2016 has not been a good year.
Desperate refugees trying to escape their home countries. Bombs falling on hospitals. The Brussels attacks, the Bastille Day attacks in Nice. The mass murder of queer men in a space that should have been safe. Black Americans being killed by police, seemingly with impunity. The rising fear in the #FeesMustFall protests and the brutal reaction from police.
Remember the video of the bloodied, shell-shocked Syrian boy in the ambulance?
And in response, we’ve seen the rise of the far-right…
It’s barely necessary to mention Donald Trump, that grotesque caricature of a man. There’s his blatant racism (Mexicans are rapists so let’s build a wall to keep them out, a fucking wall, I ask you?), misogyny (grab ’em by the pussy), Islamophobia (closing borders to Muslims) — not to mention the fact that he has been officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, which is an organisation that still exists in the USA in 2016. He has made no attempt to reject that endorsement.
This doesn’t let the rest of the GOP and their homophobic, transphobic, racist, misogynist Bible-bashing off the hook. The fact that the faces of people like Trump, David Duke and Ted Cruz have regularly appeared on my timeline is but one of the godawful aspects of the American election. Which has now ended in the worst possible way.
On the other side of the pond, xenophobic violence and verbal attacks have skyrocketed in the wake of Brexit and its anti-immigrant rhetoric. Even before the referendum, MP Jo Cox was stabbed to death in public for her progressive stance.
Elsewhere in Europe, far-right politicians like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine le Pen in France are fanning the flames of xenophobia.
This certainly isn’t limited to the developed world. In South Africa, Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr has been exhibiting increasingly awful behaviour on social media and real life. From saying "blacks were the architects of Apartheid" to saying he has nothing left but "disdain" for other population groups in SA as well as launching several attacks on journalist Nechama Brodie, mainly for investigating his claims of white genocide. (Disclosure: Brodie is a personal friend.)
In October, one of Hofmeyr’s supporters tweeted at him, sharing a drawing of a gas chamber with a photo of Brodie, who is Jewish, photoshopped in it, with Trump standing outside waiting to push the ignite button.
Hofmeyr has not distanced himself from this tweet or the person tweeting it.
I noticed a tweet recently saying that regardless of the election outcome, Donald Trump has made America an uglier place. Well we know what the outcome is now.
And it's not just America, and not just Trump. The world is an uglier place. No one is creating hatred out of nothing. The bigots were merely in hiding, and Trump and his ilk are creating a space where they feel safe to crawl out of the woodwork.
If you’re like me, you’re feeling despondent, frightened, like there’s a stone on your chest. It’s a constant effort to stop the bile rising in your throat.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief,” wrote Rabbi Tarfon a couple of thousand years ago. “Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
We’re scared. But we have to try.
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