I’m still confused about what happened south of the border in early November last year. So confused that on many occasions I have had an increasingly difficult time putting it into words. So confused that I am pained when my confusion is then multiplied by the distress of the daily reminders of how unreasonable the choice to elect Trump was, is and ultimately will be.
It is not only because our politics aren’t aligned, I wish it was. It is because of the diametric divide that slices through my sensibilities as a functioning human, that lays insult to the pain, suffering and struggle that our forefathers fought; that slides basic humanity to the side all in the name of making America Great Again. But I beg the question, what is great about polarizing the other or separate but equal or money over everything or building walls. In fact I would argue that even the idea of building a wall, even without any action attached to it is not only incredibly disheartening and divisive, it’s the antithesis of any advancement we have achieved as a modern society.
I read this article yesterday and it really rang true for me. Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie hit home when she called out the passive aggressive nature of those who are opposed to this new guard, that we have a duty now to say how we really feel and call out the racism, misogyny and hate speech that we hear when we hear it. That we not bow our heads and capitulate because ‘we are better’ or ‘won’t sink so low’, thus allowing the louder, brasher voice to be heard over and over again until it begins to ring true for too many. As Chiamanda says so beautifully: “because language can illuminate truth as much as it can obfuscate it.”
It can be tiresome always being the one at the table to call out the loudmouth, the one always objecting to the objectification. But seeing, in real time, what can happen if not enough people take a stand for justice and humanity should be proof enough that though it may be a burden to bear, it is more than worth it in the name of our rights, and the rights of those who do not have the ability or freedoms to speak for them.
My mother told us a story once and it never left any of us kids. She was riding in a cab in New York from the airport and began a lovely conversation with the driver. He asked why she was visiting and she explained she was there to visit her husband who was teaching at a conference for Oral Surgeons. While she rode in the cab she began having a nice chat with the cab driver. It was pouring rain and as they passed a man on the street in traffic trying without luck to get a cab the driver said: “I never pick up those blacks, they could wait all day for all I care.”
The man continued to go on and on about his incredibly simple and racist views on black people. My mother had never been to New York. She had travelled from Scotland to Italy, Jamaica and Canada, she had seen racism, had felt it, but this was a vitriol of a particular kind. As she arrived at her destination, the driver opened her door, placed her luggage on the sidewalk and said:
“You are such a nice lady, I would love to drive you again. Maybe you and your husband?”
My mother took pause and in her sweetest Scottish brogue replied,:
“That would be lovely but I’m afraid you would never pick us up. You see my husband is a very nice man, a smart man, a lovely man….. But you would never pick us up because my husband is black.”
The man, visually embarrassed stumbled over his words trying to make it better. My mother continued:
“And, you see Sir, that’s they problem with judgement and stereotypes and that is why, even if you did want to pick us up, I would rather walk.”
I’ve gotten into trouble for speaking my mind. It makes people uncomfortable, especially when speaking to older men. I can admit that I have felt silenced for a long time but it has taken this tide change, this absolute assault on human and civil rights, that has awoken something in me that I can’t put back to sleep. We are only as strong as what we’re willing to stand up for and I believe now, more than ever, that we must use our voices, raise our hands and stand in solidarity for peace, for justice, for humanity.
Art by Mere