A few days before the EU referendum vote, someone close to me said that they were probably going to vote Leave. I was flabbergasted.
First, I could see no logical reason for it. They were intelligent, comfortably middle class, apparently liberal-minded and entirely unaffected by immigration. There was no protest to be had. When pressed, they spoke of ‘tradition’ and ‘British values’. I was lost for words.
That person changed their mind at the last minute and voted Remain. But my eyes had been opened. It made me realise that far more people (and types of people) than I thought possible simply did not think like me. As the reality of Brexit emerged, I saw that England specifically was and is at least half full of people who lack empathy.
I’m being generous when I say that the Brexit vote had undertones of racism and xenophobia. The US election and Trump in particular has taken those things to the next level, made them very public and thrown in a deeply repulsive dose of misogyny and homophobia too.
It has been and will always be disgusting. Truly deplorable.
I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by the US election over the last couple of months. I’ve watched a lot of Youtube. I’ve read a lot of think pieces. Even before the result, I thought about how happy I was that my children are not yet old enough to understand what’s happened. I don’t know how I’d be able to explain.
Trump is terrifying, no doubt. Even more scary for me, as we saw in the UK only a few months ago, is how many people seem to care so little about other human beings. How completely unable they are to even try to understand or put themselves in the shoes of people who are not like them.
So, what now? I’m not sure. Some people in the US will be heavily affected and rightfully afraid. I’d say we’re more than a little anxious over here too. If you feel politicised and ready to speak up and campaign, that’s a constructive use of any anger or energy you currently feel. I have friends who’ve been inspired to take similar action.
I’m trying to do two things. First, to vastly reduce the amount of rolling news I allow into my life. I’d like to find a way to stay well-informed, but without letting the relentless bullshit impact my mind and mood. I need to let less in and put more out.
Which leads me to point two. Writing, music and all forms of art are built on the idea that it is good and right to explore the other. To try and see then show the world through other people’s eyes. I’m not really sure what else to do right now but hold on tight to that notion. And to do the following.
Read, listen, watch, create, share. Empathise.