At one point last week, at the height of my frustration, I had this idea to write an obituary – “The Death of Humanity” – where November 8th, 2016 marked the beginning of the end. Dramatic, perhaps. But, from halfway around the world and taking note of countless decisions that have been both reckless and destructive on the part of this administration, it felt appropriate.
Then what I realized, as I watched so many people come to the aide of those fleeing their home countries in search of a better life for them and their children, is that humanity isn’t dead. What died on that day was our perception of progress and leadership through the lens of inclusivity.
And when decisions are made that marginalize or discount people, it is no longer a matter of politics. It is a difference in morality, a lack of basic decency that embraces all of humanity and promotes unity instead of abrasive divide.
Last year, when we made the decision to move our family to Australia, we did so on the backdrop of American politics. It was our way of demonstrating to our children that we do not support bigotry, racism, sexism, or obsessive gun culture. A bold move, yes. We felt an enormous responsibility as parents to make a statement that would hopefully one day provide a guiding moral compass for our children, allowing them the capacity to know right from wrong.
Shortly after I announced my resignation and plans to move, I wrote the below words in a piece for Time magazine:
“As we all sat anxiously anticipating the proverbial crashing of the glass ceiling, the narrative quickly changed and the reality that sexism, racism, and xenophobia still exist prevailed. It was a moment in time we would have to sit with our children and explain the following day, while fighting back our own tears. As a woman who was raised to be strong and who is raising a daughter to be the same, trying to make sense of it for her and our son was agonizing.
We asked ourselves, how do we want to raise our children, what values do we want to instill in them, how can we teach them to be better than this? We have asked ourselves these questions every day since the election.
What we realized is the answer was less about us and more about doing the right thing.”
Our decision was simply based on what we believed was right for our family.
I knew there would be those who agreed with us and others who didn’t. But what I never expected was the fire storm of hate that followed. Name calling. Judgements on who I am as a person and parent. Threats on my life and the lives of my children. Vile and cowardly attacks. All because I was standing up for what I believed was the right thing to do for my family.
I am a white woman, with two white children, married to a white man. Not even on the coldest day in hell would I think to compare our situation to those crossing the border into the United States – not ever. However, what I do think about is putting myself in the shoes of parents willing to risk everything to provide their children with what they believe is a better future.
We are inundated with messages that perpetuate fear into every crevice of our culture. And because we live in a time when information is available at the click of a button, rather than look within ourselves to find our belief system and what dictates right from wrong, we take whatever we read or see as truth without any further investigation into what is or is not factual – replacing our ability to empathize with another human’s suffering with our own fear.
Suffering comes in many forms and affects everyone.
Every. Single. Person.
Economic class, the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your religion, your place of birth, your gender. At the end of the day, none of that matters. When you take away labels, we are all the same. We bleed the same. We cry the same.
So how do we as a collective whole lean into compassion and empathy in the face of false perception – fearing what is different as opposed to accepting what you can learn from one another. To understand the suffering of others so that you can embrace an openness that sees beyond the boxes we put one another in.
When you live in fear, you remove the possibility of connection and unity and further this idea of separation.
White or Brown. Man or Woman. Gay or Straight. Religious or Not.
The dichotomy of our current culture.
All the while, at the heart of every human being is a basic need for connection and acceptance.
This week, I cried a lot as I tried to process the enormity of what was happening at the borders in the United States – in the backyards of people I love, in a country my Grandfather’s fought to defend, where on Lady Liberty it reads:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Years from now, our children’s children will be reading about this moment. Which side of history do you want to be on?
Within each of us is a deep understanding of right from wrong, removed from the deficit of politics, reminding us that we are all human. A place to find common ground. A place where we can all agree to fight against hate. A place that allows humanity to take the place of fear.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to stand up for something we believe in – to speak on behalf of someone who may not have the ability to speak for themselves – removing fear from our thinking so we can embrace our differences.
If we can all agree to lean into the best versions of ourselves, perhaps we will find that place where doing the right thing becomes more important than being right. Where unity replaces separation. Where acceptance replaces fear. And the difference between right from wrong is clear.
Cheers to a new week and humanity winning against all odds.