This month, I started a writing/productivity challenge for myself. I wanted to start tackling many of the projects that have floundered in my year of unemployment and intensive job searching. One of my goals was to start posting here every week again. Then the USA election happened.
As a Canadian living in Sweden, it was surprising how much this election affected me. I was living in the US during the campaigns for Obama’s presidency and although it was fun and exciting, I felt distant. It wasn’t my election after all. But I do feel connected to what happens in the US, through my friends and my colleagues. Before I lived south of the border, as a Canadian I felt like we were inundated with American, well, everything, all the time. So I thought I understood it. Much of the world is puzzled at how the two countries differ, including those that live there. It is hard to put a finger on it so we offer subtleties: our healthcare system, our government structure, the Queen, the way we say ‘eh’… Both Canada and USA are huge and you can start listing all kinds of cultural and historical differences that seem to vary almost as much when you go from east to west as crossing the border. But living in America helped me see our differences more clearly and also my Canadian smugness better. We’re not the same but we are connected.
After moving to Sweden, I have yet another perspective on North America. From this side of the pond there is a mix of characterisation of Canada and the US that both reconginises our differences and highlights the similiarities. If my husband wants to tease me, he calls me ‘American’ and I find myself correcting people all the time too. I’m Canadian I say, as if it should mean something. I’m not American. Recently I felt sad when someone said I don’t sound like a Canadian, including the ‘about’. But truthfully, living in Sweden I feel more ‘American’ than I ever had before because I do relate in a way that those from Europe do not.
All this is to say that I have a conflicted identity. So I have felt both emotionally impacted by the election results but also as if I don’t really have a right to. It isn’t my war but perhaps it is my fight. Undercurrents of anti-science, anti-knowlegde, anti-diversity, anti-women are not limited to what is happening in the US. I see it in Canada. I see it in Sweden.
I fell silent in the last few weeks, not really knowing what to say. I can’t write or call my government representatives because I don’t have them. I could donate to causes I feel are worthy in the US but it also feels like I should be doing that in the countries where I do have a say rather than one I don’t. I’ve read lots of thoughtful posts from scientists in the US about what is happening and what we can do but my outsider’s voice feels small. It feels tough to find the right balance of what to say without it seeming like there is some level of smugness, that we on the outside are somehow better because this current mess isn’t our fault. But it also feels strange to ignore what is happening and just continue on.
I am a scientist, a teacher and a woman. I care about critical thinking and supporting diversity and kindness. So I’m going to write anyway. I’m going to do my best to reach the students I interact with to help them evaluate evidence and think critically. I will continue to talk about science and evidence with my neighbours, friends, relatives and colleagues. I will do what I can to increase diversity in science, check my own privilege, broaden my perspectives, and admit when I am wrong. I will fight the local battles I can and cheer on those doing the same in their backyards. I won’t apologize for feeling that attacks on facts, women, racial minorities, the environment and more are personal because I am allowed to feel fear, rage, impotence, and hope. The US election and its aftermath might not be my war but I can still fight.
I’m going to write anyway.
I am going to be a scientist and write even when I feel like it is not enough.
Because being silent helps nothing.