2016: The year that never was.

This morning my Mum left this outside my bedroom door:

I’m not American, but a picture says a thousand words. 

So here we are. Twenty Sixteen. Two thousand and sixteen years since we started counting up from zero. Yet somehow, as I’m sat here writing this, I feel as though I could be sat in a cave waiting for mankind to evolve into something less primitive and more… well, human.

I guess it started off as optimistic as any other new year. All our usual personal resolutions and goals. And although both the EU referendum in the UK and the US election were very real, they still felt very distant. And many of us were probably still naively hopeful for positive, fair outcomes (Despite growing doubt over both campaigns – see the associated lies, scaremongering, general bigotry, misogyny and racism). Oh dear, how naive we were.

Because over halfway through another decade, ever nearer to 2020, well on our way into the 21st Century, somehow, and I really don’t know how, 2016 turned into the year prejudice came back into fashion. It was no longer an outdated feeling. A memory of days gone by. No longer something that was being suppressed as often as it was condemned. But actually a fashion. Something people agreed with, and openly. A political statement. A slogan for so called politicians and their supporters to push antiquated agendas into the public arena.

Brexit marked the start of a long and confused second half of 2016 for me. I’m in no doubt many shook their heads as the UK turned it’s back on our neighbours. (52% of us anyway). Genuine concerns aside, I think it was a well known fact that a huge, if not deciding, factor in voting for Brexit was ignorance and prejudice toward foreigners. Specifically those “taking our jobs and houses”. Farage and co did well there then. Tapping into people’s anger and hatred at the country’s economic situation and channelling it all onto the easiest scapegoats they could find, instead of the elite that got us here in the first place. How original. The slogan “we want our country back” was bandied around so much, I almost forgot to ask where the hell they thought it had gone in the first place? Had the Romanians actually stolen it from us? We’re the Lithuanians dragging it across the channel as we spoke? Were Syrian refugees really going to steal all our jobs and houses and bank cards and British identity? You get the picture. But still, Brexit became a reality. So was it based on truthful, fact-based conversation and debate? Oh no. But based on lies painted on the sides of buses and a first class muppet holding a pint glass, spouting right wing ideals? Sure. 

So come November the 8th and the US election. Here’s the spoiler: Donald Trump is now President. He vowed to “Make America Great Again” (there’s one of those handy little slogans again). A man who is about as qualified as myself to run a country is going to do just that for at least the next four years. And I’d probably build less walls. And he was voted in on good policy, character and knowledge you say? Nope. I do believe he was voted in based upon his vocal dislike of Mexicans, Latinos, African Americans, Women, LGBT, and Muslims.. to name a few. Sound familiar? I’m still rather angry and saddened by the whole thing and social media is, rightly so, still seething too. So I’ll leave you to read your own timelines as I’m sure you don’t need me to double up on the general despondent sentiment out there today.

During Brexit, there was a saying then that not every Vote Leave was racist, but every racist was Vote Leave. I stand by that for one very simple reason. Those leading the arguments of the leave campaign were somehow managing to stir up support from some extremely right wing, and yes, racist communities. Maybe they need to stop being defensive, and need to ask why those sorts of attitudes felt drawn to their policies in the first place. Same goes for the KKK lending their support to Trump. Need I say more? One of my favourite artists once put it very simply: they’re more afraid of being called racist than they actually are of racism. And that’s an extremely sad, dividing and most of all scary thought.

But think on this for a second. It’s 2026, and we look over the pond to America who now has a new President that is not Trump. (Providing he hasn’t nuclear bombed us all.. Yay!) But what are we going to have learnt? Are we going to realise that those hopefully 4, possibly 8, years taught us a lesson? One for the history books? Of how a dangerous rhetoric can bring out the worst in some of us? Are we going to realise it was all a bit wrong and backward? Or are we going to bury our heads in the sand and just carry on for another 2000 years living with this prejudice in our societies?

We have a choice, here and now. To let parts of our society remain fearful and divisive and, I believe the root of it all, judgemental. Or we can learn and teach. Learn from times like this that sometimes, prejudice may seem to be in fashion, but we all know ugly fashions go out of style. Love, tolerance and acceptance of minorities and all backgrounds will always be stronger than the things, and people, that set out to separate us.
Love really does Trump hate. And although I’m desperately sad for the world right now, deep down I think I still believe in that. 

Get on with it, I won’t. Accept the result, I won’t. I will not, cannot, stand with those who accept these ideas and divisive rhetoric. Politicians and voters alike. We have to prove that for once… Silence is not an option. We have to speak and do now, or as they say, forever hold our peace. This is one last note for everyone: be an ally to those who need you. Be an ally for humanity.

“Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble. And there is always time”. And we do have time if nothing else, so let’s start now.

Love, Suzy.


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