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A Love Letter to America (and my friends in it)

To my dear friends,

I am writing to you because I know some of you are angry and mad. I know some of you are shocked and disappointed. I know some of you feel despair, helpless… lost. I know some of you are also genuinely hurting. 

It will pass.

Rise above the hate and anger you fought against. Rise above the vitriol and venom. Hold your head high, carry yourself with confidence and dignity, and be proud of who you are and what you stand for. 

You are my friends for many beautiful, incredible and wonderful reasons, anger and hate was not one of them. Be gracious in defeat.

It’s tough to see my adopted homeland torn at the seams and split down the middle. Up until recently, it had been my home for the last 4-5 years, too. But threatening to unfriend and delete friends from Facebook or unfollow them on Twitter or take to social media to vent your frustration is not the way forward.

Instead of unfriending, ask questions. Instead of deleting them have a robust discussion, but don’t vilify them for no other reason than having a different viewpoint to yours. I’m sure we’ve had several disagreements and differences in our time, too. I’m also sure those differences have also brought us even closer together as a result.

We all know the world is a crazy, fucked up place at times. The United States of America is no different. But the world and the U.S is also amazing in every way as well. All the different foods, cultures, music, language, history, stories and more that we can all experience, is all part of the reason I met each and every one of you. 

I honestly couldn’t be more thankful and in truth, humbled, to be called your friend.

It was with a heavy heart I left your country, in a city I had come to love, and to say goodbye to you, bound for Canada and a new adventure for me to undertake. I found my way north because I chose to follow my heart and if not for being open to exploring that, I wouldn’t now be experiencing a relationship with the kindest, sweetest, most caring soul I’ve ever had the fortune to fall in love with.

Being from Colombia, she, her family, friends and the countless others I met on my travels there in 2009, through one of the most amazing and beautiful countries I have ever been, have known true hardship and heartache via years of drug cartel and guerrilla activity and unrest. It’s a country that has known so much death and destruction. It’s a country that has been ripped apart by far worse things than an election result that didn’t go their way. Yet she, and many of the people I met, and continue to meet from Colombia, are all smiles. 

I’ve been extraordinary lucky to have travelled to over 50 countries, and experience all kinds of incredible hospitality, but the Colombians continue to be the friendliest people in the world I have ever met despite all they've suffered hands down.

Be like Colombians. Be optimistic, be hopeful, be friendly, and most of all, smile. One bad election result is no need to turn nasty, turn on your friends (Republican or not), or turn away from the things that matter to you.

Remember how you felt when your country voted in its first ever black president? How happy you were, how hopeful you became, and how optimistic you felt? Well, that’s how some people now feel. 

Sure, you may not be able to fully understand how people could vote in someone you see as nothing more than a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobe but let them have their moment in the sun. You did when Obama was elected. Maybe he wasn't as divisive but he too, had his detractors. There were just as many intelligent, educated voters like you, who voted for Trump. Not all of them voted him in for the very things you despise about him or all that you stand against.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to sit down, have that discussion, listen, hear them out. Maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you won’t, but at least you’ll have a better idea why. All great things start with a simple, open and honest conversation, free of judgement, bias or doubt. Maybe you’ll get to form a new opinion as a result.

If you still can’t see their point of view, that’s okay. At least respect it. You’d like the same in return for yours I’m sure.

If you still feel the need to blame, vent or point fingers, rather than blame those who voted for Trump, maybe look at those Democrats who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, or people in the normally safe blue states who turned. Or if you dare to look more inwards, maybe your own Democratic leaders who seemed to subvert democracy to ensure Clinton was their nominee rather than Bernie Sanders – who during certain national polls when he was still in the running, held a double digit lead over Trump.

From my vantage point, the DNC seemed to actively undermine the Bernie Sanders’ campaign. A campaign with huge people power momentum behind it, from people who simply wanted change. As a result, millions of loyal party supporters felt divided, suppressed, silenced, and with it, a powerful revolution that would have swept both Sanders and the Democrats to an easy victory, ended as quickly as it came.

As a silent, intelligent observer, I saw and read many things leading up to this US election. But the one thing that stood out more than any other was how there was a revolution going on.  

While it wasn’t the revolution you may have been wanting, Trump inspired people to take back the power. Bernie Sanders was doing the same albeit under very different, more ethically and morally sound principles. But change was inevitable. It was obvious to see months out. 

Senator Bernie Sanders understood voters wanted change.

Senator Bernie Sanders understood voters wanted change.

#FeelTheBern and #MakeAmericaGreat didn’t trend for no reason. Even Bernie Sanders can see why Trump won.

“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics, and the establishment media,” Sanders said, which echoes some of the themes of his own campaign,
“The greater population was tired of not being heard, ignored or having their jobs sold off and shipped overseas. People were tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries. Of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes, and of not being able to afford healthcare or college education for their kids — all while the rich become richer and companies made even bigger profits. Something had to give.” 

And it did!

This is what is being missed among all the vitriol, hate and disbelief. This had nothing to do with race lines, sexism or any other thing you feel angry or disillusioned by.

And for all those people who lay blame at the third party voters, accusing them of throwing their vote away, shame on you. They’ve every reason to exercise their democratic right to vote for whoever they choose just like you. Just because they didn’t align with your choice is no reason to chastise them. 

To say they threw away their vote or lost their voice, is categorically not true. If you want real change, it takes the truly courageous to break with tradition. 

In Australia, the Greens (the biggest of the minor political parties) usually end up holding the balance of power in the Senate after each subsequent election. You can’t have a reward without taking a risk.

If you still feel bitter, maybe look at the process. Why hold a federal election on a Tuesday? What’s wrong with a Saturday where you’d get a much greater voter turnout? 

Almost half of Americans didn't even vote. Half! Let that sink in for a moment.

In Australia, we are compelled to vote or risk a hefty $100 fine if we don’t. No one wants to give the government any more money than necessary, so we get along, all of us, and we vote, giving up our free time on a Saturday to do so. No excuses!

According to Statistic Brain (http://www.statisticbrain.com/voting-statistics/) via the U.S Census Bureau: Voting and Registration, 46.9% didn't vote. While Trump scored almost a third of the Hispanic/Latino vote (29%), almost a third of the Asian vote (29%), and a whopping 42% of the female vote. 42! He also collected 43% of the College Graduates vote, and 37% of the 18-29 age demographic.

Of a total of 128,843,000 votes, 59,418,103 people voted Trump. 59 million. They’re not all racist like he is. They’re not all sexist like he is. And they’re not all white, privileged, rich males like he is. He only got 53% of the male vote.

This had nothing to do with Hillary being a woman. This had nothing to do with sexism. This had nothing to do with racism. This had nothing to do with third party choices. 

This had everything to do with change.

The people of the USA are hurting (we all are). We’re sick and tired of being taking advantage of. That’s where the real change came from. 

In the US, after the most recent economic crash, the banks got bailed out and the masterminds behind the economy collapse, gain powerful government positions or are given multi-million dollar handshakes, while the every day man or woman is forced to foreclose their home, unable to keep it, their job… or their hopes alive.

If you want to see what real people power is like, look to Iceland. They jailed their bankers who ripped off and cost them and their country billions, not cut them concessions. And just recently they proposed a radical idea to sell off one of those corrupt banks and place the money back into the hands of all the people in Iceland. (http://grapevine.is/news/2015/10/24/every-icelander-to-receive-30000-isk-from-bank-sale/). Now, that’s a powerful message for change.

I’m not tied to any party or candidate. I don’t even have a dog in this fight. I am not a Trump supporter (I couldn’t be more polar opposite), and I dislike him as much as you for the reasons you do. What I do have, is friends, friends I genuinely care about.

I’ve been you. 

I saw my own country vote in the most racist, sexist, homophobic and vile politician I have ever seen (arguably Trump now takes that prize) and I saw my country become divided as a result. It wasn’t easy to take or witness. I watched helplessly from the other side of the Pacific as over half my homeland swept Tony Abbott into power.

But rather than be bitter and question people's logic and ideology, I take that frustration and I use it for good. I demand equal rights, equal pay – for everyone! I support women’s rights, gay rights, black rights, indigenous and immigrant rights, and any minority whose voice goes unheard.

I respect women. I have friends who are Indian, Arabic, African-American, Hispanic, European. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight. Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Atheist or whatever it is that makes us all different. Maybe that’s why we’re friends.

At the end of the day, we all have our differences, embrace them. Aim to be more tolerant and understand why they are different from you but don’t shun them. You may just find you have a lot more in common than not.

If in a country like Colombia, where after 50 years of civil unrest and guerrilla warfare, the government and FARC (the guerrilla group), can come together to put aside their differences and thrash out a peace deal, can’t you?

Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, holds a copy of the final text of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas

Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, holds a copy of the final text of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas

Look to lead the way. Shine your light. Inspire women, children, anyone and everyone. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

As a silent, yet watchful observer, it’s been both disappointing and sad to see my Facebook and Twitter feeds, flooded with so much resentment. The friends I keep are better than that. I know they care, I know they have a fire in their bellies that gives them their unique glow. That’s why I write to you.

I love you all. Be you a Kim, Mckenzie, Deepti, Bhavani, Gregory, Reena, Ryan, Jennifer, Raymond or a Bernie. A Sarah, Judi, Vickie, Johanna, Phil, Bridget, Alex or Michael. A Nakia, Pilar, Norm, Kalee, Fae, Nicolle, Ellen, Paul or a Carrie-Anne. An India, Sandra, Peter, Laura J, Lili, Eric, Cristina, Sasha, Simon, Jerry, Mitzi, Gabriel, Elizabeth, Yumi, or Yaz or for someone I’ve not yet met. This is for you.

I’ve never seen you as a race, a colour, a religion, a sex, a sexual preference, a Democrat, a Republican, a third party voter, a meat eater, a vegetarian, a vegan, a Brexit voter or an EU voter, or a belief… I’ve just seen you, the individual with many differing thoughts and opinions, with your own hopes and dreams. I bask in everything about you, even your differences. For it’s your differences that make me love you even more.

So look past all the media rhetoric and doom and gloom and embrace the differences. For it’s those differences which make the world spin and evolve.

If you need a little extra glimmer of hope, after Australia voted in Tony Abbott, he was unable to even see out his first term as Prime Minister (normally 4 years). When his approval rating plummeted to the worst in Australian political history, his own party booted him out of power after just two years! You little beauty, Australia.

There’s always a silver lining in there somewhere. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to see. This is not forever.

The world is constantly changing. It changes every day. People are protesting, people are voting with their feet. People are demanding change. As my beautiful partner said, "The world is not going to be better or worse due to one candidate over another. Just different." 

As a friend, there is much can we affect and effect. Instead of getting angry, upset or judging others for their own individual choices, just think, we can all revisit what we choose every single day. Always remember that.

The world will not end. The sky won’t fall down. The sun will rise again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. 

Never forget… 

Love is everything.

Sincerely, your friend,

Mark x o

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