The one where I protest…again…

Last week, I posted a Flashback Friday from 2009 where I quoted lyrics from a NOFX song. The first part of that song goes like this

First they put away the dealers,
keep our kids safe and off the street.
Then they put away the prostitutes,
keep married men cloistered at home.

Then they shooed away the bums,
then they beat and bashed the queers,
turned away asylum-seekers,
fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn’t raise our voice,
we didn’t make a fuss.
It’s funny there was no one left to notice
when they came for us.

Yesterday I finished work to discover that yet another executive order had been signed by the President of the United States of America. One banning anyone born in a certain select number of countries from entering the United States of America. He says this is about the war on terror. To me, the tyrant is him. Some people laughed and shrugged off when I said that Donald Trump was following in the footsteps of Hitler. It’s now really not funny and not a joke. My own Prime Minister is in the USA on a state visit, and I am ashamed of her for not standing up and openly and publicly criticising some of these orders he has signed in the last week. Especially one that targets a specific religious group.

I don’t care whether you voted Republican or not. I do care if you do something about these awful acts now – before you become the people that our children and grandchildren around the world look at and go “How could people support such a terrible man?”

It is no shock to me that one of the world leaders on the phone reminding POTUS that what he has done is against the Geneva Convention is the leader of Germany (Go Angela Merkel!). All children who go through state school education in Germany are taught about their history and how it all happened. A huge element of recovering after World War 2 in Germany was community development through re-education. Both the catholic and protestant churches set up organisations to enable people to travel and learn to enable this process.

Today, myself and more than half a million of my fellow residents and citizens in the UK are asking our government to take a stand by not allowing POTUS a state visit while this despicable order – which has had US residents arrested at airports, prevented asylum seekers seeking refuge and more – is in place. Many of us will be taking to the streets for a 2nd or 3rd time since 20th January to protest, raise our voices and show that we stand with our friends who are most affected by this. I’ve been writing to my political representatives to ask them to stand against hate and racism. I’m considering writing to key Republicans, POTUS, and VPOTUS (because only a year ago he expressed condemnation for a ban such as this one).

This morning, I rode the bus listening to songs about Jesus. And I thought…Jesus said when we let a stranger into our home, we welcome him. Jesus stood up against the leaders when they stigmatised and oppressed certain people. He talked to the Samaritans, the poor, the sick, the prostitutes. He was himself a refugee, along with his parents.

Think about that. Then think about how your country’s leaders speak of the people that Jesus loves and asks us to love and care for.

 The petition for any UK citizens or residents to sign campaigning for POTUS to banned from  a state visit is here. approx. 41,000 people have signed it just while I’ve been writing this post. One of my American friends who lives and works in D.C. is currently outside the White House with others protesting. There is a protest organised in Edinburgh tomorrow evening, and one in London next Saturday.

I hope I will never become apathetic so that love continues to win over hate.

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The one where I ponder what we remember…

It’s been a terrible year. I was really sad to hear from my sister how the hate and incresingly right wing politics is spreading to Austria, and well…I think you’d have to be living in a cave not to know about what my friends in America have just gone through. I know a lot of people have complained about people protesting and holding rallies and vigils. Freedom is not guaranteed, and the things that the American President-Elect has promised to do is basically take away a lot of liberties from particular groups of people. There are already signs that WILL happen based on people he’s putting into office, so I think that people are right to be worried and use their voices. Not only that, for those who are genuinely afraid because of the awful things he has directed at them (or people that represent them), I hope it’s an encouragement to see that people are proactively saying what my Canadian-American friend has said in response to the events of this week:

I love you if you are Muslim. I love you if you are Black. I love you if you are Hispanic. I love you if you are gay. I love you if you are disabled. I love you if you are the victim of sexual assault. I love you if you are poor. I love you no matter what and will fight for you no matter what. 

And if he builds a wall, I will raise my children to tear it down.

It seems pertinent that on this week we have had the anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down and Armistice – a day we remember a ridiculous war that many young boys were cajoled into signing up for because they’d be ‘home by Christmas’. That was  followed by another world war that was started by a ridiculous politician that no one took seriously or thought would become their country’s leader. When he did he worked to  make people suspicious of people of a certain religion through media propaganda, and had the power to take full advantage of the groundwork laid.

On anniversaries, we pause to take stock. And remember.
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Remembrance Sunday has always meant something to me because my grandparents lived through it. My grandfathers fought in the army and navy during World War 2. My great-great- grandfather died tragically along with many others coming home from WW1 leaving his daughter (my great-grandmother) an orphan.

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My great-great-grandfather who died on New Year’s Morning 1919 during the sinking of the H.M.Y. Iolaire

But now I wonder, as I look around and see history repeating itself, and many friends and family members getting annoyed by people getting angry about it are sticking their heads in the sand. “It’s not that bad…?” they say. These wars did not begin with a world leader suddenly dropping a bomb one day. The holocaust didn’t just start one day with no warning. Countries refused to accept refugees for the same reasons we are hearing now. Mussolini announced when he was running for leader of Italy that it should be Italians first, and he would make Italy great again. We were down with slavery – we built our cities on it. We have people on our banknotes that were pro-slavery. We took over countries, and made them fight in our wars…and we don’t see anything about it on much of our ‘Remembrance Day’ documentaries.

Have we focused so much on teaching our children in schools about the events of the war – trenches, concentration camps, bomb sirens, evacuees – that we forgot to explain how these country’s leaders got away with starting the regimes that we ended up fighting against in the first place? How much do we white-wash our history – and what effect does this have on our indifference to others?

History teaches us that freedom is not guaranteed. We take over countries. We kidnap people. We teach people that they are less human. We feed people stereotypes so that they fear ‘the other’. We arrest people for no reason because we have a badge. We make out that our God is someone He is not and that they’d want us to vote for a particular person who favours us over ‘the others’ or kill those who aren’t like us. We segregate our schools. Our hospitals. Our beaches. Our neighbourhoods. We keep people who look like our decided ‘ideal’ in books, TV, film, plays in..and if the others are in they are portrayed as the ‘baddies’ or stupid.

The little things do matter.

And so because the little things do matter, when we all do our little bit, and stand up where we see even the small injustices and misrepresentations…it all helps the bigger picture.

When we know our God is about love, and that His son was a Palestinian Jew, and once a refugee fleeing genocide. When we see all of life in all its colour in our books, our TV shows, news casts, films and theatre productions. When we teach all of history – not just the bits that show certain figures demonised or perfected. Perhaps then we all come to the table with a better grip on reality, less patriotism and more humility – no matter where we come from.

And perhaps we’ll be more on our guard and ready to organise…to prevent such atrocities like slavery, the holocaust, genocides, apartheid…from happening again.

 

Quote of the Week: The power of stories

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There is a lot of this going on in the media right now. With politicians, world leaders, newspapers using their platforms to tell stories and speak words that dispossess and malign.

Never give up on telling the stories that can empower and humanise and repair what has been broken.

Thank you Brandon for being one of those storytellers. May more of us use our voices, our blogs, our pens, our facebook sites, our actions to add to that fabric of humanising storytelling.