You Still Don’t Get It.

Just a few feet in front of me: something remarkable and transfixing. But what exactly? After all, I was only watching a TV show on Netflix.

*****

I think sometimes about the strange circumstances of my life now, relative to my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I’m from the South London suburbs: white, heterosexual, male, middle-class, and English.

Now – though all these things about me are still true – I live and work in America. And my job, in particular, positions me a long way from what used to be my home, and compels me, incrementally, to question, not amplify, the assumptions and assertions of my past.

The giant past of England and its former empire, and the many things people like me inherit from this past – consciously or otherwise.

UKIP Tories

My employer provides supportive housing, job training, and other support services to people with histories of mental illness, institutionalization, incarceration, and homelessness. And my work, in a fundraising capacity, involves meeting many of these people and helping to share their stories.

These stories may be few, but their details are often exceptional and vivid. Depression struck one man, one day, “like a pin” – deflating him and leaving him in this state for the next 10 months. A woman saw the corpse of her father after he committed suicide, by setting himself alight with lighter fluid. “Anything in the bathroom that was plastic,” she said, “melted on to his body.” This same woman later served in Iraq, for the US Army, suffering panic attacks and despairing daily that war and death are inexorably twinned. “What are we doing here,” she asked. “Young recruits, fresh out of high school – and Iraqi kids, you know, dying.”

Another woman lost her home one Thanksgiving to a fire – “Everything was burned out, even down to my can opener” – and wound up homeless for the next 11 years. Another told me she was raped by two police officers and, later, sexually abused in prison. And another man inherited from his father a long, lonely fight against addiction. He was on his way to an AA meeting in the West Village “when 9/11 happened,” this terrible event anchoring in time the start of his recovery.

Many times I wonder, why are you sharing so much, so candidly? Maybe not knowing me makes it somehow easier? Maybe sharing a story lightens the load of it a little? Either way, though, I think: perhaps my wondering is a kind of conceit. When you pass oppression, injustice, and pain through the filters of being white, heterosexual, male, middle-class, and English… well, they are too easily abstracted.

What good is this abstraction? What is being illuminated, exactly, and for whom? With increasingly clarity, my answers to these questions are: not much; a small part of the whole; and – me, most of all, giving myself far too inflated a role. Why share so much, so candidly? Because everyone has their reasons.

Especially in these uncertain times, what, if anything, can guide us more surely forward? How can we be more empathetic, more often – more hopeful, and more humble? Whoever you are, look around and wonder: how can I begin to oppose the forces of oppression? Of injustice. Of xenophobia. Of misogyny.

Nigel Farage Breaking Point Poster

Speaking only for myself, these questions have never felt more urgent. As a parent, hoping against hope that the world has better things in store for my two young daughters. And – oh my – as a white, heterosexual, male, middle-class Englishman living in America, grappling with the hard facts of Orlando, Donald Trump, and Brexit.

I don’t know what the answers are. But something about this gathering gloom steels us for the search. I’m tired of the feeling that liberals wage an unwinnable war – and that great advances can’t happen now. Fuck that. Let’s redouble our efforts.

If the slogans and rhetoric of a demagogue look and sound hollow and hateful, well, they probably are – whether or not their appeal originates in people and places left behind and hurt.

If old white people keep on saying, “I don’t recognize this country any more,” tell them: let’s make it better then, for everyone.

If someone says, “I don’t believe in gay marriage,” answer: it’s none of your goddamn business.

If a woman’s reproductive rights are taken away from her, join her fight to get them back.

For my daughters and their precious generation, most of all, let’s sing another song already.

And if you still don’t get it: catch up.

*****

Anthony Bourdain, the white American host of a CNN travel show, is visiting an Iranian family in their home, enjoying greatly their hospitality and food. Within this so-called “axis of evil,” we watch him be a gracious guest, sit still, and listen.

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About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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11 Responses to You Still Don’t Get It.

  1. Graham Curtis says:

    As you know I am now a member of UKIP. I started voted UKIP when we lived in Surrey and have done so ever since, in other words long before I ‘signed up’. Let me tell you why.

    Basically I was totally disillusioned with the establishment, the Westminster- and Brussels-based elites who were and still are divorced from the lives of everyday folk. I am not anti-European and have no axe to grind with regard to other nationalities and any other nation, nor those who have been democratically elected, which excludes the Stalinist throwback in charge of North Korea and one or two other equally nasty individuals. What I am against, is the arrogance of the ruling elite ensconced in Westminster who have ignored the views of the electorate with regard the EU for decades and those in Brussels who are in charge of what has long been a totally dysfunctional and completely artificial European nation state, one that decides legislation behind closed doors and hasn’t been unable to sign off its accounts for the past 20 or so years.

    Which actual electorate actually elected Mr Juncker, or Mr Tusk ?

    I put hundreds of Leave/Brexit leaflets through doors and manned stalls in Lowestoft and Beccles and Halesworth. I did so because I believe England should once again become a sovereign state, free of EU directives, and control our own destiny rather than have it dictated by faceless and unelected bureaucrats sitting in offices in Strasburg and Brussels and living the life of Riley.

    1.3 million more people voted to Leave the EU than Remain, but a significant number of the latter now cry foul: “we want another referendum” they say. Would these self-same whingers be saying that if ‘their side’ won by 4% ? I think not !

    If you examine the votes geographically it was almost exclusively London and Scotland and Norther Ireland that voted to remain.

    Why London ? I would suggest it indicates that by and large Londoners are out of sync with the rest of the country, rather like, it could be argued, Washington and New York are out of touch with the rest of America. London and New York and Washington are the homes of the ruling elites, whereas the rest of England and the bulk of the Continental US are where the vast majority of the more humble folk live.

    Northern Ireland, I would suggest voted to stay because the EU has poured shed loads of euros their way. The EU did the same with Wales, but the Welsh weren’t bought off. The Scots defy logic and now Sturgeon has got the huff and is going to ask for another referendum.

    Looking at the votes age-wise, the 30 somethings who voted to Remain have also got the hump, they claim they have been stitched up by us old folk. I would suggest 2 things; first off us old folk have been round the block a few more times and recognised Cameron and Osborne et al bullshit, and secondly we knew what life was like outside the EU. We also know it was not what we were led to believe we were being asked to sign up to back in 1973.

    This morning I collected money for a charity – it doesn’t matter which one. The vast majority of people who put money in the box were old folk. I have rattled tins for numerous charities for over 20 years, and it has always been the same. The vast majority of people who put their hand in the pockets or open their purses are the elderly. As a general rule 30 somethings don’t; maybe they are indifferent. Likewise all the collectors have been and are middle aged or older. I have never seen a 20 or 30 year old rattling a charity tin.

    Let me move on to immigration. I am not racist, but we are a small country and simply cannot take hundreds of thousands of extra people year on year. I have no objection to those fleeing persecution seeking sanctuary within our shores. The other side of the coin though is that we are depriving poorer and less well developed countries of the very people they have trained and need to retain, the doctors, nurses, lawyers and architects and so forth plus all the skilled craftsmen and workers needed to design and build new homes and schools and hospitals for their people.

    Us old folk who voted Leave are not selfish, we are not ‘little Englanders. We simply wanted to be a free and independent nation once more.

    Now we are.

    There will be bumps in the road, fences to mend, but we are not going to up-anchor and move to the middle of the Atlantic. We are still going to be friends with everyone living on the other side of the Channel and across the North Sea, just not tied to the same apron strings, nor do what the man in the White House tells us.

    I know we are never going to see eye to eye on this, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be frank and honest with one another.

    dad

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this. Sincerely. I’m glad I don’t have to rely on conjecture to figure why you voted ‘out.’ That said, your own stated reasons are no easier to process. Much of what you write is just so completely alien to me. You think 30-somethings credulously take Cameron, Osbourne, et al, at face-value? How many 30-somethings have you actually engaged with on this subject?

      You’re so anti-establishment: but who, exactly, will be “taking back control” on everyone’s behalf? Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? Iain Duncan-Smith? If disenfranchised, working-class communities are waiting on this group to improve their lives, well, they’ll surely have a mighty long wait. And I’m the credulous one?!

      So much of what you write sounds so disingenuous to me. Young people aren’t generous or aren’t engaged because they don’t put coins in your various collection tins? That’s like wondering why young people don’t listen to the “wireless” or go to the “pictures.” Young people make charitable donations online. Their activism takes many different forms: if you don’t know this, then you’re looking in the wrong places.

      London strongly went for ‘in,’ because it’s the home of the “ruling elites.” More than 8 million people live in London; how many of these are elites, exactly? Ditto, Washington and New York: geographic proximity to power somehow renders people “out of synch” and less “humble?” Is there a different kind of poverty that only exists in London, Washington, and New York?

      More than any of this, though: what happens next? When will the UK’s economy get stronger? When will we have more favorable trade agreements with what’s left of the EU? When will the NHS more ably cope with demand for its services? When will educational and other social services for “the vast majority” improve? How much longer will Scotland remain in the UK? What does the future now look like for Ireland? Who will coordinate the fight against climate change, and how? How will a weakened EU resist the overtures of far-right, nationalist parties?

      And who’s ‘mending fences?’ UKIP’s membership is, I assume, close to 100% white? Who is looking out for all the UK citizens who today feel far less welcome in their country? Whether you want to believe this or not, I’d wager younger generations plain don’t want a return to the pre-EU UK for which you have so much affection – The Beatles and 1966, notwithstanding.

      Also, who elected the Queen?

      • jolliffe says:

        the queen was elected for life at her coronation in the same old way, yes monarchs are elected, where do you think our modern electoral system idea came from, done a bit different now, but fundamentally elections of all sorts were done at public meetings

      • “Yes monarchs are elected” is literally not true! I don’t know what else to say about this.

      • dad says:

        What I said in relation to young people putting their hands in their pocket was a personal based analogy in response to some of them criticising my generation for being selfish and voting contrary to their ( ie the younger generation’s ) wishes and beliefs.
        This vote was not the right versus the left; Tories versus Labour, it was not about politics, it was about the people of this country voting whether or not they wanted to remain within the EU.
        When I was very young I sometimes went to Croydon with my mum on Saturdays, and I have vivid recollections of Mosley ( anyway him or some of his supporters ) standing on makeshift platforms and spouting off where Burtons used to be in the middle of the high street. The number of people listening to whatever it was they had to say was very never more than a handful. Needless to say my mum was one of the many like-minded shoppers who edged their way past and completely ignored whatever bile was coming out of their mouths.
        UKIP was for many years branded by some as some kind of racist successor to the BNP, which some claimed stemmed from the far right ideology of Mosley and his ilk. That is simply not true. The initials say it all, with emphasis on the ‘I’ for Independence, all we ever wanted was Independence from what we perceived to be a dysfunctional entity.
        Had the EU kept to its core value it may not have incurred such rancor, but it kept on persisting in imposing its will into every nook and cranny of our existence, without so much as a ‘what do you think?’
        Messrs Juncker and Co now have a choice; likewise the multi-nationals. They can be punitive and vindictive and spiteful or they can be statesmanlike.
        Yesterday I watched Switzerland play Poland and Croatia play Portugal; tomorrow we play Iceland and there are going to be lots more matches throughout the week. People from all over Europe will be mingling with one another outside the stadiums and cheering their teams on once they get inside, but their will be no acrimony. Just because 17+ million Brits have voted to leave the EU doesn’t mean we won’t and can’t all live side by side. As I said it is time to move on, we have to re-unite both as a country and as a continent. Here in the UK, especially here in the UK, we must forget all the divisiveness and ‘yes’ I do think Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are more than capable of helping to achieve that as well as being more than willing and able to re-engage with Europe in a friendly and constructive way.
        History teaches us to forgive and forget and move on, and that’s what we all have to do right now

  2. Big Sister says:

    Bro, this is very interesting xxxx

    ‘The Australian’ (AU broadsheet akin to The Times) on Brexit. Interesting perspective from afar.

    Quote:

    Brexit: Britons’ triumph of democratic reasoning
    THE AUSTRALIAN12:00AM JUNE 25, 2016
    Greg Sheridan

    Foreign Editor
    Melbourne

    What a magnificent triumph of ­determined, peaceful, reasoned democracy the British people have pulled off.

    How much they deserve the world’s congratulations for conducting a tough, sensible, national debate on a fundamental issue, doing so peacefully, and then ­rejecting the most outrageous ­attempt to intimidate them ever undertaken short of war.

    Prime Minister David Cam­eron was the biggest political casualty of Brexit.

    He was a deserved victim of his manifold misjudgments. No misjudgment was worse than the manner in which he conducted his ultimately forlorn campaign to ­coerce his countrymen into voting to remain within the EU.

    For months he and Chancellor George Osbourne have been telling their voters, and therefore the world, that there would be economic Armageddon (and, incidentally, perhaps a world war) if Britain left the EU.

    This contradicted many things Cameron had previously said, and indeed contradicted the whole logic of trying to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU, with a referendum guaranteed at the end of that process.

    More than anything else, it is the irresponsibility with which Cameron spoke of the British economy, and of what would happen if Britain left, which has ­resulted in the roiling of global markets in response to Brexit.

    The voters didn’t believe Cameron, but some of the international markets did.

    By yesterday, in his humiliating resignation speech, Cameron had reversed himself. Britain’s economy was strong, he said, and it could prosper outside the EU.

    Scott Morrison, having taken advice from the Reserve Bank and Treasury, rightly reassured us that market volatility should be temporary, the effects on Australia quite limited.

    Given that Britain has its own currency and its own central bank, even in the long run there should be no big change to financial ­regulatory arrangements, and in any event the process of leaving the EU will take at least two years.

    This vote does not represent Britons rejecting full internat­ional participation, still less ­rejecting liberalism, or even ­rejecting Europe. It is purely a ­rejection of the EU, and the gross interference of its regulations, the insanity of its economic model and all the crises the EU creates.

    The British people have considered these issues deeply. Their vote is an affirmation of liberalism, of full citizenship of the world. It represents the best in Britain.

    The leadership of every major party in Westminster told the British people that they had to vote to remain in the EU. And all manner of international figures were lined up to add to the sense of intimidation. But the British people, like Australians, don’t take well to being intimidated.

    The economic argument was absurd. Most of the world lives perfectly well outside the straitjacket of the EU.

    The economic Armageddon Cameron predicted could only come true if political leaders irresponsibly exaggerated the risks, and if international statesmen decided to brutalise the British economy in what would be a spectacular act of folly.

    The key priority now for all ­responsible national leaders must be to calm the markets, to ­reassure stability and to make the British exit from the EU work as seamlessly and successfully as possible.

    There is so much to like in this vote. Above all else the British voted for the most beneficial ­single quality of democracy. That is not just the ability to choose, but the necessity to take responsibility.

    Half the countries of Europe blame their failures on the EU.

    The British people are taking back power, and therefore ­responsibility.

    • You undermine my perspective because I’m “an American citizen” – and then send me this editorial from The Australian…

      “More than anything else, it is the irresponsibility with which Cameron spoke of the British economy, and of what would happen if Britain left, which has ­resulted in the roiling of global markets in response to Brexit.” Appearing in “a broadsheet akin to The Times” doesn’t make this any less nonsensical.

      • Big Sister says:

        That editorial from The Austrailan was very well written bro….I’m not undermining your perspective but I have to say that it was YOUR choice to go to uni in the U.S. YOUR choice to live there and sometimes when you make that decision to emigrate to another country you have to accept that the country where you now live is where your priorities must now lie, you cannot have it both ways, ie have your cake and eat it. You can’t have one foot in the U.S. and one foot in the UK. Just like you made YOUR choice, I made MY choice to vote OUT, a decision I do not regret one bit. I’m sick and tired of hearing all the horrid names the 48% of voters IN are calling the voters OUT I’ve heard it all; unintelligent, selfish, naive, stupid, we had a nerve etc etc…….it’s getting so boring now! There is a very true saying in life, unless you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question. Well Cameron did ask the question, he did ask for a referendum and the majority voted OUT. People should just accept this and stop throwing their toys in the corner because they lost!!!! What do we do now ay? Have a 2nd, 3rd, 4th referendum until ‘they’ get the result ‘they’ want?!?!? Just like IF Trump gets elected that’s life, you have to accept that. Personally I can’t stand Obama one bit but he’s YOUR president in YOUR country so nothing to do with me…….

      • Ok. Then here’s one more thing I’ll just have to accept: there are some things about which you are sick and tired.

  3. Mary says:

    And I am left feeling more sad than I could ever put into adequate words. Over these past two months I have heard more hateful words bandied around by all political parties, more ill informed opinions by the public, and families and friends turning their backs and their love for one another because of differing ideals. It is time to stop NOW.

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