Like many of you, I was feeling pretty dark on November 8th and the days after. While Trump wasn’t elected to office here in Canada, I joined in the horror of many Americans and fellow humans across the planet as a man who ran a campaign on misogyny, racism, nationalism and bigotry was elected to one of the highest offices in the world. A man who shunned facts, research and the simple act of listening to others. A man who insisted that everything was terrible, and he alone was the one to “fix it.”
I’m not going to delve into the “how did this happen,” as I’m sure we’ve all read enough articles and seen enough news coverage on the politics behind how enough people “just wanted change” no matter what xenophobic, fear mongering imbecile claimed to bring it.
As I watched America step back in time, and saw Canadians like Kellie Leitch, the current leader in the leadership bid for the Conservatives, embrace Trump and “his message”, I wondered what the future held. Are we on the precipice to the dissension into authoritarian rule? Civil War? Where will we be in 20 years if agencies like the United Nations fail, where we no longer trust our allies, where capitalism and the quest for personal gain trumps what is best for society as a whole?
Of course, we can’t simply hide in the dark and fear the future. Now is the time to ask: what can we DO to combat the hate and fear? At the end of the day, that is what this new “alt-right” is: hate and fear. A dangerous, very dark combination of emotions. And in a world where most people vote based on their feelings and not facts, we all need to think creatively about how to create change.
As person who is not religious, I celebrate light during the holidays. And religious holidays have embraced these roots as
well. During the 2016 Festival of Lights, I am going to send a challenge out to you, my fellow humans. Let’s all pledge to listen and learn this holiday season. Here is a list of things that I hope we can all do this season to combat fear and hate, and to create a community that is safe, equitable and welcoming to all!
- Volunteer at a community nutrition centre or food bank, like Agape Table. Have a conversation with someone who uses these services. Find out who they are, and what circumstances have led them here, or speak to those who run these organizations to hear some history. Bring a friend or your family with you to volunteer. Find out what “hands up” those in these circumstances need, and be an advocate for change.
- Learn about a new culture. Do you have a colleague at work from a country you don’t know much about? Ask them to share their story. As I’ve had the fortune to meet and become friends with people from a vast spectrum of cultures, I’m always surprised at how much we all have in common. Borders are man-made, and all people are people. IRCOM has many ways you can engage as a volunteer, like becoming a language partner or a tutor.
Go out to a cultural event that is outside of your comfort zone. When was the last time you went to an art gallery? Or an independent theatre production, or some contemporary dance? Caught a band in a small venue, like the High and Lonesome Club, or the WECC? Human stories are told through art! Are you already a Culture Vulture? Invite a friend who normally wouldn’t attend to join you. What a great gift!
- Volunteer at a women’s shelter, find out more about RAY and how you can help youth who are struggling to get off the streets, research community outreach centres in your neighbourhood. Find out why dismissing misogynistic language like Trump’s as “locker room talk” is dangerous, and how it contributes to Rape Culture and abuse. Learn about the legacy of the residential school system, and how it is still effecting kids today who are growing up in a cycle of violence. You can’t fix these big social problems as one person, but by learning, empathizing, and ensuring you speak about these issues with your local politician, you can have a positive impact.
- Embrace nature and the great outdoors! This holiday season, get outside. Roll in the snow with your dog, invite your friends to skate on the river, check out a winter festival. When we value our air, our water and all of the beauty around us, we will protect it.
Yes, the world around us can be dark, and the days ahead will not be easy. But if we can find peace in ourselves, and hope for the future, we can expel the darkness by letting in the light.