Thursday, 10 November 2016

"I want to warn against partisan fighting; pick up a pen, start writing"

Well. That just happened.

This has been a really bad year for democracy. It has me wishing I hadn't studied politics and especially that I didn't know so much about German history, that I wasn't painfully aware of where this leads. I'd be so happy to be proved wrong in thinking this feels like 1933.

I now live in Edinburgh, Scotland. Here in the UK we've become familiar with electoral disappointment and undignified lying in the last six months. I've learnt a bit about how to deal with learning that my country isn't the place that I hoped and believed it to be. It's okay to be shellshocked and angry. Take some time to grieve, and then look forward. Let's harness our anger and our disappointment and make our countries into places that we're proud to come from. So that when we travel abroad and people ask where we're from we're not tempted to say "Canada". Stay angry and campaign. When they go low, we go high. We go high together.

Image from Igloo Letterpress - it's a fridge magnet and it's $13!

Since Tuesday morning I have mainly been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, and especially the song One Last Time. In it, George Washington tells Alexander Hamilton why he's resigning at the end of his second term as President. They resolve to make sure the nation they've worked to build lives after he's dead. Today we face as great a challenge in maintaining democracy as they did in establishing it. So let's ensure that we do.

Last year at university I did a unit called Transitions to Democracy, which also took in countries moving away from democracy. In January this year I wrote an essay (which I'll put up on this blog shortly) exploring whether the Third Wave of democracy has been reversed, and concluded that although antidemocratic movements appeared to be gathering pace in Hungary, Ukraine, and Poland, those movements did not necessarily form the start of a more general reverse wave towards authoritarianism.

Ten months later, I would write a very different essay. Democracy is in real crisis right now and it's up to us to secure its survival. In live footage from the Trump campaign's party on the BBC I saw his supporters chant "lock her up" once it became clear that Hillary had lost the election. Locking up one's electoral opponents is the first thing a dictator does. Next, one attacks judicial independence.

Image from Pixteller

So it's clear we need to pull together to maintain democracy and defeat hate. How can we do that? We  put those priorities above partisan needs. For example, in the by-election in Richmond Park this month, the Green Party are supporting the Liberal Democrat candidate rather than running one of their own, in order to have the best chance of an anti-Brexit MP being elected. There are talks of a Progressive Alliance in the next UK General Election (in 2020... probably).

In this post-truth era we can tell the truth. When we hear lies (about immigration, immigrants, Islam, LGBT people, benefits cheats, etc) we can shut them down. Even a "oh really? I wasn't aware that that was the case" in response to an untrue allegation can help. I'm not going to pull my punches or hide my principles any longer.

Most of all I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. I'm not going to go and see the new Harry Potter film (Johnny Depp), buy a Dyson product, or drink at Wetherspoons. Instead, I'm going to make a real effort to support companies whose ethics I agree with, and give what I can to charity. I have a dear friend who has pledged to give 10% of his income to charity, which I deeply respect. I give my time, instead; I spend 4 hours a week working in my local Oxfam shop (my job is 35 hours a week, so there's 10% there). And I'm going to write. When they go low, we go high.

Image from my Instagram (Lily_Actually)
We'll all really miss Obama. I was 14 in 2008 so his presidency has shaped my views of the USA. I'm also going to miss Tim Kaine: I really respect the way he takes his morals from his religion but doesn't think he should impose its teachings on anyone else. I'm going to miss Hillary Clinton. I was so sure we were going to wake up in a world where the US had elected its first female president. She has done so much to smash glass ceilings all over the place and we need to continue those efforts.

Screw your courage to the sticking place, my friends. Let's kill hate with kindness.

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