When the death of Leonard Cohen was announced, it felt like the last straw in a tempestuous week.
Leonard wrote many prophetic songs about the USA. He described a chaotic future which, as of this week, seems to have grown closer. The election of a racist, misogynist who denies climate change can seem far away from the glorious flowering hills of white manuka in the Coromandel. But it is a small world in which we are all impacted by ideas and messages that travel so quickly.
I was so proud when our Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei refused to congratulate Donald Trump in the House last week. My political party holds our principles regarding human rights very dear and we cannot endorse his rhetoric, although we do not deny that he is the fairly elected leader.
I personally abhorred the TPPA and successive Washington administrations’ commitment to endless war. But none of that profound critique leads me or my Party towards the validation of hate speech embodied in this Presidential campaign.
When the words of Donald Trump such as “Build a wall” or “Grab her by the pussy” are repeated in this country (and they have been) we have to look into our own potential for darkness. Let’s not forget how our own Prime Minister grabbed a young woman by the ponytail in her workplace and would not take “no” for an answer. He would never be as verbally crude as Trump but he has shown a bizarre lack of respect and judgement.
The alternative to the Washington elite should not be a multi-millionaire who has inspired the Klu Klux Klan to new confidence and visibility. It needs to be a courageous and non-violent reassessment of the social and economic systems that have so damaged our environment and entrenched inequality. There is no glib blueprint for a better world. We need to have faith in our own capacity to change and to build societies based on respect for the living world as well as a fair distribution of resources. Anything else is suicidal.
This week felt like a crossroads moment in history; the 1930s became more understandable than before. The appeal of a big man who will scapegoat women and minorities and make “us” great again is not a new phenomenon, and should never be underestimated.
It is a cold spring on this side of the world, stormy and now very shaky. Leonard Cohen is playing inside my head and the news, from violent earthquakes at home to Syria and Manus Island is disturbing. Every community needs to remember our responsibility to be compassionate, to respect difference and to learn our histories rather than stumble towards repeating them. We cannot control the fault lines but we can do something positive about our politics.