Monthly Archives: November 2016

A letter to my MP – xenophobia

I finally wrote to my MP today on a few issues I’ve become increasingly worried about this past year. As I wrote in my last post, there is always something we can do in a fearful situation, and it’s better to focus on doing that than on worrying about the future or getting angry or regretful about things past. So today, this is what I felt I could do about the refugee crisis, the uncertainty hanging over my immigrant friends’ futures, and the way the media are stirring up hatred and division. Here is my letter: If you’re in the UK and want to write something similar to your own MP, you can do so easily at writetothem.com, all you need to know is your postcode and what you want to say 🙂

 

Dear (MP)
I’m writing as I’m extremely concerned about a number of issues connected with xenophobia in this country; I hope you will take action on each of these points.
Refugees – I’ve been horrified to hear about how the clearing of the Calais refugee camp has been handled, and by the government’s back peddling on its promise to accept unaccompanied children and ensure all reach a place of safety. There have been so many reports of people left on the streets of France, vulnerable to crime and exploitation and mistreated by the police, and this includes young people. Please urge the government to do more to ensure all unaccompanied under-18s are genuinely given sanctuary, as a bare minimum. Their country of origin shouldn’t be a block to them being brought into the country; if they are fleeing an unsafe situation and cannot return home at present, wherever that home is, they should be protected. And I would far, far rather we accidentally helped a few desperate young adults, than that we turned away genuine vulnerable older children ‘just in case’. The shrill cries of outrage of the papers do not speak for me, nor I believe for a majority of British people, so I hope you will allow voices of compassion to be heard in parliament and ensure people fleeing danger overseas are not subjected to further mistreatment here and in France.
Existing immigrants – I am also deeply concerned at how the rights of immigrants, particularly non-British EU citizens, are being used as a bargaining tool in the wake of the referendum. These people came to the UK under the understanding that they had a guaranteed right to live and work here. Many of my friends have been here many years, have married, bought homes, set up businesses or got permanent jobs here. Suddenly life seems very uncertain, as the rights they had been guaranteed on entry are being hinted at being revoked. It is deeply unfair to use people’s real lives as a bargaining tool in negotiations; if someone is already living here and has the right to remain here, this should remain the case as they will have planned their lives around this. I want you to ensure the government make it clear that the rights of existing immigrants already living in the UK will not be revoked retrospectively, as this would cause a huge amount of suffering. I would like this to be explicitly promised, as my immigrant friends are struggling with the uncertainty hanging over their futures. If uncertainty causes them to leave unnecessarily, it would be a great loss to the country and to the lives they have built here.
Media incitement – We have freedom of speech in this country, but also laws against hate crimes and incitement of hatred. Is there no similar law to temper freedom of the press with a requirement that the media do not incite hate? I’m extremely concerned by the amount of quite explicit hate-incitement I am seeing, particularly from the Sun and the Daily Mail, but also from other papers, directed predominantly against foreigners, but also against those who stand up for their rights, and against other minority groups such as the poor or LGBT people. The Mail even went so far this past week as to publish an article implying neo-nazi views justified Jo Cox’s murder. I believe in both press freedom and freedom of speech, but incitement of hatred must be policed, possibly more so from the media than from individuals, as it is so much more influential than the speech of an individual. It shouldn’t be acceptable for a paper like the Sun to repeatedly publish headlines that are both untrue and inciting, and then wait to see if they are caught, and weeks later have to publish a retraction, in small print, many pages in, by which time the damage to society is already done. I would like to see much greater press regulation, to protect genuine news coverage and stop papers turning public opinion so viciously against certain vulnerable groups.

I look forward to your response.

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Living in the now

The biggest lesson I’m learning this year is this: ‘Now’ is the only moment that is in your control.

The unfortunate mixture of depression and political upheaval I’ve been battling this year are drilling it into me. I look away from the moment I hold in my hands right now, and the world becomes very overwhelming. But when I focus on this present day; minute; breath, I begin to see ways through; ways to make creative and beautiful responses to the ugliness I see around me, be that an untidy house or a xenophobic society.

Whatever your ‘now’ looks like, be creative with it and make it sing. What can you make out of the raw materials this moment presents you? What’s the best way you can handle this situation? Who would you want you to be right now..?

It’s easy to worry with the world looking as it does, to look back and find people to blame and make the enemy, or look at the future and be paralysed by fear. Even looking at my social media feeds I see a lot of sharing of angry or fearful articles, but much fewer practical suggestions for what to do now. There’s a lot of uncertainty around. But so much of that uncertain future is in reality out of our control. And the past has happened. What we have is right now.

What’s the best we can make of it, to shape the part of the world, and its future, that we can influence? Let’s look for all the positive moves we can play, to break down hatred and division, to spread hope, to fight for what’s right and campaign hard against bad policies as they come up. Whatever the future looked like, we’d still have that task before us.

So we don’t know how our country’s climate change policies will pan out – so, now, let’s do what we can; keep on doing what we can to minimise our own impacts, encouraging others, turning up the volume to make sure our leaders know it is an issue we care about… and doing what we can to actively stop things sliding in the wrong direction. We don’t know what will happen to our immigrant friends; so, let’s ensure they are welcomed, challenge hatred, and stand up for their rights in the media and with our politicians. We don’t know what will happen to our healthcare; so, let’s support and listen to those working in healthcare, and echo their concerns to our government, and maybe find ways we can step up our practical care for others ourselves.

I’m now making a conscious effort not to share in the speculation, but to spread both hope and practical responses. We don’t know; but we have ways of doing good today.

And should we worry? Of course Jesus taught us not to worry. But I think there’s a difference between being concerned and heartbroken over injustice, and being so preoccupied with material concerns (Jesus was speaking about concerns over money, food and clothing for example) it stops us from following God, especially where that challenges our comfort and convenience*. Should we worry about terrorism for example? On the one hand, yes; we should be concerned that this is happening in our world and allow it to move us to prayer and action, perhaps doing what we can to support refugees fleeing danger, support the persecuted Church, or build bridges across society’s divides. On the other hand – no. It shouldn’t make us so afraid we fear to live the daily lives we are meant to live.

Living in the past or the future can steal the potential from the present if we let it. I’ve written this from a political perspective as I’m seeing the impact of the Brexit vote, and political uncertainty at home and around the world, on both my own activism and that of others; so many of us stuck between anger and paralysis we’re not quick to respond to today’s challenges and keep our eyes on the current work to be done. But in my own context of learning first hand how mental ill health can send us into an unhealthy vicious cycle of worrying about the past and the future until we feel too overwhelmed to face the present, I think this applies far beyond ‘politics’.

Breathe.

What is in your hands right now? What is one thing you can be, or do, right now?

Just do that.


* There’s also a huge difference between a healthy person being preoccupied with their own worries, and having a clinical anxiety disorder. Jesus never instructed us not to be ill, that just happens; instead we need to support one another going through illness…