What Is Broken

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Japanese art of kintsugi – the act of mending broken pottery with a liquid gold mixture. This method actually highlights cracks and flaws in a decorative, beautiful way – honouring the history of the item – and treating the breakage and repair as part of the object’s history, not something to hide and deny.

As the 2020 American presidential election still stands undecided, I can’t help but think about my home country in similar terms. The last four years have not just been damaging to America – it’s people, it’s reputation – but it’s also been a mirror. Whether we like it or not, this is who we are. And nothing makes that more clear than the seemingly unending “too close to call” nature of this presidential race. People turned out in droves, waited for hours in long lines, not just for Joe Biden, but for Donald Trump and all his administration has come to stand for as well: for child separation; for forced sterilisation; for denying women’s reproductive rights; for mocking those with disabilities; for anti-trans rights and anti-gay rights and anti-blackness and anti-immigrant and anti-muslim and anti-science; for racism and bigotry and division and so many things we say our country DOESN’T stand for. It is disheartening…but it is unsurprising. This sentiment lives in the sediment that serves as the very foundation of our nation. It is in the marrow of its bones.

The cracks in our country can’t be fixed with gold (though, some might say that’s debatable). But, perhaps, we can honour our brokenness – and all who suffer from it – by recognising those cracks and doing the work to fill them with something more beautiful. That means being honest about and owning the ugly truths that helped form this nation. It means teaching our children the real history behind our country, including what – and more importantly, who – built it. It means we don’t shy away from having difficult conversations with them, and in front of them. It means we stop fearing embarrassing or angering relatives or co-workers or friends, and start showing by undeniable example how to respond to and call out racism and bigotry. It means we teach openly about how we were; we are transparent about who we are; and we put in the work, together, to evolve.

But let me make one thing abundantly clear: when I say “we”, I don’t just mean Americans. I mean white people. I’ve heard friends bemoan how well Trump fared in this election, shocked that people would still choose him as a leader after all that’s transpired over the last four years. But I’m surprised at their bewilderment; is this not who we showed we were in 2016? Is this not who we have been to so much of the population for hundreds of years? This is our responsibility; those privileged to exist largely unaware of our surroundings, leading lives not impacted by the colour of our skin or an accent or a manner of dress or immigration status. We must do the work to help turn the tide. To make the difference for and in the next generation. To try our hardest to make a difference now.

I know nothing above is a cure-all or an exhaustive list, or even, really, a solution. And, on the whole, I suppose it’s not all bad news; Joe Biden currently carries the popular vote by the largest amount in history. The youth voter turn-out was off the charts. People rallied and organised and fought to have theirs and their fellow human’s voices heard. And that’s not nothing. But it’s also not enough.

We are broken – that’s clear. Let’s work on becoming beautiful.

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