Baby Steps

Picking ourselves up the day after the Capitol coup

Tasos Katopodis, Getty Images

Today, January 7th, 2021, 1:33 a.m., I hauled myself out of my room after scrolling through Twitter, then Instagram, then Twitter, then Instagram again to make macaroni and cheese. I didn’t have the resolve to leave my bed for around three hours despite the fact that I was starving, but I’m not new to that concept. Neurodivergence, baby.

I hobbled over, Smeagol-like, to pour rotini into my pot of boiling water like I had never seen food before. It’s hard to pick yourself up after hours of destructive behavior, but it’s necessary. If I don’t make the macaroni and cheese, I starve, quite possibly to death. I could go for a salad, or a smoothie, or something more healthy than the 99% dairy meal that I’ve had three times a week since I could physically chew pasta, but macaroni and cheese is something, and something that I can do quickly at that.

Unbeknownst to me at the time of writing that paragraph, we don’t have shredded cheese in my house. And we can’t find the cheese grater. So, my easy-cheesy-lemon-squeasy meal turned out to be a very-cheesy-not-so-easy torture device. Cubing cheese is not that bad, but it’s like skinning a buck when you’re starving at 2 in the morning. While I was tossing my ugly little cubes into the pot of pasta, my school-trained literature brain started cooking up some metaphors.

Politics is so easy from the outside, right? You do the right thing, you shred the cheese, you mix in the butter and the milk, badda bing badda boom. But the family recipe never prepares you for the complete and utter lack of a cheese grater in your darkest hour, and it also never told you that your parents won’t answer when you knock and your sister hasn’t been able to find it recently, so you just have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, admit defeat and cube the damn cheese with the biggest knife you own. It’s not ideal, but what are you supposed to do? Bike down to Target and get a new cheese grater? I might not be making much sense, but the clock just hit 2:34 a.m. Give me a break.

My point is, the government is in a crisis right now. The Capitol was breached, shots were fired into the chamber, “protesters” came with zip ties. Many Americans — those residing in and outside of the House and Senate — have suffered real and legitimate trauma. Whether you’re a politician or a…not, things need to move slowly right now. Putting your sauce on high heat, no matter how much you stir it, will only make it gross. The cheese will melt fine, but then you’ll get all those bubbles, and it’ll be way too hot to eat and reap the benefits of, and you’ll end up needing to let it rest in the end. Patience is mandatory, especially in times of crisis, and I understand that it’s hard. When your life is falling apart, all you want to do is get it fixed at all costs or avoid it at all costs. When I’m starving at 2 in the morning, all I want to do is put that pasta on hyperspeed and devour it like a hyena.

Extremes are not the answer here. Baby steps, however, are.

Building up from the bottom, taking things slowly, and trudging forward one step at a time are not fun, but those methods do exist for a reason. Human beings need time to think, process, and heal, and in a democratic republic, the government is not a machine. Definitively, it is a group of people who run millions of other people according to what the millions of other people want. Again, I’m not being very coherent, because it’s exactly 3:00 a.m. and my brain’s a little scrambled, but I know that the Capitol won’t be able to sleep at night until they get a bellyful of mac and cheese — or at least some semblance of picking themselves up — under their belt. It might not be a lot, and it might not be the best, but progress is progress, and any forward movement that the Capitol makes should be celebrated.

It’s easy to be mad at politicians when they don’t make radical leaps and bounds forward, but they’re human beings and they need time to process just like the rest of us do. I want radical changes to happen, and I know attacking problems full force is effective and necessary, but for the next few days, being aggressive isn’t healthy. Yes, the people who staged a coup against the legislative branch should be punished, and we should put systems and policies in place to ensure that such things will never happen again, and we should repair the physical damage done to the Capitol, and we should ensure that our Senators and Congresspeople are mentally well and physically safe…but that list is long. Expecting all of those things to happen one after the other in a quick and orderly fashion isn’t realistic. It’d be fantastic, but we’re far from utopic life right now.

The steps they take might not be ideal, and they might not even be great. But as long as a decently ok step is being made in the right direction towards rebuilding and regaining power, we can breathe. Tonight, we wait, and we rest.

High school senior who always has something to say. Activist, artist, musician, lifelong Girl Scout…and writer, of course. She/her.

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