The Benefits of Everything You Don’t Want.

The Benefits of Everything You Don’t Want.

Donald Trump – liar, racist, misogynist, several-times bankrupt: President of the United States of America.

A lot of people are angry. A lot more are justifiably afraid. It’s the UK’s “Brexit” vote all over again – times at least a hundred.

Yesterday saw the day a lot of people rose up against what they’d never wanted, what they’d vociferously stood and shouted against from the beginning.

In the coming days, weeks, months, a lot more people may well come to realise that the thing they thought they wanted, or thought they weren’t bothered about one way or the other, is something they really  don’t want.

And yet, yesterday, the poet Andrea Gibson said “Today, I will go to sleep. And tomorrow I will wake up 1oo times more queer than I am now. And I will keep doing that, every day, for the next four years.”

Yesterday, the streets of Washington D.C., and the servers supporting those computers hosting “virtual marches” for the geographically isolated, the disabled, those with care responsibilities, those without the resources to get to Washington in person, were thronged with people who, though afraid, were not intimidated.

The thing about our nightmares is, they clarify what our dreams are.

If our nightmares centre around monsters, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is safety. If they centre around running out of resources, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is material plenty, and the proper stewardship of such resources as come our way. If they centre around isolation, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is community. If they centre around running away, what we want, desire, and should be working towards is a future where our personhood, space, and time are respected, and others keep their distance without being asked, and approach us openly, and with respect, rather than pursuing us in desperate need. If they centre around being falsely accused, we should ensure that our words and deeds are always open, honest, upright, and true.

And if our nightmare is an egotistical, rich white man given ultimate power – we need to start working towards a world where the quiet, the humble, the poor, the ethnic minorities, the women, are welcomed and enabled to share power as equals. Not “instead of” wealthy white men who are also compassionate and respectful, not to “take” power from the current majority. But to genuinely share it, the way a couple who are deeply in love will share a meal out at a restaurant: each will get what they want, food and drink suited to their tastes, dietary requirements, and preferences, but they will also feed each other titbits from their meals. There will be requests to “try a little bit of yours, please?” that are joyfully and willingly granted. And they will talk – while they wait for their meals, during the meal, afterwards, and once they’re home, tucked up together in bed, or, if they don’t yet live together, in their own separate homes, perhaps on the phone, or online. They won’t always agree – sometimes they will have truly terrifying arguments, blazing rows that seem almost certain to end the relationship – but they will always seek to reconcile, rebuild, and find a place where they, and their differences, can live harmoniously together.

And yet the same people who claim to dislike “globalisation” and “multiculturalism”, who fear the loss of their own identity to the rising tide of diversity, often talk eloquently about the beauty and the “rightness” of marriage, even if their definition is very traditional. But a marriage is a kind of multiculturalism, a kind of diversity. Even if someone marries the boy-or-girl next door, someone who shares their views and upbringing and outlook, two distinct personalities are still being brought together, and forged into a stronger, single unit. When we fall in love, explore that love, commit to that love, and unite that love in a marriage, we clash, collide, derail and explode. We lose parts of ourselves, and gain traits that were never ours. And we always, inevitably, emerge as greater than the sum of the parts that were thrown together when we decided “You’re the one.”

Multiculturalism, diversity, love, marriage. They’re all a process, and, like all processes, they’ll have teething problems. Some of them will fail, as some processes do. Others will be messy, but enduring. And some will stand out as bright beacons of hope for the future, lighthouses for those who will come after them.

My wife and I often joke about how we’re “actually the same person” – and it’s true, we’re scarily alike in so many ways. And yet even with us, a seemingly perfect match, there are little bits of grit. These bits of grit may become blisters, or pearls  – but they cannot, and should not, be ignored.

Marriage, and multiculturalism, goes wrong when the bits of grit, the edges that keep slamming into one another, are ignored, or covered over with something bright and cheerful.

We need to acknowledge the pain associated with any kind of change, especially change for the better. We need to talk about those rough edges, those bits of grit. And we need to allow them to exist.

One day, soon, go to a beach that is mostly pebble, or look up images of pebble beaches. Notice how there are many different sizes, shapes, and colours of pebbles, but it’s all the same beach, running down to the same sea.

And yes; some of the pebbles are lost in the overall scene. You can’t see them clearly. But that doesn’t mean they’re not there. It doesn’t mean they haven’t travelled to arrive on that beach, at that moment. And almost all the pebbles you see will have signs of wear. Places where the current was too strong, or they were knocked one too many times. Yet here they all still are, existing, together.

As human beings, our sleep holds both dreams and nightmares. We need to accept and listen to them both – because our nightmares will tell us what our waking dreams should be.