Hungary and Poland voted out of disillusion. The UK voted out of fear. What made you cast your vote, America?
I come from a country deeply affected by racial and religious hatred, violence, and poverty. Although I have been lucky not to experience war firsthand, the same cannot be said for the generation of my parents, and grandparents.
I don’t remember the aftermath of the tragic events that shook my country. I remember that the ration stamps were taken out of circulation when I was three, and that a few years later my mother and I were able to obtain passports.
Yet not so long ago my grandparents had faced persecution, concentration camps, and soldiers’ guns pointed at their heads. My parents had lived in a country fully controlled by a foreign superpower. Oppositionists were detained, or disappeared without trace.
You can’t quite erase decades of fear and austerity, and even us Millennials were weaned on it. But for my generation things were always looking up.
I don’t remember it being announced that Poland would become a member of the European Union. What I remember is standing up at school, among other children dressed in white shirts, and singing Ode to Joy. Many saw this moment as Poland returning to free Europe, and as an equal to the countries that we were looking up to.
In my lifetime, in front of my eyes, I saw the spread of liberal ideals. Western prosperity has spilled eastwards. I could live my life in peace. Hell, I could go on a gap year. After graduation, I could choose to move abroad.
The world, my world, seemed to be going in the right direction. Racial and religious tolerance. Feminism. Open borders. Free market economy. We even started paying more attention to climate change.
But then something went wrong.
Hungary was first. It was truly shocking to see the advent of Viktor Orban’s national-conservative government. Nobody believed the same could happen in Poland, and yet it did, as the Law and Justice Party took over. Then Brexit. Let’s admit it, we all laughed at Brexit. Until it happened. We all laughed at Donald Trump too.
On the morning after the US elections the world was not the same any more. Fear and hatred, which started dividing Europe, triumphed among the most powerful nation on the planet. US has the highest GDP in the world. The highest military strength index. The second highest carbon footprint.
For the first time in my life I fear for the future. No, Donald Trump’s policies will not directly affect me, but the world’s political and ideological climate will. Will we start closing borders? Dividing people by race and religion? Openly tolerating sexual abuse?
I fear as an immigrant. I fear as a woman. I fear as a human being.
For my whole life, my world was moving away from hatred, destruction, and conflict. Now it’s changed its direction. For me, as for many, fear has replaced hope. But contrary to what many say, fear is not always a bad thing. It can be a great motivator. If you realise the imminence of the catastrophe, you get up and fight.
So, if it’s not too late, how will we all fight this?