Dear Donald Trump,
In the days following the election I have seen numerous articles highlighting the follies of your choices, the irresponsibility of your comments, the virulence of your campaigning and the divisiveness of your words.
In spite of all this, I would like to take a moment and say thank you.
Thank you for putting me in a cold shower and turning on the head full blast. Thank you for slapping me across the face until it was so red and bright that it stung so much I thought I would cry. In short, thank you so much for waking me up! I needed it. I believe many of us did.
Disbelief is a powerful thing. It causes one to stop and actually contemplate and ponder the events that led to the outcome. It causes one to reassess everything they thought they knew. It causes one to question and be critical and, with any luck, it then causes one to show complacency the front door.
Because, sir, this alertness you have now thrust upon me is needed. Your election is about so much more than the USA. It is about the world. Not only in the sense that the decisions you make will affect the rest of the world, but because we can see the same divisiveness simmering under the surface in other countries.
Many in the world were blindsided by your victory. We were ignorant fools believing no way could America, the self-proclaimed land of the free, choose a climate denialist, anti-feminist and bigot as their president. Yet, here we are. And if you, the also self-proclaimed greatest nation on Earth, can let it happen then what hope do the rest of us have of not following a similar path.
South Africa has been marching on this fractured pathway for some time. The country, instead of growing closer and more unified, continues to show telling signs of increasing hatred and division. Everyone is blaming everyone else for their problems and when that fails, they leave their dirty laundry at the feet of the ANC.
Corruption, lies and superficial nonsense have become the order of the day in South African politics. It has come to be expected. I am no longer shocked when our president behaves like a petulant child who doesn’t care for his people. I am longer dismayed when people in Parliament call each other comrades but then speak with arrogance and a complete unwillingness to listen to each other. We are a knee-jerk nation: quick to react and be defensive but not one quick to foster a new path.
It was as though Nelson Mandela was our happy ending and we were set. Hollywood movies end with a wedding and a kiss, but a real marriage requires hard work, fighting and, most of all, listening, compromises and trust. We no longer listen. We longer compromise. And we certainly no longer trust each other.
If a marriage cannot be sustained without these how can a nation?
I fear that unless we start to get some serious couples’ counselling, we will continue to let this broken relationship fester until it is nothing short of abusive. We will end up with a tyrant of a leader who will divide us further using hateful speech and violent actions.
So South Africa we should be thankful for Trump’s election because as beastly as it may be, it is a wake-up call indeed!
Do not let our divides grow further. The next time you hear Julius Malema say something you think is harmful, stop and realise there are many people that might side with these feelings, before casting his thoughts aside as scary and then promptly forgetting about it. Instead of letting that scare you further, find someone who agrees with him. Find someone who supports his mindset and ask why. And here is the catch: do not be ready to react, be ready to listen. Be ready to try, as much of a struggle as it may be, to hear the other side and to trust them. Be prepared to trust that what they are telling you is true in their reality . Trust that their anger and fear is real too.
So thank you Mr. Trump and thank you American people because I can now clearly see that once we start to listen and trust each other (even those with whom we don’t agree), we can then start working on compromises that lead us toward, instead of away from each other. It is here where real and exciting change as the potential to flourish!
May your people also learn to listen and trust each other once again.