“Dad. Did Bambi’s Mummy just die?”
When I was little I would employ a number of semi-effective techniques for avoiding the reality of my favorite entertainment. Preferred approaches included hiding behind the back of the sofa to shield my eyes, clamping cushions over my ears and throwing myself into my Mum’s lap.
It was tricky to simultaneously cover up both sight and sound. So I would have to face the grim reality that nobody rescues the poor cat in The Towering Inferno, the horse disappears in Woody Allen’s Love and Death and that Bambi’s mum always dies. It was painful.
Today. January 2017. New York. I am testing out various techniques to avoid the pain of reality. Shouting at Alexa to skip NPR in my daily Flash Briefing (poor Alexa has never been screamed at so much), ignoring Facebook (not ideal when you use it to keep up to speed with those you love far away), and gorging myself on online frippery with the help of the Daily Mail gossip section (oh how have I sunk so low?).
Let’s face it. We are all (not all of us, but many) trying to reconcile how we live through the next 4 years without hiding behind the sofa or crying in our Tinder dates’ lap because it’s just too painful.
This internal struggle must be faced to a far greater extent, by millions of people across the world every day, most of whom are in far worse situations than modern day New York, where we want for nothing and everything is available within 20 mins at the press of an app. How do those shielding from the bombs in Aleppo, or the families freezing in refugee camps across Europe maintain daily life in the face of ongoing physical threat and trauma?
We must all reconcile how we are to live through the next four years. How will it change our daily lives?
Until the age of 14 my life was pretty sheltered. Good school, nice home, some holidays, the broader political and social landscape didn’t encroach into daily life too much. Community and charity playing a minor role. I remember my grandparents telling me how they had gone into communist Russia with smuggled Jewish books and secretly met with families in St. Petersburg covertly practicing their religion. Having to take remarkable steps to avoid being followed or detained by the ever-present KGB. I remember thinking wow that is a remarkably risky thing to go and do from the comfort of your North-West London life. What was it that drove my grandparents to put their comfortable lives at risk for strangers?
And now I see.
I, formerly non-activist, non-lobbying, non-marching Alex see why. Because at some point we all must address how we are going to reconcile a society that is unjust/cruel/lacking in empathy. We all have to figure out how much news is important to stay educated. How broadly we should expand our frame of reference to begin to hear the ‘other side’. How to sit on our hands and listen when someone with a viewpoint other than our own is expressing their perspective.
Then how to act. In our own way. In a sustainable way for the future. Yes we all have too much work, too many commitments and not enough hours in the day. We are all really busy, especially the New Yorkers. But we can’t be too busy for 4 years. We can’t hide behind the sofa whilst people suffer, and freedoms that were once the foundational intent of the First Amendment are challenged.
So we find a way. Firstly we express gratitude, daily. For our comfort, our family and our friends and that we don’t live under the threat of war. Then we share out warmth to those around us. The guy in the bodega who works all night to support his family, the woman on the subway who is schlepping her baby across Manhattan whilst still breast feeding because she has only had 10 weeks maternity leave, the supers who fix our daily lives. We show everyone more consideration, give them more space and a smile because chances are they’re feeling how we feel.
Then we look to our community to see what we can do, and we do what we can. Whether it is time and or money. We look at what is really going on. And in our own ways we help. Mentoring a kid so that he can see a broader picture for his future. Delivering lunch to the elderly with Meals on Wheels to gain a glimpse into what it’s like to live in a 40 floor high rise, alone and infirm. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. We contribute.
Then we look more broadly at what we can do at a state level. How we can lobby our local politicians to make good choices, to help them hear the voices of anger and pain. And we take on injustices that we feel are wrong, that aren’t necessarily our own. We march alongside Black Lives Matter in spite of our white skin, we support Planned Parenthood even if we may never dream of having an abortion because the government shouldn’t have the right to decide what we do with our bodies, and we support our Muslim friends because when millions of people were being burnt alive in ovens across Eastern Europe who stood up for us Jews?
This is what we do and more. In whatever way we can. No judgement. No right and no wrong. Most importantly we educate ourselves. And then we go out dancing all night, we eat tacos and we hug our friends and family. Because life goes on. Never the same. Life goes on in a new way.
PS No animals were harmed during the writing of this blog post.
PPS If you want to volunteer in NYC check out the app Deed
PPPS If you want to learn how to lobby, Rally + Rise are holding an education session this Thursday evening