As many of you may know, Tuesday November 8th, the long awaited day of the American Election, was my birthday. I had to work that day, but it was no trouble, I had the next day off, and was planning to celebrate.
Well, we all know how that went. Wednesday, November 9th - The Day After - was no celebration.
The day before everyone was posting on my Facebook Wall “Happy Birthday! Hope you get the first Madam President!” The next day, there were only posts of sadness and disbelief.
It was yet another insult to injury for many of us women who have worked so hard to be respected within our workplaces, families, and intimate relationships. It was a reminder of a glass ceiling that remained. That a xenophobic, misogynist with no political or military experience, and questionable business success, was chosen over a more than qualified women who had worked her whole life in public service, nationally and internationally. She was by no means perfect. No person is. But she was a hell of a lot more qualified than her opponent, and bonus – Smart.
I awoke that morning, as many of you did, in a state of shock. Did it really happen? The radio informed me that it had, playing songs to soothe my mood. I alternated between a state of shock and disbelief, and a state of profound and utter sadness. I went through all the other stages of grief as well – bargaining with my anger - How this could have happened? If only she chose Bernie for VP! If only the media didn’t give Trump the airtime to fuel his fire! What were Republicans thinking? What were the Democrats thinking? It was depressing. But as the hours went on, I had to accept that it was really happening.
This was not even an election in my own country, but in the one next door. It was an election in a country that influences so much of what happens in the world, even if its own Citizens do not realize it.
I could not imagine what Hillary was going through. Unsurprisingly, at the time that I had awoke, she had not yet given her concession speech, but the media reported she had called Trump to concede. Ugh.
Hillary wisely took her time to process it. Personally, I felt it was a courtesy we could afford her after all the mudslinging she took. Many of us women who have crossed the over into traditional male territories know that harassment well - and it is not just men who sling the mud. The put downs, the insults, the comments on our appearance and behaviours. If we are too assertive, we are instantly branded as bitches, or acting like men. If we are soft spoken or not assertive, we are passed over, not listened to, and/or not taken seriously. It’s a lose-lose scenario.
You can think whatever you want about Hillary Rodham Clinton. You can perceive her to be cold and uncaring. You can disagree with her opinions and her decisions. You may not even like her husband (we can bet she too has had her moments with him). Right or wrong, that is your opinion. But one thing you cannot disagree with is that she is one strong, brave, hard working person. In the face of all that was thrown her way, she stood her ground and she kept going. Respect.
Let us not forget that it was Hillary Clinton that stood up to the world and clarified that “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” because it needed to be clarified. Thank You HRC.
With the election of Trump, racism and bullying somehow became acceptable. The KKK started to march again. A group of Latino Children in California were handed homemade deportation papers by their peers. People started to report incidents of being called racial slurs and being told to “Go back where you came from” Nazi-appropriated Swastikas appeared on Mosques alongside slogans of “Make America White Again.” Someone forgot to tell them that it was never White.
The US is not my country, and though I take pride in the value of multiculturalism in Canada, I am not naïve enough to think that this could not happen here. We have the same political map and politicians who praise Trump. Also, in case you have not noticed, it is happening all around the world right now. We need to take this seriously.
So as the days progressed, I started to sing a song that has always given me strength in hard times. Anthem by Leonard Cohen.
“Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in”
Then 2016 kept on taking and it took Leonard too.
I think I was still in too much shock to feel the pain of his death. But in death comes the celebration of the life that was. All of a sudden, there was an outburst of his poetry and music, composing the soundtrack for this moment - bringing us together in our heart break, soothing us, and giving us solace in this terrible time. There were also his songs of resilience. “Hallelujah”
And I realised his genius yet again.
Thank you Leonard.
In his song Anthem, Cohen reminds us of history:
“The wars, they will
be fought again
The Holy dove
will be caught again,
and bought and sold
and bought again;
the dove is never free“
Our dove has been caught. We must rise to ring those bells that still can ring. We cannot be silent in the face of hatred. This must not be the end of love.
We must also realise that there are many people who are hurting right now on both sides of the divide. Instead of getting stuck in our cycles of blame and shame, we need to open up to understand the viewpoints of those people whose opinions differ so radically from our own. We need to acknowledge the economic struggles and the pain faced by so many, not just in the Rust Belt, but all over the world. We need to understand each other’s fears so that we can find the common ground on which to find safety and walk forward. We all truly want change. We need it desperately for our survival.
I am uncertain how our future will unfold, yet I know we need to have hope.
I leave with you the words of the Late Honourable Jack Layton, words shared by many this week.
“My friends, love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we’ll change the World”
May we hold these words close to our hearts and may they guide our way.
In Love and Kindness,