Be Better Than Fear

My last two posts were pretty bleak. I admit it. I don’t believe the world is ending just yet, but there are definitely signs of doom for democratic ideals.

The fear and loathing can’t be divorced from the current President, his administration and the mockery that is being made of fair governance. Basic human decency should be an occupational requirement. But it’s not.

Although actual progress on any part of the Trump agenda has been mercifully slow, change is very much in the air, dredging up fear on both sides of the aisle. It’s just being channeled and processed differently. On the left we’re seeing authoritarian activities we believed were ancient history once again in vogue – and we’re resisting. On the right…I honestly don’t know what we’re seeing. But the Party of No is gunning for women’s health, civil rights and immigration.

At the center of both reactions lies fear. For some conservatives, it’s fear of what America’s changing demographics look like, particularly in post-9/11 America. On the liberal left, there’s panic that we’ll never make it three and a half more years of Trump.

Fear drives ignorant, shortsighted behavior, such as a school teacher handing out a “Most Likely to be a Terrorist” certificate to a seventh grader (as a “joke”). In what universe is branding someone at the most turbulent stage of their life as a terrorist, funny? Or even remotely appropriate? It’s harassment, an attack on a child’s mental state, creating a hostile environment for the entire community. We can’t have the people entrusted with our kids damaging their mental health and creating a bullying culture from the top down.

That same fear of the “other” contributed to North Carolina’s racist voting district gerrymandering efforts. These moves placed large groups of African-Americans into the same few districts, concentrating their votes. In effect, gerrymanderers split representatives 10:3 in favor of traditional, white republican representation in areas where black voters skew democratic. This approach was struck down by the Supreme Court with the uncharacteristic support of Justice Clarence Thomas, rarely to be found on the “liberal” side of a case.

SCOTUS’ ruling in the North Carolina case is one of the few moments of clarity and bipartisan unity we’ve seen in recent months, an indication that black votes, voices and lives matter. There is hope to be found in the system of checks and balances, no matter how delayed.

There’s also reasons for optimism as courts across the country slap down Trump’s proposed travel ban time and time again. In fact, just this last weekend Following another terrorist attack in London, Prime Minister Theresa May called for action to restrict “the safe spaces it needs to breed.” Trump’s travel ban and May’s preference for a police state are responses of fear, because they do not understand the bigger picture.

The proposed ban exists to discriminate against six majority Islamic countries as a show of nationalism (not to be confused with patriotism). Somehow Trumpsters and their supporters fail to realize reducing all Muslims to terrorists is like conflating all Christians with the Westboro Baptist Church.

May, while having a legitimate cause for concern (this is the third attack on British soil within three months), is reacting to radical elements of Islam. She’s looking to penetrate so-called self-segregated communities and be “less delicate of their sensitivities.” It’s panic that targets civilians.

When we hear the word “terrorism,” it’s disturbing  to observe the automatic jump of many to Islam. We need to remember that terrorism isn’t a religion; it’s a tactic. A tactic founded upon bullying, sadism and sociopathic tendencies to control people through threats, intimidation and violent action.

Terrorism does not exist “over there.” Look no further than America and Breitbart’s hate-filled agenda, the constant stream of cultural ignorance (yes, those are different links) thrown at those who look or believe outside of hetero, Caucasian, Christian paradigms. Consider Betsy Devos’ anarchist, hands-off approach to education. Every day on the job, she’s developing a hostile experience for future generations.

There is a lot of negativity to weight us down at present, but we also need to look beyond our own fear. By doing so, we’ll learn how to advance together. By way of example, there’s the One Love Manchester concert benefiting victims of the second U.K. attack. There’s also the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling against gerrymandering, and the unprecedented number of women running for public office. There’s human decency and intelligence visible everywhere – if you know where to look. 

Allowing paralysis or backward movement under the weight of fear does no one any good. The ability to look forward is what will distinguish leaders matching the global, human challenges of these times.

Home Sweet Home? (August 28, 2009)

This is very odd. My return flight from London landed bang on time at 7:30 PM last night. As luck would have it, Eddie had just touched down from South Carolina and walked over to my arrival area just as I was walking out. I was glad to see him and we had so much to talk about on the cab ride home.

I was feeling a little rough after the long flight. I developed a touch of the flu the night before I left London that worsened by the following morning. I tried to rest and relax on the plane, but of course, that is often easier said than done. Still, my euphoria kept me going and I gave my cats a hug and started setting my dusty and hairball filled apartment to rights. In so many respects, it is good to be back. There’s just one problem.

It doesn’t feel right. I wonder if this will start to wear off with the passing of the days, and as my jetlag subsides, but something has changed and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I have always said that Chicago is the greatest City in the world, and in many respects it is. But there’s now a competitor on the board for me, and I connected with London so very deeply that it really did at times feel like I was exactly where I am supposed to be.

Can you feel homesick for a place in which you have only spent four days? A town where you were not born, but maybe feel you should have been? Because in thinking more about my Westminster meltdown, the feeling I come away with is one of deja vu, as if I have been there before, and if not, than at least the mothership was pulling me in with her tractor beam.

An American Boop in London (August 21, 2009)

So tomorrow night is the night lambs. I am on a plane overseas. As my good friend Jessica so crudely puts it, “Becky Does Britain.” Now, now, in the film of my life (what, you don’t imagine your existence as one long art house picture too?), it’s not going to be THAT kind of scene.

Jessica moved to London a few months back to join her new husband Nick. I will be spending my days and nights catching up with my old friend, including a meetup with two other gals that toured South Africa with Jess and I in 1996, as part of the Chicago Children’s Choir. In the past, Jessica and I going out for a night on the town was akin to waving grain alcohol in front of an open flame – plenty of danger of spontaneous combustion. But we are older married ladies now and our kicks have taken on a new form.

As our loyal readers may or may not know by this point, Boop has both a BA as well as an MA in English Literature. What this means is that I dedicated seven years of my life to studying the history, geography and literary culture of a land which I have never seen. While some might find this odd, I must own that for awhile I found it to be one of my more amusing biographical idiosyncracies. There have been a few near misses in the past, but as of Sunday, the suspense will finally end.

I have no doubt I will love the place and everything I do to amuse myself: a Shakespeare walking tour, morning jogs along the Thames, a Jack the Ripper nighttime crime excursion – even one of those red, double decker bus rides. I have heard London is a painfully expensive place to visit, but as my plane ticket, hotel and tours are already paid for, I think I’ll be able to watch my funds. I want to live as Londoners do: taking the Tube rather than taxis, fish and chips and warm beer at hole-in-the-wall neighborhood pubs. This, my friends, is life.

If I run into Amy Winehouse or the Queen (equally appealing to me), I will be sure to send your regards. I am bringing my laptop with me overseas, and provided my hotels have free WiFi, I will be able to post some of my photos, thoughts and notes, as I did when I went to Israel in April.