Death by a Thousand Cuts

Less than a week ago I stood in an empty house. There was no laughter, no joy, and certainly no changing the fate of the families who used to live there. The house was the secret annex where the Frank family and others tried to hide from the senseless persecution at the hands of the Nazis during WWII. It was utterly heart breaking.

More than 70 years later and I’m seriously worried about the world and the course we’re on. Day by day, there is a frightening atmosphere of paranoia and prejudice being stoked by irresponsible public figures, individuals and our mass media. Things may not yet be as dark as they were in the 1940s but we seem to have lost our way all the same.

If the past few months have shown us anything, it’s that the public at large can be scaremongered and blinkered into rash decisions and short sighted policy decisions. This ‘mob-mentality’ really frightens me as it seems we’re just not looking where we’re heading.

In June 2016 in the UK we voted to leave the European Union even though no-one – including the politicians who championed the idea – seems to know what that means. As a rule, I very rarely talk politics online (consider this post a very rare exception) but suffice to say I voted to Remain because I think we’re stronger together. My favourite comedian, Eddie Izzard, summed it up well:

If we want a world where 7 billion people all have a fair chance we’ve got to try and make Europe work. If we want to make it work we’ve got to be inside it to make it work. Running and hiding’s just not the British way. Standing and fighting’s what we should do, so i’m for standing and fighting.

— Eddie Izzard, BBC’s ‘Have I Got News For You’, 22nd April 2016

The result of the Referendum came as a shock – not least because I didn’t think we were a nation that would swallow the blatant racism being thrown around – but I believe in democracy and I respected the outcome, even though I felt many of the Leave campaign were spoon fed hateful propaganda and false promises.

At the time I simply asked that we respect each others’ choice and work together going forwards. Shortly thereafter, of course, violence against apparent migrants was reported in the news and the country has felt divided ever since, all the while arguing about what kind of Brexit we want.

 

Again, mere weeks ago, democracy meant a president was elected in the U.S. who is amongst other things alarmingly sexist, racist and utterly ignorant when it comes to climate change.. but it is what it is. The real damage of course arrived shortly thereafter in the form of his Executive Order on 27th January 2017.

I won’t pretend to understand the U.S. political system, but it’s incomprehensible to me that such a travel ban came into force as it did with very little oversight or any detail regarding the proposed improvements to the already rigorous immigration protocols. It’s terrifying to me that such a small group of people should have such power over the rest of the world, not least when those people are in a position of privilege so far removed from the repercussions of their actions.

Since the Executive Order was issued we’ve seen a confusing circus of miscommunications, mis-interpretations, twitter rants and political wrangling from all sides. Worryingly, the pro-ban public being interviewed on T.V. seem to think the ban is intended to stop immigrants sneaking in which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We’re now seeing the same toxic attitudes and scaremongering – the shameful ‘all Muslims are terrorists’ mindset – being perpetuated once again by people who, to be frank, should know better. I’m no expert but telling people they’re not welcome and closing the door to any conversation only heightens tensions; It does nothing to make us safer.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals are currently deliberating over the Justice Department’s attempt to overturn the temporary stay of execution of the ban. I think the arguments to keep the stay of execution in place are strong (and morally just) and the list of companies and public figures showing support is promising but.. well, we’ve had a surprise result before.

There has been a flurry of activism to protest the ban – and I’m pleased to see us recognising when our religious and civil freedoms are threatened – but alas I’m just not optimistic about where we’re going. There has definitely been a snowballing shift in the political and public landscape: Previously extreme views now have more of the spotlight and are becoming increasingly normalised, all at the expense of the bonds and differences that should otherwise strengthen us as a people.

I just don’t recognise this world anymore.

 

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