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The Hard Truth about the Long Game

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Commentary:

It was a strange time when Americans went to the theater to watch movies about imminent world destruction, and likely says a bit about the underlying nervous nature of some millennials. It also established what some might call a myth and others might call propaganda: Americans always come through in the clutch when the going gets rough.

While I work, I like to have something on as background noise. Sometimes it's a lo-fi playlist; sometimes it's free YouTube movies that have been a nostalgic trove of the terrible, the strange and the great. The most rewarding find lately was the debatable classic from the slew of disaster-themed movies that littered my childhood in the late '90s, the movie "Armageddon."

That version of American greatness was in the pluckiness innate to the beloved individualistic nature. It's a version that would allow the erstwhile lone cowboy — finally relying on those who had been supporting him in the wings the whole time — to ride in and save the day.

In those movies, only one cataclysmic event loomed, and there was a finite closure to the saved day. The adrenaline in your body would have a neat rise and fall within 90 minutes.

But that's not how life has been in the last few years, as the adrenaline pumps high and then continues to pump through your body, anticipating news that could send you into artificial fight or flight. Society then remands you into channeling "the fight" for the voting booth when the adrenaline whispers that anything we do now is hampered by the system, which isn't just one event but a knotted group of institutions failing many of us.

How do we as individuals provoke the change we were taught would happen like in the movies — a brief explosion, mostly bloodless, with heroes and heroines kissing in front of a sunset? Naturally, that's us in front of the sunset.

The hard truth is that it's not; we don't provoke that Earth-saving change. And that truth goes against all our instincts. For now, the truth is that we can only use our small human value in the worlds we inhabit, and it must be enough for now.

"It is a long game and I have a sense everyone is constantly aiming for the knockout blow and when it doesn't come, we quit," said Chris La Tray, a writer and member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He questioned in a Substack essay what fighting means now in an abstract way and recalled the work — the fight — it took to get his tribe recognized by the government.

"It was the daily grind of showing up every day to the struggle that even landed the vote on the table. The training for the fight," he said. It wasn't anything sexy like landing on an asteroid; it was the bake sales that helped pay for delegates to go to Washington, D.C.

While training for the fight seems bleak, it's not about keeping our heads down and staying alone. It's about keeping our heads up and talking to those around us. It's hanging out with new friends — like my family with a mother and daughter who just moved to town. Our conversation was long enough to have our kids tuckered out from their play.

The next day, the mother told me, "I registered to vote for the first time today." And, for that day, just that was enough.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.