Don’t close your eyes yet. For now, I only want you to think back to a time when you found yourself in “the wrong part of town”. Maybe it was an accident, a wrong turn, bad directions, or maybe you simply didn’t realize that zone was dangerous until you were there. Whatever the reason, take a minute to remember a time that happened to you. Hold onto that memory for later in this post.
I have been writing these Chronicles, in various incarnations, for almost fourteen years now. In all those years, I have never felt less capable of articulating my thoughts and feelings. Like most others, the recent US election left me stunned, and what has followed leading up to and beyond the inauguration has chilled, angered, and frustrated me.
I was living on Aitutaki—a pinpoint of an island in the South Pacific—in 2008, when Obama was elected. Even on that dot of land, thousands of miles from the US, there was jubilation. Businesses and cars sported pro-Obama stickers and visitors from all countries expressed their happiness with a leader who promised hope, thoughtful governance, and better international relations. Our hopes may have been a smidge too high but the change was refreshing.
Today, only eight years later, I feel the exact opposite of everything I felt back then. And, clearly, I’m not alone.
The question that’s troubling me is: What should I do about it?
If I was an American, there would be countless answers—protests, letters/emails/phone calls to government representatives, consumer boycotts, etc. But I am Canadian. Not my country. Not my president. Not my problem.
Until, that is, it becomes my problem.
It could become my problem.
The ascendance of a narcissistic, tantrum-throwing, barely literate buffoon to the highest office in United States of America—something I believed impossible right up until the moment it happened—gives me pause. Already, Canuck Trump clones like Kevin O’Leary and Kellie Leitch are popping up, declaring solidarity with the buffoon, and announcing their intentions to move our quiet, peace-loving little country in a more Trump-like direction.
Some people say we shouldn’t care what the US does. I say if there are powerful people next door to us promoting hate, fear and bigotry, we should care very much.
Which brings me back to the same question: What should I do about it?
I’ve read, watched and listened to more political banter than I’d ever hoped to in my lifetime. Because I’ve long advocated for understanding over fear and hate, I have tried to genuinely listen to the handful of my friends who agree with or support Trump. These people, my friends, are intelligent, kind, hardworking, male and female, and come from a variety of backgrounds. Their support does not spring from racism, misogyny or homophobia. Most of their arguments come from a place of logic and reasoning, though I’m sure more than a few would admit to a degree of satisfaction at the defeat of liberalism. These are good people and I love them, but I remain troubled.
On January 27, 2017, Vice President Pence attended and spoke at the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. with the full support of the President of the USA. Now, if you are anti-abortion, I am not going to try to sway you. Believe what you believe. But if you think for one second that going back to the way things were pre-Roe vs Wade will make your country great again, if you believe that women will not suffer and die without access to safe, legal abortion, you have not studied history. If you think that the leader of your country declaring that women who seek abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment” is not a threat to women (and, no, I don’t care that he later retracted the statement), you are delusional.
How can this be overlooked? How can otherwise kind, compassionate and intelligent people turn a blind eye to this? And, bear in mind, this is one example, one small example of the threat to anyone who is not Christian, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, and white.
For generations, women, the LGBTQ community, non-whites, the disabled, and various religious and atheist groups have fought for equality. We have fought to make the world fairer and more inclusive. We have scratched and clawed and bled for the kind of rights others took for granted. And just when we felt as if some real progress has been made, here comes a fascist and his goon squad prepping to drive us back to darker days.
And still: What should I do about it?
Perhaps, in some small way, I can enlighten?
Remember how I asked you to recall a time when you had ended up in “the wrong part of town”? Close your eyes for a minute and really put yourself back in that moment. I’ll wait.
Did you remember how it felt? How your senses all sharpened? Did your stomach tighten just a little when you realized where you were? Did you suddenly start looking at the people around you and measuring them as possible threats? Did you start planning what you would do if things went wrong? Did you call a friend or spouse or family member for help? Did you vow to pay more attention to your surroundings in the future?
If you are pro-Trump, remember that feeling and hold it fast. Why? Because that is how many, many people feel every day of their lives. Not to the same level all the time, but that constant low-level vigilance is the reality of being among those who, in the scheme of power, are the minority. I’ve always been a happy, carefree person but that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent the better part of my life with my radar always activated. I know my rights are a recent phenomenon, I feel how fragile they are, how easily removed. There’s a reason Atwood’s classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, is so terrifying–because it’s so damn plausible. I know several women who, in their lifetime, were not allowed to wear pants in school or at work, who could not own a credit card or open a bank account without their husband’s permission, who were unable to pursue their career of choice due only to their gender, who had no choice when it came to bearing children. These things didn’t happen “way back when”, some of these women are barely sixty years old!
The next time Trump does or says something that sends millions of people into a panic, before you brush off their concerns as hype or paranoia, revisit that memory of being in the wrong part of town and imagine how you would function if you experienced some degree of that sensation every day of your life. Perhaps it won’t be so easy to turn a blind eye when you see the world through someone else’s point of view.
So, that’s one small drop in the bucket and I don’t hold out much hope that my words will change any minds. The threat is as large as ever and the question remains unanswered: What should I do about it?
I may not have all the answers to that question but I have one: fight.
However I can, I will fight. I will stand against the man who speaks publicly of punishing women and who privately brags about forcing himself upon them. I will not let this ideology find its way into my own country.
As a woman, I stand on the shoulders of generations of courageous females who risked everything for basic rights and equality. I may lose a few friends in the next four years but that is nothing compared to the sacrifices made by my ancestors. They fought for our rights, they’re ours now, you can’t have them back.
You can’t take that away from me.
I won’t let you.