I usually stay away from politics. It causes heated arguments that never seem to reach a conclusion, in fact they seem to do more damage than good. Plus I am admittedly less informed than those who want to fight about it so why enter into a conversation I don’t think I’m fully qualified to discuss in depth.
Today though, I don’t care. Because today I’m worried about the world.
As everyone knows by now, the U.K. has voted to leave the European Union. More specifically, the rural upper class in England have voted to leave the EU. This decision has serious consequences for my friends in the UK and across Europe, as well as millions of people I don’t know in those areas and around the world. I can’t even begin to fathom the economic impact, other than knowing my trip to London in October just got significantly more affordable. Silver lining?
The part that worries me most? Felix Salmon said it best:
“The result is that we are now entering a world in retreat from progress, a world of atavistic nationalisms and mutual distrust, a world in which we demonize foreigners and prefer walls to bridges.”
Demonize foreigners. Walls to bridges. Xenophobia. A misunderstanding of the world.
As a person who just spent two years of her life dedicated to exploring and better understanding the world, this is heartbreaking. How can two countries – now I am including the United States, whose upcoming presidential election terrifyingly mirrors this Brexit vote – who pretend to be so progressive, such leaders of the free world, be in favor of shutting their minds and their borders to the unfamiliar?
At no point in my travels did anyone in a foreign country tell me I wasn’t welcome there. Quite the opposite. Colombians yelled “Bienvenidos!” to us on the streets, people in Myanmar gave me the thumbs up when they greeted me with “Obama!”, and when I moved to Guatemala I was not questioned as to my purpose of being there or hounded for taking a job, I was admitted into the community with nothing but smiles and “Buen Provecho”s all the time.
The world has its terrible people and places, I will never deny that. But get out from behind your TV set, leave your comfortable rocking chair, and you will see that those people are not the majority. They are the exceptions that get the attention, as most exceptions to the rule do. The reality is that the world is full of kind, good-hearted people. If only that was the message that was broadcast around the world instead.
I know I can do nothing to change what has happened, and come November I will be like my friends in the UK – my fellow travelers who are saddened and angered by this outcome – and vote to stop the xenophobia from taking over. I can only hope that enough of us turn up to the polls to tip it in our favor. But outside of official elections, I will continue to do whatever it is I can do in my own little sphere of existence to spread the good news of the world, to share the stories of kindness I have received abroad, and to keep in mind that though today may seem bleak yesterday and tomorrow do not have to be.