I’ve started and stopped three articles, written 1,500 words and hated every single one. This column was due days ago and I’ve been stuck. Completely blocked. I’m not sure if it’s one thing or many things — and sometimes the only way through writer’s block is to sit down and write all the jumbled, disconnected thoughts that are jamming me up. So I will start this piece and end this year with an apology to my editor and to you, dear reader.
There is the thought that stands in the way of every other thought — and because I refuse to put horrifically graphic images in your head while you sip your coffee, I’ll let you fill in the blanks yourself. But the thought goes something like: “Hamas did X and Y and Z and I’m supposed to write or care about anything else?”
And then my brain starts doing the same thing the media and millions of people around me are doing. Justifying. Contextualizing. My brain will tell me I’m too stupid to understand the complexities of this geopolitical situation. That there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. That I’m not from that region, or Jewish, so why should I care so much? I have no “skin in the game,” as you might say, so why spend so much time focusing on it?
And yet, when I’m putting my child to bed, rocking her, all I can think about are the baby hostages. And when I’m smiling at my in-laws who are visiting, all I can think about are the elderly hostages and how frail they are. Are the elderly hostages OK? Then my mind wanders back to the thousands of images I’ve seen. Some from Israel. Some from Gaza. Some recycled from Syria. Images that will haunt me forever. Images that do something to the soul.
To make matters worse, the pictures now make the rounds in circles which don’t believe they’re real. Hamas livestreamed their barbaric slaughter. Now it’s Holocaust denial in real time. Amateur online sleuths evaluate the image of a dead baby and determine, based on their “expertise,” that the image has been generated by AI. On the other side of that coin are the folks doing the tireless, thankless work of correcting misinformation and disinformation. “Those dead babies are from Syria.” “That dead baby is actually from Gaza in 2014.” “These are Ukrainian dead babies.”
Too many dead babies. I feel guilty even speaking about the heaviness of having to see such things, knowing that people have experienced each one of those losses, acutely. I wonder what it’s doing to my psyche, to our collective psyche.
I know you might be thinking, “Just log off, Bridget.” That’s what my therapist has advised as well. However, I don’t have that luxury. For better or worse, paying attention to current events and being Very Online and having Opinions is how I make my living. And as I’m the breadwinner at the moment, I find myself in an impossible position. I don’t want to do this right now; I want to just be a mom. But I have no choice. Just like I had no choice when I was waiting tables. Only instead of slinging French fries, now I’m slinging half-baked opinions, fresh out of the oven. (Again, my apologies.)
There is also the sense that I have nothing left to say — or rather, that it’s time to shut up and listen. The events in Israel have left me speechless. Yet everyone has an opinion. The kids who get their news from TikTok and think Helen Keller is a conspiracy theory have a lot of opinions about a hostage crisis in Gaza. Brain-damaged MMA fighters are spending a lot of time on Twitter/X “just asking questions” about who controls the media.
The reaction in cities all over the world and campuses all over America has left me wondering what planet I’m on. Is it the same one where our grandparents fought the Nazis not long ago? It doesn’t seem like it. The casual antisemitism that people feel comfortable espousing online and off is deeply disturbing. We promised “never again” and yet it seems like some ancient hatred has been awakened, some long suppressed “again.” There is the sense that now more than ever we must be diligent in fighting antisemitism wherever we see it — and yet the situation already feels completely out of control and rapidly escalating. By the time this goes to print, I know not what new horrors we will be confronting.
I fear that the internet is driving me and everyone around me insane — and that if I truly cared about humanity, I would advocate for logging off, spending more time outside in nature, spending less time scrolling and worrying. Spend more time reading poetry and fiction and print magazines and listening to music and less time listening to podcasts. In a sense, I’d be advocating for my own professional demise — but if it means that we can return to some semblance of sanity, I would consider that a win.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s December 2023 World edition.