Hello, friends. How are you doing out there? It’s been a difficult January for many of us, and I’ve been doing my damndest to keep my head above water and not drown in the ocean of rage and despair in which I’ve been treading. This blog isn’t typically about politics, but I am a political animal, and the situation down South (and at home) has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I know I’m not alone in this. At my weakest moments, the fear and worry I have is almost palpable, and I am not even American. But the thing is, in this moment in history, this is a situation that affects us all, regardless of our nationalities. We’re human beings, watching executive orders being put in place that are more divisive than protective. We’re watching decisions being made that will cause people to die, and that are grounded in ‘alternative facts’. So, what do we do? How do we pursue joy, in the face of hate? Here a few of my thoughts.
It’s been tricky, as a Canadian, to figure out my place in all of this. Canada and the United States share the longest undefended border in the world, but Canadians don’t actually have the ability to vote in the American election, nor the ability to call a member of congress to voice our discontent. Yet, certainly, our interests are intrinsically linked. What is happening there affects us here, economically, in terms of trade, environmentally, because we share lakes and land and air, and socially, as we’ve witnessed rising numbers of hate crimes since the US election, including a hateful, shocking and tragic act of white supremacist terrorism in Quebec City. I know that my place is in the resistance, regardless of my nationality.
I cannot keep silent in the face of these atrocities, so, I decided that I needed to write this post. This is the soap box I have, so I am standing on it. On social media, I share the posts of my American friends and family who are part of the resistance, in order to spread information to other Americans on my feed about how they can participate and take action. I have donated to Planned Parenthood, whose funding is being threatened, because everyone deserves access to healthcare regardless of their income, and because I believe reproductive rights are sacrosanct. Another option is to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union who are currently at work supporting individuals affected by the Muslim ban. While currently the ban has been overturned, the fight is not over.
If you have an opportunity to join a political protest, vigil or march, that’s another way to speak out. I marched in Toronto on January 21 at a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington. Being a part of a peaceful political protest that mobilized millions of people around the world felt like a powerful moment in history. For the first time since the election, I had hope again. I saw the connections between us, rather than the divisions. I saw strong individuals of a multitude of races, cultures, gender identities and beliefs coming together in the name of human rights, and it was a beautiful thing.
In my personal life, I’ve also been working on self-care. The constant bombardment of news from the South can be overwhelming. But, I believe that the personal is also political, and in the face of this hate, I’ve chosen to create. I’ve taken up crochet once again, and the simple, meditative act of making something with my hands, and of giving a gift of warmth to someone else feels like a tiny act of defiance. I made pink pussy hats for friends going to Washington, and with leftover yarn, made one for myself as well. Each time I wear it, it is a symbol of my resistance; it has also helped me make connections with other like minded individuals.
(Thanks to Amber Wilson for this awesome pic!)
I’ve also been writing more again, connecting with my art and passion. I finished a script recently, which brought me immeasurable joy, and gave me a place to escape to when I was feeling overwhelmed by the current political environment, which is key. Find something that you love that will provide an escape for times when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Music, for example, can be an incredible escape. Sing, play an instrument, or make an empowering playlist. I made myself a ‘resist’ playlist on Spotify and have been listening to it on a loop. It helps.
Take care of your physical health
For me, another important act of self-care is to eat cleanly and exercise. There is a strong connection between the body and mind, and my lifelong impulse has been to eat in times of stress. This month, I’ve been focused on making lots of beautiful food, and exercising regularly. When I feel the most powerless, I get myself to the gym, because that is something that is within my control. Rage is best funnelled into a productive outlet, and for me, the gym is a very practical part of that. When you abuse yourself out of stress, fear, and anger, the dark side wins.
Finally, try to take the time to have an open dialogue with people who share different opinions from yourself, and who come from different cultures and hold different perspectives. This election was the most polarizing of our time. Comment sections everywhere are filled with hurled insults, on both sides of the debate. If we aren’t able to have conversations with one another that cross the political divide, we will never be able to fix the chasm that currently divides us, becoming ever deeper. I am not suggesting that we attempt to engage with online trolls, because that act is futile and counterproductive. But, if you have an opportunity, talk to someone whose values are different from your own. Gently talk about where you stand and why, and be open to hear about their position as well. People tend to surround themselves with those who reinforce their own world view, but this isn’t always constructive. Obviously, you can’t force a conversation on someone who doesn’t want to engage, but when you do have the opportunity, listen. It can go a long way.
On Saturday, as I was walking to the bus station, through Yonge and Dundas square (in downtown Toronto) I came across a protest opposing the Muslim ban in the United States, and once again I felt filled with hope. In the resistance, I find comfort. In the ordinary and extraordinary acts of heroism that have taken shape over these last few weeks, I find inspiration. Do not despair, friends. We are still here, and we will not acquiesce in the face of tyranny.