Nations becoming something more: European perspective

Sitting in Lähetyskirkko in Helsinki, an old church with a very contemporary and welcoming feel, I was  drawn to the stained-glass window with the map of the world. Enframed within the ornate design, it looked beautiful but small and somehow fragile. Just like those amazing images from the outer space which make me think about “the whole world in His hands”.

The world and the continents may seem monolithic but not so once we zoom in and the borders of the nations come into our focus. As I was looking at Europe, my mind was playing one of those interactive maps which show how the borders of the European nations have shifted through the millennia, centuries, decades and years. With so much… too much blood spilled fighting over these lands and the borders. And Latvia, this small corner on the Baltic Sea, has suffered under many powerful and shifting winds of history.

Here I was in Helsinki, participating in a State of Europe Forum (SOEF) which focused on the current European challenges and also opportunities for creative solutions. Christian leaders from many different backgrounds – arts, church, government, politics, science, academia, business, education, environmental work, etc. – came together with an agenda to explore difficult and important issues. The SOEF framed these topics within the premise of “the largely Christian origins of the European movement, and of ongoing Christian responsibility towards the shaping of Europe’s future”. The underlying question – “why do such roots matter for the future?”

One of the sessions focused on the current trends of rising nationalism and populism in democratic nations. What concerns me the most, though, is when religion, specifically, Christianity gets weaponized to legitimize obviously authoritarian, undemocratic and simply unjust ideas and actions. For example, the infamous Crimean speech in 2014 which the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, gave on the occasion of annexation and “unification” of Crimea with Russia. “Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptised. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”

Russia is an obvious and easy target to highlight these trends but unfortunately it is not the only example. It comes much closer. I could name various similar ideas in the West  – in Brexit debates, elections in the U.S.A., memory and identity politics, migration policies and foreign policies in other Western countries. Therefore in any public discussion that focuses on Christianity’s influence in the history of European nations, we, Christians, have to take a very hard and long look into the mirror and examine our own reflection. Why do we allow for our faith to be weaponized in such ugly ways?

Recently I heard some statements which I really liked. These were stated during Riga Conference 2019 panel discussion on ” New powers – shaping regions or shaping history?” by Simon Serfaty, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. He was discussing the weaknesses in authoritarian systems and how the “new” and “renewed” influential nations, for example, China, Russia and Turkey “live their future in the past tense” with revisionist approach. S. Serfaty described the project of European Union as “a matter of necessity, not a matter of choice” and asked the audience “how, when and whether this necessity is gone?”

S. Serfaty concluded: “The liberal hegemonic order did not force its participants to become somebody or something else; it forced its participants to become somebody or something more.” This statement immediately reminded of my personal experience growing up in the Soviet Union and now living in the European Union. I thought to myself: “Exactly! Soviet Union tried to shape us into something else against our own will but European Union gives so many nations a chance to try to become something more.”

More than simply nations focused on their own nationalistic interests with attitude ” God bless us (and no place else)!”  In the current global situation it would be extremely difficult to defend the so-called fundamental EU values – respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, rule of law, equality and peace –  outside such an unprecedented platform of “Unity in Diversity”.

Hong Kong stands courageous and defiant

After visiting Hong Kong, you never forget this unique, vibrant and beautiful island. I find this city, which has the most skyscrapers in the world, simply breathtaking. This is especially true when viewing the city from the Sky Terrace on the top of the mountain overlooking Victoria Bay or capturing the skyline at night.

Still, Hong Kong is much more than one of the financial business centers of the world. Last week it made the headlines as the center of political activism with large protests against a controversial law that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China. I want to join the Hong Kong people in the hope that the world will take notice. Not just take notice as in 3 min news clips but speak up for the democracy and freedom that is threatened in this part of Asia.

Hong Kong’s political future is clearly at stake. “One country, two systems” is a constitutional principle which means that there is one China but certain regions, for example, Hong Kong, have its own governmental system, legal, economic and financial affairs. When Britain transferred Hong Kong to China in 1997, the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 guaranteed these rights to Hong Kong for the next 50 years. How Hong Kong will be governed after 2047 is an open question – reintegrate with mainland China or stay under separate administration… Nobody knows what that future looks like.

It is very clear that China under the leadership/rule of Xi Jinping is becoming more and more authoritarian. Surveillance of its people like no place else; a social credit system to be fully implemented by 2020 which will monitor the behavior of all citizens  and rank them based on the “social credit“; a continued oppression and re-education of Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province which human rights groups describe as the largest mass incarceration in the 21st century; increased religious persecution, closing of Christian churches and jailing pastors who do not submit to the government control.

These are only few of the obvious abuses of universal human rights in the name of order and control of this vast country with large population and turbulent past. I would dare to say that in China the line between authoritarian and totalitarian rule is very fine.  The age-old idea of one strong hand (party), one ideology, one strong man (supreme leader, king, emperor) is steadily enforced and Hong Kong feels increasingly targeted and pulled by force into this authoritarian orbit.

I don’t understand all geopolitics and I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. Nevertheless I can’t shake the feeling that the democratic nations are either completely consumed with their own domestic problems or care much less about using the “soft power” of diplomacy to support democratic initiatives around the world. Recently I was discussing these issues with a Hong Kong friend. I made a remark how Western governments, including in my home country of Latvia, are suspiciously quiet on these obvious human rights abuses and erosion of any signs of democracy in China while focusing on trade wars and economics. My friend replied: ” The only place to stand up to China is Hong Kong!”

After seeing the photos of 2 million people marching on the streets of Hong Kong last Sunday, I have to agree with her. Hong Kong may be afraid about its Chinese future but people are not willing to accept it without strong resistance and letting their common voice be heard around the world. At the forefront of this political activism are young people who are no longer passive about their future prospects.

Another friend of mine who grew up in China but few years ago moved to Latvia, told me that he does not think the Westerner societies care about Chinese people (he meant the effects of authoritarianism). Those were sad words to hear and, I am afraid, mostly true. Still, I hope that this time Hong Kong people will not feel completely on their own.

 

 

 

 

The surreal reality called Putin’s Russia

Why call it ‘surreal’ when it is very real and even dear to millions of people? It continues to look and feel surreal to me ‘on the outside looking in’ or ‘looking over the neighbor’s fence’. Metaphorically speaking.

This week I watched a documentary “Putin’s witnesses” by an exiled Ukrainian/Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky who now lives in Latvia (which actually makes me very proud that Latvia now is a haven for Russian dissidents but also makes me very sad that people are forced to leave their true home).  The story focuses on what happens right after Boris Yelcin, the president of Russia, on December 31, 1999 in a televised address to the Russian nation announces that he is stepping down as the president and has chosen a successor – Vladimir Putin. Putin then started as the interim president but already three months later won the official presidential elections and has been ruling Russia ever since.

It is also surreal to think back on that New Year’s Eve. The grandiose 2000! The world was celebrating the start of the millennium as turning some page in a magic book. Some were scared, especially many of my American friends expecting the infamous Y2K with stockpiled shelves, but most were euphoric to be a part of this history. (Actually I don’t remember much from that night.) Meanwhile in Moscow, Boris Yelcin and subsequently Vladimir Putin were making their own history.

Mansky has made a very personal film and things are seen through the lenses of his family. I guess I should not be surprised by the family’s reaction on that New Year’s Eve because they had a much clearer picture on the tragedy of this political decision. Still I was struck by Mansky’s wife Natalya commenting on camera: “I am horrified. We got the strong hand now which so many people want. Will see how the screws will start tightening! This is horrible. What will happen to us now. (…) The world is shaken. It will be afraid of us again.”

Another powerful scene is Mansky’s youngest daughter in the bathtub, holding her breath under the water. She is a shy kid who does not want to be filmed but more importantly – she has picked up the stress and anxiety of her family. And she tries to defy or push it away. But you cannot hold your breath for very long.

Of course, the world reacted with suspicion and shock that a KGB officer could become the president of newly democratic Russia. I remember my own shock was the return of the Soviet anthem. Yes, the lyrics were changed to reflect Russian patriotism but the melody was the same. For everyone still remembering this song about the might and eternal glory of Soviet Union, the real message behind the change was not lost.

The documentary reminded of another surreal aspect of bringing back this Soviet past through the national anthem. How it gets blended with more enduring symbol – the church bells! The choir was obviously made to sound like a church choir and the church bells were to give the whole thing a sense of “sacredness” and “eternity”. How in the world do you glorify the Soviet regime side by side with the traditions of the Russian orthodox church which the Soviet regime tried to completely annihilate!

I pulled off my shelf some books on contemporary Russia, realizing how tragically relevant are Mansky’s personal reflections in the film. Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who was assassinated in 2006, wrote in her book “Putin’s Russia” (2004): “We want to go on living in freedom. We want our children to be free and our grandchildren to be born free. (…) This is why we long for a thaw in the immediate future, but we alone can change Russia’s political climate. To wait for another thaw to drift our way from the Kremlin, as happened under Gorbachev, is foolish and unrealistic, and neither is the West going to help.”

Another very insightful book is Peter Pomerantsev’sNothing Is True and Everything Is Possible” (2014) about his time working in Russian media. “It was only years later that I came to see these endless mutations not as freedom, but as forms of delirium, in which scare-puppets and nightmare mystics become convinced they’re almost real and march toward what the President’s vizier would go on to call the “the fifth world war, the first non-linear war of all against all.”

Doing it step by step while well-meaning filmmakers film for history’s sake, while technocrats drink champagne after a successful campaign for someone who will later remove or even kill them, while people are dancing in the streets because they are recovering some national pride. These kind of modern ‘chimera’ states mutate incompatible truths and make you believe that it is desirable and that you are seeing more clearly than before.

So the “normal” in Russia continues but to me it looks like holding breath underwater. And one day you have to come up from this “reality” to start breathing normally again.

Why the right to vote is my privilege

Election day in Latvia is coming to an end… the important part is behind us but the interesting part is still ahead. The polling booths have closed. Now all is left is to wait for the results.

I have bittersweet feelings. While voting today at the nearby polling station, I was thinking about my 95 year old grandmother who stayed at home and was not able to cast her vote. Not able because of the advanced dementia. I knew that I probably could find her passport, dress her, walk down the stairs, stand in line and help her to do the talking, registering and voting. Yet somehow it did not feel right (and probably not even legal) since the person is so confused that they cannot make their own decisions anymore. I did not want to “use” my grandmother to get her to vote for the party I chose to support.

So, I voted for both of us. I mean, I felt double responsibility. My grandmother has lived a long life and she has given a lot for me and others to have the best life we can. She has risked her life in the years when it was not allowed to have your own political views not matching the Communist party. She aided the Latvian underground resistance groups after WWII which meant to live in hiding for few years when she was found out. Later she became a devout Christian and joined a Baptist church at a time when religious people were persecuted. My grandmother was not perfect and we have disagreed on many issues but I  always knew that she is courageous and passionate. She was not one to just stand by.

And I don’t want to stand by either. Latvia is a free and democratic country with its own challenges and faults and there is plenty to improve. Nevertheless, the life here has never been so peaceful, stable and secure. And the right and the responsibility to vote and participate in the present and future of this nation is not something to take lightly. I know that it sounds very cliche but there are many countries around the world where ordinary citizens don’t get to decide. For them my life and freedom is a dream.

For many years I lived in Thailand where for the first time in my life I experienced a military coup in 2014. And the country still has not had free elections and there is no sign of a change. People with military background now have 143 seats of 250 member parliament in Thailand. So, it is very easy for me to compare and to know what kind of “democracy” I don’t want. It is “peace and order” by might.

Yes, we have the ugly side of our democracy and every election year highlights the usual problems – the examples of corruption, the lack of transparency, mutual respect, wise compromise, norms of civility, problems with lobbies and shady money, etc. And we get the expected response from voters  – from protest votes for populists to apathy and those who don’t even bother. But I believe that many of our negative responses and attitudes come from not counting our blessings.

Today I voted. My grandmother will be proud of me. Just as I am proud of her. The Latvia she dreamed off is mine to nurture, to protect and to cherish.

Davos aims at our shared future but what about shared good

If you noticed I have been silent for a short while, I stopped posting on ‘peaceroads’ in January because of various other commitments, mainly my university studies. And after all the deadlines and sleepless nights, I enjoyed one week in a quiet, pretty and posh English town – Harpenden. Everything there is so green compared to the winter scenery in Latvia and the life seems ‘greener’ on that side, too.

While I enjoyed walks in the English countryside, looked for good deals in charity shops and wondered where to get the best fish and chips, the news on my computer screen showed another idyllic picture  from Davos, a small sleepy town in the Swiss Alps, and the headlines talked about the rich and powerful gathering for the annual World Economic Forum.

For many people the name “Davos” is probably like the word “Disneyland” is for most children. To be rewarded and privileged to go there and to mingle with the powerful, rich and famous, to stay in expensive hotels, eat gourmet food, make deals, build networks, meet the right person at the right time for your idea, business or even country and feel like you are in the center of the ‘things to be’. No doubt a thrilling experience if you believe in it.

Don’t misunderstand. I have no doubt that many good and socially responsible initiatives have their beginning  in such meetings, many important decisions are made and the original vision of this gathering is still being fulfilled to some extent. Many of the people whom I turn to for their expertise and opinion attend this forum of leaders and they don’t see it as a waste of time. Still, I struggle to take this year’s theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” without a dose of heavy skepticism.

It is not the words I disagree with . “Creating” is what we all do. Even if we are just sitting on our couch and doing ‘nothing’, we are affecting our lives, others and our world in some way or another. “Shared” is a fact which nobody in his right mind denies. The world is so interconnected. Just ask Europeans how the war in Syria affected them. Or the people who suffer through extreme weather patterns because of climate change.

“Future” is already here. “Fractured” is the feeling and view that many have and are generally afraid of. “World” is every human being and in fact everything else that exists. There is no escaping this framework, unless you can ‘pretend’. And there are those realists who, I believe, pretend the ‘sharing’ because these ‘fractures’ affect them the least.

The statistics of growing inequality are getting worse and worse. The American facts show that the richest 1% of families controlled a record-high 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016, according to a Federal Reserve, and this gap keeps growing. The UK experts state that rising inequality has seen a dramatic increase in the share of income going to the top, a decline in the share of those at the bottom and, more recently, a stagnation of incomes among those in the middle. You can go country by country on every continent. (Yes, Norway and few others are the exception!)

This is a global trend and poses one of the greatest threats to our future if we want it to be peaceful and stable and good life for everyone. I don’t have to be an expert in history or politics or economics to see that this is very dangerous in many ways. Not least if we care about democracy because the concentration of wealth and power is happening faster than we can blink.

The main drivers of this growing ‘fracture’ in our societies are identified as technology, political systems and institutions, family, childhood, globalisation. This is also where most of the solutions lie but somehow I get the feeling that these urgent and difficult changes will not come from ‘top down’. Our long human experience shows us that people will rarely share power and access to wealth and goods if they don’t have to. But we also have more than enough bad experiences with ‘bottom up’  pushing back in the form of violent revolutions.

Since this is an election year in Latvia, I will end with small but crucial practical step. Voting matters and informed choices matter! We have the same fractures in Latvia and we have to guard and continue improving our political system and institutions. Practice of democracy for sure decreases inequality.

We should not aim at simply “shared future”. We should aim at sharing good future.

What is it to be?

99 years… old or young? There is a popular Latvian song about Latvia being too big to hug or cover with your blanket as you would for a loved one but it is too small to go alone in the big wide world. Similar metaphor can be used for these 99 years we celebrated yesterday (November 18, 1918 was the proclamation day for independent state of Latvia). It is not a very long time in history or for a country and we still have the generation that was born around the time of first independence (my grandmother is only 5 years younger than our country).

The celebrations have been many, the speeches were long, the anthem has been sung countless times, the flags were everywhere and the fireworks great as ususal. And for the first time I put a tiny flag on my coat. I have often had reservations about this little gesture because I am against the arrogant kind of nationalism and I don’t support the idea that patriotism or the love for your country and your people is best expressed through symbols like flag, anthem, costumes, etc. I don’t want to look at people and think, “Look, he or she is wearing it. So, we are on the same team.”

I want to see how people think, talk, act and live every day and then hopefully we are on the same team. For the same reason, as a Christian,  I have chosen not wear a cross around my neck even though I don’t mind when other people wear it. I hope to be identified as a follower of Jesus not for the symbols and crosses and doctrines, but for trying to walk the talk which is always counter intuitive and deeply challenging to my ways.

The idea of Latvia and the real Latvia does not always match and sometimes it contradicts itself. And while our country is preparing to celebrate the big 100 next year, we are at some kind of crossroads again. There are many things happening locally and globally and some trends are simply dangerous. Again and again the big nations want to settle their differences and satisfy their interests at the expense of small ones. Again and again the powerful and wealthy are getting more power and wealth. Again and again the ordinary people fall for empty populist promises and go in circles.  Again we ‘fortify’ our ethnic or national or religious identities to exclude those whom we don’t understand, like or are afraid of and so easily move away from universal human values and actually our religious ones (which is the greatest tragedy).

Latvia is watching and Latvia is learning (I hope we are!!!). More than ever we need to reflect deeply but act fast. On one hand we are still deciding on the future story since we had a long and painful interruption that lasted 50 years and changed us profoundly. And we cannot turn back in time and find the perfect moment or the magic key because it simply does not exist. On the other hand we can be very grateful and proud of what we have achieved and how blessed we are with what we have. It is not because we are better or deserve more than people in Yemen or Somalia or Myanmar or Venezuela or North Korea. There are many reasons why we have what we have and some of them we had no control over but we should not take anything for granted.

Yesterday I was watching on TV the ecumenical church service which takes place every Independence Day.  There was obviously an older crowd and at first I thought, “why are there so many old people? is it because we, the younger ones, did not want to get up early on Saturday morning? or we find these kind of services too formal and boring?” But then I saw the tears when one old man was singing the song “Bless this land, Father” and this prayer suddenly hit me. The older generation knows the difference. They know what it is like to “live on your knees” and to be able “stand up” again and help others to stand up. They know what it is like to hide your national flag or other symbols in the attic or hide the Bible and other books which are simply too dangerous for totalitarian systems.

Yes, Latvia is a very small place in the big wide world and many things we cannot control ourselves but we do have control of what kind of story we would like.  What is it to be? I want it to be a story that will never make me ashamed to put the tiny flag on my coat.

Latvian:

99 gadi… veca vai jauna? Gluži kā U. Stabulnieka/M. Zālītes dziesmā, kas mums tik tuva, mīļa un saprotama. Latvija ir par lielu, lai paņemtu klēpī un apmīļotu, bet par mazu, lai laistu vienu pasaules plašajos ceļos. Tāpat Latvija ir par vecu, lai teiktu, ka tā vēl neko nezin, nav piedzīvojusi, sasniegusi, sapratusi un vēl jāpadzīvo, lai kļūtu gudrāka un labāka. Bet par jaunu, lai teiktu, kā tā ir savu ideju piepildījusi. 99 gadi nav nekas cilvēces vēsturē, arī valsts pastāvēšanā. Mēs esam salīdzinoši ‘jauna’ valsts (ja atskaita tos 50 padomju gadus, tad vispār), un mūsu vidū vēl ir ap Latvijas valsts izveidošanas laiku dzimušie. Arī mana vecmamma ir tikai 5 gadus jaunāka par Latvijas valsti.

Svinības jau iet uz beigām, runas norunātas (gan vērtīgās, gan tukšās), himna nodziedāta pie katras izdevības, karogi visapkārt, un ugunis izšautas gaisā. Un šogad es pirmoreiz piespraudu mazo lentīti pie mēteļa. Mani vienmēr kaut kas bremzēja, jo tik ļoti nepatīk augstprātīgs nacionālisms (tāds, kurš cenšas sevi pacelt augstāk par citiem), un man nav pieņemama ideja, ka savu patriotismu, tātad mīlestību uz dzimteni un tās cilvēkiem, vislabāk izrādīt ar simboliem, karogiem, himnām, tautas tērpiem, utt. Es negribu piederēt kaut kādam “mēs – latvieši” klubam, kur viens otru atpazīst pēc ārējām piederības zīmēm… re, savējais no mūsu komandas!

Svarīgi, kā cilvēki domā, runā, rīkojas un dzīvo katru dienu, un tad es spriedīšu, vai esam vienā komandā. Gluži tāpat man kā kristietei nav gribējies kārt krustiņu kaklā, kaut gan nav pretenziju, ka citi to valkā. Dažiem tie krustiņi izskatās tik stilīgi, ka man arī uzreiz sagribas. Bet vissvarīgāk, vai mana dzīve vismaz mazliet atbilst tam, kā iedomājos Jēzus sekotājus. Mūs neatšķirs pēc krustiņiem, Bībelēm, zivtiņām uz auto, ticības mācības skolās, bet ievēros, ja cilvēks ņem nopietni iešanu pret ‘straumi’ un varas, vardarbības un mantkārības sistēmām.

Mana ideja par Latviju bieži neatbilst reālajai Latvijai (protams, ka ideālas valsts vispār nav), un šķiet, ne man vienīgajai ir sajūta, ka, gatavojoties simtgadei, mēs gan svinam svētkus, gan stāvam krustcelēs. Ko tālāk?  Šobrīd pasaulē tik daudz lokālu un globālu pārmaiņu. Turklāt tas notiek strauji, un tāda maza valsts kā Latvija maz spēj ietekmēt tendences vai risināt globālās krīzes, piemēram, vides piesārņotību un alkatīgo dzīšanos pēc dabas resursiem. Atkal un atkal lielās un spēcīgās valstis risina savas domstarpības un rūpējas par savām interesēm uz mazo valstu rēķina. Atkal un atkal varenie un bagātie sagrābj vēl vairāk varas un bagātības. Atkal un atkal ‘vienkāršie’ ļaudis balso par balamutēm populistiem un tukšiem solījumiem. Atkal mēs veidojam savus etniskos, nacionālos un reliģiskos cietokšņus, lai izslēgtu tos, kuri mums nepatīk vai no kuriem mums bail, un pārsteidzoši viegli atsakāmies no vispārpieņemtajām cilvēciskajām vērtībām un arī savām reliģiskajām vērtībām (kas ir pats traģiskākais).

Latvija vēro, un Latvija mācās (es ceru!!!). Cik ļoti mums nepieciešams pārdomāt dziļi, bet rīkoties ātri! Mēs nevaram atgriezties kaut kādā brīnīšķīgā pagātnē un atrast to īsto  laimes atslēdziņu, jo tāda neeksistē. Mēs varam būt pateicīgi un lepni par saviem sasniegumiem un svētībām, ko esam saņēmuši. Taču nedomāt, ka paši sevī esam labāki par tautām Jemenā, Somālijā, Mjanmā, Irākā, Venecuēlā vai Ziemeļkorejā, un ka mums tas viss vienkārši pienākas. Paši zinām garo stāstu, kāpēc mums tagad ir laba, mierīga, pārtikusi un droša dzīve, kaut daudzas lietas bijušas ārpus mūsu kontroles. Tas nav nekas pašsaprotams.

Svētku dienā es ieslēdzu TV, un redzēju pašas beigas ekumēniskajam dievkalpojumam Doma baznīcā. Pirmais, kas iekrita acīs, bija sirmās galvas, un vēl visi bija tik uzkrītoši nopietni. Mēs, latvieši, tiešām no malas izskatāmies drūmi, un nezinātājs varētu padomāt, ka tur bija sēru dievkalpojums. Bet ne par to šoreiz. Es sev jautāju, kāpēc uz tādiem oficiāliem pasākumiem iet veci cilvēki un tik maz jaunieši. Man pašai negribas celties brīvdienās tik agri, un varbūt tas viss liekas tik formāli un garlaicīgi. Bet tad ievēroju sirmo ļaužu sejas un asaras acīs, dziedot dziesmu “Svētī, Kungs, šo mūsu zemi”, un man bija kārtējais belziens pa pieri.

Viņi taču zin, kas mūsu Latvija nav pašsaprotama! Viņi zin, ko nozīmē dzīvot “nospiestam uz ceļiem” un atkal piecelties un palīdzēt piecelties citiem. Viņi zin, ko nozīmē slēpt šo karogu un totalitārai sistēmai bīstamās grāmatas kā Bībeli, u.c.,  mājas bēniņos vai zem grīdas.

Jā, Latvija ir maza, un globālā līmenī mums maza teikšana, bet savu stāstu gan veidojam paši. Kāds tas būs turpmāk? Es vēlos, lai tas ir tāds, kas man nekad neliks kaunēties par mazo karodziņu pie mēteļa.

 

How the whole world “elects” the US president

From my little corner of our planet in Latvia, it seems like the whole world just “voted” for who should become the next president of the United States. My friends in many countries have countless postings on Facebook. Every news channel, talk show and every conversation at one point or another brings up this topic. At the moment Donald Trump is the most talked about person in the world. He is in our heads.

I went to my theology class and guess what??? We discussed the election results. Many of my friends in  Latvia feel sad and shocked, others are amused and say “it will be interesting” and others are happy because they think the Americans chose wisely. The same mixed emotions and opinions as in the USA (overwhelming majority of Latvian and, I will say, European young people are upset, though)

This is something quite hard to explain to some of my American friends who have not traveled outside the US. The whole world watches what happens in this most powerful country and the whole world cares. Literally.

Personally I think it is not normal that the choice of 120 million (people who just voted) which is less than 2% of the world’s population, has such an overwhelming impact on the rest. I am not an American citizen, my husband is and I see and feel this reality every election year. But I have never seen such a global interest and concern and anxiety as this time. So many hopes and fears and expectations invested in one person and one country.

I don’t know how it makes my American friends feel. This is such a huge responsibility and, like I said, not just for domestic affairs but for the whole global community. For better or for worse, this is how it is and will be for some time.

We live in such a fast paced world. Things are changing and so are we. The results of many recent elections and referendums, including Brexit, show that the young people think more globally and are not as afraid of these changes. I may be proven wrong but I think they feel more connected to the rest of the world. Whether it is through the internet and global social media or through traveling around the world in a more engaging way. If I think of all the volunteers from NGO’s, religious organizations and aid groups and how young they are, I can see why they care so deeply about the global challenges – environment, human trafficking, inequality or better term “injustice”, marginalized people groups and so on.

One of my Latvian friends said: “I think the whole Erasmus program for student exchange in Europe is meant for stopping wars and teaching people how to live as good neighbors with each other”. That is why so many young people in the UK voted to stay in the European Union. When you actually become friends with people from other nations, they are not just another news story. Estonia, Spain, Russia or Iraq or Nigeria or Thailand becomes personal. Their challenges become something you care about and  you don’t want to withdraw from them.

There are great challenges around the world right now. No need to list them. For example, for people in the Baltics every word the US president says about NATO is of utmost importance. So, we all know what a difficult job the next president of the United States has and how much is at stake domestically and globally. No doubt we need to pray for him and his team of advisors because without wise council and wise decisions this is mission impossible. Of course, the US has an amazing democratic system where all the power is not in the hands of one person or his clique (versus to the current regime in Russia) and it is for a good reason.

Still, these elections were run in a way that made it look like all the hope is in one person who will fix everything. This is trust misplaced.

But there is something else about these elections and other deeply polarizing campaigns which grieves me immensely. It is the irresponsibility and ignorance of politicians and leaders and media and even the church (yes, we need to point the finger at ourselves) to drive the wedges between “Us” and “Them”, add “fuel to the fire”, manipulate, tell half-truths or even lies and then the next day tell people “Now we need to unite and respect each other”

Yes, we need to unite. Yes, we need to respect the people who think differently or have a different vision for our nation. Yes, we need to listen. Yes, we need to heal our divisions and bridge the gap. Yes, we need to support our government and help them to succeed.

But what about the horrible words and attitudes and actions that were modeled for so many months that hurt so many people and drove the wedges even deeper? “Out of the fullness of heart the mouth speaks”. Who will take responsibility for this? Who will be humble enough to say “I am sorry for being a part of the problem”? Who will say that this is not right and this is not American?

So, the whole world will continue watching and discussing and learning from the US…

us-elections-2016

(Both photos taken from the internet)

Latvian:

Pat mūsu mazajā zemeslodes stūrītī Latvijā rodas sajūta, ka visa pasaule “piedalījās” ASV prezidenta vēlēšanās. Vērojot draugu ierakstus Feisbukā dažādās pasaules malās, šobrīd nav karstākas tēmas. Katrā ziņu kanālā, aktuālo tēmu raidījumā, arī lielākajā daļā ikdienas sarunu tiek pieminēts Donalds Tramps. Lūgts vai nelūgts – viņš ir ienācis visos prātos, un tik ātri nekur neaizies.

Šobrīd studēju teoloģiju, un ko mēs šonedēļ pārrunājām? Protams, ka ASV jaunievēlēto prezidentu. Daudzi Latvijā ir galīgi satriekti, daži pat tuvu asarām; citi groza galvu un saka, ka “būs interesanti, kas tur tagad Amerikā notiks”, bet ir arī daudzi, kas priecājas gan par ASV demokrātijas izturību, gan par vēlētāju izvēli. Vieniem tādas pašas kardināli pretējas domas un sajūtas, citiem neitrāli viedokļi. Gluži kā šobrīd ASV (man gan liekas, ka vairākums jauniešu Latvijā un Eiropā uztver Donalda Trampa ievēlēšanu ļoti negatīvi, bet par to vēlāk).

Man ir ļoti grūti izskaidrot to saviem amerikāņu draugiem, kuri nav daudz ceļojuši ārpus savas valsts robežām. Visa pasaule skatās, kas notiek šajā visspēcīgākajā valstī, un lielākajai daļai ir viedoklis par to, kam tur vajadzētu notikt. Pasaulei nav vienaldzīga ASV politika. Burtiskā nozīmē.

Personīgi man tas neliekas normāli. 120 miljoni (apmēram tik daudz cilvēku tikko nobalsoja) ir mazāk kā 2% no visas pasaules iedzīvotājiem, bet viņu izvēle tik spēcīgi ietekmē visus pārējos. Neesmu ASV pilsone, bet mans vīrs ir, un katrā vēlēšanu kampaņā es redzu un jūtu šo globālo realitāti. Bet neatceros neko līdzīgu šim gadam. Tik milzīgu globālo interesi un uztraukumu piedzīvoju pirmo reizi. Tik daudzas cerības, bailes un gaidas liktas uz vienu cilvēku un vienu valsti.

Nezinu, kā amerikānim par to visu justies. Tā ir ārkārtīga atbildība, ne tikai attiecībā uz ASV iekšzemes lietām, bet uz ārpolitiku un attiecībām ar pārējiem. Gribam vai negribam, tā tas ir, un arī tuvākajā laikā nemainīsies.

Mēs dzīvojam pasaulē, kur viss notiek ātrāk un ātrāk. Lietas mainās, un mēs paši arī. Pēdējā laika vēlēšanu un referendumu, piemēram, Brexit rezultāti atklāj, ka jaunatne domā daudz globālāk, un tik ļoti nebaidās no šīm straujajām izmaiņām. Varbūt kāds pierādīs pretējo, bet man liekas, ka jaunieši daudz labāk izjūt šo globālo saiti. Varbūt dēļ interneta, vai sociālajiem tīkliem, vai ceļošanas apkārt pasaulei daudz iesaistošākā veidā. Domājot par visiem sev pazīstamajiem brīvprātīgajiem gan starptaustiskās nevalstiskās, gan starpkonfesionālās reliģiskās organizācijās, kur lielākā daļa ir gados jauni cilvēki, es saprotu, kāpēc viņi jūtas daudz tuvāk un daudz ciešāk sasaistīti ar visu pasauli. Viņiem rūp globālās problēmas, piemēram, vides aizsardzība jeb cīņa ar cilvēktirdzniecību un mūsdienu verdzību.

Pirms dažiem gadiem viena mana paziņa teica: “Man liekas, ka visa Erasmus studentu apmaiņa ir domāta tam, lai Eiropā nebūtu karu un lai mēs labāk iepazītos un tuvinātos viens otram.” Arī Brexit referendumā lielākā daļa jauniešu nobalsoja par palikšanu Eiropas Savienībā. Viņi jūtas daudz piederīgāki pārējam Eiropas kontinentam. Kad tev ir draugi citās valstīs, tie vairs nav tikai ziņu virsraksti. Tu vairs neesi vienaldzīgs.

Pat vienaldzīgajam skaidrs, ka šobrīd globālo izaicinājumu ir daudz. Kaut vai no Baltijas valstu perspektīvas raugoties, NATO vienotība un rīcībspēja ir akūti svarīgas. Tā kā mēs varam iedomāties, cik grūts darbs gaida nākamo ASV prezidentu, un cik nozīmīgi būs viņa lēmumi gan iekšzemē, gan ārlietās. Protams, ka vajag aizlūgt par viņu un par viņa padomdevēju komandu, jo bez gudra padoma un gudriem lēmumiem tā būs neiespējamā misija. Un vēl var iedrošināties no tā, ka ASV ir tik apbrīnojami attīstīta un norūdīta demokrātiska sistēma, kur visa vara nav viena cilvēka vai vienas kliķes rokās (atšķirībā no patreizējā režīma Krievijā).

Taču šīs vēlēšanas tika pagrieztas tā, it kā visas cerības jāliek uz vienu cilvēku, kurš visu salabos un izglābs. Tāda cerība liks vilties.

Bet pāri visam ir kaut kas tikko notikušajās vēlēšanās un sabiedrību pamatīgi sašķēlušajā kampaņā, kas man liek tiešām dziļi sērot. Tā ir ASV politiķu, ievērojamu personu, masu mediju un arī baznīcu (jā, mums jārāda pirksts arī uz sevi) bezatbildība, tuvredzība un liekulība, veicinot šo šķelšanos starp “mums” un “citiem”, piemetot “malku ugunij”, manipulējot, stāstot puspatiesības vai pat melus, lai nākamajā dienā pēc vēlēšanām teiktu, ka “tagad visiem jābūt vienotiem un jāciena vienam otru”.

Jā, cilvēkiem un nācijai ir jāvienojas. Jā, ir jāciena citādi domājošie un arī tie, kuri vēlas citādu virzienu valsts politikai. Jā, ir nepieciešams ieklausīties pretējos viedokļos. Jā, ir jādziedina sāpinājumi un jābūvē attiecību tilti. Jā, ir jāatbalsta un jālūdz par valsts vadītāju.

Bet ko darīt ar visiem tiem briesmīgajiem vārdiem, kas tika pateikti par imigrantiem, citu rasu un reliģiju pārstāvjiem, sievietēm, cilvēkiem ar kustību traucējumiem? Ko darīt ar to briesmīgo un uzputīgo uzvedību un attieksmi, kas tika demonstrēta vairāk kā gada garumā? Ko darīt ar to slikto piemēru, kas tika rādīts visiem, ieskaitot bērnus un jauniešus, kuriem jāmācās vērtības (skat, tikumība)? Kurš uzņemsies atbildību par to visu? Kurš būs tik pazemīgs, lai iesāktu ar atvainošanos un pateiktu, ka “man patiešām žēl, ka es biju daļa no šī milzīgās problēmas”? Kurš no uzvarētājiem pateiks, ka tās nav amerikāņu vērtības?

Un tikmēr pasaule turpinās skatīties, pārrunāt un mācīties no ASV…