The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

We are living in the most precarious of times. Our lives are at risk as the pandemic is on the rise once again. According to the New York Times, “(t)he Delta variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus, is sweeping through the country. Fewer than half of Americans are fully vaccinated, exacerbating the situation.”[1]

At the same time, President Biden asserts our nation is facing the biggest threat to American democracy since the Civil War.[2] Many, including myself, agree. Across the country Republican state legislatures are enacting voter suppression laws and seizing the power to overturn the will of the voters in future elections.[3]

In order to meet these monumental challenges, we must be prepared for the long haul. It is becoming increasingly clear that neither Covid 19 nor the authoritarian right will be overcome easily or quickly. Under such circumstances, self-care and taking care of each other are essential.

I know that if I do not maintain my physical and mental health, there is no way I can help anyone else, let alone work to save America from the assault on our democracy now reigning down on us. We cannot allow these perilous threats to overwhelm us. If we do, we and our country are sure to lose.

Putting our heads in the sand will not work either. Some of us are throwing up our hands and saying that there is nothing I can do that will make a difference. While it may feel that way, it is far from the truth.

Defeat is not an option. But neither is running ourselves into the ground. So, here are a few suggestions for staying engaged in these most difficult times without losing your health or your mind:

  1. Know that you are not alone. Join or form a support or affinity group. At least talk to a friend about how you’re feeling. Don’t keep it all inside.
  2. Get out in nature. A walk or hike can be very rejuvenating.
  3. Volunteer at a food bank, senior center or other service organization where you can feel you are contributing to making life better for someone.
  4. Do things you like to do, e.g., listening to music, reading a book, dancing, writing in a journal.
  5. Call or write the president and your senators and representatives. Let them know how you feel about the issues that concern you and what you want them to fight for.
  6. Contribute what you can to organizations that you feel are making a difference.
  7. Get involved in a cause you care about even if it’s just for a couple of hours a month.

For me, the key is balance. I know I cannot change the world by myself. I also know trying to do that just leads to burn out. We are in a marathon, not a sprint. We have to pace ourselves, taking time to recharge our batteries. Staying the course to save our democracy is what’s most vital.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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