Today Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.
All throughout the day today, I have been hearing messages of despair, anger and fear. Watching with transfixed horror from the UK, it brings back painful memories of waking up early on a summer’s morning to the news that Britain had voted to leave the EU. There is a horrible sense of déjà vu: a choice which very few seemed to really want, which would bring about dire consequences to the nation, and which almost no-one believed would be passed, somehow winning a majority.
The decisions made today, and the decisions made in the UK this year, speak volumes of a society in turmoil. It is scary how certain minorities are being scapegoated for our nations’ problems: the UK has seen a sharp rise in racist attacks since the Leave vote, and Trump promises persecution against minorities. It feels as if racism, sexism and closed-mindedness are being accepted, and these people are gaining confidence in voicing those opinions. It feels like we are going backwards. Anyone who has studied history will know that it has a tendency to repeat itself. We watch this insanity unfold before our very eyes, and we are held rapture by the grotesque destruction of it, utterly powerless.
However, I have not lost all hope. Today I have seen many people expressing their disgust at humanity and the human race, losing hope in the world and assuming that we are heading rapidly towards doom by our own doing.
This is not the picture I see. If humanity is so despicable, why the global backlash against today’s result? Why the widespread grief? Amongst the messages of fear are messages of solidarity, hope and reassurance. We, as citizens of the world, have some small power. I believe that the best thing we can do in the face of dark times, is to be a light. Do not accept hatred by conforming to what you know deep down is wrong. Do not meet hatred and ignorance with anger and more hatred. Refuse to live your life in fear.
Many of us, in daily life, are overloaded with newspaper headlines, footage, images and subtle and not-so-subtle messages in the media and popular culture, leading us to think certain things and act a certain way.
We are first told that we are at WAR with terror. That we are not safe anywhere- a terrorist attack is highly likely, and it could happen to you, at any time. Check under your seats when you get on the train. Say a proper goodbye to your family before you get on the plane lest you should never reach your destination. Cast around suspicious glances at public events, be wary of others. We are told that our countries are overrun with foreigners; that we are running out of homes, jobs and space. We are told that people are dying because too many immigrants are putting a strain on the NHS. We are told that asylum seekers are benefit tourists, criminals and rapists, and they could be waiting at the end of your street when you’re walking home at night.
These are the messages put about, and as ridiculous as some of them might seem when written down like this, the media and the government are effective in making them seem highly believable. They generate a deep anxiety within people, a feeling of never being safe. However, this is not the reality that most of us experience. In the United States, you are more likely to be killed by choking, a fireworks accident, lightning or COWS than by a terrorist. Research has found that there is no link between percentage of foreign-born population and rates of violent crime in the UK. Most of us are intelligent enough to know that those seeking asylum are almost always escaping countries ravaged by war, running from the bombs we drop on them in the name of “fighting terror.”
What IS real is the fear, hatred and segregation that these lies have perpetrated. There are rifts in communities. Muslims, ethnic minorities, migrants and asylum seekers are being targeted.
We do not have to conform to this picture. Choose love and freedom over hatred and fear. In the face of everything seemingly going wrong, refuse to be kept down. Don’t talk about how “this country is going to the dogs”. Stand in solidarity with those being targeted. Be there for your friends and neighbours. Have the same respect for all religions, races, genders and sexual orientations. Openly question toxic values and policies. Use public transport. Fly in planes. Watch music and theatre, enjoy art, read literature and marvel at all of the wonderful things about humanity. Extend acts of kindness to others, and seek out examples of other people doing so. You can still stay informed, but check the facts behind any piece of information that you feel affects your outlook, as the media will sensationalise and sometimes downright lie, and it is necessary to maintain perspective.
Highlight the good news of the day. Every time you open the newspaper and see death and destruction, remember all of the good things that will have happened today. Babies have been born. People have gotten married and moved into new homes. People have recovered from illness. All over the world, flights have been taking off and landing with absolutely no incident, people have been travelling safely, going to concerts and events safely, living in harmony with other people, and helping those in need. We are closer than ever to curing cancer and many other diseases, with new medicines and treatments being available all the time. There are advancements in research, technology and space travel being made. This is a wonderful world that we live in- it is not without poverty, disease and war, but it is also abundant in goodness. People are wary about looking at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, but what about seeing only the negative? That is a habit destructive beyond belief, and something a lot of people do.
I don’t want to suggest that problems such as racism, sexism, police brutality and hate crimes are not happening or should be ignored, because these things are happening and we need to be aware of that and challenge it. At the same time, though, we need to do something DIFFERENT- hate does not conquer hate, and neither does fear.
Staying home and worrying about the state of the world does nothing. Use your voice, stand in solidarity with others and live a life defiantly free of fear.
Extend kindness, and help, to others. Be an example of tolerance and hope. Question the media and politics. Support the people and policies you WANT to see, instead of wasting your energy fighting those you oppose. Appreciate your loved ones, marvel at the beauty of the planet, listen to music, read, learn and DANCE. I choose to not be kept down, but to live free of fear and full of hope for humanity.
These times are uncertain, and sometimes scary, but it is not all bad. If I can do nothing else, I will continue to dance.