If you know me, or read my blog regularly, I’m sure you probably expected me to bring this up at some point! I happened to be away when all the US commotion was happening, but I’m back and as usual I’ve got something to say about it…
It was a wonderful evening in Bagan. We were a few days into travelling and the group was getting on swimmingly. I could not believe how lucky I was to be gifted such a wonderful bunch of people to traipse the country of Myanmar with. We placed our orders, supped on our drinks and after lots of laughs and banter, the topics turned in a slightly serious direction – not too serious – but we somehow got into the political happenings of each other’s homelands.
Of course, when it came to the UK, Brexit was a hot topic. I expressed how hard that whole period was for me personally, watching the rise in racism, watching people turn their backs on refugees, the rise of the far right dividing the country. I also explained that now that the dust had settled, I could see how I probably handled the situation all wrong. I was fuelled by my own passions, by my own morals and I never thought to understand the perspective form the other side. I explained how I totally understood the vote and accepted it, and how Brexit also eventually gave me a better understanding of the US election result.
It was then that something really unexpected happened. Something I was quite unprepared for. A fellow traveller explained that they
had voted Trump. I hope on the outside I was calm and collected, I did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Inside, I was a whole heap of emotions. In the weeks and months of listening to this man and witnessing the rallies and the types of opinions his supporters demonstrated during tv interviews, I had always played out in my head the piece of mind I would give to someone who could support such a man. I had thought up arguments, speeches and I’m extremely ashamed to admit this but I even had messages of abuse concocted. The truth is all these world events leave people like me helpless and frustrated and this is how I suppose nasty words and hate begins to form.
But here I was, looking at a person that I had grown so fond of (and continued to throughout the rest of the trip) and they had trusted me with this very personal piece of information. I listened to this traveller’s reasoning, and I got it. This person was without a doubt one of the kindest people I had ever come across, a person who radiated happiness. And as we briefly discussed the ins and outs of what could have gone wrong in the drama that was the US election, I totally got it. I even wondered how I would have voted had I been put in that position. And finally, after a whirlwind second of complex deliberation, all of that hatred I felt towards Trump and his supporters melted away. Don’t confuse this with me being happy about this new POTUS – but I understood, just like I did with those that chose to leave the EU.
As I sat and we all carried on this discussion, I was on the brink of tears at many points, tears I held back (I’d really only known these people a few days at this point, I didn’t want them to think I was nuts?!) but they weren’t tears of sadness. They were very much tears of realisation and contentment. Here we were, a group of individuals , randomly put together, from all corners of the world and we were able to have these open, and very important discussions, together without offending each other, without hating each other. And that to me, was such a wonderful wonderful thing – something that was only possible because of our collective interest in travel.
A few days later, I woke up in sheer excitement. I had a thousand notifications on my phone, a sign the wifi was working in full force. Before looking at any of them I logged straight onto my email. And I was slightly taken aback, there sat an email from one of my favourite bloggers, adventures of a London Kiwi, the blog was titled ‘Why my heart has shattered in 2017 #womensmarch.’
Oh no. What’s happened.
Since landing in Myanmar I hadn’t switched on or glanced at the news once. I didn’t know what was going on. After reading Emma’s beautiful post, my heart sank that I was so far away. I wasn’t there to share my voice with all the other amazing women who had taken to the streets. My social media streams were jam packed full of women, strong powerful women who are all part of my life shouting loud and clear that they will not stand for injustice and inequality. As a member of the Womens Institute, I saw my fellow sisters posting messages of strength and hope. Calling on women to join them.
But how did this fit in with my new ‘acceptance’ mentality I had adopted over the last week…
Well while I was out at a protest yesterday I saw a sign that completely sums up my new outlook on these quite difficult times we seem to have entered:
OR EXPECT RESISTANCE.
It’s good right 😉
I think it’s bloody brilliant.
I am doing everything in my power to not be swayed by the hate. It is now time to focus on LOVE. Oh no wait, that’s too cheesy.
Let us focus on empathy and respect.
A lesson I learned by watching this brilliant TED talk by social psychologist Robb Willer (I’ve shared it at the end of this post). We all have our own beliefs, they are never going to be the same, it’s human nature. And we need to respect each other regardless and not discount someone else’s opinions just because it isn’t in line with our own – UNLESS that opinion, that message they decide to share is one that is purposely orchestrated to break humanity apart or incite hatred.
We can’t stay silent on an issue which hurts or divides humanity. Which hurts any human, whether it be racially, mentally or physically. I spoke a few months ago about the idea of becoming global visionaries, how we all consist of different parts but we are still made from the same universal elements. We each have an individual voice to influence the world in which we live.
I recently returned from a country which has itself a lot of controversy attached to it. I nearly didn’t accept the trip, worried that it would be going against my own morals to spend money in a country that is currently embroiled in quite a horrific war along its border. However, my curiosity pushed me to go through with it, in the interest of gaining a better overview on the situation and I’m so glad I did.
A lot of people are debating whether boycotts help or hinder causes. Why boycott one nation, but not another who may be carrying out a similar policy? I think it’s very important we take into account what the boycott actually accomplishes. Boycotting certain companies can place valuable pressures on the powers that be, and can help to make them join the fight to helping people who are suffering because of their involvement. I personally don’t agree with boycotting travel to different destinations and creating more unnecessary borders, but I do still take part in the boycotting of certain corporations that contribute to any form of injustice.
I mentioned earlier in the week that my trip was organised through Intrepid travel and this morning I, along with many others, received an email from James Thornton, the Global managing director, marking his stance on the US travel ban. He highlighted the importance of travel in helping to build bridges. To bring people together. And they inspired me so much I’d like to end this post with some of his words in the hope they might inspire you too:
“With every country visited, I learn something. With every meal shared, I become less ignorant, more inquisitive. Ultimately, it’s not governments or nations (or even executive orders) that have the greatest capacity for change. It’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Simple things. A traveller on a long and dusty road, swapping stories with a local.
That’s how you beat prejudice. And it starts with all of us, right now.”
#humanity #equality #openhearts #openminds
please take 15minutes out of your day to watch this…
TED Talk by Rob Willer: How to have better political conversations
*** Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Thank you to all the people, all the travellers, all the humans I have met throughout my life that have helped me open my mind. And I would like to apologise to anyone I may have offended over the course of political arguments in the past! I love you all 🙂 ***