I have done a lot of thinking over the past week, about a lot of things. Recently a lot of that has been interrupted by “Was that a tremor? Do I need to get up and find a doorway? Oh no, it’s okay, it was just the wind…”
But this post is not about earthquakes, despite the fact that they have rubbed all my emotional and adrenal nerves raw. (There’s no such thing as adrenal nerves, I know this, it’s a metaphor, LOOK IT’S BEEN A LONG WEEK SHUT UP.)
I’ve watched the internet explode in fear and not an insubstantial amount of in-fighting. And I’m not going to lie. I’m beginning to think I don’t have the energy to fight with the people who are meant to be on my side over the details. So I’m sitting down and trying to figure out what I can do from my very distant earthquake-ravaged land that may actually make a difference.
I want to do something.
This isn’t just about America. America is symptomatic of a bigger thing. And I totally understand why Americans need to hunker down and fight their own battles. They are big, and globally significant, and if I can help I will. But I can’t write to senators, and I can’t vote on anything there, and I can’t really even afford to send money to organisations that do. So I am asking myself, what can I do?
Here is my answer, best as I can figure it.
I can tell my stories. I don’t talk about my childhood that much, or at least when I do, I do it in very broad strokes. Growing up as a white kid in Apartheid South Africa during the 80s and 90s is a weird thing to try and explain. My memories are all distorted, like everyone’s are. My childhood was actually pretty idyllic. I remember people with guns, and I remember bomb scares, and I remember big posters on the walls in our schools with pictures of bombs so we could identify them if we saw them. But this stuff was just part of the fabric of my world. Mostly my world was running around barefoot in the grass and swimming till my eyes were red from chlorine. (And don’t think I don’t know what a privilege that was. I do.)
The thing is though that I think, suddenly, that my perspective as a child in that world may be very valuable right now. Because I am about as leftie liberal as it is possible to be. My political views are really pretty socialist when you get right down to it. AND I CAME FROM THAT. I came from a white working/middle class which was full of good people who actively or passively supported a white supremacist government.
Of course 80s South Africa is not modern USA, of course there are a multitude of differences. But if you want to understand how basically good white people support these monsters, well, that I understand IN MY BONES. I don’t agree. But I get it.
I’m basically your spy from the inside. ;P
Maybe all I can do from my very great distance is try to forge understanding. Not because I think you should understand and empathise or see them as victims, but because if you really want to win, you need to grasp what you’re fighting. This isn’t a “let’s all just try to get along” thing. It is THEIR minds and hearts I wish to change. But you, my darling freaks and weirdos, my beautiful non-conforming warrior people of every colour and creed, you need to understand your enemy. You need to understand that the armies are not made up of monsters. These people are ALSO victims.
And I am not for one second saying you have to rescue them too. That’s not your job, it’s theirs, even if they don’t realise it yet. I’m saying that to win this war, we have to take the power from the generals. And that means dismantling fear and hatred. Because that is where their power lies.
The battle, right now, for many of you, is to survive the next four years. And that is no small task. And what I can do from here to help with that I will do, with all my heart. But I think my energies may be best spent largely fighting a bigger war.
So I will be going back to what I do best. Telling stories. Finding stories, all the stories, from all the voices, not just a select few, and putting them into the world, and trying to find ways to get them into the right hands, and the right minds, and the right hearts. I will, in the words of the wonderful Neil Gaiman, MAKE GOOD ART.
If anyone in the US has practical advice on things I can do from my beautiful green and rocky isle, I would love to hear them. In the meantime though, I will fight hatred on my own turf when I find it, and do what I can to send light into the darkness. Because I don’t know what else to do.