"The Russia story is a distraction from the Affordable Care Act!"
"Trans people in the military are a distraction from disastrous tax reform!"
"The chaos in the White House is a distraction from environmental collapse!"
"The immigration ban is a distraction from the Russia story!"
One of the most distressing things about the current US political disaster is that it s happening on so many fronts. Living in this country is like a chronic case of whiplash; following the news is like being on a rollercoaster you can never get off of. It's numbing, overwhelming, and exhausting.
There are many effective ways to deal with this. Telling people their issues are distractions isn't one of them.
When people are told their activism is a distraction from the "real" work, it's demoralizing. It's hard enough to keep up with activism, even when you do have support. And it's especially hard to do activism right now: there's so much work to be done, things are changing so quickly, multiple fronts need urgent attention, activists are stressed and traumatized, and it feels like everything is falling apart. We're all trying to decide what our priorities are and reexamining those priorities with every news cycle. We're all struggling to manage our time and money and emotional energy, all of which are increasingly spread thin. This is hard enough by itself. When people who are theoretically on your side are trivializing your work and cutting you down, it makes it even harder.
It's also unlikely to work. Think how you would feel if you were working and speaking on an issue you care about passionately, and someone told you: "You should drop that! It's a trivial distraction from the real work. You're clearly incapable of deciding what is and isn't important--you've allowed yourself to be tricked, duped, distracted by the waving hands of the magician. I have a much clearer understanding of what our priorities should be than you do, so come work on my thing instead!" Think how you would feel if you heard this every day, from multiple people, no matter what you were working on. I know that when I hear this, it doesn't inspire me to switch gears and forge a new alliance. It inspires me to roll my eyes and flip them the bird.
It's hard not to notice that much of the time, the issues that get called a distraction are the ones that affect people who are most marginalized. Trans people are some of the most vulnerable people in our society: they're commonly shut out by family...