I felt it deeply, you know.
For those of us who value diversity and have it reflected in our work, lives and communities, this was a strike against what we believed was the status quo. How has the world’s largest superpower followed an alarming global trend that supports hateful and divisive rhetoric?
I’ve been taught differently since Sesame Street. These ideals were imported in, which is perhaps why I personally felt let down by them. To expect better, to rebel against oppression, to demand more, and to be that change. My instinct tells me to reject anything that challenges these ideals unequivocally. Yet, here we are the morning after, with the realization that I could have done a lot more to understand the societal fault-lines that have brought us here.
The thing is, when you get to half the population that seemingly repudiate the values that many of us hold dear, because these are the same people that feel hard done by a society who they say has left them behind, maybe we should have asked why. This is not about dissent of the ignorant– though they are out there too – people who feel their vitriol is validated. They are part of, but not representative of the silent majority.
This rise of the far or alternative right is steadfast and widespread and I suspect for reasons beyond what is immediately apparent. We can’t blame it all on Caucasian men, or women not having other women’s backs, or anything else that can be explained neatly and tied in a bow. We also can’t blame the DNC and Clinton scandals without looking at why Trump’s were ignored.
When you boil it all down, the republicans had a candidate that its own party reviled, but whom the voters identified with. We saw the opposite with Clinton. Voter turnout did the rest.
We must let ourselves consider that people who vote for the likes of Trump or Duterte were willing to look past deplorable levels of misogyny, because of what more was promised. Those that support Pauline Hanson and Brexited were willing to bear the stigma of intolerance because they felt they had no control. Feelings of disenfranchisement in systems that are leaving them poorer and rallying around characters with perceived authenticity – despite what absolute tripe comes out of their mouths.
Maybe all they saw was an opportunity cost. (Electing a climate change denier, as an opportunity cost – Holy shit.)
We knew enough to know this was possible, but what I ask now, and what I asked last night at Peel Street Poetry was how could we not know it was this possible. This is beyond policy – this is a problem at grassroots levels.
In Hong Kong, I feel as though we are in the midst of an ideological war. In many ways I live in a bubble within a bubble. When Brexit happened I was scandalized because I expected better. After last night I was saddened not because I was wrong to expect progress to prevail – but because I was so off the mark with what progress meant. I wanted to hear the shards from that shattered glass ceiling fall even here in Asia. That inclusion dispels fear, that love trumps hate. I wanted the US to be that example to buck the trend, not confirm it.
I am afraid of what will come next, but I also feel that this year has helped me realize that there is work to be done. Those imported ideals weren’t wrong, they just needed to be actioned.
I’ll keep doing it the best way I know how. A meeting of minds and merging of narratives. A place for expression and community.
We need our poets and artists, our photographers and storytellers. We need to let the communities we are a part of that are hurt most by this to know that we will validate their sadness, and we will continue to be on the side of history that visibly and unequivocally stood by them to support equality, social justice and freedom of expression.
If you’re in Hong Kong, come be a part of the conversation. No surprises for next time.
Peel Street Poetry – Every Wednesday except the first Wednesday of the month @ Orange Peel.