Today I woke up to a sprinkling of snow, my cats were mesmerised by it, I knew that I had a busy day ahead so I checked my diary and the opened my emails and turned on the radio. Fortified by two large cups of tea and I time of prayer, I braced myself for the news that I was expecting. Donald Trump had won the race to the Whitehouse and is now America’s President Elect. The sliver of slim hope that I had held onto evaporated, much as it had in June when I woke to hear the result of the EU referendum which had ushered in Brexit.
I was not surprised, though I know that many were, but this so called sudden change has I believe been creeping up on us for a long time, gaining momentum through the recession and economic crash in the late 90’s and through the 2000’s , fueled by western consumerism gone mad and lack of proper regulations, the whole world has been affected. Famines resulting from climate change have caused wars and unrest, leading to an unprecedented refugee crisis. From there it has been a short step to scaremongering and the build up of horrible rhetoric of hate and division that seems to be sweeping across the western world. What is more sad is that the rise of separatism and fascism , with its gradual build up of hateful separatism is not new, it’s last major incarnation in WWII’s holocaust with the acceptance of ghettos and concentration camps, torture and has it seems taught us nothing, neither have subsequent wars and genocides and acts of inhumanity in the name somehow preserving national identity. In short it is all about expelling the other to make the “us” safe!
It seems that as a human race we are doomed to repeat our history over and over, that again and again we fail to learn, and perhaps it is not so much ironic as sad that the day that Trump was elected was also the anniversary of the day that the Berlin Wall came down,a small message scrawled on its remains reads: ‘None but those who have lived it can understand the real meaning of this wall. What really scares us is how easy it is to lose our freedom.’
“How easy it is to loose our freedom,” how easy it is to loose our humanity, how easy it is to be blind to the mistakes we have made, how easy it is for horror to be repeated.
So how then do we respond, both those of us who see the potential devastation and horror approaching at an ever increasing rate, stock markets responding, currency values falling, unrest increasing. Perhaps we still have a chance to stop this momentum, perhaps all of these things are wake up calls to a world that needs to grasp the power of peace, hope and love more than ever, for surely that is what we are all ultimately looking for, well at least we ordinary folk, and yet I fear that our fears have been stirred up and used against us.
Why is it that the politicians of any party have the power to stir up the people against one another, the answer because we give it to them, We allow our fears to be played upon, here in Britain we are told that refugees and migrant workers are bad, they are “stealing” our homes and jobs, “taking bread from our children’s mouths”, this is the beginning of the rhetoric of hate. Hate spills into violence and unrest feeds unrest as we are led to believe that we need to defend our rights and fascism grows apace. Lies are told while those with power and money line their nests….
But I understand where this fear comes from, for I have friends who have no choice but to use foodbanks and drop ins, friends whose money runs out long before the length of the month, through no fault or foolishness of their own. Friends who are being demonised at some level by the same people who are inciting them to hate because they are told that if it were not for refugees, migrant workers and others than they would have jobs and money and food for their children. These things make no sense to me, but I am privileged enough to be sitting in a warm office typing away on a new laptop writing this. If my money runs out before the end of the month then it is down to my own foolishness, and even then I sit secure in the knowledge that my bills are paid, the fear factor just does not have the same power over me. I have friends who voted for Brexit, and friends in America who voted for Trump, and I can understand why even if I don’t agree with them.
That said I watch with horror as refugees are turned away and treated appallingly, with horror as news of killings and drownings continue to fill the news. I watch with horror as benefits are withdrawn from the most vulnerable in order , or so we are told, to “encourage” them to find work. Just stop for a moment and ponder how easy it might be to be “encouraged” when you are cold, hungry, depressed and struggling.
Now I am not about to enter into politics, and I am aware that the picture that I have painted is both simplistic and from my own worldview, and I haven’t even begun to untangle the nuances of any particular situation. That said I cannot be silent, for I feel that more than ever we must set out a call to hope. We must look long and hard at how we live ( and I am including myself in this), at how my consumeristic tendencies affect the world around me, at how my prejudices exclude and divide me from my sisters and brothers around the globe.
More than ever I sense the call to make a difference, to dare to live differently and lovingly, to build bridges rather than erect walls, and to seek understanding rather than separation. I need to tease out for myself exactly what that will mean for my life. How I use the resources that I am given and how I speak out against the injustice I see. I need to do this because I am not an island, I am not separate from the world or anyone/ anything in it, and being aware of how I impact that world if even in a small way is an essential step in the right direction. If we all took small steps, consuming less and using less of the precious resources of this world, reducing our carbon footprint, and so on we will begin well, then how about making friends with someone who you might see as “the other”, learn from them, and learn how actually the likelihood is that you share many of the same hopes and fears, and exactly the same basic needs including the need to be in relationship/ community.
We are connected, no matter what our skin colour, wealth , sexuality or religious affiliation, oceans don’t so much divide as connect us, and understanding might just lead to mutual respect and dare I hope it, but to love one for another.
The call I hear resonating deep within my soul is that call to love, the call to include, the call to embrace. To see this beautiful planet restored in just the same way as I might desire to see relationships restored, so today when it might have been easy to give into despair I choose love and hope instead, I choose to seek knowledge that will lead to restoration, and I will begin by taking a small step towards healing and away from hate.
Today I woke up to a sprinkling of snow, tomorrow I will wake up daring to choose life, not just for myself but for all, and I will begin to take small steps towards that life, and life in all its fullness.
I leave you with the words of Psalm 13, a lament that dares to turn to hope:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
and the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, him, then he will sit and all the angels with on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Maybe a good beginning would be to seek Christ/ love in one another…
( Photo by my son Jon at a rally for peace and to support the vulnerable in Manchester last year)