Dear Manchester

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As Orlando comes up on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, an event that shattered the hearts of so many in this city only to have us unify to piece those hearts back together through community and love, what’s happening in Manchester is eerily similar. I know how much you are all hurting right now, for those who died your lives were taken too soon, for those that survived the questions, pain and guilt of surviving is overwhelming and for the residents of the city you wonder how this could ever happen in your home.

Let me tell you this, your home will never be the same: don’t expect it to be. You will feel the aftershocks of this tragedy, emotionally, politically and literally for weeks and months to come. You will walk past that arena and feel your heart break all over again. You will see the world move on and feel angry that they do not feel the devastation you are feeling. Your city will forever be marked by this.

However, my dear Manchester – my dear mother country – remember this; because of this horror, you will become more capable of love, of compassion, of kindness and of connection then you ever thought possible.

You’re already doing it, with free taxis, hotels, homeless heroes, food and blood given to the recovering kids. But more than this when you see someone hurting you will be there. You will hug strangers and listen to their stories. You will pray and cry like you never have before. Your love, displayed in the smallest of actions, will silence the hate that was intended.

Remember those you lost. Love for them. Live to honour them. Everyday, take them with you and be the future that was taken from them.

You will never be the same. Orlando has never been the same, yet our community has never been stronger. I promise you will heal, you will grow and you will love. And as you do, those you lost will live on forever.

Dear Mr.Trump/Mr.Pence

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Dear Mr.Trump and Mr. Pence,

I have one thing to thank you for – you’ve made me uncomfortable. Under Obama’s calm, steady and mostly well-intended hand I became lackadaisical in thought and lethargic in action. I took for granted what having a President who respected his people and in turn was respected by the world felt like. I took for granted the progress this country was making towards meeting the rest of the world in health reform and other social programs. I misinterpreted my circle of progressive liberal friends to be indicative of the rest of the country. I was comfortable in thinking our country was moving towards a better and brighter day.

 

Both of you have taken that sense of contentment away. You’ve replaced my sense of hope with trepidation. You’ve taken my love for this country and made me question if that affection is warranted. My sense of optimism has wilted, and I fear for the future. The results of this election have shown me that a vast number of Americans will accept racism, misogyny, rape culture, misinformation, hate, fear, ignorance, and the possibility of war if it comes from the biggest bully in the yard.

 

I saw this coming on Super Tuesday when the Democratic Party failed to nominate the one man (Bernie Sanders) that might have had a chance to stop you, and I wept. I wept again on November 8th and well into the next night. I fear for my future children, and indeed, now question if I ever want to raise children in America. The reasons for your rise are numerous and terrifying. It reminds me far too much of another time, when a nation feeling the economic pinch decided to blame large groups of minorities for their problems. If we follow that pattern our future is grim, and the thought keeps me up at night.

 

The ugly parts of this country that I thought were receding are instead, clearly, going to be front and center for the next four years. I don’t know what damage you’ll do in that time; I only hope whatever damage is done is reversible.

 

You might think that this complete collapse of my sense of faith and security in the USA would be disheartening, and it is. But I have to thank you for the new sense of dismay, because it’s lit a fire in me.

 

I can’t control what you will do, but I do know what I can do. I can become the most educated, vocal, and civically engaged citizen I can be. I can hold you accountable for every action. I can use my freedom of speech to express my discontent. I will not stand for a government that promotes white supremacy, denies climate change, has questionable ties to foreign dictators, and continues to seek the removal of citizen’s access to healthcare (among many, many other issues). Neither of you represent my America, nor do you represent the majority of this country’s America (popular vote, ahem). We haven’t even reached the inauguration yet and you have already made me ashamed of my own skin, flirted with nuclear war and continued to action like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum through your narcissistic tweets.

 

You have done nothing to earn my respect and you will not have it. My respect, admiration and hope will rest with all the groups you have marginalized. It will remain with people like the Standing Rock protesters who fought peacefully for the betterment of this land.

 

I’ll say it again – I can’t control what you will do, but I’m done letting you control me. I won’t shed anymore tears because of you. I will educate and mobilize myself. I consider it my duty to be a thorn in your sides for however long you remain in power. So congratulations gentlemen you may have taken my comfort, hope and progress – but you’ve made an activist out of me, and I intend to be damn good at it. This begins on January 21st where I will march on D.C with hundreds of thousands of my fellow women. Our voices will be heard. We will stand with all those you have attacked, and we will fight for a better tomorrow,

 

See you there,

Sincerely,

Grace Hatton

 

P.S – Featured image taken from BuzzFeed article ’24 Signs from Trump Protests that will make you feel a little better’ (https://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/yes-to-pancakes?utm_term=.osKRvA62oW#.bqpmYL6AdX

 

The Day of: Quebec Coffee

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It’s dark, but not as dark as I feel right now.

Sitting hundreds of miles away, I’m surrounded by Canadian hipsters sipping their artisan coffee while absentmindedly scrolling through Facebook.

I’m sure they’ve seen it; another mass shooting in the USA.

Another madman with a gun.

Another American tragedy.

But they can’t know that this one, the worst in US history is less than a mile from where I call home.

Where I’ve danced and had a few too many.

Where people I love, the ones that make me smile and laugh through a thirteen hour shift, feel safe and accepted.

But here in Quebec City, these coffee patrons have no idea how it feels to watch your world crumble while you’re so far away, so unable to help.

For them it’s just another image on their screens.

They can’t comprehend the churning of my stomach or the panic in my chest.

They can’ know that as they scroll through their feeds – liking cute selfies, adoring wedding photos and digesting other trivial Facebook news – I’m screaming on the inside.

(Written June 12th)

 


 

At 6 am on June 12th my sister messaged me to tell me about the mass shooting. I spent the first two hours following up with all my friends, who I knew went to Pulse, making sure they were safe. After I heard back from them all, confirming their safety my brother and I went to a coffee shop down the street from our hostel. As I sat in that coffee shop and watched all the images of Pulse on TV I felt completely heart-broken. I held in my tears, knowing that these people sat down at their computers couldn’t understand the weight of what I was feeling. Not that they wouldn’t be sympathetic or understanding, but there was no way they could feel the hole boring its way through my chest. This, illogically, made me angrier; I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. I wanted to scream at that. To stand up and yell ‘how can you just sit there, while people are dying?’ It wasn’t until a few days later, when I began to process my emotions, that I understood the irony in that feeling. After all, only a little bit ago we had witnessed the Paris attacks and I had gone about my day, while people in Paris were feeling what I was feeling now.

We left the coffee shop, wandered around Quebec City and somehow it just felt wrong. It felt as though I was disrespecting the dead by being in such a beautiful place, by not being in my city to mourn, to help somehow. As we wandered, my sister kept me updated on the news. She told me how the death toll had risen to nearly fifty. Every new piece of information felt like a dagger to my gut. The entire day I felt restless in my skin. I wanted to be at home; I wanted to help, even though I had no idea how. I needed to be with my city. I needed to see Pulse, and the distance between Quebec and Orlando felt like a universe away. Pulse was somewhere I had danced and been drunk with my friends. I was supposed to go to Pulse with a couple of co-workers only the Tuesday before, but I had gotten out of work late and couldn’t go. I had spent many a night, a little too tipsy, in the bathroom where the hostages were held. As the day continued we avoided telling people where we were from. It was too raw to say. We were afraid of the looks, of the awkwardness, of the anguish the confession would bring. At the end of that day, which barely felt like a day, we took an Uber to the airport. The Uber driver wanted to know where we were from, my brother said it, ‘Orlando’. I held my phone in my hands, like I had been doing the whole day, waiting for any new pieces of information. I didn’t want to hear his reaction.

He apologized, and asked if we knew how many had been hurt. I told him we were hearing conflicting reports. He was nothing but sympathetic and concerned, but every word he spoke grated against my skin. Not because of anything he was saying, but because of the subject we were discussing. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want it to be real. As I sat in the back seat and gazed out of the window, he told us about a shooting that had happened at a club in Montreal and how thankfully how a couple of people were hurt. He told us that guns were what scared him about America. “Me too,” I whispered under my breath. When we arrived at the airport he handed us our bags and wished us peace, as difficult as that might be.

We walked through the airport, my brother wearing a purple hoodie and an Orlando City hat (which was completely unintentional). Facebook asked us to check in safe, due to us both being located in Orlando. We did, but not being there felt like we were cheating. When we finally made it on the plane, my brother and I were assigned seats on opposite sides of the plane. I tensed as I sat down, knowing that Orlando would be the topic on everyone’s tongue. Sure enough it was and when the Canadians in the row next to me began to discuss Orlando, guns, the military and Trump I remained silent. I looked out of the window and wished for time to speed up, to be back in Orlando. When we landed, the plane had to taxi and an older couple were clearly impatient to get off the plan. Nathan, my brother, was stood right behind them, and as my row was at the front they were stood in the aisle next to me while we waited to disembark.

“We have connections to make,” they grumbled and a fellow passenger asked them where they were heading. “Oh, back home to Pensacola, FL,” they responded and the man winced and said “Oh, Florida. Did you hear about what happened in Orlando?”

“Yes, we did. It’s a real shame but we’re from the panhandle. Things like that don’t happen there. We’re much nicer up there.”

I glanced at my brother – who I repeat was wearing an Orlando City hat – and he could sense my frustration.  Didn’t they see how insensitive that comment was? Also the shooter wasn’t from Orlando, he had driven from Port St. Lucie to Pulse to carry out the attack. But even if he was from Orlando, what difference did that make? A tragedy was unfolding in my city and these people had the audacity to brush it off with the apparent ‘niceness’ of the Panhandle. What was Orlando then? A hive of hate and sin? If I hadn’t been in so much mental turmoil I might have spoken up, but I knew if I did I would break down. So I held it in. I bit into the side of my cheek, as I had done many times as a child to keep myself from saying something, and focused on that pressure in order to push their comment as far away from me as possible.

The plane doors finally opened, the older couple rushed off to their connection, and I let go of my inner cheek – tasting blood mixed with salvia. We stepped off the plane, rushed through the airport, and stepped out to the pickup area, feeling that rush of warm wind that is so particular to Florida.  Our sister picked us up and warned us that we would have to go a long way home because the entire area around our apartment complex was blocked off. As we drove through the streets from the airport to our downtown apartment we discussed what we knew so far. The shooter was from Port St. Lucie. He had been shot by police after a hostage standoff in the female bathroom.  The death toll had jumped from 25 to 50 with countless more in the hospital. An emergency response center had been set up in the senior center directly behind our apartment complex.

The drive was exceptionally long, but that small inconvenience was insignificant in so many ways. When we finally arrive in our area it was akin to a war zone. Police cars, sirens and flashing lights filled the entire area. FBI, homeland security and SWAT trucks clogged up the roads. Helicopters flew overhead and I could feel it, the tension in the air. We had to park in a random spot because the parking spots for our apartment complex were in the senior center’s parking lot – which was filled with government/police cars, and media outlets setting up with reporters. There were so many lights, so many sirens. The emergency center was right at the end of our complex. The only way to be closer was to be in the center. We walked past officers, who had surely been up all night, to get into our building. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We entered our apartment, and turned on the TV to the local news station, which had been live for almost 20 hours at this point. You could see the exhaustion and heartbreak on the reporters faces. They switched between the reporter stood on Orange Ave, (which on a regular day would be four lanes deep with traffic) who was as close to Pulse as the FBI would allow and a reporter who was stood outside the senior center, at the end of our apartment building, where family and friends had begun to gather to find out if their loved ones were alive.

The reporters talked about how they hadn’t identified victims yet because their bodies were still laying on the floor of Pulse, with their phones buzzing as loved ones tried to reach them. The reporters assured us it was protocol – that the FBI had to gather evidence etc before they could begin to identify and move the bodies. They told us there would be a conference in the morning, where more details would be shared. They told us they weren’t going anywhere. That they would stay live throughout the night and their hearts would be with us. There was a connection throughout the city that night. Everyone could feel it. We were united by grief, loss and heartbreak. And resting underneath that concoction of confusion and pain was the undeniable sense that this city, our Orlando, would never be the same.

Post-Election

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I wept last night, around 3:30 a.m, and no matter how hard I try to stop the tears they have been flowing ever since. This country, a country that has stood as a beacon of hope for so long, has given into fear, hate and prejudice.

I’m crying for my fellow women – who have been told with these results that its okay to be talked down to, be considered valuable only for our bodies, and to be sexually assaulted.

I’m crying for my fellow immigrants – who have be deemed less than and cast as villains with these results.

I’m crying for minorities who have been painfully reminded that racism is running wild.

I’m crying for the LGBT community – who have been told that there is something evil about them that can be ‘converted’ out of them with these results.

I’m crying for our planet – which will now endure four more years of irreversible abuse at the hands of this country.

I’m crying for every little girl that now knows that she may be smarter, more qualified and 100% more prepared for something she wants, but a loud, obnoxious white boy will most likely get that thing she wants anyway.

I’m crying for my future children who have to see this result in the history books.

I’m crying for everyone (including myself and my parents) who are covered by Obamacare and are now wondering if our ability to heal is going to be taken away.

I’m crying for every victim of gun violence that will now have to wait for basic prementative measures to be put in place.

I’m weeping for the very soul of this country.

I’m heartbroken and in a haze right now. I’m afraid of this future. I’m not going to point fingers at anyone as far as how this happened. I have no intention of spreading more division. But please take stock of this moment. Don’t brush it aside as a horrific election season with a disappointing result. Don’t say it’s only politics. This will have ramifications for years to come, and it is in this moment of confusion, anger and disallusion we have to look at ourselves. Our action or inaction in part created this. We are all responsible.

For myself, I know I need to process and to somehow find hope to move forward. Thus I will be stepping away from social media for a little bit to give myself some air.

Again, I don’t know where we’re going. I wish I did. I only know that in this moment, I’m taking stock and I’m mourning. However, when I come through the other side I fully intend to be an ally and a friend to every group that feels attacked, marginalized and less than because of these results.

It’s All a Little Absurd but None the Less Necessary

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Two days ago I voted in my first general election. It was a long road to get here, and as a first timer I might be able to offer a unique perspective on this three ring circus we call an election cycle. It all began last summer when my sister and I found a handy, dandy list that included all the political candidates on both sides. We spent a merry thirty minutes researching every candidate from Jill Stein to Jeb Bush. As first-time voters we wanted to be informed. My family gained our dual citizenship back in 2014 and so this was it, the first time we’d be able to exercise our civic duty. We were too young to vote when we left the UK and still on our visa/green card during the 2008/2012 election cycles. For those years we watched, but never really gave the process too much thought as we knew we had no power to cast a vote either way. We just had to sit back and enjoy the show. One of the perks of the American immigration system is that you spend years working your way through the system legally, paying the same taxes as citizens do, and receive no representation in the government.

It’s a grand ole’ time. Anywho, back to the beginning of this thing. We carefully combed through the stances and issues each candidate represented. I fell in love with a man named Bernie Sanders. From that point to the heart-breaking day he stepped down and endorsed Hillary, he was bae. I have no doubt he will always be my most ardent political love and my most soul-crushing political heartbreak. I phone banked for him, canvassed, went to rallies and went to awesome parties themed around him like Berniefest. If you’d like to know why he was the man for me, feel free to check out my previous blog  https://gracehatton.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/why-i-used-my-first-vote-to-vote-for-bernie-sanders/

I found the process of volunteering for him thoroughly edifying and even when I was being yelled at over the phone for supporting a socialist, or being flicked off by T-ump supporters I held my ground. I believed in him. I found the argument that people wouldn’t vote for him ‘because he couldn’t win’ utterly baffling. People seemed to like Bernie much more than Hillary, but didn’t want to vote his way because they felt he couldn’t win the primary. I wanted to scream at them ‘Of course he won’t win if you don’t freakin’ vote!’. I grew even more frustrated when I asked my fellow Bernie supporters if they had registered to vote and if they were ready to vote on March 15th (Florida’s primary). Most gave me silly excuses like they had an old address on file and were worried they would be committing voter fraud by going to vote with another address, or that they were registered in another state. All of these things could have been easily changed, but that seemed too much work for most people. Instead they continued to offer social media support in droves, and if this election was based on who received the most social media traction Sanders would have won (dank meme stash anyone?) However, that’s not how elections work.

They are decided by votes.  Yet it was clear so many were uninformed. The amount of people that had no idea when the primary was, or even how the primaries worked irritated every molecule in my body. Despite this frustration, I continued to remain stand fast in my commitment to the primary process. I followed every state. When Sanders won I was overjoyed, when he lost I felt defeated. My emotions were so closely tied to that man from January through June.  I came home crying after Super Tuesday because, as much as no one wanted to admit it, I knew T-ump was going to win the Republican side and from the looks of things Hillary was going to get the Democratic side. I knew the majority of voters, including myself, didn’t wholly trust Hillary and that would lead to an extremely tight race between Hillary and T-ump.

Like many of my fellow Berners, I held out hope all the way to the Democratic National Convention. We wanted some freak of nature to happen, the DNC to admit their wrongdoing and in turn put Sanders forward as the nominee. When the e-mails came out showing the DNC had systematically worked against Sanders, we all thought, THIS IT! Surely the DNC will see the errors of their ways and put our man Sanders up for the nomination, but there were dead set on Hillary. Then it happened, Sanders endorsed Clinton and she became the nominee. You could hear it, the communal heartbreak that resounded around the states. Bernie represented something more than just politics. He represented change, progress and a democratic socialist movement. That was lost when he endorsed Clinton. Here’s a recap of the pain my fellow Berners and I felt during the Democratic National Convention.

 

I ignored social media for a few days after that. When I was phone banking I had multiple older people tell me they were glad I was so fired up for a candidate, but I should prepare to be let down. They told me that very rarely does the political candidate you love make it to the final push. I had assured them they were wrong, that Bernie couldn’t be stopped. I was wrong. That was a hard pill to swallow. Then came the process of deciding if I was going to vote for the woman I had been fighting against or if I was going to vote third party.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe a third party vote is a wasted vote. If America is ever to move beyond a black and white, Republican vs Democrat mentality we have to embrace other parties. To those who say 3rd parties candidates never become president, remember Lincoln was a 3rd party candidate. At the time of his election, the Democrats (who weren’t so great at that point, cough, pro-slavery, cough) and the American Party (also known as the Know Nothing party and the Native American Party) were the two dominant parties. The Republicans came up on an anti-slavery platform and the undeniable presence of Lincoln allowed them to rise from obscurity to the white house. At that time the Republicans were “third party” but if voters would have neglected to vote for them just because they weren’t one of the major parties, we wouldn’t have one of the most iconic Presidents in history and most likely slavery would have continued for much longer.

Granted, this was a long time ago, but it shows that it hasn’t always been this Republican VS Democrat system. Also, there is nothing in the constitution that says only two parties can have majority. We don’t have to accept the current system. Yet in order for change to happen, we have to remove the stigma of voting third party and more people have to support third party candidates. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, tempted me. She had very similar values to Bernie and had even been willing to give Bernie her nomination. Yet as T-ump gained steam, for some reason I still can’t fathom, I realized one thing: he was practically unstoppable because the only group he hadn’t offend was the group that showed up to vote.

T-ump had avoided offending older, white men. Of all the demographics, this is the one that shows up  consistently– ranging from 60 to 70% attendance. This meant although he had virtually offended everyone he had befriended the community that actually shows up to vote, meaning he had a hell of a good chance of winning. This was the thought that absolutely terrified me. I cannot fathom a T-ump presidency. The amount of bigotry, hate and misogyny that man spews out is diabolical. Besides that the amount of backsliding this country would do under his leadership is truly terrifying. The man suggested getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Board of Education for heaven’s sake! Our planet is in peril, our education system is failing, health care is far behind many other developed countries (who are almost all on government run single payer systems) and gender inequality is very much a real thing. Obama has made huge strides, but in order for that progress to be built upon I knew our only hope was to elect a Democratic nominee.

So I spent weeks mulling it over and considering every angle, until I decided that the only way to stop T-ump was Clinton. I decided that she would be the best option for this country at this moment in our existence. I received a lot of backlash from my religious friends. To be clear, not religious friends my age (who are mainly democratically inclined) but instead old friends from England and older Christians. Apparently I’m going to hell guys. Never mind the whole believe that Jesus is the risen Son of God, admit your sins and confess him as your Lord and Saviour thing. Apparently that all goes out the window when you vote Democrat. But I pushed through it.

I tried not to let my brain explode every time I met a T-ump supporter or saw T-ump literature etc. I tried to remember that everyone is valid and is entitled to their own experiences. I enjoyed all the late night shows commentary, all the memes and the general craziness that went all with things. Then the primaries for Congress, Senate etc rolled around and I received my sample ballot. I find the ballots confusing, bulky and unappealing. None the less the same way I researched every Presidential candidate, I researched everyone on a local level and made an informed decision.

Side Rant: It is amazing how many people running for public office don’t even have a website and how hard it is to find the voting record of Judges. This was ridiculous to me, if you want my vote – pay $10 to HostGator and get yourself a website, like a grown up.

 

Again, the amount of people who still weren’t registered and had no idea another primary was even happening blew my mind. Civic engagement seems to be almost non-existent. I’ll admit every ballot I’ve received has taken me a few hours to get through all the names and research all the candidates. This is not a fun process. Many political websites look the same and have similar talking points. It can get a little blurry. Then there is the hassle of getting to a polling station, etc etc. There are many flaws in this system, (check out the video below). Due to these issues a very small part of me understands the low turnout.

 

However, the larger part of me, the part of me that is made up of me being a woman and an immigrant (which you know is a lot) is incredibly irritated by this country’s almost lethargical approach to civic engagement.  My female ancestors had to fight for the right to vote, they were arrested, they were beaten and they were ridiculed. But they made it through. Every woman should be energized to vote. As an immigrant I’ve had to endure years of this system, years of ignorance and sitting by not being able to do anything. Every immigrant who is lucky enough to make it to the citizenship stage, should be enthused to vote. Yet we’re not. Then we complain about the laws these officials make.

Three times now I’ve walked into a polling station to vote for candidates I did my research on and believed in. I might not have agreed with everything they stood for 100%, but I believed in their ability to move my city, state and country forward. Yet when I see this lack of engagement I grow disheartened and when I see all this ridiculous laws about ID etc being imposed I get livid. On top of that don’t get me started on how most states are ‘winner takes all’ (like seriously, WTF) and the Electoral College. That all being said I took all those feelings of rage, frustration, disappointment and general bleh-nesss and turned them into a catchy slogan, mainly for me, in my head, to keep me calm: It’s all a little absurd, but none the less necessary.

To speak to the ‘absurd’ part of that sentence here are two other nifty videos explaining deep, deep flaws with the electoral college/election rules. One is short. One is a little longer.

 

 

 

Now for the ‘none the less necessary’ part. Don’t get me wrong; I firmly believe this system needs to change. Unfortunately unless we’re willing to go all ‘1776’ or ‘Viva La France’ on this, we have to implement change by electing officials that believe the system is broken and can be improved upon. Yet we cannot elect officials if we don’t show up to vote. We have to adapt the system from the inside out, thus the ‘necessary part’. Right now a majority is voting (those lovely older white men we discussed) and unless we all commit to doing our research and showing up, they will continue to run this country while we bitch about it on Facebook.

Don’t let that happen anymore. You can be the difference with a few simple steps.

Do your research: yes its annoying and time consuming, but much less time consuming than putting up with elected officials you hate.

Fall in love with candidates and fight for them: I will never regret feeling the bern, and I will continue to look for candidates like him that support a progressive vision for this country.

Get Registered and Informed about Primaries etc: Registering is actually very quick, but keep in mind each state is different in regards to what you declare yourself as and at what points you can vote. Many states have closed primaries etc, which limit what you can vote for in the primaries and mids. Which I also found maddening, but again we’ve got to shake things up from the inside.

Be Nice to the Poll Workers: Polling stations and supervisor of election offices etc are severely understaffed and many states have dramatically cut down on stations (cough, Arizona, cough). This is not the poll workers fault, those laws are passed by the people we elect. Remember that those poll workers are not trying to steal your vote or screw you over. They are doing a job and have been given a certain set of rules to follow. Smile at them, thank them and make your voting experience as smooth as butter.

 

Here’s the deal. The American system is flawed, some might argue extremely flawed. My own experience has been far from perfect, but I can say I’m proud of how engaged I’ve been. Through every step of this thing I’ve known what I’ve stood for and the reasoning behind my decisions. Yes, it’s been frustrating, I might even goes as far as to say maddening, but here’s the crux of the issue – I get a vote. As a woman that’s something that had to be earned. As an immigrant that’s something that had to be earned. Thus I don’t take it lightly. I consider it a duty.

You have that duty too.  You get a vote. A vote many people had to fight and die for your right to have. Keep in mind there are millions of people around the world who don’t have that opportunity. Don’t take it for granted. Not voting is still voting. Not voting gives your vote to the majority. Don’t allow that to happen. Educate yourself and fight for your right to vote. Take responsibility for your country.

As far as tomorrow. At this point, you’ll have most likely made up your mind one way or the other. Nothing I say here will change that. So I won’t try. I won’t attempt to convince or cajole you. I will only offer you my hope.

I hope you chose optimism, love and acceptance over fear, hate and bigotry. I hope you chose the grander tapestry of every color, creed and nationality in this country over placing blame, anger and resentment on one group or religion. I hope you remember our future children and what they will see when they look back at this election. I hope you choose to leave them a legacy of inclusion and forward motion, not isolation and backpedaling. I hope you see the beauty of this country the way I do. I hope you choose to build, not tear down. I hope you choose the prospect of a brilliant future, not some delusion of a grander past.

Exercise your right. Let your voice be heard. Vote.

Sincerely,

A woman, an immigrant, a survivor, a believer and a first-timer.

 

 

P.S – I’ll be on Twitter live tweeting election results etc from about 6 pm EST onwards, most likely drinking copious amounts of tequila at the same time. Feel free to join me @gracehatton

The Days After: Reflecting on Pulse

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In five days we will have elected a new president, I’ll keep my thoughts on that for another post, but as we move this country in one political direction or another I believe we have to seriously consider the gun violence in this country. This summer, almost six months ago, I was in Quebec City, Quebec (CA) with my big brother. We had been in Canada for a week to have a holiday and to see Mumford and Sons. At 6 am on Sunday June 12th I woke up in a hostel in Quebec to my sister (who was in Orlando) messaging me telling me to make sure everyone I knew that went to Pulse was safe. Pulse was a place I frequented and had been many times with friends. I spent the next hours watching my city on the news and frantically trying to make sure everyone I knew was okay. To see my city, to see Pulse (which is only a few blocks away from my apartment) in total terror was an experience that will never leave me. I couldn’t comprehend that my home was now the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S history, but it was happening whether I could comprehend it or not.

So, as the days progressed I kept a journal. I’ve been wanting to share this with the world for some time now, but have managed to keep putting it off. I will be posting what I wrote over the next few days, partly I suppose as therapy for me, but more so as a glimpse into the emotion that comes from such a tragedy and how it feels to have your city ripped apart. I think as we move forward it’s important to realize what one man with an assault weapon can do and if we, as a nation, have the guts to stand up to the NRA etc. and make a change. I hope this series allows you to reflect, but beyond that I hope it keeps the memory of the 49 alive.

I’m going to begin with something I wrote a couple of days before while sitting in Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. I’m including this to show how quickly life can change.

 

Notre-Dame

Sometimes there are places that are too beautiful for words – places that have been cast in hours of toil, worship and artistry.

I’ve never understand the need for ornate places to worship God.

Perhaps, it’s because I’ve always found him in the small quiet spaces in the back of my mind; not in grand halls where pious men felt the need to show their wealth and stature, to show how holy they are simply by the act of building something physically beautiful.

However, as much as I detest these men, as much as I wish they would have never existed, I cannot help but have a touch of thankfulness for them.

For, if they never existed places like this would never be.

And if they never existed, I could never sit here, in a smooth oak pew, looking up at a divine altar carved from one tree, with the colors of a night sky bleeding out behind it, feeling the weight of hundreds of years of worship in one quiet moment.

This is the legacy of places like this, but this one, yes this one, is just a little more beautiful than the rest.