me, pretty upset by the course of current events, I think it’s important to know that you’re not alone. There are other people who are just as scared, anxious and angry. Take comfort in the fact that others feel as you do. Think of it as sharing a burden, rather than amplifying it.
Second, I wanted to note that, while this anxiety can make it hard to focus on work (at least for me), I know that it has never been more important to focus on sharing factual information with the world.
There are many things that anyone can do to push for the change they want to see in the world: donate time or money to organizations whose work you support; reach out to your elected officials to make your feelings known; volunteer your effort and initiative to campaign for the elected officials you’d like to see in office.
But for those of you who are reporters, or bloggers, or science writers in any capacity, remember that you also make a difference simply by trying to share accurate information clearly and effectively.
To put this in the context of science communication, which is what I normally write about here, there are reporters already writing stories about how Trump’s immigration policies are affecting the science community in the United States; and there is no shortage of attention being paid to how a Trump administration may affect the course of policy, research and data access related to climate change.
Those stories are all important.
In fact, journalism is as important as it has ever been. Journalism is what allows us to be an informed public, and an informed public is the foundation of representative government. I cannot stress that enough.
What I keep telling myself is that it’s okay to be scared, but not if it affects my work. For a writer, allowing fear to turn into paralysis only ensures that there is one less voice speaking up. It’s not about having an agenda; it’s about offering people insight into what is actually happening in the world around us.