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.
I agree, we need to keep communications open. This is not the time to abandon those who need our support. If this man was not just using shock tactics to get elected, we all need to be prepared to speak out and support moderate rather than extreme measures. Extremism on any front just leads to human suffering.Let’s avoid the “If you’re not for me, you’re against me” mentality.(Just because Anna made some moderate comments, some jumped to the false conclusion that she supported Trump.)
Education for all should be a top priority so that people learn to think and weigh ideas carefully. Then they would not be so easily swayed by rabble-rousers who in the long run are only intent on their own gain.
You are so right, Anna.
Pat, thank you for adding your very poignant commentary. Your words are wise and measured – I appreciate you weighing in!
Well said Anna!! We do have to be very vigilant to what Mr. Trump (and his supporters) do now with this power he has been given. As you said we never thought he would get this far. Now we need to hold him accountable for all his words and actions, and not let them be excusable for any reason!
Dear Anna: I religiously read your blog because there is so much to think about in terms of art, but this blog really hit home for me. Today, over half of my country is in mourning. Thank you so much for articulating what we are feeling. It is a huge set back for women, and I hope to elect a woman prez in my lifetime. We, as a country, must prevail. I heard on the news tonight about the respect for the office of the presidency, but that respect must be earned. Thank you for your sympathy. Anara Thomas, Bellingham, WA >
Anara, putting my thoughts into sentences was the least I could do. Best wishes, Anna
Thank you Anna. That was so beautifully said. I aprrecitate you more than words will ever say. It is a sad and dark day for the world. The entire world. Thank you.
Nan, you and your family are very dear to me. Always on my mind and here if you need me!
Hi Anna, your post truly reflects your commitment to your adopted land and values of equality. You make a good point by noting that we can deal with what we know. In calling on us to speak up you call us to be accountable for living our own values and beliefs. In general we just laughed him off and thought that he was a joke. By making the connection to history we can only say that we have been warned and start to figure out how we can counteract the divisive effect he has.
Thank you, Elinor. Yes, studying history is so important. It helps us recognize political trends and potential dire developments. I am grateful to my maternal grandmother who instilled this curiosity and appreciation for history and culture.
Very well said, as an immigrant to this country after the second. world war I to fear what this man is capable of. My father and 4 of his brothers fought for the freedom , one is buried in Holland and never got to come home. My mother and her 3 brothers also fought for the freedom we have today. My husband fought in Korea, so I know and honor my freedom. GOD BLESS US ALL FOR WE ARE ALL HIS CHIDREN.
Annette, thank you for sharing your story! We are all on guard, watching carefully to move forward accordingly.
Thanks for the essay. Clear thinking will continue to be necessary. I forgot that you had direct experience with a wall and all of its symbolism, as well as its physical, economical and political reality. For now, I find it difficult to watch the news.
Enjoy your trip and the new baby.
Sent from my iPad
Thanks, Dorothy! Yes, the news are very difficult to watch but we have to remember not to hide. the more we know the better prepared we are to observe and identify when action is needed!
Thank you for your post. It is a sad day. When a man can become president of the United States on a campaign of hate, democracy and just plain decency are in trouble.
I agree, Carol. As long as we don’t forget how he obtained his position we can be better prepared for what might be ahead. He certainly downplayed his behaviour during his victory speech today… However, all we need to do is watch him and his family on that stage. He is the leader, everyone else follows behind. What makes anyone think that he will work in a team?
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oh, dear Anna – I was finishing dinner preparations when I saw that you’d posted something on your blog about the US election. (I keep my phone in the kitchen.) I stopped what I was doing and read your blog post to Bruce. I was crying before I finished reading. I said to Bruce “this is a German-born Canadian citizen who is expressing her concerns about *our* country, based, in part, on her experiences growing up in Germany.”
your post was so insightful and so eloquent. I am truly honored to call you my friend.
Laurie, I never intended to evoke such emotion – but did feel compelled to “voice” my concerns for my friends south of the border and my friends in Canada who (I am sure) without little thought posted “let’s build the wall”. What would that bring? It can only lead to more hatred and acrimony. Reaching out with kindness and understanding and offering a safe place to talk and connect is what we all need now!
I have made so many good friends in your country, many I consider as close as family. I cannot imagine turning my back now. Hugs to everyone!
Very eloquently stated.
Thank you, Erica!
Thank you Anna for your insightful comments.
Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. I am praying for the world today.