Note from Kaitlyn: I ask that readers be lenient with this entry. It is not my intention to further divide, inflame, or isolate. My own bewilderment at the political turn of events in the US colors this journal, but ultimately what I want to highlight is the simplicity and necessity of love–that we as humans bear the heavy weights of our lives together, and that in our shared experience we find in ourselves strength and truth and beauty we never knew we had.
The fact that I strongly disagree with Donald Trump does not make him less human to me. The fact that I fear the direction of my country’s path does not make it less precious to me. I wish the courtesy of respectful disagreement was freely given, but I know better. I still ask for it.
Asisiriwa Day 34
11 December 2015
The world is plummeting and I am happy to live with the sounds of birds and with cool, quiet mornings full of mist and easy sunlight. I still miss home, and it seems that the more home rips itself to shreds, the more I miss it. The more affection I feel for it, even as it snarls itself into semantic knots, dripping with ignorance and xenophobia, and relishing the righteous anger and indignation of those who remain. I miss it, long for it, but am glad to wake up into the lightbulb-colored mornings of this provincial African village, blessed by one more hour of electricity, dressed in purple batik—unwashed and yet, clean.
We returned from a four-day trip to Accra, which I mischaracterized as a “mini-vacation” upon our arrival; it was more like four days of errands, fraught with erratic internet access, during which I learned more about the depravity of my home country’s moral descent. It doesn’t take much to garner my disapproval—I am, after all, an unmediated idealist—but for some reason this downturn into a kind of self-indulgent fascism under the misnomer of “free speech” and “security” brought about new malaise in my heart as I considered the future wrought by such an interminable present.
Hate is the order of the day, it seems. With Trump spewing his ignorance like some sort of infectious rage disease, the US seems further away than ever. And what is it about the opposition voices that seem so small and weak? Why is that? Is it that measured and logical responses always seem insignificant compared to that visceral and primordial anger that humans seem incapable of fully renouncing? Is it that when shocked human beings respond indignantly, we seem somehow to also be descending into that cesspool of raucous discord from which a return to civil discourse and common courtesy seems insurmountable? To listen to Trump’s supporters is to listen to echoes of the oldest form of insulated hatred in human history—a terrifying shadow always trailing behind humanity, stumping along in the wake of all progress and harmony, threatening slowly its brutal self-assertion as soon as we spend too long in the exhausting light of cooperation. It is as if truth and goodness are the sunlight and we can only spend so long in it before we become bleached through, burned by our own closeness to something so fine, and must either retreat back into the shadows or risk the shadows overrunning us entirely, boiling our blood and making us go mad with the voracity of our self-destruction and desire for chaos.
Have you ever noticed the delight with which a child, after constructing something painstakingly intricate, destroys the very thing she built? It is a common theme in analytics, though still very much an enigma to me, that dance between creation and destruction. We swing between each, and it is never too long before one triumphs over the other, though perhaps the perverse pleasure we all receive from the onset of chaos suggests it is somehow our natural state. Our preclusion for riots, our penchant for genocide and violence, as if somehow destruction is our prerogative—as if, for all our large brains and hairless figures speak of evolution, we are, at our core, too wild for ourselves.
For all our thanatos, we are blessed also with eros, the creative instinct, the compulsion to move forward and be better. Though the hatemongers roar loudly, and in the voice of that beast which is at once mysterious in its scope and simultaneously so familiar, quietly clearing the corners of the world are those who touch and bring light. Fear whips us into frenzies, but there remain oases of calm composure, whose disappointment doesn’t quite reach rage, and for whom I must remember also to stay soft, to see good, to look for love, and not to become hard. It is the natural thing, to harden your defenses against the barrage of the world; but light cannot shine through stone.
We each have a responsibility to meet the fear and anger with the only thing that has ever bested it: love, compassion, empathy. We must demand it of ourselves, and we must demand it of others, trusting ultimately in their own capacity for love to change them. If they are stone, we can only warm their stones with our light. It is our prerogative to shine, and to keep shining. And that, I think, is what we can and must do.
People forget the goodness of each other every so often, and must be reminded that, if given the opportunity, most of us will rise to the occasion. Our lives are not easy, nor are they simple, but this is shared fatigue. We carry our own shadows, and we need not be afraid of them if we remember that we are made of light, and we can choose whether to warm the world or burn it.