“UNITY” by Karen Fiorito. Billboard in Phoenix, Arizona. karenfiorito.me
By Melanie Oliva
As an artist, I see things differently. The “what-planet-are-you-from” look is all too familiar and sometimes makes me wonder, myself. But maybe there’s something to the way I see things. And maybe my optimistic view will help those struggling to see the horizon, during this terrible shit storm of an administration. So here goes, delivered in my best maritime metaphor (I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones).
L E T P A S S I O N B E Y O U R C O M P A S S
I believe there are multiple solutions to a problem. I know that ideas fueled by passion come out ahead. Because passion is infectious. Passion and optimism inspire. Because of this, I don’t need to see an idea manifested to know it will work. I feel it. I dream it. Lately, I’ve been dreaming a lot about unity.
When I talk about unity, I don’t mean the faux-lip-service-unity that’s being thrown around by some conservatives. You know it. The version that’s almost summoned like a hex to seemingly shame liberals. As if it will prove we’re hypocrites because we refuse to unite with intolerant people. That’s a toxic whirlpool I don’t want to get sucked into.
You see, my artist logic tells me it’s impossible to unite with anyone without having common ground. Uniting with hate does not create love. It would be like using flimsy spider webs to tie a sinking ship to one that’s still afloat. During a tsunami.
“No Division” by Alessandra Mondolfi. alessandramondolfi.com
Nah, that brand of “unity” is not worth my time. I see those cries as distractions that create mostly unproductive debates and more division. All we can hope for is that our actions inspire others to look inward and become more tolerant and selfless. To then champion causes worth uniting with. Until then, those people can shape up or ship out.
I’m talking about the REAL unity. The kind where you feel inextricably linked to someone because you each care so much about others and the planet. I’ve experienced it. Countless times before November 9, 2016 and on another stratosphere afterwards. This type of unity fosters change.
But unity won’t come from merely signing online petitions, calling representatives, or donating money to a cause – although these steps are incredibly important and are fantastic starts on your journey.
Unity is a few leagues further. It comes from connection and collaboration. It comes from listening. From understanding another’s perspective and finding real common ground. Unity comes from friendship. From each being so inspired that you can’t help but act out of passion. That passion gets others on board. Before you know it, you’ve assembled a full crew.
B E O N T H E L O O K O U T
Every single one of us needs to get out there more – beyond our current group of friends.
I so often hear, “I have enough friends.” From my observation, this is fear talking, which may have resulted from past hurt. I’m an introvert, yet I know deep inside that we can never have enough friends, just like we can never have enough love. Especially now. It won’t hurt, I promise.
So brave the waters. Meet more people than you ever fathomed you could. Cling tight to those who have common goals, whose skills compliment yours and who will help you grow. Then DO something with them to create change.
How do you find your crew? Join some Facebook groups. Get involved with an organization that’s working on social and environmental issues. Go to a city council meeting. Talk to those working on changing legislation. Attend or organize a protest or march.
I dove head first into co-organizing the Artist March with its creator Alessandra Mondolfi. It was one of the biggest and best leaps I’ve ever taken. Are the results quantifiable? Not yet. Maybe they never will be, in a traditional sense… But the feeling I got from collaborating with such passionate organizers and performers – before, during and after – can only be described as UNITY. To me, that’s the best result possible. It means now we can all work together even more effectively.
Speaking of work – if you feel like you’re stuck in the live-to-work Bermuda Triangle, find some allies at work and change things there. Hold your employer and clients to more ethical standards. Efforts towards equality and environmental protection need to happen everywhere – in every industry. Switch JOBS if you can. Start a company that does something good. It will take all of us improving things in unison to change things.
We each have different skills and I think we should use them for change. We can also support each others’ ideas and efforts. So help a friend with a project. Start a new one together. Create some unity on your little corner of the Earth.
F I L L Y O U R S A I L S W I T H O P T I M I S M
Jettison the thought that things have to be done how they’ve been done before. Our world is rapidly changing and our problem-solving should adapt. There are no rules. Humans are meant to create. With some passion applied and help from friends, we can find ways to make our ideas work.
I’m an optimist, maybe in part because I’ve had a privileged life. Or maybe because I’ve weathered some negative environments and this is my coping mechanism. Whatever the reason, believing I can solve problems pushes me forward. I choose to harness optimism and let it power what I do.
I think the world needs more optimism. We need more love. We need more people asking “Why not?” instead of “Why?” We need more encouragement and less criticism.
Why? Change does not come from negativity. Pessimism does not inspire, just like empty words do not unite. We the people need to change the policies, politicians and mindsets that are hurting people, other animals and the planet. We need to set sail with our ideas, no matter who tells us they’re not seaworthy. Why not?
Affecting change is a new voyage for many of us. The weather is ominous. But a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner. We’re all in the same boat, and it may take a while, but together we can navigate these troubled waters. So please don’t abandon ship before we’ve set sail.
“No Other” by Dee Hood. deehood.net
For those who are waiting for this to blow over, or for the Democratic party to steer the ship, please dunk your face in water and WAKE UP. A lot of damage can and is being done, in a short amount of time. Trump’s policies may not have affected you yet, but why should they have to for you to want to help others?
It’s time to stand up for each other and the planet, with renewed passion and optimism. There are so many people who care. Let’s meet each other. It’s high time we work in unison.