Irony would have it that South Park would be right in saying that "the Simpsons already did it": He who shall not be named elected president of the world's largest economic and military power.
Waking up on that Wednesday morning, the garden covered in this winter's first fresh snow, even before I could fire up the computer and catch up on the news, a message on my phone, on a single line, announced the unimaginable:
I can't believe what I'm observing. I'm in utter disbelief.Over the last couple of years, we've seen the rise of populist, mostly right-wing movements, not only around here in Europe - illustrated with examples from Poland and Hungary, to Germany and Austria - but virtually everywhere, the controversial impeachment/coup d'etat in Brazil being just one more to hit somewhat close to home. In the beginning, I could rationalise: it's a minor problem here; it's a banana republic issue there. It progressed to a stage where even the people in supposedly well-educated countries - grüezi, Switzerland! - start veering off down this road.
And yet - now this reaches the last remaining superpower. I will refrain from trying to explain or analyse what took place, or what may come to pass in the upcoming months and years. But seen from the perspective of my recent visit to South America, reading first-hand reports of how antisemitism and racism more than once affected my family's trajectory, splitting relatives and destroying lives, the viral message from a certain "Johan Franklin" made me question: have we not, as a society, as a civilisation, learned our lessons?
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In the news one finds many a well-written piece warning of the imminent apocalypse. Maybe also my initial reaction that morning would have been one of despair, were it not for the lucky coincidence of a completely senseless conversation which, just at the right time, arrived at the works of Douglas Adams and discussed an interpretation to the answer to his Ultimate Question. Precisely in time to remind me that, in the cover of the eponymous book, one reads, "Don't panic".
Indeed: everything's not lost. While the easy way out may be to decry the fall of civilisation as we knot it and go running to the hills, one has to be reminded that in the end, however painful progress may be, the forces of reason, compassion, and equality always prevail. Love conquers all.
History will shows us that such conquests do not come easy. Thus the need, precisely in such times, to rally together - not only to defend rights so hardly won, but above all, to continue to inspire others. And to remind ourselves, however faint and distant, that there is some rightness in the universe, an ideal order in the world worth seeking, and fighting for. (Apologies for the cliches).
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Escaping persecution and finding refuge in South America, my grandparents woke up one day in 1942 to find their storefront destroyed - with Brazil finally joining the Allies and declaring war on the Axis powers, German-owned businesses were suddenly target of a series of attacks indirectly motivated by the populist Vargas regime.
Similar deeds were, and are, routinely observed in my vicinity, with Germany having absorbed a record-breaking number of Syrian refugees over the past two years. Now, seeing acts against minorities on the rise following the American election, one can't help wonder if the past is bound to endlessly repeat itself.
Finding some comfort, after those turmoils of almost 75 years ago, good did prevail. They rolled up their sleeves, cleared the store of the glass shreds, and eventually managed to raise, with good health and proper education, all their four kids. Others obviously didn't share the same luck: a call to remind us that it is up to us to ensure it may yet be different this time around.
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It's always darkest before the dawn.