Thursday 10 November 2016

It's ok I think I have a plan

I think it's been pretty much universally agreed that this has been a difficult and sad year already. 

David Bowie died and the world remembered that his music and influence have been immense. Prince died alone and under circumstances that weren't entirely clear and long before his time. Mohammed Ali passed away and right there a legend was gone. So many people have that iconic image on their wall of him as a young boxer and that is how many will choose to remember him. I will think of the man who emereged from years out of the public eye to light the Olympic flame at Atlanta. Seeing him diminished by Parkinson's disease reduced an entire world audience to tears. Victoria Wood died quietly and privately as did Caroline Aherne and we were treated to some of the best written comedy of many generations in tribute. This makes it even more shameful that 'women in comedy' are still considered outliers. Alan Rickman with his melifluous tones and Terry Wogan with his instantly recognisable voice were also lost to us. Then only recently Pete Burns and a few months before Alexis Arquette died at a young age. It's been a long list of losses this year. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but to name everyone would take so long and my tears would drench the keyboard. To honour their lives I play the music of Bowie and Prince to my children. It's my way of giving them a taste of what it meant to me. We watch comedies and talk to each other in soundbites that made us laugh or impersonate Wogan or Rickman in homage. It's so sad to lose them, but also wonderful to have great memories to share. The warmth that comes from having a positive to think about helps move grief along. 

Then we had the EU referendum and it was painful to hear my five year old ask, "Do we have to move away now ?" I don't know how you explain to a child the climate of fear that was all around them at that time. We did our best and moved on from it. Now I find myself filled with a new dread. 

My son came home from school yesterday talking about the US election and quoted how many seats Trump had won versus how many Hillary had won. We talked about it and he was baffled at why adults aren't so happy about the man who won. He thinks about these things a lot so I don't want to lie to him, but the truth is just too harsh. 

You see the president-elect is a man who mocked a journalist with a disability and lied about it. My son has a respectful attitude towards disabled people and understands that it is better to ask than presume when you do not understand something. 

The man who will occupy the White House has incited hatred towards millions of people and entire nations based on ignorance and fear. I am raising my boys to understand that race, ethnicity and accident of birth are no justifications for fear or bullying. 

This wealthy man has openly boasted about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because he can do what he likes. I talk to my son's about consent even at their young age. It's important that they show respect, but also that they do not allow others to disrespect them or their bodies. 

How do I tell my sons, my beautiful non-white children who I am raising to be kind and considerate men that this president talks about people like us in ways that are not nice ? That maybe going to New York to see your best friend who now lives there isn't such a great idea until this president understands that not all brown people are dangerous. 

These boys who will not tolerate homophobia because they know that it's just not right. My older son knows that marriage can be between two men, two women or a man and a woman. They recognise that families are varied and vibrant and not all the same. That some children don't have as much as they do so they have donated toys and we have taken clothes and food to a refugee centre and local charities. 

I am raising men - not boys. Men who are kind, considerate, respectful, strong and will speak out for those who cannot do it themselves. They will be the positive change to counteract this hateful, narcissistic, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic leader whose only qualification seems to be that his extreme wealth makes him untouchable. 

How do I know that my sons are going to do this ? On a day when 7 people died in a tragic accident a few miles from our home and so many people were thrown into turmoil for a day I went to an interview in the lashing rain, arriving windswept, exhausted, damp and as I took out my notes for the interview I saw this in my folder. 

That's how I know. 

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