Cruise

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. We’ve just elected a bigoted, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic egomaniac to be our president, over a woman who was the most qualified candidate for the job that we’ve ever seen. We have proved that there are many of us who are motivated by fear and by prejudice, rather than a desire for equality.

There’s a lot of hatred and fear floating around, spilling out of our otherwise apathetic mouths. But I woke up this morning with such a sense of right and wrong that I have never experienced before. It seems so blatant to me. We cannot fight fear and hatred with more of the same; the only way that we can counteract it is with love.

For the most part, politics fall outside of my comfort and interest zones, but I do feel qualified to talk about the feelings that I have, and how I think that I can learn from them.

I started writing this in the airport a couple of days ago. Tiredness and anxiety were weighing upon me in heavier-than-usual measure. I felt fragile and in need of sleep and a hot meal, but both of those things seem to be at such a distance that I could barely even look forward to them. I was just sitting, feeling many forms of discomfort, and trying not to publically freak out.

There were a number of factors playing into my anxiety, and but the major two are that 1) the country that I live in (the USA) was about to elect a new president, and one of the candidates is an embodiment of the things I find deplorable about humanity, and 2) I had just gotten off a cruise, which is a floating containment of many of the things I find deplorable about humanity. Onboard, I was also surrounded by more supporters of the aforementioned fella than I ever have been in my safe, city life, where I get to turn a blind eye to right-wing conservatism and surround myself with people who are as liberal and progressive as I think I am.

Over the weekend, on the cruise, I had found myself occasionally slipping into intolerance, as naturally as slipping into a pair of worn slippers. With ease, I ignored our commonality and tutted, aghast, at the wastefulness, the mass consumption, the individualism, the blind support of a bigoted candidate. “Oh, Floridians, how different I am from you!” I thought.

Wasn’t this a cruise – wasn’t I supposed to be happy? Yet I was miserable and missing out, all because of my attitude. As soon as I stopped telling myself that I was different, instead trying to see how we were similar, I started making connections with people and realizing that my assumptions about who the other side were didn’t make me a better person.

Now, I’m writing this on the morning of the first day of the rest of our lives, the morning after the night that this man was somehow elected President of the United States. It’s so easy to plug into to that divisiveness, just like I was doing on the cruise, because this entire election was fraught with the starkest of differences in values and opinions.

But wait, hold up – can’t that probably be said about any time in history? Moreover, can’t it be said about my life in general? Though it might be more pronounced now than ever on a public level, if I examine my personal history I’ve been setting myself apart from others as long as I realized that “I” was different from “you”. I started listening to the Smiths and Metallica because they weren’t in my dad’s music collection, and nobody in my class listened to them. I started shopping in thrift stores so that I wasn’t wearing what everyone else was wearing. I went to a different college from all of my friends because I couldn’t stand the idea of following the crowd. I didn’t quite want to be an ‘outsider’, but I wanted to assert to myself and to everyone else that I wasn’t the same as you.

Perhaps, even, that I was better than you. When we set ourselves apart, we’re usually setting ourselves apart and a little bit above – speaking from my own experience, this is the case. But this was a rare act of false confidence; inside I felt worthless. So, if I’m worth nothing, but I am better than everyone else, that puts me in a uniquely shitty spot in the world, and that’s how I will remain as long as I am in that static mindset.

I don’t think that I am a nasty or judgemental person at heart. But it seems obvious to me that judgment comes from a rotten core, as a direct reflection of what’s going on inside, and that love and acceptance must begin with the self. I couldn’t love everyone around me before I looked inside and started to love who I was. Until I could sit still in meditation and not cringe in intense discomfort; until I could instead feel ease and gratitude for the day and the person that I was; until I had learned how to take care of myself in a substantial way, rather than merely surviving; until I had taken my finger off of the self-destruct button – until self-love became my baseline, I couldn’t love the world.

I set myself apart because it felt safer. It is easier to be judgmental and hateful when that’s the internal dialogue that you’re used to. To show love and acceptance would have seemed, and would have been, disingenuous. Of course, there’s always the attitude that you can “fake it ’til you make it”, but the problem with that is that I’m not sure if faking it on the outside will truly fix all of the ugly stuff that’s deep inside, and when the outside fails (and you just can’t be nice anymore), the insides go with it. I tried for many years to survive on keeping up appearances, succeeding in nothing more and nothing less. But the icky inside stuff needs to be tackled head on.

Now, when I am still and breathing, alone in my apartment or standing in a crowd of people, I feel a part of a beautiful, perfect whole, and for that reason I am perfect. I am a mystery to myself, but this I suspect is true – I am growing less so every day. I am pure love, which I graciously offer myself, which fills me up and spills over to the rest of the world. It is boundless and infinite – “the more I give to thee, the more I have”.

On this cruise ship over the weekend, I felt like an alien. I felt as though I shared the values of almost nobody on board. It appeared as though most of the passengers onboard would be voting for Trump. Everyone was there for the buffets and the booze – I was excited for the free food, without a doubt, but the booze would have only appealed to me in a past life, as would all of the entertainment that went around it.

There were a few moments when I felt an intense desire to be overboard, to not be there anymore. I felt so at odds with everyone that I might have jumped. But what was broken was my attitude, not the people. Everyone else seemed to be doing a reasonably good job at co-existing and having a great time. I was separate by design, not by default. All it took was opening up to the world.

For me, that boat sets the stage for my next four years here.

I’ve been in this country for three years and I owe my life to it. Of course I want to fuck off back to Europe right now, but if everyone who is on our side does that, it’ll become an even scarier place than it has been in the run-up to this election.

I have no idea where we go from here, but fear is not the answer – we have to respond with love, at least for one another. Seeing how divided this has made us has been sadder than Trump’s behavior. He’s an awful human being, we know that, but let’s just assume that he wasn’t held enough as a child, or held too much, or something. He is a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, an egomaniac – he’s everything that I abhor about humanity rolled into one piece of flesh, and in no way is he worthy of even visiting the White House.

But that doesn’t mean that we need to become like him. Now more than ever, we need to love each other. We need to be more vocal about discrimination, and not just against ourselves – we need to look out for each other. Say it when you see it. Stand up and get really loud. See how you can make a little difference in your life.

This is how we love.

As for everyone who voted ‘for change’ – let’s assume that they really thought they were doing the right thing; truly feared for the future of this country, were scared of bad hombres and nasty women. I have been having Trump nightmares for months – I know what fear feels like. It’s not nice. The answer is not to hate them either – we’ve got to love them, too. We’re all just silly, fallible humans, with a lot more in common than we want to admit at times like this.

Happy first day of the rest of our lives, everyone. I want to be sad and angry but fuck it, that’s no way to begin.

Stay positive.

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