A Bad Time

When we’re young, we’re thrown together with other children and told to go and play in an effort to gift our long-suffering parents with a blessed hour of peace and quiet. Before we begin to play, we have simple, rudimentary ways of assessing each other:

“What’s your favourite colour?”

“Blue.”

“Me too! Will you be my friend?”

Then we each grab a stick with twigs sticking out the bottom and start studiously brushing the dirt in an attempt to clean our “house,” which is really just the space under a bush where the frost killed off the lower branches, but thankfully we have the imagination required to bridge that minor gap in realities. It doesn’t present too much of a challenge to our world view.

That same imagination is, I think, what helps us form these fast friendships. We make huge leaps of logic from stepping stone to stepping stone of assumption. We decide that since we like blue and are okay, if they like blue they must also be okay. That’s enough. It’s enough to have a shared interest in the colour blue, or in ponies, or in holographic stickers, or pogs (are they still a thing?), or whatever we have our open little hearts set on at that particular moment.

As children, once we’ve established that one binding fact that cements our friendship, we don’t act passive-aggressively forever more if one person claims that Skipper is better than Barbie. We don’t thump each other until we need medical assistance over a difference of opinion on whether Micro Machines are better than Hot Wheels. We don’t refuse to speak to each other ever again because we don’t both want to watch Aladdin. We accept these things as valid and skip over these differences because the important things are still true; we both like the colour blue, and we like each other.

As time wears on, our lives grow more complicated. Our requirements for friendship grow more complex. We start to write people off for small, niggling reasons. That one person who breathes through their mouth. That other person who won’t watch movies with subtitles. Chasms open up where opinions on religion and politics diverge. Instead of the simple acceptance we had as children, we now debate and argue – viciously, ferociously – in an attempt to change other people’s points of view. Race, class, beliefs and values all get dragged into discussions.

Nobody cares about your favourite colour anymore.

It seems like the world is fracturing at the moment. Cracks have appeared as if from nowhere and I can’t tell how deep the damage goes. It seems like the planet is tearing itself apart at the seams, with untidy, fraying stitches just barely holding everything together. What used often to be educated discussion is now aggressive shouting. Disagreements are now total incompatabilities. Apparently there’s a worldwide chronic deficiency of imagination at the moment and people are either unable or unwilling to understand opposing points of view.

Facts have been sacrificed on the altar of audience engagement and squeaky wheels everywhere are getting the grease of media attention, no matter how insufferable the squeak.

The cracks might not worsen. They might stay as they are, never worsening but never healing completely. Or they might at any moment become a break. A split. An insurmountable challenge.

An impassable chasm.

The worst part is that I think a few more seams are going to rip open before this is over. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and I don’t know what to do in the meantime. I definitely don’t have a manual for this. What I do have is a history book, and it’s not exactly reassuring me if I’m honest. If anything it’s making me think we’re about to be in for A Bad Time. A Bad Time with a lot of shouting.

And I hate shouting.

So if anybody wants to hide out and be friends, I’ll be hiding out in my blanket fort with a few micro machines and (since we’re grown ups) some bottles of vodka and gin.

Only people with the password* allowed!

*The password is your favourite colour.

Open Letter To The World

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Dear World,

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Sorry, that was abrupt. I really jumped right in there; no pleasantries, no small talk. I just feel that we don’t really have time to catch up right now. Judging by the activities of the past week, you seem to just be barrelling through all the conventions and tacit agreements we’ve had for the past generation. I mean, things hadn’t been perfect up until now, but this is too much. This is not okay.

World, I’m worried about you. I’m worried about all of us.

I see we’ve committed to the whole rotten-orange-as-leader-of-the-free-world thing, even though he is thoroughly awful (I mean… just… gross).  I’ve covered this already. It’s likely that in time the people who made it possible will realise that maybe it was less of the shot-in-the-air they intended it to be, and more of a shot in the foot. Still, as always, I just want what’s best for you. Now that we all find ourselves in the same leaky boat, there’s really no point in going back over it.

Although I would just like to quickly point out that we already have at least one delusional narcissist in charge of a country (North Korea), and I can’t say I ever read a news article about him and thought, ‘We could do with another one of those… but BIGGER!‘ Bigger is not always better, World. I know America likes to supersize everything, but upgrading a run-of-the-mill self-obsessed moron to President of the United States of America was a really bad idea. Like, tremendously bad. In one week this oversized, oversensitive caricature of a man has managed to throw you into total dissarray.

There have always been assholes. There will always be assholes. Assholes are a constant. The danger now is that not only are some assholes in positions of great power, but the common, everyday assholes feel legitimised. They feel like it’s okay to go on national television and speak hateful words that hang in the air like a scummy fog. World, this is not acceptable. We need to do something about this.

I know. I know what you’re going to say. Already, there are great people doing great things. There is resistance. There are people fighting to keep things balanced, and keep human rights protected, and keep things from sliding into a heap of chaos. This is true, but we need more. We need more great people. We need more resistance.

We need more love.

That sounds so cheesy, but too much has gone horribly wrong in the recent past to ignore the fact that what we need is a lot more love. Too many families are waking up unsure of what is going to happen next. Too many families are waking up to deaths, or deportation, or denial of entry. Division and hatred seems to be sprouting everywhere like an unwelcome, tenacious weed. We need love, and a lot of it. We need the industrial-strength, Gorilla-glue kind of love that links us not only to our friends and families but also to our neighbours next door, our fellow citizens, and total strangers from foreign lands.

World, do you remember the game Red Rover? We played it as children. We’d link arms  in a long line and then a player would try to run at us and break through. If they were successful in splitting the wall, they won a couple more players for their side…

I feel like we’re playing an Alice-in-Wonderland adult version of Red Rover.

The good and decent people are linking arms and putting their game faces on, and a few rogue elements are coming at us with a great deal of force, trying to split us up, trying to win people over to their side (don’t listen to them – the whole thing about them having cookies is a lie).

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Frankly, not enough time has passed since World War Two that we can use ‘forgetting’ as an excuse.

World, link arms with me.

I’m ready for Red Rover; Global Edition.

Q.

If you’re feeling helpless and have any money to spare this month, please consider donating to ACLU or subscribing to The Washington Post or The New York Times, even if you’re not an American citizen.