In our most recent presidential election, I walked out of the voting precinct with a smile on my face. I smiled because I was privileged to vote during a time in America when barriers have been torn down and I could vote for a woman to be president. I smiled because I believed a majority of America agreed that we were long-ready for progressive change and for a woman to be president. Which was true; however, still not changing the result of the election built of the believed “safeguard” of the Electoral College.
Since that day, when I woke up completely exhausted and disengaged, it has been a struggle to understand those around me and where we are headed as a Nation. It has been a struggle to be my passionate, optimistic self with so much negativity around me. I have found myself angry with even the small things, and frustrated when compromise and tasks that seem completely obvious in the studio and in the workplace become a challenge. Luckily, I have been able to fill some of this time with amazing, enlightening experiences in Seoul, Tokyo, Mexico City, and now Copenhagen. In Seoul, I experienced the urbanity with English teachers from South Korea, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States. These people had accents, some looked like me and some did not, some were straight and some were gay. Yet we still found common ground on so many things. This seems to be an obvious human experience that some do not recognize. In Tokyo, my fellow Georgia Tech classmates and I were led around the City and taught by our own Taiwanese Professor Perry Yang and an amazing Japanese-American professor at the University of Tokyo, Akito-san. In Mexico City, my Puerto Rican roommate David made sure that I saw Mexico City from many different perspectives. And now, in Europe I am being taught by Marc, Adam, Henrik, Eva, and today, Bike Mike. These experiences regain my optimism and hope within me.
“It’s a privilege when you have the privilege to take care of those with less”
The birth of a more equal society in Denmark began with Martin Luther and Hans Tausan in the early sixteenth century, when King Christian III and Denmark gave way to the Protestant Reformation. The kingdom adopted Lutheranism as its religion in response to the greed, inequitable, and growing instability of Roman Catholicism.
The “second-coming” of the strong Danish belief of equality, and eventual socialist society, came from a theologian and poet. Grundtvig is considered the “grandson of Martin Luther” in that he played a major role in the creation of an equitable Denmark democracy in 1849. This resulted in the creation of a prime minister/parliamentary system, while the monarch still acts as an international symbol (and economic/trade benefit) for Denmark. The tradition of democracy continues over 150 years later in the country with 10 different political parties, a prime minister from the party with the third-largest majority in parliament, and four right-wing, nationalistic parties (like our own Republican party). This description of democracy sounds like a disaster, like nothing ever gets done, right? Wrong. Over 95% of the Parliament agreed on the latest budget and all one needs to do is look around at the City of Copenhagen and see that great things have happened and are continuing to happen.
It was beautiful (and slightly disheartening) to listen to Bike Mike talk about the legacies of Martin Luther and Grundtvig, while we live in (and love) a Country that seems to be heading in the wrong direction. From the planning perspective, we are only now seeing a movement toward positive, liberal change in our cities. From a human perspective, we still see hate, misogyny, and ignorance boiling over. We are divided on every issue it seems. We are generations behind from the change that Denmark has seen in recent history. But there is hope!
“You can’t get everything you want so you have to make the best of what you can get”
This quote struck a personal nerve with me today as well. I am a pusher and an idealist, sometimes to a fault. When I see something that should change, it eats away at me until I have to say something. When there are opportunities in front of me that I really want, I can’t help but push. This isn’t the way that Denmark has done it. And this is not the way I tend to continue to do it. Denmark has used compromise throughout the last 45 years to bring change. It has experienced setbacks, and with time it has experienced major success. It is a shining example for the rest of the world of how a society can truly work for all people, the ones with more, and the ones with less. It seems that compromise is the only measure (and tool) to get things done, in due time.
Denmark ships 25% of the world’s trade. It is #1 on the social progress index. Over 90% of the Danish vote in elections. The City of Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world, with 45% of the population commuting by bicycle. It has literally built a bridge to its former enemy in war and economy, Sweden. The education system is based upon fun and creativity and does not allow homework until age 12. The working population works less and in turn is less stressed, yet they hold one of the most successful economies in the European Union. They produce over 60% of the energy consumed in the country from renewable energy sources. They filter the Copenhagen harbor water nine times every day. It even gave us LEGO! The Danish live in a planner’s utopia. And they are happy doing it, even with consistent rain and barely a summer of sunshine to enjoy. This beautiful utopia was built from 10 political parties in the last 45 years. This political system is ruled by women.. Women who know what compromise and love truly means. They have been a country of peace, prosperity, love, and freedom, which only came to be in the last 45 years. Bike Mike says that as soon as women gained control, things changed.
In 1981, it was illegal for a person to be open about sexuality. If you identified yourself as or if you were identified by someone else as LGBTQ, you could be put in jail. Only 8 years later, in 1989, same-sex marriage was legalized. The most active and famous square in Copenhagen, directly across the street from the City Hall, was renamed Rainbow Square and has a Pride flag flying over it. Remember, it wasn’t until 26 years later that the United States did the same in 2015. In 1989, women controlled the politics in this country (Happy Pride, y’all!).
It is because of women. This was a common theme throughout the bike tour today. Every time positive change was discussed, guess what the local’s reasoning was.. It was because of women. Women brought change through progressive thought and compromise. In 45 years, could the United States be controlled by women and be as progressive as this country? Let’s hope!
Welcome to Denmark. Where the planners dream. Where the people are happy.
And where the women rule.