This morning I cried in the shower. I cried because of the enormity of world events and because I don’t know what I can do about it.
“Donald Trump sacks defiant acting attorney general for questioning legality of immigration ban”
That breaking news update, nestled among all the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blog comments received overnight, left me shaking.
I didn’t have time to read the full story at that point. Mornings are chaos enough in our house getting three kids ready for the school run. If I’m honest, I didn’t need to read the full story because the headline told me everything I needed to know.
At once I felt angry, upset, frightened, worried. And helpless.
I’ve been feeling like that a lot over the past seven months, first Brexit and then Trump.
As the water from the shower mingled with my tears I thought.
So many thoughts.
I thought yet again about how we ended up with a man who boasts about grabbing a woman by the pussy as the most powerful leader in the world.
I thought about the ramifications of a president sacking someone for doing their job in questioning the legalities of his policies. His accusations that she was betraying her country. But even the President of the United States has to be accountable to someone; someone has to uphold the law.
I thought about all the terrifying things he’s done since he came into power. You’ve probably seen the lists floating around on social media. There’s one here if you want a reminder.
I thought about how horrified pretty much everyone I know is about all of this. And then I thought about the fact that there are lots of people who support what he is doing.
I thought about Martin Niemoller’s famous quote constantly being shared on social media at the moment.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I thought about people saying this is our Nazi Gemany moment. That we need to do something fast. I thought about the people saying that’s an over-reaction, that it would never happen again. I thought about the people who turned a blind eye at the start of Hitler’s rise because they could never have imagined what was to come. It’s easy for us to say in hindsight what we would have done had we been alive back then. But would we have? Really? You just don’t know how things will end up.
I got myself and the kids ready in something of an auto-pilot daze this morning. My mind just would not stop. All day.
I thought about Michael Moore saying the US is in the middle of a coup by Donald Trump.
I thought about my Grandad, who fought in the RAF during the Second World War. He died almost two years ago. I thought about all the friends he lost as they defended our country, our future. The wives who lost their husbands. The children who lost their fathers. The mothers who lost their sons. I thought about my nephews proudly wearing their great grandfather’s war medals at their Cub and Scout remembrance parade. I thought about our prime minister not really taking a stand and wondered whether we are truly remembering.
I thought about my children, aged 7, 5 and almost three. They saw me cry when the Brexit results were announced. They saw me cry when Trump won. I tried to explain it best I could. The two eldest kind of get the basics. I thought about the fact that slowly they will realise more and more about the horrors that exist in the world. I thought about my toddler, still blissfully oblivious to it all.
I thought about my five year old middle child, in his reception year at school. I thought about three of his good friends. A boy with a mother from Eastern Europe. A cool little dude who is a Muslim. The three of them play tag and superheroes together. And the little girl who is of Indian descent, the fourth generation to be born here. And I thought that one day my son will realise that some people will judge his friends because of their cultures and nationalities. I thought about these beautiful children realising all of that too and my heart broke a little more.
I thought about the family summer holiday we are planning as a family. My husband wanting to go to France but me reminding him of all the devastating terror acts. I’m genuinely scared of going to certain places and I hate that ‘they’ are winning.
I thought about Fred Rogers’ famous quote:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me,
“Look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping.”
I thought about the protests around the world, yesterday’s against Trump’s Muslim ban and last week’s women’s march. I thought about the hundreds who turned out in Cardiff and felt proud of my city. And then I felt ashamed for not being there. “It’s difficult with three kids and other commitments,” I hear myself saying. Could I have made more effort to be there? Could a lot more people have made more effort to be there? Am I the worst kind of person because I know what is going on in the world but I didn’t do anything? Am I apathetic?
I thought about the person I was 15 years ago. The ambitious young journalist who wanted to change the world in some little way. I thought about my student newspaper where I wrote about sexism and racism and homophobia. I thought about the first five years of my career, as a journalist and then editor at The Big Issue Cymru magazine. I thought about the articles I wrote and commissioned every week on homelessness, refugees and asylum seekers, disability rights, gender and race equality, domestic violence, people living in poverty, human rights injustices and the rest of it. I thought about the Amnesty Cardiff meetings I used to attend and the campaigns against human rights abuses I used to be involved in. I wondered where that me has gone.
I tell myself that it’s not so easy now I am a working mum of three young children.
And it’s not.
But is that just an excuse?
I thought about the last time I got political and angry in a status on my Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page at the time of Brexit. That post went a bit viral and I thought about that support, but I thought more about the vile abuse I got for voicing my opinions. I thought about the follow-up article I wrote ‘why I won’t apologise for getting political on my blog’. I thought about how it still sits in my draft folder because I was too gutless to publish it because I didn’t want to deal with the backlash. And I hate myself for being so weak. I thought about Acting Attorney Sally Yates who stood up for what she believed in and lost her job. But she didn’t lose her integrity.
I thought about whether I should even write this article. I thought about whether people would tell me I was over-reacting. And once I started writing it, I thought about whether I should publish it. Whether I will get trolled for it. Whether people will pick holes in my arguments and criticise me for not fully understanding the situation. I’m not a political or international affairs expert. I don’t understand the ins and outs of every single little thing. But I know what I am seeing is wrong. And I know we need to do something about it.
I thought about the friend of a friend who is the Washington correspondent for a UK news organisation and how he has to stick to the facts when reporting, even though he wants to voice an opinion. I think of friends who work for other large news organisations and who are duty bound to stay neutral even though it pains them to do so. I think about the ways Trump seems to be silencing the journalists who disagree with him. I think about the article I wrote at the weekend about bloggers making a difference and I think there must be more I can do.
I think about my friend texting me about the women’s march in Cardiff, saying she thought I may have written about Trump. And I wondered why I hadn’t.
Above all I think about the people. The people who are suffering.
I wonder if I am too idealistic, thinking anything I do will make a difference. But don’t we all owe it to those suffering to at least try? Wouldn’t we want people to do it for us, if we were in that situation?
Writing is a start. Even if I don’t have any answers, at least I can prompt discussion. At least I can let other people know that they are not alone in feeling completely overwhelmed by world events.
I think of the words I always tell the students in my yoga class. “If you don’t know what else you can do, you can always breathe. Slow deep breaths. It might not change what you are dealing with but it can change the way you respond to it by giving you clarity, calmness and emotional strength. Inhale strength, exhale compassion,” I always tell them. “Strength for you, compassion for anyone else who needs it right now. We have to trust that those little waves of compassion will somehow get to where they need to be.”
And we have to trust that our little waves of kindness and small actions will make a difference, even if it’s only small.
So here’s what I’m doing.
I’ve upped my monthly donation to Amnesty International to support their work campaigning for human rights. My standing order has remained the same since about 2002 so it’s shameful that it has taken me this long to increase it.
I’ve set up a new monthly donation to Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) who support people in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics.
These are organisations who can and do make a real difference, but they rely heavily on donations to do so. My donation might only be a small amount, but if lots of people do the same it soon adds up.
I am going to sort out some clothes to donate to the Oasis refugee centre who support refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff.
I will continue to share relevant articles and petitions on Twitter and my personal Facebook. I am going to try harder to support local protests and other events.
I will continue to make donations to my local foodbank, by picking up an extra tin or packet and depositing it in the box while I’m doing my weekly shop. I will continue to make sure my children do this with me.
And I will continue to raise my children to be kind and caring, to help others, to embrace people for their differences, not judge them. I will teach my children to live without prejudice. I want my sons to be feminists as much as my daughter. I will talk to them about world events in age appropriate ways.
Because in the words of Whitney Houston, which always come to mind at times like this:
“I believe the children are our future,
teach them well and let them lead the way.”
Will it make a difference? As the saying goes, one small snowflake won’t do much, but a whole load of them can cause an avalanche.
We all have to be the change we want to see in the world.