I feel quite caught between political battles happening on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean at the moment.
In my adopted country, the United Kingdom is facing a general election in a few days that will determine the course of the Brexit deal, immigration, the NHS, and many of the social welfare programmes so many Britons rely upon. I feel impotent when it comes to this election. I cannot vote in it though I will be directly impacted by the results. It most likely will mean the difference between whether or not I will be allowed to remain here where I have built so much; my career in museum studies still in its infancy, my relationship with a British national, my friendships with so many people from all over the world who have settled on this small island, and my small place in the local community where I’ve gotten to know waiters at my favourite restaurant, I go to town festivals, and yes I spend money in the local economy. I look forward to election day with great anxiety. I can only hope and urge the people of the UK to make decisions not based on fear but based on reason, love, compassion, and empathy.
Then there is the train wreck back home. I make that statement without a shred of hyperbole. What is happening within the United States government is nothing short of an appalling lack of foresight, understanding, and commitment to democratic values. It’s difficult to know where to begin. Do I start with the decision to pull out of the Paris accord? We are one of three countries who have decided not to commit to fighting against one of the biggest threats to our planet: climate change. We cannot even compare our decision to the other two countries, Nicaragua who felt the deal was not strict enough and Syria who is kind of busy right now with a devastating civil war which has sent thousands fleeing for safety and who have been met with such hatred and mistrust from much of the world.
Maybe I start with Kathy Griffin? The hypocrisy of those who are outraged about her artwork but are not outraged over the countless effigies of President Obama made over his two terms speaks volumes. Are we in favour of freedom of speech and expression absolutely or only when it favours our political partisan views? If we are really worried about “the children” where was your concern for Sasha and Malia? And before you tell me you were outraged then, too, link me to your tweets and FB posts expressing it at the time. I need verified sources for your outrage.
Perhaps I should start with the tweets to Mayor Khan. Yes, that is a good place to start because here, for me, is the convergence of my two countries: the country of my birth and the one I have lived in for four years. A brief history lesson, London has seen terrorism before. London survived the Blitz during World War II. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Keep calm and carry on”? It’s one of those phrases that has made its way into pop culture. You find it on posters, t-shirts, tea caddies, and beer mats. It’s one of the best ways to combat terrorism. Maintaining composure and carrying on with your life is antithetical to what terrorists want. They want to propagate fear. They want to disrupt lives. They want us to respond with limiting more freedoms and turning away from one another in fear and hatred. When you do these things, you do their work for them. So to the so-called commander in chief of the United States, I want to ask why you are doing their work for them? You could learn much from Mayor Khan if you could swallow your pride and bluster long enough to listen. I know you won’t. That requires humility and empathy.
So what do I do caught up between all of this; one person, far from home and unable to take action in her new country? I write. I speak with others. I reach out to those who are different from me. I speak to people from all over the world. But what I do more of is I listen. I listen to people. I try to understand what they have gone through. And I write. Because it’s the only way I can process all of this.