When Fear and Hatred Dictate Democracy

To My Fellow Americans,

Today has been a very intense day, and half of America is left angry and stunned. I was one of those people, but then I chose not to be.

What made me make this decision was when I was watching Stephen Colbert and I was struck by something I found very sad. He reported that half of the country’s Democrats are afraid of Republicans, and half of the country’s Republicans are afraid of Democrats. People are afraid of others who disagree, literally scared of them. (I don’t have a source for the study, but my Twitter and FB feeds would provide empirical evidence to back that up).

It didn’t used to be that way, I don’t think. I think the angry rightists and leftists were often made up of people like my grandfather who was worried about ‘the commies’ until the day he died in 2012, missing out on the news that we are are now actually worried about ‘the A-rabs.’ The angry leftists were often comprised of young students who didn’t understand the way the world worked (me included). These were people who were out of touch and under-educated/experienced, but overly obstinate and opinionated.

At least I think that is the case, but now, now the US is filled with angry people who don’t seem to be able to evaluate, analyse, and think critically about consequences (on both sides). For the Democrats the consequences of this have resulted in the impossibility for others to have dissenting viewpoints. Why could we not elect a socialist like Bernie Sanders? Answer: because everyone is afraid, and we don’t vote for what we really believe, we vote based on tactics (AKA who can beat whom in an election). For the right, this has resulted in people taking a risk due to fear. The risk has resulted in the election of someone with absolutely no experience and no knowledge of economics, political science, or history (three things greatly needed to run a major world power).

So here we are, going along with things and letting our emotions be played. Not learning the pros and cons of free trade so we can weigh in with a legitimate argument, not understanding the tangible and intangible costs and benefits of social services.

Ultimately, this is what a representative democracy should be and that is what our Forefathers had in mind, and on paper it sounds like a super idea: Elect the most qualified individuals that represent my wants and needs and I will go on contributing to society and we will all be cool. Well, that path has been DERAILED, and this is due to fear mongering.

We are too afraid to let third or fourth parties have a voice, because we are so afraid of losing. We won’t compromise with other parties, because they are scary and out to get us. (The right is going to ban abortion for everyone, and the left is going to make it possible for us to achieve the American dream!)  At the same time, we are electing people that don’t represent us, and then, even worse, we stop taking part in democracy.

Democracy is not just voting every four years (or maybe 2 if we are lucky). Taking part in democracy includes petitioning and protesting along the way. It involves voting in local elections for things like education reform. It is about educating yourself on what is the best for you, but not just you, how you sit in society and the world around you. It is about calling or emailing your local representatives and telling them what you want. Instead, we just let the politicians take care of things, so we don’t have to think. We let the parties go in any direction and don’t get involved except for once in four years.

So what do we do now?

First, I think we need to stop being afraid. Instead of telling the other side they are racist and xenophobic, we might want to make our case rationally, opening a dialogue. Sure, people might be racist and xenophobic (ok, some definitely are), but we need to ask people why they are and what they are afraid of. Do white families in the middle of America fear migrants because they are a real threat? Perhaps their past experiences, including the recent Great Recession, and lack of experience with mixed groups have made them afraid of change? I am not saying we need to be making excuses for behaviour, and some cannot be reasoned with, but I believe people are not inherently evil, but more than likely are just afraid.

Second, hands down, we need to focus on increasing funding for education, because it seems to keep people from being so bullied by fear. I am not just talking about getting the degrees, I am talking about investing in QUALITY EDUCATION, which allows people to critically think. We need to start taking part in democracy to help us achieve this. I do not care which side you are on, people who can critically think will not be bullied by fear and will learn to compromise, and more will be achieved.

Third, we need to start taking part in democracy, like really taking part, not just pretending by showing up every 1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in November every four years.

One positive thing to note, for better or worse, this campaign has opened a dialogue about racism and sexism that seemed to have been mostly closed since the 1970s. We need to seize the opportunity to engage with this dialogue and make lasting change that betters our society as a whole.

Most importantly today, before you begin Tweeting that Trump is not your president (as many did in 2012 when Obama was elected), ask yourself this, ‘Am I being driven by logic or my emotions?’ While you are at it, ask yourself why this happened and has it been of any consequence of your previous (lack of) political participation.

And finally ask yourself if this is the world you want to live in. If not, do something. Take part in this great, big, crazy, scary democracy and be heard, the opportunities are there, seize them.

So let’s do this, people. No time to lose!

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Michaelle Tauson

Turtle Poem

 

01 First steps into the unknown

First steps into the unknown,

 

02 Walk together

walk together,

 

03 Walk alone

walk alone.

 

04 It's a long road and we stray

It’s a long road and we stray,

 

05 And many times we wonder

many times we wonder,

 

06 Which way

which way.

 

07 Crossing hurdles and hills

Crossing hurdles and hills,

 

08 Its daunting

it’s daunting,

 

09 But daunting also thrills

but daunting also thrills.

 

10 So embrace the crazy ride

So we learn to embrace the crazy ride,

 

11 The magnificent unpredictability of life

the magnificent unpredictability of life,

 

12 And surf the tide

and surf its tide.

 

Fare thee well Auntie Yvonne!

To my great Auntie Yvonne,Yvonee

Today, 13th July 2015,  is your funeral day. I’m sorry not to be there to say goodbye in person and to pay tribute to your incredible life. Instead, I pay my tributes to you from here in Cambodia.

A few years back, someone (or perhaps it was you!?) created a facebook account in your name. Suddenly, I was receiving facebook likes from my 91 year old great aunt and I was impressed. I was even more impressed when the fb comments and chat appeared. Granted there were a few typos, a few too many commas and spaces, but it was typical of you to be so savvy – you were witty 500 victor in our family, the passionate bridge player, joker, curious and considerate great aunt. Your active mind kept you young for so long.

You were my granddad’s oldest sister and the last remaining of your siblings. I felt that your presence kept alive the memories we had of Mick and that he lived on through you. Over the last few years, you became to us an adopted grandparent and your presence at all important family occasions felt not only good, it felt right. There was someone missing if you were not there.

Your life was not easy. It was one of incredible ups and downs – not many have suffered the loss you have experienced in life and very few of us could maintain the incredible optimism, love, generosity and acceptance you have demonstrated in the face of great pain. That is perhaps one of the greatest lessons you have taught me – life can be very hard, but with family and friends by your side, love can get you through. Nothing could ever break your irrepressible spirit.

By lineage, you are my great aunt and great you are indeed. I will miss the sound of your voice down the hallway, your cane, your vibrant red hair and your tinted glasses. I will miss you calling me Emily. Mostly, I will miss the sound of your chuckle and your sight of your smile looking out to the Brisbane River with a “sparkling” in hand.

Fare thee well Auntie Yvonne and may all the beautiful qualities you possessed live on in us still here on earth.

As your sister-in-law would have said with a handkerchief in hand, “Hooray now.”

I think I broke something

I think I’ve never encountered such a fitting name for a song before: if you ever broke something that thought you couldn’t live without, I imagine it would feel like this song. Let me take you through the short but intense journey.

First 11 seconds – Denial. “I refuse to believe that this just happened”

12 – 18 seconds – Confusion. “It happened, but I can’t yet grasp what it means”

19 – 35 seconds – Realisation and grief. “I want to pull my heart out”

36 seconds – 1:00 minute – Dwelling and depression. “It hurts so much, I will never heal”

1:01 – 1:29 – Acceptance. “I have to accept that it’s lost”

1:30 – 1:33 – Silence