The Long Road Home (for the Eternal Optimist)

In tumultuous times it’s easy for us to point fingers and find fault. It’s so much harder to look inside, to really look, and find ourselves lacking. 

I looked inside and found that I am a selfish person. 

My soul is sad.

My soul is sad because there are people I love that have spent their every breathing moment living with prejudice. My soul is sad because there are people that I love that harbour a hate for each other, so deeply ingrained, they can’t recall why, so we blame it on history. My soul sears with the burn of injustice, that every morning as I drive to work, I see the faces of the world-weary, who are walking to work, to earn a below-living-wage because their choices have been limited. They have no choice. I see the hopelessness in the eyes of the homeless, begging for a piece of bread, and maybe, just maybe, a little piece of humanity. For someone to acknowledge them, look them in the eye, and say “I see you”. I hurt because I fear losing friends and family to the perceived safety and opportunity in lands afar. My sadness stretches centuries long, through the ages of slavery, apartheid and repression. At not being able to comprehend how a human, treats another human, as anything other than an equal. I am sad because I love my country and all it’s people and because I am the eternal optimist who believes one day peace will prevail.

Perhaps it is my guilt that causes this deep sadness. Perhaps it is my privilege that allows me my optimisim. Perhaps. But I know my souls truth. I believe in freedom above all else. The freedom to choose, the freedom to fight, the freedom to love without boundaries and the freedom to be a South African. I have no exit plan. That’s why I am selfish. I want a happily ever after in the land that birthed me. And I want it with all the people I love. 

I can’t ask you all not to safely stash those exit strategies at the forefront of your thoughts. That would be asking you to give up the freedom I so intrinsically believe in. But I will ask you not to lose hope. Not to give up, before you give it your all. Our country is bleeding from wounds so deep that it’s not enough just to stem the flow. We need to look at the “why” before we lash out at the “what”. Empathy is what sets human beings apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We cannot allow fear, misunderstanding and hurt to rob us of our empathy. Of our humanity. 

I have always harboured a childish fantasy that one day we would wake up and we would all look the same. That there would be no race or custom to divide us. That the worlds history of hate and division, and generations of hurt it has left in its wake would be erased. That then, maybe, we could live in peace. 

I know this can never happen. But I still have hope that the world can find peace and unity within our differences. Who wants to live in a world of people who are all the same? We should rejoice in our differences. Embrace the wisdom of other cultures and broaden our perspectives by engaging in dialogues thy make us uncomfortable. That make us question.

Some scars run so deep that they will always serve as a reminder of what has come before. And that is something we have to accept and take responsibility for. We cannot change the past. But we can all play a part in a future that is ours for the making.

There is no unity without understanding. No understanding without empathy. Fear, division, misunderstanding and hate can only threaten our humanity if we invite them into our homes. 
We can all be kind, we can all be human and we can all be better. For it is then we will stand together. Acknowledgement, action and hope for a truly free nation.

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