Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Keep it Up - Now more than Ever

I had gone to bed hopeful. It was looking like a close race, but doable. The more extreme perhaps my reaction when I woke up in the morning. Checking news outlet after news outlet hoping that they somehow might have got it wrong. A flood of thoughts and extreme physical reactions hid me as I realized that Donald Trump will be the new president of the United States of America: incredulity followed by anger, fear and extreme sadness as my chest tightened up, a strange tinkling noise took hold of my ears and my stomach coiled. 

For someone working on political activism and identifying as an activist myself the result of this election raises a multitude of questions beyond those shared with many Americans and people across the world of the how and why this could actually have happened. Have campaigns for equality among the sexes, races, and classes failed? Should we have done more? Should I have done more? Indeed, should I have emailed every single American I know pointing out the dangers of electing a racist, misogynistic, inconsiderate and ignorant man as president? (I didn't because I didn't want anyone to feel patronized by pointing out the obvious. Partly, probably also because I didn't want to admit that some of the people I value as friends and colleagues might actually disagree.) What happened to the lessons of history? As a German I feel catapulted back into time, but waking up, not, as my friend put it, in 1933, but in 2016. 

Where do we go from here, with xenophobic right wing groups gaining ground across all of Europe? The New Yorker editor David Remnick put my fears into words when he wrote last night amidst the devastating results that "this is surely the way fascism can begin."  And I'm convinced that it will be if we now retreat from the public and from activism into the comforts of our homes and circles of like-minded people. To stop now is to bring out the red carpet for all the Trumps, Putins and Farages of the world. History has also taught us that there is power and force in activism and in making the personal political. To me rape jokes, the degradation of non-white people and economic injustice, to name a few, are personal because they violate the fundamental principle of equality and justice for all, which ironically is one of the pillars of the American pledge of allegiance. Now more than ever it is up to each one of us, as Remnick puts it, "to combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorable and fiercely". The means of doing so are manifold and don't need to involve marching the streets shouting angrily and waving placards (though that surely is a very effective and empowering way of voicing dissent). Calling your neighbor out on a sexist comment or educating your children about kindness and fairness towards others are equally as important and make a difference. 

Starting a new piece of embroidery, knitting, or patchwork as a response to the election results and sharing your project with other people by telling your quilt group about or by posting it on social media is an equally valid form of activism. As the vanguard of the modern craftivist movement, Betsy Greer, puts it: "The very essence of craftivism lies in creating something that gets people to ask questions; we invite others to join a conversation about the social and political intent of our creations". Plus, the physical engagement with the material and the repetitive acts of stitching provide the maker with an external outlet for his or her emotional pain and confusion. Crafting, in this sense, becomes a tool for making the personal political. Because after all, as Remnick writes: "Fascism is not our future - it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so"!

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