As seen on the Huffington Post
On Saturday morning, as the rest of the world settled in to enjoy a restful weekend after another gruelling workweek, news emerged from Charlottesville, Virginia of a rally gone awry.
The rally itself stemmed from a decision by local officials to remove a confederate statue, and was not the first protest to be born from this decision – with a similar event occurring in May of this year. Protestors were met with counter protestors, resulting in a violent clash of ideologies.
People were beat with placards, poles and bats.
Some walked around bearing arms.
Another drove his car into a mass of protestors.
In the midst of the chaos, law enforcement officials scrambled to restore a sense of order and calm. And as we watched this all unfold on our screens, apprehension waited on bated breath – what now?
The United States of America has always been our measure for progress – early adopters to which we turn to. Take entertainment for example – they got HBO, Hollywood, Netflix, and all that other good stuff. All around the world, we just legally stream or closer to home, settle for Netflix Australia.
US politics, and the nation’s political climate provide similar insight into our own political future. For instance, the adversarial nature of our political system was exacerbated when we adopted the showmanship of the US system.
Televised head to head debates, winner takes all narratives have become all too common in our election cycles; even though our elected leaders are dictates of their party rather than the undisputed heads voted for by the people (in the case of the US). This amongst other examples of adopted cultural similarities should flag the American experience as one that reflects, in some way, the global experience.
And if there is one lesson to come out of Charlottesville and the ensuing political response, it is that allowing civil discontent to go unresolved and unchecked can lead to a lot more than low voter turnout or fake news.
The overarching themes of hyper-nationalism and iron fist politics have been reflected in countries all around the world – Great Britain, France and Holland. Yes, even in Australia. Small pockets of the political spectrum have begun to find confidence in the progress of their American counter parts – the reclamation of borders, the return to social uniformity, the restoration of mono-identity.
Now I’m not here to denounce – to be perfectly honest, I’m tired of that. People are scared of something different and afraid of change, I can empathise with that. Contributing to the vacuum of noise and anger will do nothing.
I will say this though; we are all scared. White, Black, Asian, Arab, and Native owners of the land – when events like this occur, on home soil or across seas – we fear the next reprisal, when will it be us next, when will we be pitted against each other?
But the great thing about not being the world’s early adopters is that we do not have to make the same choices made by those before us. In the complex of fear and reaction, there is a path towards connection and decision. Our humanity is deeply entrenched in our ability to connect within our difference. Only by understanding that feelings of isolation, disenfranchisement and anxiety have the ability to unite us, can that decision be made: the decision to be better than we were before.
Because after the dust settles on whatever the latest conflict or dispute is – the tears we cry and the blood we shed will remain the same for all. Regardless of race, religion or politics.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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