I haven't been able to sleep well recently, and this doesn't have anything to do with the fact that my kids wake me up through-out the night. I'm used to that, so much that my sleep app counts that as "restless" moments and not actual "awake" moments. No, it's more than that, a constant feeling of anxiety that has installed itself deep in my stomach, a growing knot that won't go away. It's as if something is going to happen but I don't know what. Every time something awful happens in the world I think "this is it!", but that feeling won't go away. It's growing and perpetual and pushing my balance off completely. The last time I felt this way was just after 9/11, and it took me a long, long time to find a new balance and to discover faith in myself and mankind again. I fear that this is going to be even more difficult now.
This feeling comes from a place of deep incomprehension. I have never understood why humans consistently hate and destroy each other, and call me what you will, I will never understand it. I was brought up to love life, other people and our planet, and as cynical as some things may have made me over the years, I continue to follow my path with those simple thoughts at the forefront of my mind - I will never let hate overrun them. I understand that my skin colour and place of birth have given me privileges over others, but why these privileges exist I will never understand. I'm white, heterosexual and was born in a first world country, so this automatically means that there are doors open to me that are not for others. For anyone in the same position as me to deny that means that they are kidding themselves. Just really look around and see how the world is today, white privilege has never gone away, hell it’s just as prevalent as it's always been, except for now people just try to deny it still exists. It never went away. I can't embrace it though, because I don't want it to exist. I don't want to be part of a world where one person hates another because of what they look like. I don't want to live in a world where one person will be accepted without even a question while another has to fight for acceptance just because they were born in another country or of another skin colour. I don't want to walk down the street and hear people muttering under their breath about someone because he or she practices a different religion. I don't want to hear kids calling each other names based on sexual orientation or skin colour, not understanding how hurtful and awful those words are. I don't want to hear, see and feel so much hatred around me and my fellow humans, so rooted in our societies that it has become the norm. I don't want to live in a world where we all shrug our shoulders, turn away and stick our heads in the sand again.
I've recently been day dreaming about packing up again and taking my family to a deserted island and living out our lives there, in peace, together. While that's not really doable, I've come to believe that it's the only way to get away from a world that believes in hatred, power and war. Where politicians spout ridiculous ideas and where people just sit there and lap it up, incapable of opening their eyes and making up their own minds. Where the word "democracy" has become a joke, and where we are all meant to pretend that everything is OK and that this is what life is. I need to find that fight in me again and join those who will not give up to the endless rat race, and will not back down until we have figured out a new way forward.
Yes, I am an idealist. And yes, I know a lot of these ideals that I have may sound slightly simple or simplistic. But in the end, we are the ones who have made everything so complicated. There was, and is still, no need to divide people up based on skin colour, religion, sexual orientation or gender. We ARE all equal, and we should all be free. Hatred is a learned emotion, as is fear, and we can start making a change by teaching our future generations to not judge a person by what they look like or which god they may believe in or who they fall in love with.
As it stands right now this world we live in is hurtling towards an explosive end, while we watch disaster after disaster unfolding from the safety of our social media feeds. One of the main contenders for US president is a man who spews out the most ignorant and insulting ideas and policies, people are more occupied by stockpiling guns and rifles rather than stopping mass shootings, rich white kids are getting away with rape and murder while black kids rot in prison on drug charges and everyone is more interested in the newest iPhone than what is happening in places like Syria and Sudan. Men and women are still being sent out to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to get rid of terrorism but at the same time these same countries are supporting regimes that treat their women as subhumans incapable of doing anything of their own accord. Tabloids scream headlines accusing immigrants of stealing jobs and housing and welfare checks and the public believes every word without even a second glance. Nowadays, in addition to the colour of your skin, your religion (if you have one), your gender and your sexual orientation you are also considered "legal" or "illegal". So if you are born black, are gay, practice Islam and don't have a visa to the country you now reside in, well you are completely fucked. If you are white, Christian, a US citizen, male and heterosexual then you probably stand a chance of getting through your life without too many issues. Especially if you stay behind your white picket fence and only mingle with those who are exactly like you. I’m not saying you will never have a problem, but I’m saying that it may be easier to get out of them.
But who wants to be stuck with just people who look and think like you?? This world is so vibrant and colourful and full of different people and thoughts and ideas! By stepping over our self-imposed boundaries and reaching out towards others we can only learn. And by learning more we understand more. And by understanding more we learn to fear less. Fear breeds ignorance and there are too many people on this planet who would rather we remain fearful and ignorant, than learned and brave. It doesn’t matter where you come from in this world, who you are, where you have been and where you will go, there will always be something to learn from somebody else.
Every time there is a massacre in the (Western) world my social media feeds are blown up with flags and “thoughts and prayers”. And while thoughts are nice and you may think your god is going to reach out and help somehow, somewhere, these things are NOT providing concrete help. Speak up about ignorance, contact your leaders about gun policies and reforms, reach out to people who of different colours, heritages, religions and sexual orientations and learn about their lives, make a stand to actually CHANGE the way people think. Consume less and donate more, whether it is time or money, think before you speak and learn before you speak. Hatred is so prevalent in our society and it needs to be uprooted and destroyed. I for one am aiming to make sure that my children understand that we are all the same and all different and that we treat everyone with respect, kindness and love. We don’t all have to LIKE each other, but we should all respect and listen to each other.
When a person walks into another person’s safe haven, loads a gun and sprays bullets into anyone he can hit or when another person shoots a politician because she was trying to make life more bearable for refugees then we can’t ask ourselves questions about whether these were or were not hate crimes, or on what type of gun sprays bullets and what doesn’t. We need to stop getting bogged down in semantics, fighting with one another over definitions and actually start acting. Recognise your privilege and start fighting for real change, as this can only come about if we all work together against hatred and ignorance.
Don’t get me wrong, I know full well that we will never, ever live in a world where everything is sunshine and happiness. There are always going to be people focused on power and control over others, and there will always be people who are wary of differences. There will always be hatred and there will always be war. I may be an idealist and too empathetic for my own good, but I’m also not stupid. I know that I’m not going to change the world with love and I know I’m not going to change people’s mind with a blog post. I however cannot just sit back and pretend none of this is happening, apathetic and braindead. I can at least TRY to change some minds, and if we all TRY then maybe this place will be a better place for the next generations. And only we can start making that happen.
I’m so so so DONE with watching another hate crime go down and nothing changing. How on earth can we expect to stomp our beliefs all over other countries when we can’t even make the proper changes at home? I honestly don’t care if an AK-15 is an assault weapon or not, but I do care that it was used to kill over 50 innocent people just because someone hated them. Hatred isn’t blind; it knows exactly who it is targeting. No more excuses. No more.
Sidenote: I just finished reading I Shall Live: Surviving the Holocaust at all Odds by Henry Orenstein. Not the first Holocaust recount that I have read and most likely not the last, but it really hit home about how easily one person can convince another to hate. We should be learning from our collective past rather than just classifying it in history books.