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Image / Editorial

You Want It Darker

by Ellie Balfe
13th Nov 2016

There is no doubt that the world feels darker this weekend. How different it feels to last Sunday. Remember then? There was still the sense of potential – we held out strong hope for smashed glass ceilings, the first female POTUS, the romantic idea that Trump would be licking his wounds in his gilded tower (and the hope that that would be where he would stay). Last Sunday, we held strong to the idea that the future with Hillary in power, whilst not perfect, would be, at the very least, measured, stable and reasonable.

And last Sunday we still had Leonard Cohen.

I recall tweeting on election day that what people were voting on was the difference between light and dark – progression versus oppression. And now we see that that is how it is unfortunately playing out, with darkness nudging ahead in the global mood.

I have found it both striking and emotional to read the difference in the coverage of events, from all the respected news outlets coming out to state exactly why Trump should not be president and to endorse Clinton. There was an air of desperate pleading amongst the paragraphs, such editorial never seen before where bastions of publishing houses took such strong sides, how they tried to use their platforms to enlighten the nation on the neglect they would essentially be committing towards their country if they voted for Trump.

And the futility of it! The frustration of the damn electoral college system that got him in. The sadness of what might have been – what should have been – seeing as she won the popular vote showing that much more of the country wanted her. Not him.

But here we are.

Throughout the week, I carried on being moved by the phases of reporting coming through from the writers and news outlets that I admire. Mirroring the initial stages of grief, there was blind outrage, the #notmypresident movement took flight, then after a day or two of shock and disgust, there was a different tone arising.

The battle cry, the call to action.
It doesn’t take too long to mobilise the minds of the good, clear thinking reasonable people.

It was a great relief to see people talking about what to do – to not sink, to not be mute, to fully and properly engage with the political system over the next four years in the US, and also the entire world. The lesson was laid down – do more.

It is not enough to re-tweet articles from the New York Times or The Guardian and call yourself a liberal (*guilty as charged), what needs to happen is proper, attentive action. It will probably be hard.

Cheryl Strayed says it best, ?We don’t reach the mountaintop from the mountaintop. We start at the bottom and climb up. Blood is involved.?

So what does this mean? Well, to me it’s a call to arms for a new behaviour. It means if you are a parent, you talk to your kids about the world and how they can change it. And no, they don’t need to know the gory details if they are very small, but just make their potential a big part of the family discourse. Particularly with our daughters – build them up. Praise their ideas and raise their spirits. Talk about their place at the table, how it is not only deserved, but basic and right.

And what do we do? Most of us are sad and dis-heartened this week. Personally, I feel I haven’t even begun to process the bad news, I didn’t know how I would actually access the emotions to let out what I was feeling.
And then, on Friday, Leonard died.

And that was that ?I cried. I felt his passing so acutely. In one week we lost a light – a man of such grace – ?and gained a darkness so strange that we all feel uniquely uneasy.

There is something just so sad about this year – 2016 is truly one of the worst of recent times – we’ve lost light, art, music, creativity. And what have we gained? Well, right now it feels like nothing. But, if I were to be pressed on my admittedly gloomy outlook this weekend, I don’t truly think that doom will be the prevailing mood. We are resilient, we will figure it out. But we have to work hard.
Doing what though?

We must hold the line.

We must keep spirits lifted, our backs straight, our defences up. Alert, attentive and annoyed as Hell.
We must defend all human rights, especially our minorities. Especially women. We must not tolerate base behaviour. We must champion creativity – art, music and free speech. We must be brave.

We must hold the line.

The title of this piece is the name of Leonard Cohen’s last album, released last month. Like Bowie, our other great loss this year, he left us a legacy.

?You want it darker? – note it is a statement, not a question. It’s a poignant parting gift as he lifted his hat to us for the last time, a striking statement that weirdly fits – for in the very week he left, the world did, indeed, become darker.
But do we want it? No, we want none of this.

We must hold the line.

Know it, live it. And may we have a better week next week.

?There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in? – Leonard Cohen.

(and speaking of poignant, watch how Saturday Night Live chose, for the first time, not to play for laughs, but to tie the weeks events perfectly together).