OK, so first, a few facts about me to put what I’m about to say in context;
Most of you know at this stage that I am diabetic; I have been since I was 17. If my maths are accurate (and despite my job description, that’s not always a given!), that’s exactly 20 years ago.
I wasn’t overweight, I had a healthy diet, I exercised, my family had no real history of diabetes. My illness is not my fault, but I got it anyway.
Luckily, though – if anything about a long-term, chronic illness that will eventually be the literal death of me can be considered lucky – I was born in a country that provides free healthcare for illnesses like mine. I’m not blamed for my condition. I’m not expected to go to unreasonable lengths to keep it in check.
I get insulin, and blood test strips, and needles and emergency glucose kits as often as I need them, and blood tests and doctor and nurse check ups and eye exams on average every year to be sure I’m maintaining my health. I get all this for free, and all I have to do is turn up and take it.
The Irish Republic does all this automatically for me because it knows that a healthy population benefits us all.
And it’s the gods honest truth when I say I’d not be doing this job if I lived somewhere where I had to pay for all this myself. And it’s equally true that my mental health – and my physical health as a consequence – would suffer greatly if that was my reality. It would have run my into the ground years ago.
I’m a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, though perhaps I’m less visibly so than others who fall under the umbrella of that most gloriously cumbersome of acronyms. And the fact that I now, finally, live in a country that recognises – in our very constitution – my brothers and sisters rights to marry who they want and live their own happy lives is a huge deal and makes us a better, fairer, stronger country.
And I’m a member of a perpetually emigrating race. Simply put, due to invasion, colonisation, war, famine, you name it, Irish people have set foot on boats, ships, and planes generation after generation looking for a better life abroad when one was denied at home.
So, when I say I’m nervous and scared for the US mid-term elections tomorrow, know I mean it.
I empathise with people suffering with illnesses they can’t afford. I feel the pain of my trans and non-binary friends as their humanity is stripped from them. I look on in horror as the same thing that happened to my ancestors happens to the current wave of unjustly maligned immigrants.
So, I’m expressing a hope today that when you do vote in the mid-terms tomorrow, that you vote with kindness and compassion for those worse off.
I firmly believe that poverty is not the fault of the poor.
Illness is not the fault of the sick.
Weakness is not the fault of the weak.
And kindness isn’t weakness, even if Trump would love you to believe it to be so.
Kindness takes bravery. So, so much bravery, and it often takes exceptional strength too.
Reaching out can feel scary when you’ve been told over and over that a certain religion, a certain colour, a certain ethnicity, a certain sexuality, is looking to do you or your way of life harm.
Fear kills kindness, folks.
That’s something we’ve all seen time and time again in history. Fear makes us look inward and disregard the basic needs of others. It makes us circle the wagons and turn our backs.
But, here’s the thing; The opposite is also entirely true.
Kindness kills fear. All it takes is a little warmth and the fear melts away.
If you can’t physically reach out and grasp the hand of a refugee or an immigrant or an LGBT person in support and solidarity, I understand. Differences can feel overwhelming and things certainly do seem chaotic right now. But at least, please, do try to reach out and grasp a pen instead, and vote for someone who can take that extra step.
So, tomorrow, I hope you vote for an American future without hate or bigotry or selfishness.
Please vote for the people who will give medical care to those who need it without judgement.
Please vote for those who insist that refugees and immigrants be treated with dignity, and that their children be surrounded by compassion not cages.
Please vote for those who respect Native people’s right to live and breathe in safety on the land of their ancestors.
Please vote for the politicians who understand that trans people aren’t a threat and that our differences make us stronger, not weaker.
Please vote for the people who don’t need to be told why black lives matter.
But above all, please, please, please, vote out the bullies wherever you see them.
America is too important and too influential to be left in their reckless and petty hands any longer.