Those who know me are aware that I don’t usually weigh in on political issues. I have my views and respect each country’s electoral system. But this morning I just could not hold back when I received several Facebook notifications with close Canadian friends expressing their disappointment about the US election results. When I saw the fifth posts from educated people calling to erect a wall between our countries I just had to post openly… This is what I said:
“Indeed a sobering day! My heart goes out to all my friends who woke up to what many of them call “nightmare” election results. I don’t speak out much on FB, least of all in a political manner, however I do not believe that “building a wall” physically or imaginary is going to be the answer. I grew up in West Germany when a wall divided the country – despite predictions that this wall would not come down in my lifetime, it did! The struggles to rebuild that country and unify are ongoing. – We need to remember that not everyone voted for the president elect. My many US friends I have met over the years are devastated – as are we. Hate blinds us all – let’s take a deep breath, watch closely and hope that reason prevails! It is a sad day for humanity today and we need to steel ourselves for a potential volatile future. But Canada and the US have shared so much throughout history… Stay engaged, reach out to friends and neighbours and apply the Golden Rule, something I was asked to define during my citizenship exam when I became a Canadian Citizen in 1988. Justin Trudeau is setting a great example this morning at his WE event speech. His words really resonate with me! Thanks for letting me weigh in.”
Little did I know that I would receive personal emails accusing me to be a Trump sympathizer. This could not be further from the truth! And here is why:
As mentioned above, I grew up in Germany:
– when the wall was erected overnight and divided a country into two.
– when parents and grand-parents kept instilling a deep fear that the Russians are going to come in through “the backdoor” (meaning the Bavarian Forest which is not far from Prague and only hours from my hometown).
– when my maternal grandmother would tell me stories about the many friends she lost after they were deported and fell victim to the Holocaust.
– when history from 1933 through 1950 was glanced over in school after drilling us with the Mesopotamian and Egyptian timelines…
I was traveling in the Eastern US during August 2015 when today’s president elect was delivering his first volatile speeches. I could not help but draw parallels between his facial expressions and hand gestures and compare them to the German dictator who took power in 1933. My initial reaction was one of panic and then deep worry. When I spoke about my observations and concerns to both my US and Canadian friends I was told “He will never get in because he does not like to take direction.”
The worry didn’t leave and after reading Michael Moore’s open letter a few weeks ago I knew that my concerns were justified.
What has happened? Why have we all put our heads in the sand and not spoken out with a stronger voice when Mr. Trump made disparaging remarks about various ethnic groups, immigration and about women? We did not believe that racism and sexism could run this rampant in the civilized world!
This is not not the “Great American Dream” everyone talks about. We have stepped back by at least 50 years! As one of my friends said to me today: “This day sets women back decades. Climate change is in the tank, racial prejudice will run rampant!”
I am in agreement with all that but here is a thought: …you can deal with anything if you know what it is – it’s the shadow side we can’t cope with, because we can’t touch it or confront it. The elusiveness of it is what undoes any changing…
So, with that said I want us to remember that PM Justin Trudeau’s comment about shared values did not refer to his relationship with Mr. Trump. It referred to the history that Canada and the US share. International leaders are all reaching out to begin their dialogue with the 45th President of the USA. Waiting to do so would mean everyone is putting their heads even deeper into the sand.
Despite all the social media avenues, 24 hour news channels, Google and various way to feel plugged in and believing that we have the finger on the pulse… this was a blow but was it really so unexpected? I have deeply immersed myself into that part of history that was nearly completely omitted from German school curricula in the 1960s and 1970s. Unbiased books are available and they remind us that history can repeat itself… Trump targeted the under-educated and openly admitted this in his early days of the campaign. Changing the standard of and broadening education must be the first step in creating change.
My heart goes out to all my friends who had their dream interrupted. Today is a new day and we know what we have to do: Let’s not loose hope and heart! This is not a time to call for walls, physical or imaginary. It is a day to remind ourselves that democracy and fighting for what you believe in happens more often than once every four years, it must be a daily goal.
I cut my walk short today because I felt the need to put my thoughts into some cohesive sentences… I hope I have succeeded. Now I can go forward and focus on what comes next.