Jeremy and I talked for the better part of two months about how we could possibly deal with all that is going on in the world on our little travel podcast. The political situations in both our countries made it impossible to ignore and the escalation of events meant we would have to find a way to talk about fast-developing events in a way that a monthly podcast could handle. There was another thing to consider. We didn’t just want to be two more shouting people on the internet. We wanted to approach everything in a way which would fit with our podcast and would add something to the discussion. I think we just about managed that.
We wanted to reverse roles for this discussion. We wanted to highlight what British politics looks like to an American ex-pat and what American politics looks like to a British citizen in the UK. What is it like for “outsiders” looking at these disturbing set of events? I put “outsiders” in quotes because having lived in the UK for three plus years means I have a vested interest in what happens here and the politics do impact my daily life. While Jeremy may not live in the US, he does live with a US citizen and he has visited my friends and family. None of us can ever be outside politics no matter how much we might wish it. As I said in the podcast, we see ourselves in politics and politics is reflected in each one of us.
The real crux of our discussion rested on this idea of being outside each other’s politics but wondering how we can still participate and influence politics in each other’s countries. Where is the line between participation and influencing and interfering and hijacking? I can’t tell you how often I have seen this reflected in threads on social media. The inevitable recourse of someone losing the argument to say, “you aren’t even a [insert country here] citizen, you don’t get to have an opinion.” But of course we do get to have an opinion and we should be able to express our opinions about each other’s political situations. I mean, the last time I looked we all lived on the same planet. What happens in one country can and often does have an impact on their neighbours.
Like all political discussions, we didn’t necessarily resolve anything. Since airing the podcast, Jeremy and I have gotten into far more discussions about politics. Of course we both tend toward the left of the political spectrum, Jeremy is far more a centrist than I am or probably ever will be. Even our discussions can become animated and sometimes we have to simply concede that we disagree. Add in the second half of the spectrum and it becomes quite clear that political consensus is a precious commodity perhaps the rarest of resources on this planet.
This podcast was absolutely elevated and enhanced by the contributions of my friend, Mizah. I must admit my dismay when on the day we planned to record the interview the Trump administration came out with their first iteration of the Muslim ban. Here we were, a white American woman and an Asian Muslim woman coming together to discuss travel and being ex-Pats and to reminisce about our time in Durham on the day the American government chose to shut itself off from people like my friend. I felt intense shame and helplessness. It turned out it was the very best day for us to chat. Mizah and I have a history of putting the world to rights over cups of tea. We often found ourselves around the kitchen table back in our flat in Durham discussing the state of the world. Then as now, her optimism is infectious. During those historic chats and indeed, during our discussion for the podcast, I found myself feeling a renewed sense of hope.
We need a politics of hope; a politics of compassion and empathy. At some point we became collectively cynical. We shut ourselves off from one another. We began to look suspiciously at those of us who are different from us. We began to distrust those who worship differently or not at all. We began to collectively flinch at the touch of others rather than embrace each other as humans who are all in this together. I suppose we have always been a tribal species but we have forgotten that we all belong to one overarching tribe: humanity. I have no illusions that this blog post nor this podcast will change things on the grand scale, but if even the few who they reach take to heart the ideas of hope, compassion, and empathy, and they pass that on to others, and they to still more people and so on, maybe one day we’ll have a politics which represents all of us and encompasses the best that humanity can offer.
If you haven’t listened to episode 01.03, you can check it out here.