In the aftermath of the election, it’s hard to know what to say.
Maybe it’s easier to say nothing, to let it pass unremarked as so many things do on this blog these days, but that feels dishonest. I have so much I want to say; it’s articulating it that’s the hard part. I’ve started writing this post three times already. Everything I say sounds either melodramatic or untrue, and I can’t get past that.
How about this:
I didn’t think I had been allowing myself to hope for a different result, until the exit poll was announced and I found myself sobbing.
Or what about:
Ever since I started hanging out with Quakers, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about ‘God’ as meaning ‘the innate goodness of people’, but sometimes it feels like that’s as hard to believe in as a childhood conception of God as a bearded man in the sky.
I’m scared about what this means for the future. I’m scared of the country I live in, where I cannot trust people to look out for their vulnerable neighbours, where xenophobia and racism are on the rise, where racist rhetoric wins hearts and votes. I’m scared of the inevitable fallout when Brexit happens — a fear I’ve been living for three years already and will continue to live with until the worst happens and there is nothing left to be afraid of because it has already happened.
I’m young. I’m trans. I’m disabled. This government doesn’t care about me. It has already killed disabled people with cuts to benefits and the NHS, and it will kill more of us. If the NHS goes under, I have friends who will die. You see what I mean about the melodrama? I try and state it like the bald fact that it is, try not to let the emotions creep in, but it still sounds dramatic: this is a matter of life and death.
But it is. I don’t know how else to say it.
I wouldn’t think of myself as a single issue voter — I care about so many things. I care about the environment, I care about peace, I care about equality, I care about creating a system that doesn’t work people into the ground just so that they can survive. I care about education and the arts and the idea that everyone should have the chance to thrive, not merely to keep breathing. There are dozens of things that matter to me.
If there were to be a single issue, though, it would be the NHS.
I’m lucky, so far, in that none of my lifelong health conditions are the variety that have to be continuously medicated or they become fatal. I rely on the NHS for those frequent blood tests, the B12 injections, the extra vaccinations to support my immunocompromised system. Without them I would suffer. Without low-cost access to medication I would struggle. But others? Others would die.
Others have already died, abandoned by a benefits system that will leave them with an unplugged fridge and no insulin, or declared fit to work while terminally ill.
And yes, I have complained about NHS waiting lists and I will probably complain again. I’m currently on three, the longest of which is approximately two years, the shortest of which was a minimum of three months and I’ve yet to hear from them. But I know that those waiting lists are the result of cuts and deficits and strain imposed by the quiet privatisation of different services. By the lack of proper governmental support for mental health services. By this country’s rampant and growing transphobia, and the lack of funding for healthcare to support trans people.
(The rise in vocal, vicious transphobia in this country is another fear I live with constantly, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I suspect it will get worse. I can’t do anything about that, either.)
I see my friends in the US crowdfunding to afford medication they need to live. I see people bankrupted by medical debt while dealing with the grief of losing family members. And I can’t fathom how anybody could look at that and think it was something to emulate, but I’m afraid that some of the politicians our country has just elected think exactly that.
I hope that my fear is unfounded. I hope that the people who say, “They’re not going to sell off the NHS,” are right, just as I hope their promises to fund it aren’t yet more lies spouted by spineless, heartless cowards who will say whatever they have to say to convince people.
I hope that I am wrong.
I can’t express how much I hope that.
I hope that Brexit doesn’t destroy this country. I hope that it doesn’t send food prices through the roof, make it impossible to obtain certain medications, or result in a huge deficit of medical professionals. I hope that it doesn’t destroy our relationship with Ireland. I hope that those who have made their home in Britain are allowed to stay, made welcome rather than treated with suspicion and bureaucracy.
I hope all of these things. That doesn’t mean I believe in them. Hope can be a ruinous thing. We cling to it until it shatters and the shards of it slice our hands to pieces. Hope isn’t enough; to thrive in the face of something like this takes work.
I wish I could promise to put that work in, to fight for all of us, to agitate for change, to be an activist and a pillar of the community and a support to those around me… but I’m so tired. Some days it takes all of my energy just to get out of bed. Fatigue is a full-time job, and that scares me, too: the knowledge that I don’t have the strength to stand up for myself and my friends. I admire those who have it in them to be an activist, but I know that I’m not one of them. Not at the moment. Not when I’m barely coping as it is.
My method instead is avoidance, and perhaps that’s cowardly, to pretend none of it is happening, but sometimes all you can do is distract yourself as a way of barricading your mind against the constant fear. Yesterday, I finally finished writing the gay werewolf novel I was working on for NaNoWriMo, because it was a distraction that I needed. I’m not sure what I will work on next, but I have a dozen small projects that I can lose myself in. Perhaps that’s the easy way out, to refuse to face up to reality until it forces itself on me, but I know that my powerlessness and anxiety will break me if I allow them to be my focus, so I have to look elsewhere.
I have to find peace where I can.
Yesterday, I spent half of my lunch hour in the college chapel, seeking silence, somewhere to hide from the world and the screaming headlines and the fear burning electric through the inside of my head. I found a kind of peace there that quieted my mind a little. Oh still small voice of calm. This world is so loud, especially at the moment. It seems harder and harder to seek that quietness, and part of me feels guilty for trying, when it feels like I should be out on the streets with a placard and a chant.
But all of us can only do what we can, and for me, at the moment, it feels as though existing is all the resistance I can offer. Continuing to be me, refusing to apologise for all the things that I am: queer, nonbinary, pacifist, creative, exhausted, loving, helpless, disabled. Continuing to exist in a world that only offers boxes I don’t fit in. Allowing myself the shocking luxury of unapologetic rest.
I am afraid of what the next five years will bring. I’m afraid of my own helplessness. I’m afraid of my country and I’m afraid for my country and I’m afraid for myself and I’m afraid for everyone more vulnerable than me, who don’t have the privilege of safety nets.
But I hope — desperately — that I’m wrong.