No Words for America Right Now

Farai Chideya
3 min readNov 6, 2022


I asked the image generating AI Dall-e to make me something based on the last sentence of this. Here ya go! No words!

I’ve been wanting to write something smart about America, the right kind of smart that touches hearts and enlightens minds. But I don’t know that I believe in the power of words the way I used to.

I spent years of my life doing field reporting, including on organized white supremacists, in the hopes that documenting America as it was would give us a chance to reflect on how we could do better.

We didn’t.

When I look back on myself as the 25 year old who met with Klan members in a park and ride lot, increasingly it seems like I made it into a very small temporal hole between the Civil Rights Era and our current troubles, where a young Black woman could do the kind of work I did with a reasonable expectation of remaining alive. I’m not sure I would make the same assumptions today, and I wonder what journalism will lose if this nation becomes too unstable for women and people of color to contribute as much as we have to the first draft of history.

We have always contributed. And rarely have we been properly heeded.

I began sounding the alarm in earnest during the 2016 election cycle, but really the work I did over the course of my entire career has asked us to examine America for what it is, good and bad, not whatever story we were selling ourselves. It should have been possible to examine the strip-mining of the American working class, and see how neoliberal approaches to technology regulation and global trade agreements would come back to erode support for the Democratic Party, which has basked in tech money while failing to envision a promising future that extends beyond silicon valley. It should have been possible to see that the erosion of center-right power in the GOP, sometimes by politicians exiting, and other times by their kissing the ring of anti-democratic officeholders, would cast that party in a new and durable mold of cynical, authoritarian civic vigilantism.

We had so many chances to see the Democrapocalypse coming, and avoid it.

We haven’t.

So much time and space was given to proponents of “alternative facts” out of a mix of both-sidesism and profiteering. Is it any wonder that so many now are deeply enmeshed in disinformation?

I have been trying to write my way out of the despair that everything I feared would go sideways is doing just that.

It’s not working.

What is working isn’t words, but deeds. What’s working to keep me going is gathering with friends; enjoying a warm fall day; meeting people’s children. It’s rotating my houseplants so every leaf gets the right amount of sun. It’s buying used furniture and being happy when it responds to a little TLC. It’s straightening the pictures on the wall, and appreciating the way the light falls across them.

I am working on Some Big Things related to Our Big Era, including new approaches to civic data and applied futurism. I am glad to have multifaceted professional pursuits, and the doggedness to carry my work forward both when it’s deeply supported and also at times when I am the only one who sees the light of my torch. But increasingly, even meaningful professional pursuits are just not enough.

What does it mean to live and love in a time of civic immolation? What does it mean to embrace the full spectrum of emotions at a moment where so many systems seem overtaxed to the point of collapse?

I have no words for it. Yes, I’ve used words here. But this is really a little basket, a container for things I can’t put words to.

What are you seeking to put words to, about your journey through life today?



Farai Chideya

Radio show/podcast “Our Body Politic” @ Covered every Presidential election 1996–2020. Books include “The Episodic Career.”