Why We Need Diversity in Politics

When it comes to politics, I am a firm believer that people from all perspectives should be considered. After all, who knows more about a woman’s experiences than an actual, flesh-and-blood woman? Who knows more about what it’s like to live in a wheelchair than someone who has actually been in a wheelchair? And who can better speak to the issues faced by people of colour than someone who has spent all their lives being a person of colour? Of course, it’s not always perfect – not every person in a specific community represents every aspect of that community. We all have different forms of privilege, we all meet with different challenges in our lives, and some politicians who represent marginalized people have actively fought in support of issues that concern their community. However, that being said, you are still going to make a much more informed decision around what to do with the lives of women if you are actually confronting a group of women, rather than a group of men.

And it is very rare that you see this nowadays. I am very proud of my own country of Canada, whose cabinet is intentionally diverse, made up of immigrants, Muslims, disabled people, native people, and not a small handful but fifteen women. In America, however, Trump’s cabinet is overwhelmingly white and overwhelming male – so much so that it is, in fact, the least diverse cabinet since Reagan’s. And since Trump has been elected, he has continued to make decisions that do not directly affect white men. Abortion, for example, is not a procedure that cisgendered men will ever have to endure, and yet Trump and his cabinet have made the decision for women that their access to it should be limited. I am not necessarily saying that if you asked any random group of women about their opinions on abortion, the answers will be any different – what I am saying is that too few women were consulted. This was a decision made by men for women.

And in my personal opinion, that isn’t okay. I do not think that men should have the ability to limit what a woman can do with her life and body, any more than I think that white people should have the ability to limit what people of colour can do, or that cisgendered people should have the ability to limit what transgender people can do. If you do not have the lived experience of belonging to that particular group, then you do not have the necessary information to tell that group what they should do and how they should behave. You do not know what they deal with.

And yet, I have heard my own perspective countered multiple times. “I think that people should be chosen for a job based on whether or not they are qualified, not based on whether or not they belong to a specific minority,” people will say, and I understand. To a certain extent, I even agree. If someone is faced with hiring one of two people: a black, transgender lesbian who is completely unqualified in every way or a straight, white man who has spent years preparing for this job, of course they should choose the man. But from what I can tell, that isn’t what’s happening. Unqualified people are not being chosen over qualified people to fill a minority quota, as this statement seems to suggest. Rather, in situations such as the one that I described in my home country, where Canada’s cabinet is a diverse one, perfectly qualified people are given jobs where they perform according to standards while simultaneously offering up their marginalized voice, providing a perspective that a straight, white man (a figure that continues to be seen in this workplace) lacks. In other words, the black, transgender lesbian from my example is not only good at her job, but she offers a perspective that would otherwise be lacking.

When I say that we need diversity in politics (and in the workplace, more generally), I am not saying that straight, white, cisgendered, able-bodied, neurotypical (etc., etc.) men should go without jobs. I am not saying that minorities should be given any special treatment that their more societally accepted counterparts don’t get. All that I am saying is that we should support minorities achieving positions that they are perfectly capable of filling, but that they haven’t in the past due to societal imbalances. There are a wide variety of people in our world, but if our political system continues to hear the story of only one side, then that is the side that will eternally be catered to. Inequalities will continue to be enforced, because as much as it is completely possible for a cisgendered man to sympathize with the issues of a woman and want to stand up for her, he cannot understand it in the same way that she does because he has not lived it. She has. Let her tell her story. Let all of us tell our stories. And let us all fight these battles together.

A Letter to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

I am not one of your people. I am a Canadian woman, who will only be affected by the laws you pass in an indirect, ripple-effect sort of way. But I have to admit, the things that you have done and the words that you have spoken have caught my attention, and they have caused me great concern, and not just for myself. I am talking for my fellow humans. For the innocent men and woman who you have intentionally attacked, and whose harm will be on your hands.

I am talking for the woman who feels like she desperately needs an abortion. I don’t know her reason for feeling that way, and really her reason doesn’t matter. All that matters is that, if she feels like she needs it bad enough, then it won’t matter if you’ve made it impossible for her to get one safely or legally. She’ll listen to the man who tells her that “he knows what he’s doing”. She might even try to do it herself. She’ll put her own health and life at risk if she feels like she needs it bad enough, and the physical and emotional damage that that woman will face will be on your hands.

I am talking for the people of colour who now fear stepping outside their own homes because you have spread your hate so widely, that there are now regular men and woman who think that that’s not only normal, but perfectly acceptable. I am talking for the innocent black man who will be beaten in the streets on his way home from a friend’s house. I am talking for the Muslim girl who will have her hijab torn from her head. I am talking for the Mexican immigrants who will have their worth and legitimacy as American citizens openly questioned by people who forget that they’re human beings too. And all of that will be done because you, as not only a public figure but a man in a position that is supposed to be respected, showed your support for it.

I am talking for the disabled people who watched you mock a reporter with arthrogryposis, and felt that all-too familiar sinking feeling in their gut as they remembered, not for the first time, that the world sees them as different. I am talking for the disabled people that now have to live in an America run by a man who has made it clear that he not only doesn’t understand them, but he laughs at them – mocks them publicly, and then doesn’t apologize for it. I am talking for the disabled people that find themselves surrounded by people who now think that it’s okay to look down on them, because their president did it, so why not them? You, Mr. Trump, are the cause for their further alienation.

And I am talking for the women who are raped or sexually violated, because the wrong man heard you say “grab them by the pussy” and saw that as an invitation. I am talking for the women whose consent doesn’t matter as much as yours does – you gave the go-ahead to touch women in any way that men want, and while not every man will hear that and agree, too many might. I am talking for the women who are frightened to exist within their own bodies because you have made it that much more difficult for them to do so.

Now that you’re officially in office and you’ve begun your promised work, I have to say that I am frightened. I am frightened for all of the people that you are going to hurt – and you are going to hurt people, Mr. Trump. You’ve already proven that simply by going after abortion. There is going to be blood and tears on your hands, and I just hope that you can live with that.

But who am I kidding? You won’t live with that. You’ll deny that you’ve caused any harm, or claim that you were rightful in doing it. After all, the damage that you’re causing is too big for one man to carry on his conscience.

An Election Based On Fear (My Reaction to Donald Trump Winning)

I had trouble sleeping last night. My dreams were plagued with visions of the dystopia that the world would potentially become if Trump became president.

Of course, I didn’t really believe it would happen. I had more faith in the human race than that, and I (possibly naively) stand by the old belief that love and reason will always find a way to win out over hatred and fear.

Still, as soon as I woke up, I rushed to my laptop, flung it open, and swallowed down the news with greedy eyes.

Trump had won.

I was stunned. I didn’t understand. Right up until the last moment, I hadn’t even entertained it as a possibility. I mean, yes, there were always people who supported his hate-filled speech, his lack of understanding of the world and the people in it, his outright cruelty at times, but still, I figured that they were a minority. I couldn’t imagine that an entire country would succumb to him. I couldn’t imagine that hatred would win out.

So that left me with one burning, terrible question in mind: how was there so much hate in the world?

Because, no, Hilary wasn’t a perfect solution. She was a flawed candidate, and I understand that, but you cannot tell me that she was ever as bad as Trump. She never outwardly mocked people with disabilities. She never joked about and normalized the sexual harassment and objectification of women. She never promoted the intentional harm of people of colour to the point that she received support from the KKK. A vote for her would not have been a vote for hatred – it would have been a vote for the protection of marginalized people. People who are now in danger. People who now have to worry about their president robbing them of their rights.

So why wouldn’t she receive the majority vote? Why did so many American people hate their fellow man (and woman)?

The question threatened to crush my optimistic view of humanity for a good hour or so, until I took some time to think (and, admittedly, a yoga break), and I came to a conclusion: what emotion accompanies hatred more than fear?

I’ve heard a lot of people compare Donald Trump to Hitler, but it truly is much more apt than I ever realized before. After all, the German people turned to Hitler because they were impoverished and afraid, and that is exactly what the American people are doing now with Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter if what he says is logical. It doesn’t matter if what he says is good or kind. All that matters is that he’s promising change, and so long as that’s the case, then what does it matter what kind of change it is?

But the thing is, Hitler didn’t make things any better for the German people. He only made things worse.

So as much as I can’t agree with America’s decision to elect Trump, I can’t hate people for being afraid. I can’t tell them that their fear is wrong either, because fear is an emotion, and all emotions come from somewhere. But I can say that what the American people need right now is not more fear, handed down through the fat, greedy mouth of Donald Trump. What they need right now is to confront their fear. They need education, because “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft). They need love and compassion. Because, yesterday, fear won. Yesterday, fear took good people and made them do a stupid thing. But fear doesn’t have to keep winning. Regardless of the results of this election, I still believe that people are essentially good, and that we are all just trying to do our best in a really confusing world. And sometimes, along the way, we make mistakes, but we can learn from them. We can do better. We can overcome fear.

So instead of asking why is there so much hate in this world, I say that we ask why is there so much fear? We come up with an answer and we try to fight that fear, because with love, compassion, and education, it is possible.