It's after midnight on Thursday as I'm writing this, which technically makes it Friday. I can't sleep. My mind is swirling with thoughts after hearing of the attack today in Barcelona and allowing curiosity to get the best of me as I scrolled through the KKK's Wikipedia page, reading of their horrific history. I feel like it's time to be more frank about something. Something that I get asked a lot.
Let me make it quite clear. Luke and I chose to live in England because of the 2016 US Presidential Election. Early in the morning on Wednesday, 9 November, I woke from a dream of Michelle Obama crying with me, comforting me. Before it was even 5:00AM in Colorado, we decided I would be the one to move, ending the long distance chapter of our relationship.
I used to hesitate to tell people that, not knowing where they would fall on the political spectrum, not knowing if I was inviting an argument or an expression of jealousy that I had a ticket out of the US--or anything in between. In 2008, in 2012, I heard people say that they would move to Canada if McCain or Romney won the election. Heck, my dad was one of them. I don't want to be the butt of a joke, someone who jumped shipped on their country because of an election. But make no mistake, Trump's America is vastly different than an America helmed by the Republicans of 2008 or 2012. I didn't feel that America would be on a path I wanted to be on under this presidency and I took my opportunity to distance myself from it.
Two days after the election, I posted this on my Instagram page:
My heart breaks for those who have reacted to the election results by burning the American flag or have stated the new President Elect is "not my president". Because here's the thing, I'm an American and on January 20, Mr. Trump will be my president. Because of this reality, I want to do everything in my power to show my fellow Americans and the rest of the world that as my president, he does not represent my values. Only I can hold myself accountable for my actions so I will work to bring more love into this world instead.
There are a lot of policies the Republicans and Donald Trump pushed during the election that I didn't agree with. There still are. There were in 2008 and 2012 as well. But John McCain and Mitt Romney were different. They were respectable, honorable men. They didn't give a voice and a platform to white supremacy, nationalism, hate groups, and neo-Nazis the way Trump does. The idea of them sitting in the Oval Office never made me consider actively, daily showing my fellow humans that their morals, values, or beliefs, what they said--or didn't say--represented me as an American or as a person.
It's weird being here and watching what's happening from thousands of miles away. I now live in the second largest city in the United Kingdom. Steven Emerson claimed on Fox News in January that Birmingham is 100% Muslim and non-Muslims wouldn't dare enter into the city. It's actually 21.8% Muslim. (In comparison, the Muslim population is 0.14% in Boulder, Colorado.) I see Muslims every single day. I pass them in the city center. When I sit in my front room, I can see women in beautiful hijabs push their children in prams down my street. More than once, I've walked by a table outside the Bull Ring set up to bring awareness that ISIS does not represent Muslims. One day last month I was on the subway in London. A group of Muslim women headed to Heathrow got on and one woman thought she rolled over my foot with her suitcase, so she apologized profusely. (By the way, she spoke perfect English in a perfect English accent and she didn't roll over my foot.) A few moments later, I told her the plastic thing from her tag was still on her shirt. She thanked me and we smiled at each other. It made me think what it's like to be her, to be of her faith.
Before I moved to England, there seemed to be a spike in violence and terrorist attacks in England and Europe. Trump used attacks in London and Manchester to push his Muslim ban (speaking before knowing all of the facts). Yes, England has its own set of problems right now. We can't ignore Brexit or the reality that the break from the European Union was born from nationalism to keep refugees from pouring into the country. But sometimes I feel like people here pity me for my citizenship. People ask me about Trump without even considering that I might be a supporter. It just seems like the notion of putting someone like that in power is almost unimaginable here, after everything Europe has been through. I certainly feel more comfortable telling people Trump was the final straw in our decision on where to live.
I used to see things about the violence during the civil rights movement, about fascism, about the treat of nuclear war and think, "Can you even imagine?" Look around. You don't have to imagine what it was like for those people anymore. We're living it. We have the history readily available, but we don't have a leader who is willing to stand up and condemn that kind of hatred and violence. It's shameful. It feels like there's something new, something horrific, something shocking every day coming out of the States. We're living in seriously frightening times. We're on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea and the two men holding the buttons seem to have the most fragile egos in the world. The KKK are marching alongside Nazis in the streets of America, calling the Trump courageous, honorable, honest for not condemning their actions.
I don't even know what to say or what to think. In trying to write this, I can't even find a specific topic to land on between Muslims, Charlottesville, or North Korea. The common thread seems to be Trump and his irrational, unscripted outbursts. It's really scary. And I'm really angry.
I didn't move to England to abandon my country and watch it burn from across an ocean. I moved here because I felt that I had an opportunity for a better life. I can't control what happens here or there. I can only control me. I can only use my voice to condemn hatred and violence. I can only use my actions to bring love and light into the world.
The day after the election was hard. I decided to move to a new country. I was sick to my stomach. I cried with a co-worker. I was in disbelief and I was scared. When I finally thought I could stomach some food, I drove to Chick-Fil-A around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. I got my usual order at the drive thru and decided to pay for the woman in the vehicle behind me. It made me feel better. It made me feel hopeful. I don't know how her day was looking, but mine was shit and then suddenly it wasn't. Out of that encounter, I decided to actively do something kind for someone every single day. I set my goal for something measurable: 1,534 days, 1,534 acts of kindness. It's been 282 days, January 20, 2021 is still 1,252 days away. Some days I'm not a great person, some days I struggle to be kind to anyone, including myself. I can't always give time or money. But I'm trying and I know it's changed me for the better.
Being in a new country has expanded my horizons and birthed new experiences. Since the beginning of this year, I've also been to four other countries. What I've seen is that we're all the same, no matter where we are or where we're from. We're all just humans and we all just have to take care of each other.
My post-election Instagram posted ended with:
If there's one coherent feeling I can actually make sense of this week, it's that I'm out of excuses for choosing not to love and serve. It's more important now than ever, in my opinion. I would urge you who are unhappy with the results to get involved in your communities where you can. Vote in the mid-term elections in 2018. Accept Mr. Trump as your president, but reject the notion that love does not trump hate. Make no mistake, electoral college elected Mr. Trump, but the American people elected Secretary Clinton. Let that be a sliver of hope to you that the majority of Americans did not buy into the racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia. Remember the words of First Lady Obama: "When they go low, we go high." Smile at a stranger. Meet your neighbor. Teach your children to be accepting of everyone. Commit a random act of kindness. Trust in God. [Matthew 22:37-39]
(Yes, I am still an American citizen. Yes, I can still vote in American elections.)