Victoria Jelinek


Possibly Nationalistic, but…
August 19, 2017, 5:19 pm
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , ,

Jasper Johns FlagDear Rasmus,

I’m writing to you because it’s the medium in which I feel I can calmly explain my perspective and hopefully be listened to. While I have generally always agreed with your view of America and Americans – that they are (often) materialistic, wasteful, entitled, nationalistic, and spoiled – I don’t agree with your recent hard stance that the US and its citizens are not “worth” considering seriously anymore. Your saying this frustrates and hurts me.

Like you, I think that we are witnessing something in the USA akin to the fall of Rome, a state that has grown too corrupt to sustain itself anymore as it is. And, I, too, have lost much faith in the people of the USA since Trump’s election. I suspect that his brand of boorishness, misogyny, racism, stupidity, and aggression is very attractive to more people in the USA than I care to admit, and this is disheartening and scary. Moreover, the recent march of Nazi’s & white supremacists down the street of one of its cities has exposed the terrible fact that at its core, America is racist & violent. A fact that makes me sick to my stomach with grief, even as it does not surprise me.

However, to say “Americans voted him in,” and “Americans wanted him and like him…” is not to consider the context of the states or this particular situation, facts, and nuances. Furthermore, it exposes your ignorance about my country, which alarms and upsets me (and you can’t counter that I don’t know much about your country – I do historically, and you must admit it does not play as large a part on the global stage as the US does, thereby creating more opportunities for exposure to it, some superficial knowledge of it, and consequently an opinion of it). Yes, the electoral college is the way that the US runs its election, but it’s an antiquated system that does not at all reflect the popular vote – quite the opposite both in its historical inception and its objectives at the time, and at present, because HRC won the popular vote by a large percentage and still lost the election. Therefore, it is not accurate to say that Americans wanted Trump in the White House. This is further exacerbated by the fact that 29% of the population didn’t vote – which I find irresponsible and terrible, too – and they were mostly on the left side of the gamut. They shortsightedly and ideologically didn’t want to “vote for the lesser of two evils.” Also, there are PACS that are financed by conservative individuals and organizations that give huge amounts of money to GOP campaigns because they are ideologically and fiscally driven and ultimately run the current political narrative. Yes, this reflects a rotten state of affairs, but it also means that it’s very, very difficult for a Democratic candidate (much less a third-party candidate) to run independent of corporate and conservative interests. Finally, there is voter suppression and gerrymandering, which are technically illegal, but these are laws that GOP members have consistently violated and are constantly being called out for doing so to no avail, as yet. To add further complexity, there is mounting evidence that there was collusion with a foreign government to influence the outcome of this last presidential election.

Therefore, to say, too simply, that the American people “obviously” want Trump in office, and to any retort or proffered information on the subject, to arbitrarily respond that it’s a morally corrupt country that “deserves” to fail, as do its people for “allowing” this state of affairs, is to bely a lack of true understanding of the context and the insidiousness of the multi-faceted obstacles to fair election processes in the USA which I have outlined above. By refusing to accept these facts, it appears that you are ready to assume the worst and are hoping for mayhem and tragedy in order to “show” the Americans how “bad” they are, etc. Which in turn hurts my feelings because it reflects an emotional response I sense is born of resentment, and given your intimacy with me, I can’t help but take this personally.

Since Brexit last year, then the Trump “victory,” then the nail-biting race to presidency between Macron and Le Pen, I have felt closer to you because I have discovered that people and their political beliefs are not what they seem. Otherwise “normal” and intelligent friends and acquaintances I have had have surprised me by being pro-Brexit, or pro- Trump, or pro-Le Pen. Seemingly liberal English friends living in Europe who raise their families in the EU, work and profit in and from the EU, have believed Brexit is the “best choice” due to misplaced nationalism and their extended families frustrations in the UK. American people living in Europe, raising families, working and profiting in and from the EU, have supported Trump because of tax breaks for their families, erroneous ideas about the “communist” aspect of Obamacare, or they have simply not voted for the aforementioned reasons. And in France, friends who seem to appreciate the cosmopolitan influence of the expatriate community, and the money and the livelihood that it brings to our home, suddenly ‘busted out’ with pro nationalistic fervor and the belief that France should close its borders and leave the EU. In the wake of this, I have found very few people who seem to be authentically liberal – inclusive, thoughtful, farsighted, global in perspective, with no hint of racism, sexism or xenophobia – and you are one of them. This fact has made me appreciate you more and to be grateful for your friendship and your (generally) liberal and global values and perspectives.

Until now. By explicitly stating that America is “not worth saving” and Americans are entitled, horrible, narrow-minded, faddists, etc., you are insulting me. I am not like this. I am thoughtful, bright, curious, kind, generous (obviously modest), and it was an American environment that raised me. Doesn’t it follow that it can’t be all bad? Nor can my loved ones in the USA be all bad. Not to mention its artists, writers, filmmakers, philosophers, political leaders, and the great entrepreneurial and scientific minds that have been, and are, American. Additionally, since Trump took office, the American people have successfully battled back an encroachment on healthcare, environmental protections, a Muslim ban, and now against white supremacy, with relentless protests, rallies, donations of time and money, calls and letters to newspapers and their congressional leaders – by unrelentingly fighting for the ‘fair’ and ‘just’ cause despite the odds, which are a house and a senate full of GOP members and a president and a cabinet prepared to do anything to erase Obama’s era of leadership. That’s impressive. Have the Brits rallied against the mess of Brexit, the debacle of their situation and the confusion of their leaders? The French almost voted in a fascist and they don’t speak out/protest/rally against or around anything unless it’s a threat to their working or social benefits. No person or country is perfect. Give due respect where it is deserved, and it is deserved by most of my countrymen and by me.

Consideration and judiciousness is also deserved on behalf of my son, who is (part) American (and it’s not all the “bad” parts). He is affected by your comments about Americans because he likes you very much and he hears everything. Your comments confuse him, and make him feel defensive on behalf of his mother. I know that you’re frustrated and upset by a few American clients you have had over the summer who were atrociously rude and ungracious and that this has colored your perspective. But don’t let it. For my sake as well as for your own.

With love,

Victoria

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January 2017

what-is-fascism

*Need to put in cabinet nominee information/hearings.

Because each new day with this unpopular man in the White House is yet another affront, I feel I must list, each day, Trump’s actions in order to chronicle and to order in my own mind.

Disclaimer: I understand that this is not an exhaustive list. I have rationed myself maximum two hours to read the news and go on social media each day, and I task myself with checking two sources for all information read.

If you, a prospective reader, have information to add to any of this, please do let me know – thank you!

Jan. 20, 2017

  • Women’s March DC extends to millions marching across USA and the rest of the world.

Jan. 21, 2017

  • Trump claims more at his inauguration than at the Women’s March and that CNN is spreading falsehoods about his inaugural day and the crowds there.
  • Spicer press meeting, “alternative facts” enters the public’s vernacular via Kellyanne Conway.
  • Trump repeals a low income tax credit for first time homebuyers.

Jan. 23, 2017

  • Trump signs order to revive construction again on Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines.
  • Reference to climate change wiped from the White House website.
  • Trump declares there will be an “investigation” into voter fraud during election2016 due to “illegals” voting.

Jan. 24, 2017

  • Trump signs order to deport three million Muslim immigrants, to temporarily halt immigration, and to (re start) a Muslim registry. Various city mayors and police forces declare they will not support the deportation.

Jan 25, 2017

  • Trump signs order to begin building wall between US and Mexico (NAFTA?)
  • EPA banned from posting updates, reports, information on climate change on website, via social media, or the press.
  • Trump signs order to repeal EPA financing for scientific research saying it is a “conflict of interests.”
  • Trump announces that there will be investigation into de-funding “sanctuary cities” for immigrants (see Jan. 24).
  • CDC cancels their attendance to a major climate change conference.
  • Trump signs “anti abortion order.” The order blocks United States funding to foreign organisations that perform or provide advice on abortions.

Jan. 27, 2017

  • Trump orders a travel ban on all citizens, travellers w existing visas, green card holders, dual citizenship holders from seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Protests erupt in major cities airports all over the country.

Jan. 29, 2017

  • Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are ejected from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. In place of them and added as a regular member is the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the publisher, Steve Bannon. Also added as a regular member, Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Jan. 30, 2017

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is fired after she instructs Justice Department not to adhere to the executive order by Trump to Muslim ban due to the legality of the order.

Jan. 31, 2017

  • Betsy Devos nominated as Education Secretary.
  • Senate Democrats boycott nomination hearing on Mnunchin and Price.
  • Trump says America fully behind Muslim Ban and to ignore the “hysterical cries” of the TV and protesters.


Letter to the Democratic National Committee

To the Democratic National Committee

I come from a family of staunch Democratic Party supporters who have canvassed, campaigned, and fundraised on its behalf for decades. My faith in the Party is, however, shaken. In its place is the suspicion that, ultimately, the Democratic Party is the same as the Republican Party.

In the wake of an electoral upset on November 8th that resulted in an ideological civil war, exacerbated by the consequent behavior of Donald Trump, the Democrats have been silent. There has not been critical attention and investigation to any number of offenses to the office of US president that Trump may have committed, such as his conflict of interests; or his refusal to release tax returns; or his potential collusion with a foreign power in order to defraud the elections; or numerous testimonies of sexual harassment (as well as a court filing for rape of a minor); or the fact that donors to his campaign are now nominees for cabinet posts; or that his staff (like much of yours) is wealthy and white; or that there have been overt Neo Nazi activity in his name; or that he poses a threat to fragile diplomatic alliances (see Russia, Taiwan). If it hadn’t been for Obama’s stepping in to temporarily halt the DAPL or the Arctic drilling, we the people would feel utterly adrift. Do the Democrats exist other than as flaccid interview subjects? A party who declares “We don’t know yet what Trump will do…so we’ll wait and see…” This makes no sense unless you are, in fact, indebted to the same forces that have allowed Trump to have the power he suddenly has.

Unless you speak up unequivocally and ardently for the people in general, you have no right to use the term ‘progressive’ or claim to be making ‘progress.’ Moreover, articles IV, V, VI, VII, IX, X, XII, XIII, of your platform statement are empty. Fear that you may ‘rock the boat’ of potential funders, corporate leaders, and your peers, and consequently lose your position, must end. You won’t be remembered for being a coward. We the people are ready for radical action and will support you in real numbers if you actually act judiciously and decisively.

Start right now. Don’t be on the defense, start an offense. Take Trump to task. Give interviews and raise direct questions pointing the media to where they should cast their eye. Comment critically on the consistency of Trump’s inconsistencies. Question his cabinet choices and their role in his campaign financing openly. Demand to see Trump’s and his family’s tax returns. Demand he lives in the White House or that he pay for it personally – why should the taxpayer finance this when children in the US go without food, education or healthcare? Be like Joseph Welch—the lawyer who memorably asked McCarthy during a televised hearing–whether he had “no sense of decency. ” Win (back) the support of the American people by your actions and your words. Platitudes and empty promises are evident even to young children, and it is this flaccidity that attracted many people to Trump in the first place. And it’s this inability to be courageous in the face of real opposition that is fueling my own disenchantment with the Democrats. We the people are terrified of the day that Obama leaves office and takes any integrity and intelligence modern politics may have with him. Most of we Democrats suspect there will be a power vacuum that, at best, will lead to complete kleptocracy and authoritarianism. In the worse scenario, to global destabilization and war – neither is good.

Get off the fence now.

Sincerely,



Where are the Democratic party voices?

A letter to my state senators and representatives (New York):

While I don’t agree with the choice of Trump, I understand and sympathize with why he was elected; folks wanted a change from the status quo. I am shocked and dismayed to observe that only a few Democrats are publicly opposing Trump’s nominees; not demanding investigations into potential voting fraud; not demanding investigation into potential Russian involvement in the election; not publicly opposing Trump’s plans for the environment and, specifically, the DAPL and The Paris Agreement; and not publicly questioning the integrity of a president who has been found to have committed fraud, harassed women, and who has an obvious conflict of interests.

The “let us see what happens” is ineffectual and dangerous, as is observed by the Neo Nazi activities and his nominees for public office – he is a danger to our country and the world.

Regardless of your personal reasons for running for office and for maintaining your position, history will remember those who have fought the just cause (for the collective welfare), and right now, there are few public figures with the courage to do so publicly and practically – be one of them please.

Thank you,

Victoria Jelinek



Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus

frankenstein-book-pageThe concept of Frankenstein has invaded popular culture to the extent that even those that have never read the book have a vague sense of what it’s about – “a mad scientist who creates a monster!” This is essentially true, and given the multitudes of adaptations to film and TV, I, too, previously defined it thus. But it’s so much more. Frankenstein is about love, loss, identity, anger, betrayal, beauty, and ugliness. It is also very sad. There was a point when I thought I couldn’t continue reading it, but because it’s so beautifully written and so subtle in its complexity, I continued.

The novel begins with explorer Robert Walton searching for a new passage from Russia to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean. After some time at sea, with their boat stuck in ice, the crew and Walton find Victor Frankenstein floating on an ice flow very near to death, and bring him aboard. Walton re tells the tragic story of Victor Frankenstein through a series of letters to his sister in England. Victor was a precocious child who grew up on the shores of Geneva in a wealthy and loving family. He leaves home for university, where he studies physical science and greatly impresses his fellow students and professors by his genius. Spurred on by ambition, Victor uses a combination of chemistry, alchemy, and electricity to create and re animate a dead body. Once the creature comes to life, Victor is overcome by guilt and runs away in fear and disgust. The monster wanders the countryside, repudiated and despised by all who see him. He eventually teaches himself to read and to understand language. One day, he discovers a notebook and letters that were lost by Victor. From these notes, the monster learns of his creation and decides to take revenge on his creator as a salve for the injury and sorrow that he has endured in isolation. His vengeance is horrible. Yet through a conversation with Victor in which the monster relates how his life has been and in which he appeals to him to make him a mate (which Victor refuses), one almost forgives the sorrow that he causes.

As the daughter of philosophers and advocates for women’s rights, Mary Shelley would have been exposed to sociological discussion throughout her life. When she wrote Frankenstein, the French Revolution had just ended and Europe was afraid that its ideas of liberty and equality might spread. Industrialization was just beginning, which would bring an end to the landed class and see a rise of the middle class. Alchemy and superstition had been discredited in favor of hard sciences. Shelley manifests these cultural events through the themes and motifs of Frankenstein: she is concerned with the invasion of technology into modern life; how knowledge and science is used for good or for evil purposes; the overwhelming power of nature, as well as its curative power; and the treatment of the poor or uneducated. At its heart, Shelley asks the reader to consider how we can control the knowledge we have so that it’s for the benefit of all of mankind. How far should advances in science and technology push the individual in terms of personal and spiritual growth? When does man become a slave to his machines? What constitutes a “good” life? Who is responsible for the most vulnerable in society? Provocative questions about the human condition posed almost 200 years ago that remain relevant today.

http://www.biography.com/people/mary-shelley-9481497

 



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind-posterI recently read an article in Aeon Magazine, which investigates the scientific possibilities and implications of purging one’s “bad” memories. * Haunted by news stories and images of traumatized children in the Middle East, and as a teacher to troubled adolescents, I find my opinion is conflicted: memories construct who we are, for-better-or-for-worse, but there are such horrible things that happen…Hungry for more insight into the subject (and a film buff) I decided to re-watch the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In it, introvert Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets outgoing Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they start a tumultuous relationship. Then one day, Clementine doesn’t recognize Joel and he finds out that she had all of her memories of him removed. Angry and hurt, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but in the process of it he finds that he has second thoughts.

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is ingenious. His films Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are also high concept ideas that explore neurosis and the possibilities of the mind scientifically and perceptually. The movie begins slowly, as we experience the confusion Joel feels because his girlfriend suddenly doesn’t know him, with him. However, once Joel discovers she has had her memories of him wiped out and decides to have the same procedure done on himself, the bulk of the action takes place over one night in his rapidly disintegrating memory. When Joel’s subconscious decides that the procedure is a bad idea and he enlists the ‘memory’ of Clementine to help him escape, the film moves at a rapid pace. Here, director Michel Gondry showcases true visual verve (and most of the effects are created in camera!) as we delve into repressed memories, teenage humiliation, and childhood helplessness. But then a miracle happens — just as Joel’s situation seems most hopeless, the tone of the film becomes more hopeful. We travel through Joel’s mind back to those initial, profoundly romantic first days with Clementine, and we are able to view both the beginning and the end of a relationship at the exact same time. It’s poignant and beautiful. At this moment, Kaufman’s objective comes into sharp focus, and we, the viewer, are left to ponder what we’ve just seen, and to consider whether we would, indeed, purge our minds of painful memories if given the chance. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a relevant and weird and wonderful film with genuine heart and a thoughtful mind.

*Aeon Magazine, Aug. 1, 2016, Would You Purge Bad Memories From Your Brain If you Could by Lauren Gravitz. https://aeon.co/essays/would-you-purge-bad-memories-from-your-brain-if-you-could



Emma by Jane Austen

emma_jane_austen_book_coverOn a long list of my favorite authors and beloved books, Jane Austen is always prominently featured. I think she’s hilarious and subversive. I’d even argue she’s a feminist. Other readers have obviously found Emma irresistible because the book has continuously been in print since 1816 (it helps, however, that it’s mandatory reading for most secondary schools in the English-speaking world).

My favorite Austen book is without-a-doubt Persuasion, even as I truly appreciate Northanger Abby. Nonetheless, this is a brief review of Emma, which I have just re-read, so while it’s fresh I thought to write a note encouraging readers to read this novel if they haven’t already.

Emma is a special work. Along with Pride and Prejudice it’s frequently adapted for film and television. Austen wrote this book shortly before she would die and by this time, she was at the height of her authorial skills. While the deceptively simple plot of Emma is similar to Austen’s other novels – a cycle of wrong-headedness, misunderstandings, remorse, penitence, and, finally, self-realization (inclusive of a romantic pairing of ‘equals’) – this work is richer in its twists-and-turns even as it maintains narrative control. Moreover, the themes of status and marriage are still relevant. As is the ‘moral’ of the book, which is that self-knowledge is elusive, and vanity a source of pain. What appeals to me most about Austen’s work in general is that they are all acute studies of humanity: “the happiest delineation of its varieties,” prompted by “the most thorough knowledge of human nature.” Her ability to create compelling and universal characters is awe-inspiring. Sly and subtle observations, humorous quips and asides, and we’re chuckling at the foibles and frustrations of humankind. Moreover, the omniscient narrator, which Austen had perfected by the time she wrote Emma, means the reader is privy to the innermost thoughts of our heroine as she finds her way through the narrative. And this heroine is complex and difficult. Austen famously wrote to a friend that in Emma she had created “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” It’s true. There are times when I find Emma’s character repugnant – snobbish, rude, obstinate, foolish and thoughtless – but then I find patience and kindness for her. She is young after all, and she doesn’t mean to be hurtful. In the end, I find my own best nature in my judgement of Emma, which parallels the heroine’s own journey, and makes for a richer literary experience.