Part of the high wire act that is resilience, relies, I believe, on the ability to carve out a new alcove for the bad stuff that happens to us. Bereavement, bankruptcy, broken-heartedness and other traumas cannot be simply shaken from our pelts as a wet dog might do; rather we must process our feelings and thoughts through over time, until they come to rest, somewhat uneasily, on a pale cold stone lintel in the back of our brains.
Yet there are some things which are such an affront to our natural natures, to our compassionate hearts, to our generosity that we must not make internal space for them. Outrages we must not learn to live with and unethical acts that we must resist.
Trump’s executive orders are such acts.
Yesterday’s spilled ink, coming on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, signified a travesty. Closing America to people who are already on their way there. Closing America to people who already have status to remain. Closing America to people with the wrong kind of nationality, or dual nationality. Closing America to refugees… this is an act we cannot accept on behalf of every single person who finds themselves turned away from an airport, detained at an airport, put on a plane away from the United States.
Those people cannot resist the beast. But we must.
I was reminded tonight that my grandmother was a refugee in Malta in the First World War. Fortunately for her, the Red Cross were there on the island to assist. My grandmother told me once, briefly, something of sleeping in tents and having little to do in camp. On the wall in my sitting room there hangs a rudimentary tableau, sewn from sacking and scraps of cloth that my grandmother’s fellow refugees who were Armenian, created. It is an Egyptian scene, with pyramids,a snake and a line of mules, overlaid with the suggestion of coercion, represented by a raised whip. It was made a hundred years ago, yet as I look at it tonight I can almost here the cracking sound.
It is a familiar artefact to me. It has hung on the wall for long enough that I barely notice it anymore. But tonight it concentrates my mind, in order that I do not make space in my head for Trump’s vision of hell, whatever comes next.