You wake up in the morning. You go to work, if it’s something you enjoy you work hard to get better, learn more and be more. If payday just came around you order out or go out and people watch and life takes you like that from one day to another and slowly you start feeling like maybe you have some semblance of a plan because everything is looking up and things are falling into place.
2016 started out that way. Brexit and the US elections were coming up but since, at least on a personal level I was feeling positive I thought everything would turn out OK, because we had learned our lessons and the world would finally show the far right that that century had passed and hatred and fear were no longer in our collective emotional vocabulary.
“Where do you see yourself five years from now?” – is a job interview cliche. Whenever I get asked that my answer is always “I’ll be looking back at my current self and seeing a person who doesn’t know anything about anything” and I think that is poignant now – in 2015 I knew nothing about how much people can hate, how much of an echo chamber I was living in, from the media I consume, to the people I associate myself with. But slowly but surely I felt xenophobia closing in.
My friends and I were in Britain the day after the Brexit vote. I was randomly selected for a few questions by airport security, not in a way that would’ve stopped someone with malicious intent but enough that it made me feel a little uncomfortable. Later in a pub I told this story to a stranger and he said “welcome to being black”. I’d never thought of myself as non white before, it just wasn’t ever an issue, but I guess I am a little tan as some Romanians are, but… what’s that got to do with anything?
Everyone in London was friendly, I loved it, the atmosphere though was uneasy, people were shocked about the outcome, and then England lost to Iceland and everything was no longer falling into place. A majority of people in a nation that had always been a part of Europe, on the forefront of every cultural shift that has impacted our continent had chosen to believe they would be better off on their own than working together with everyone else, for goals that are common.
Furthermore, a continent of seven hundred million people who live the most secure and comfortable lives humanity has ever experienced, feels threatened by the influx of just one million others, who just want to take part in that, and maybe contribute in their way. We are horrified by the deaths of hundreds at the hands of madmen with an agenda but will not bat an eye about the eighty four thousand road deaths in Europe last year, which amounts to two Paris attacks daily . I decry how shortsighted we seem to be.
That said, Brexit hasn’t happened yet, and in a way I still cling to the hope that it won’t though the cynic in me can’t see a way for it not to.
Surely, I thought, seeing the reaction to this, America will come to its’ senses and do the right thing and say “no” to demagoguery, outright racism and misogyny. Surely, they remember the pain and the horror that all of this has brought before. Surely, they will act.
I wake up in the morning, with an empty feeling, that makes me nauseous. Everything is out of place, Leonard Cohen died, Brexit is still happening, and Trump is still President-elect of the United States of America.