Last night many friends of mine dropped everything and went to airports to protest the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US. I wrote on Facebook that as an immigrant myself, I am proud of, and grateful for, everyone who did so.
Over the last few months, however, whenever I’ve expressed fear about the attacks on immigrants and positioned it in relation to myself and my own status, some smart-aleck has helpfully pointed out that I’ll be fine because I’m white/European. I’m beginning to lose patience with these comments. And not just because it implies I’m only scared for my own safety, rather than the safety of others.
Yes, as a white British person I have enormous privilege. I would not have been able to live in as many foreign countries as I have if I didn’t carry a British passport, and my reception would have been less welcoming if I had not been white. However, it is important to be precise about the threat that this restriction on individuals from certain countries poses, and to understand what it is stemming from. This is not just racism as usual.
The current situation in the US is racist, fascist, and misogynist. It is the latest and most threatening manifestation of deeply rooted traditions of white supremacy, Christofacism, and disaster capitalism. This new Republican Trump/Pence regime can be all these things at once, but it is important not to conflate them all into one. We need to know exactly what we are dealing with to avoid being blindsided by things like the totally predictable restriction on Green Card holders and citizens (through the ban on duel citizens).
The funny thing is, I was actually looking forward to waking up on November 9th. And yet yesterday I discovered that I have lived for the past eleven years surrounded by people who hate me. They may not know it, but they do. And now I know it as well.
Back in September I was disappointed that the evening class I’m currently taking met Tuesdays from 6 to 9pm. It meant J and I wouldn’t be able to celebrate the election together at the Grafton Pub, as we had when Obama won in 2012. (We dared each other to drink a shot of Malört if he won. The barman warned us it tasted revolting, and it did.)
Since Brexit, I’ve been asked a few times if I will now apply for US citizenship. Up until this point I had never even considered it. I have permanent residency, and as far as I could tell (although to be honest, I hadn’t even looked that far into it) the only advantage citizenship would give me is the right to vote.
That wasn’t enough to motivate me, especially when the whole idea just felt weird somehow. But these are strange times, and the current climate has challenged me to consider being more cautious. Continue reading
One of the vice provosts dropped by my office today. It didn’t take long before he spun round to the topic of Brexit.
“So what’s going on in your country with this EU thing?” he asked.
“Pretty much the British version of Trump.” I replied.
And not for the first time this week, I found myself struggling to explain the inexplicable.
My sense is that people in the US have only caught on about how serious this is very recently: maybe only since the awful murder of the politician Jo Cox last week. But then to be completely honest, it was probably only a month ago that I realized myself there was going to be a referendum. And even then it took me a day or two to finally admit it was real. It was actually going to happen.
Because the whole idea makes absolutely no sense to me!
We finally went to see The Flick by Annie Baker at Steppenwolf this month, catching it just before it closed. It’s one of those plays I first encountered in fragments, as I helped J learn lines from a handful of scenes, and was curious enough about to badger him into getting us tickets.
J seemed a bit concerned I might not like it. He reminded me several times it’s over 3 hours long and has a reputation for being a bit tricky. (I suspect he still hasn’t forgiven me for hating Waiting For Godot.) The trickiness, it seems, comes from Baker’s use of silence. The play runs 3 hours 10 minutes but only has about 70 pages of actual dialogue, which means there are a lot of long pauses or moments when the actors are moving about the stage but not saying anything to each other.
Apparently the first time The Flick was performed, the (mostly subscriber) audience was furious, and in every performance including the one I saw, the audience was a lot thinner after the interval.
All this throws up interesting questions about the extent to which we associate “something happening” in a play with “people are talking” as opposed to “people are moving around on stage.” But I found The Flick utterly absorbing, helped no doubt by the very high quality of the production and the wonderful cast. Continue reading
This morning several newspapers reported on a study by two economists from Princeton University into rising mortality rates among non-hispanic white men and women in the US since 1998. (Or to be more exact, the mortality rates have been decreasing everywhere, but the rate of that decrease has slowed to the point of stopping among this group).
The Guardian’s coverage, for instance, presents the study this way:
A sharp rise in death rates among white middle-aged Americans has claimed nearly as many lives in the past 15 years as the spread of Aids in the US, researchers have said.
The alarming trend, overlooked until now, has hit less-educated 45- to 54-year-olds the hardest, with no other groups in the US as affected and no similar declines seen in other rich countries.
Though not fully understood, the increased deaths are largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol, driven by easier access to powerful prescription painkillers, cheaper high quality heroin and greater financial stresses.