Being a Global Citizen

The news lately...well, it's been horrifying.  Ranging from the tragic (the numerous attacks by ISIS in Muslim nations during the holy month of Ramadan; the massacre of almost 50 people in a gay club in Orlando, Florida) to the depressing (the UK's vote to leave Europe; the absolute shitshow that is the American Presidential race) - keeping abreast of current affairs can be emotionally gruelling. The only major negative I can think of when it comes to travel is that the world is less of a confusing, interchangeable blur of images and events that don't actually affect you.  It's been said that when you travel, you leave a piece of yourself everywhere you go, and while building empathy and understanding of foreign countries and cultures is a beautiful thing, the emotional impact can be hard to weather.

Vigil for the Orlando victims here in Newtown
Two years ago, two years after I'd left, there was spree killing in the college town adjacent to the University of California Santa Barbara campus.  Elliot Rodger posted an online manifesto stating his desire for "retribution" against women for his lack of sexual experience.  He stated, "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it", and on 23 May 2014 he stabbed his three roommates to death, then took a gun into the streets of Isla Vista, murdered three more people, and injured fourteen others.  He had an intense 'nice guy' complex, a fervent belief that he had a right to women's bodies by virtue of his mere existence, and was so furious that he had been denied this presumed privilege that he enacted his revenge indiscriminately on his own community.  But Isla Vista was also my community, once.

When the massacre happened, I contacted friends that I knew had been in IV visiting and ascertained everyone was safe, and then let the story go.  I had just moved to a town in rural Australia to do my regional work - I had the flu, the wifi was atrocious, and my life quickly became so myopic that a world outside my hostel was hard to imagine, let alone all the way back in California.  It wasn't until the recent Orlando shootings that I took the time to read the details of Rodger's rampage, and I found it hard to take.  Isla Vista was my happy place, somewhere I loved deeply and had some of the best times of my life, and the idea of someone running through the streets shooting people was traumatic.  The murdered people on streets I used to walk, places I used to go: Camino Pescadero, Seville, Embarcadero del Norte.  He fired into the IV Deli Mart on Pardall Ave and killed someone in there.  It makes me shake to think about.

My image from 2012, two years before the shootings
Gun violence in America has been an issue close to my heart for some time, as I not only lived in the US for a year but got my Bachelors degree in American Studies with a focus on dynamics of race and inequality.  The increased coverage of police brutality against African-Americans, and the Black Lives Matter movement, are stories that feel just as vital to me here in Sydney as local events.  In the same way, Australia's greatest shame is the detention camp system for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, of whom not one person has been resettled yet two have committed suicide - one, most horrifically, by self-immolation - and the story is finally receiving international attention, and due outrage.  When such injustices are committed it feels good to know there is a global community of people who will not stand for it, even if the voting majority of the respective countries won't take action.  Brexit has been a similar shock - misinformation as to deadlines for registering for a proxy vote meant I was unable to participate in the British EU Referendum, and the country has torn itself in half due to a decision many Leave voters admit regretting, and that none of the right-wing politicians who pushed the idea had actually planned for.  The consensus of opinion on this matter is not delineated by nationality, but by age, with 75% of young people voting to remain, and the majority of young people I speak to here in Australia concurring with that sentiment.  Discarding the profound symbolism of EU membership feels like a slap in the face for young Brits, and the many foreign nationals who call the UK home.

Hounslow, my borough of London, bedecked in Union Jacks for the Olympics - they voted to leave the EU
My heart is still in all three countries I have lived, and this I think this is generational.  We, millennials (if we must be so called), are global citizens, who are just as worried about Trump becoming President as the political happenings of our own nations.  With travel, and an increased global network through news and social media, we are internationally-minded.  In the US and Australia, I have often found I had more in common with my fellow Europeans than the native-English speakers of my host countries, an Old World identity that is rooted in shared cultural memories, attitudes, rivalries, and weird pop culture.  And thankfully, I find that hand in hand with a global outlook is an enhanced awareness of our impact on this world, both politically and environmentally.  That at least, in these turbulent times, gives me hope for the future - things might be a mess right now, but the generations of young people coming up are more likely to be looking out for each other and this planet, and I look forward to when we finally get to call the shots.

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