Victoria Jelinek


Matrices
July 13, 2018, 11:48 pm
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Trump baby balloonOkay, granted I’ve spent the last hour-and-a-half on Twitter so I have a grim perspective as I write this at 90 words per minute. After midnight no less. However, as I have now read several gushing tweets by Americans thanking the English for their massive “support” of the USA due the anti-Trump protest in Central London (prompted by Trump’s state visit), I have several questions:

Doesn’t thanking the English for practicing civic action against a global pariah seem to lack a sense of irony? I mean, isn’t this kind of narcissism (lite) part of what bred the climate that allowed Trump to get into the White House in the first place? Did the English protest out of a sense of empathy for the plight of America and half of its citizens or because he is damaging global principles and alliances developed over the last century in order to avert war? Could they have protested because Trump and his administration pose a global threat to their own survival? Or, perhaps they protested ‘cause America influences culture, economics, values and practices everywhere, and they don’t want this US administration’s practices of bigotry, racism, xenophobia and avarice spreading?

I mean, if one considers all the pieces of Trump’s actions, such as cozying up with the likes of Duterte, Putin, Kim Jong-un (and implicitly supporting Assad) while being disrespectful of Merkel or May, pulling the USA out of the Paris Agreement, denigrating NATO, denigrating women, imposing trade tariffs on US imports, threatening trade deals, banning citizens of seven countries, and undermining journalism, don’t all these things have an impact on the rest of the world?  Of course it does, or there wouldn’t have been the massive protest in London. That said, why didn’t the Belgians protest a few days ago? Though there was the World Cup…but then, are the Finnish protesting, too? Let us hope so, particularly as it’s where Trump is meeting Putin. Though they have repeatedly been occupied by Russia throughout history, even threatened by Russia if they joined NATO, so they may be worried about making Putin angry…in which case, England certainly did represent Europe’s general view that Trump is a numpty.

I’m not raising these questions because I believe there isn’t empathy by many abroad for the citizens of the USA who are truly suffering due to the destructive nature of Trump and his administration. Nor do I deny that it’s encouraging for many good Americans* to see their own opinions and feelings echoed by those seemingly outside of the situation (very important in this age of ‘gas lighting’). I write this because I wonder if it isn’t more productive to view Trump in the context of the implications of his behavior and his actions for everyone everywhere. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be more beneficial if we all started viewing political, social and economic actions throughout the globe outside the boundaries of our own personal, cultural, or geographical perspective and began, instead, to see the connections, connect-the-dots style? Or at least try to. Isn’t context important? Isn’t it the basis of reasonable assessment of any situation? Particularly given the growing ‘interconnectedness’ of the world’s populace…

digital-dollar-sign

*Addendum: I lived in London for 13 years. Until Brexit, I considered it my adopted home and have been grateful to the city that educated me formally and personally.  Now, I have lived away from the USA for 20 years continuously. However, I have never been so saddened or embarrassed (to this degree) by America till now, and the protest in London does give one a sense of affirmation, all the more important ’cause it’s a noble and respected city. And I do hope that there is a massive protest in Paris against Trump’s planned visit in November…this, too, would mean a lot both to thoughtful Americans and it would go a long way, too, to saying “no” to all that Trump personifies…

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It Can Happen Here
July 13, 2018, 8:37 am
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Dear V,

OMG the Orange Man is reversing the time space continuum.  We will soon be conducting inquiries and the stake burning and impaling is on the melting horizon.

I suppose I always knew this was coming, as we are seriously stupid here. We are a nation of dummies.  And weak.  I had a period of sobriety and ran a 10k, but then I turned on MSNBC and listened to Maddow and grew distraught.  At least Macron shamed him.  They won’t discuss it here, but it was plain to see.

If those Catholic ass fucks overturn Roe v. Wade I will know it is time to go.

I think I will build a deck and a redwood hot tub to grow old in with my pot in the meantime.

M

2016_hope-1030x686

Dear M,

Don’t despair. Get active and fight it. Vote. If for no other reason than to stand up and be counted – to show that there are good Americans that are not going to normalize this horrid regime.

All nations are full of ‘dummies.’ The Italian Renaissance was, like, four men, no? The rest of the population was shitting, eating and fornicating – surviving, not thriving. All great movements/thoughts are never the majority. Most people are concerned with their own small lives/perspective. That’s why fascists get rid of artists, teachers, etc., first. In general, the French hate Macron, btw. They are not informed about the changes he’s proposing, but they see him as a “banker” who is only interested in helping the rich. They spout off about communism, socialism, the collective, but they’re only concerned with themselves, not the overall health of the country – the worst kind of individualists. I fear that in a few years they’ll vote the National Front in, so…I worry about the future for my son. He’s only seven and with the calamity about to happen/happening – war, refugees, climactic devastation, nationalism, xenophobia, income inequality to the point of feudal systems, destruction of public education and consequent opportunity, compromised universal healthcare – what will his future be like? I’d thought to purchase a nice piece of land somewhere near a water supply, maybe in Scandinavia, and just have it for him in case he needs a place to literally camp and grow his own food, but who knows if that land will remain/be ours/his in the future? Perhaps international law will be struck in future years? I.e., you own it now and have protections, but perhaps they’re scrapped in the future? (Trump’s working hard on destroying alliances that ensure citizen’s rights uniformly throughout the world!). And then the land will be taken by some despot…horrible prospects.

Did you ever read Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here”? It’s amazingly prescient and terrifying, but also, oddly, assuring that there are writers and observers such as this who wrote about what they were seeing, the true threats to humanity, in the 1930’s onward, if only we would listen…these people give one hope, I think…if for no other reason than the assurance that you are not alone. And today, the fact that there are nurses, lawyers (like you!), and observers who are going to the US border to help these poor children and their families if they can, if only to bear witness, is hopeful…

By-the-way, these people trying to strip Roe v Wade, environmental law, civil protections for natives and immigrants in the USA, are not Catholic! They’re evangelicals. The Catholic Church – namely Pope Frances – has disavowed them as truly Christian or religious.
Take heart. Look for the voices and stories and people who are fighting the good fight “under the shadow of the wings of war.” Get active in your community. Model the life you want to live/want others to live. If you need focus, I think the most worrying concern is the environment these days–if that goes ‘tits up’, there will be a whole shit storm that will make Trump look like child’s play…



The Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name
July 6, 2018, 9:59 am
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http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180702-the-epic-story-of-the-map-that-gave-america-its-name

Yet another way France and America are historically connected…

Fr townIronic, however, how few of the French I meet everyday understand this affinity. The French (in general) view the English and the Americans as “the same thing” (the next one who says this to me directly will get the question as to whether they regard themselves to be the ‘same’ as the Swiss-French, given that they speak the same language, which they will most emphatically deny).

What’s worse, is that an anti “Anglais” is spreading throughout France. For example, the little French boy that is my son’s dear friend, told him the other day at school that he “hates the English.” My son’s response was to say that he isn’t English, he’s American. The boy responded, “They’re the same thing.” This did not stop the boy later that day and the next morning from coming to ours hoping to play with my son. I understand it’s the influence of the grandma – she’s a provincial person – but one sees how quickly the kids pick up these ignorant statements, even as they don’t understand what it means (much like those who propagate these types of ideas). I joined a field trip with my son’s class the other week, too, and a teacher had a ‘go’ at me for speaking English with a group of little boys (who are Swedish, Danish, English, and American) when it is a French speaking school. I gently admonished her not to be so parochial, that the children speak two or three languages and easily switch between them depending on their audience – “what a gift! So international!” Later, I heard her gossiping about me to a few of the other teachers, which I chose to ignore.

It also irritates me that the local, everyday French (in general) loathe Macron. Don’t get me started on their flawed “logic” when they  ‘explain’ why he’s so “terrible.” They also refuse to answer my question as to whether they prefer the Front National – and I do ask. Their lack of a response is an implicit response. These people remind me of Trumpsters in the USA with their bandwagon statements, hypocrisy, misinformation, and incomplete information/ideology.

It makes me so sad how the general populace of any place is ignorant of context, history, theory…so limited in critical and logical thinking and reasoning…and so naturally disposed to tribalism (lending itself to xenophobia) and aggression…

 



Possibly Nationalistic, but…
August 19, 2017, 5:19 pm
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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



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.


Open Letter to the English regarding “Brexit”
June 14, 2016, 11:17 am
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

imagesMy love affair with England began in 1990. I was an undergraduate student in London. I loved the particular energy of the city. The diversity of shoes on display in shop windows and on people’s feet. The apartments over ground floor shops. The double-decker red buses. The black cabs. The deep, smelly, hole-in-the-wall pubs. The trains. The humor – which is everywhere – from the people you meet casually or in passing, to radio and TV broadcasts, to one’s friends. The literature. Oh, the great literature. The libraries. The music. The history. The architecture. The pride. The Indian food. The bacon sandwiches and brown sauce. The pastoral countryside. The rivers. In fact, returning to the USA, I moved to New York City because it was the closest approximation of London that I could find in America. In the years since, I have repeatedly returned to London to live – for graduate school and, later, for work. It’s the only place I’ve lived – of several – which I continually and almost religiously, return to. Livings as I do now in an unnatural habitat for me (and at the risk of sounding dramatic) my regular visits to London are the lifeline that sustains me. Without that vibrant, majestic, complicated, dirty city and my community of friends – honed over 25 years through school and work – I would be bereft.

That said, for the first time my beloved adopted country precariously sits in my heart and mind due to its likely vote to exit Europe. This makes me terribly sad, troubled and confused. Over the course of the last month or so, in London and with the English expatriates who populate the region I currently live and work in, I have been surprised to hear that they mostly favour an exit. Their reasoning? That it’s “better for England.” When I ask exactly how it’s “better for England,” their arguments are thin, though impassioned – “It’s not right that England is ruled by unelected foreign officials!” It’s been “co-opted” by people they can’t see and who are not English. Ultimately, however, it comes down to this: “We are full and can’t accept anymore.” To paraphrase a dear friend who is truly English, the motivation to exit doesn’t seem to be just from fear (tribal basics of ‘in-group’ and ‘out-group’ – see Social Psychology), but from the very real difficulty in getting a GP appointment. From meeting droves of Polish and Asian people waiting in the doctor’s surgery, who are often waiting for translators for their appointment, which is an additional burden on the NHS. The desire to exit is because locals find that their kids are unable to get school places. The parents chat in a multitude of languages in the playground, which promotes fear in the English-speaking parents that their kids are being held back ‘cause they have twenty-four languages in a middle-class white school in Surrey, for example. It’s folks seeing foreign food aisles in supermarkets. British folks looking for a builder and struggling to find one that isn’t Polish, or having carers who can’t speak to them because they’re foreigners without the ability to talk competently in English. It’s black cab drivers that are losing work ‘cause there are flocks of mini cabs being driven by foreigners offering cheaper rates. It’s the fear that unwanted hordes of migrants and refugees will be granted citizenship in France or Germany and then move to England with their fresh passports. The thing is, England needs these workers. Without them, who will do the work that the average English man doesn’t want to do, certainly for a lower wage?

The ‘un-elected foreign officials’ making laws are in Belgium. They’re an amalgamation of Europeans, including the English. Moreover, it’s a miniscule fraction of the laws in England that have their origin in Europe. And likely less so with the recent concessions Cameron has received. On top of that, the laws that have been enacted in England from Europe are about the environment – housing is built to an environmental standard and there are incentives to make one’s homes more environmentally sustainable. The waterways of England have been greatly cleaned up and are protected by EU laws regarding dumping and waste. The EU protects workers rights in an environment of vicious capitalism. For example, the right to ask for overtime pay if your employer requires that you work more than 48 hours a week is protected by an EU law. And if you’re into vicious capitalism (or simply growth and invention), the EU allows English companies to trade and expand more easily, thereby creating jobs and revenue for the country. The EU protects human rights laws –the ability to have a safe place to live subsidized by the state for example. The lack of wars and infighting between countries within the EU has ceased since the 1950’s, when the EU was just a good idea – one that took decades to create and enact and which has consequently ensured peace between the nations of Europe since the (that’s only just over 60 years of peace!). What about the sharing of information? If England secedes, there will not be the same level of cooperation between countries to find a given ‘bad guy’ (and there are already problems given language and bureaucratic realities). Freedom of movement for the English and their children is a product of the EU. The ability to buy houses in warmer countries outside the UK. The ability to work and live out your retirement on the continent with protection for health and welfare as you age, are products of the EU. Low airfares to/from the continent for holidays are a product of the EU. Protection during your package holiday such as travel insurance and charlatan deals are a product of the EU. The ability to buy loads of wine and cheese ‘cheaply’ with a mere crossing of the channel is the result of the EU. The hordes being held on distant shores are the product of the EU – without the EU, the reception will be in Dover, not Calais. Lack of roaming charges on mobile phones is a EU invention (and hasn’t even gone into effect yet). If England exits, it will be the end to the welfare state most English people know. Certainly those under fifty years of age. And one still won’t get a school place or go to a GP appointment without incident or have more material possibilities outside the EU because it’s lack of good management and long term planning that are the problem as well as inequitable distribution of wealth.

I do understand those desiring a frustrated exit from the EU, even as I disagree. I, too, worry about practical and material possibilities for my child in the future. I worry about the influx of migrants – the Trojan horse theory that there will be ‘bad ones’ mixed in with the ‘good ones’ simply seeking a safe haven for their families has entered my construct of reality, too. I am troubled by the prospective entry of Turkey into the EU. I appreciate the country, its beauty, history and music, but it’s not a culture that shares the same values as other European nations – which includes England – about gender roles, education, religion, marriage, work, freedom of speech, and penalties to criminal offenders. Why then would they be a part of the EU? Well, that’s a larger argument about global tactics, side deals, and corruption. The Brexiters are right to complain about the EU’s endless hassles, choices, and its bureaucratic administration, but one does not change things from without. One changes them from within.

Referring to the primal fear in England that the country is losing its national identity, it begs the following questions: despite being a country of immigrants, when you think of Americans, do they not share a common identity in your mind? (For better or for worse). In an increasingly global world, where increased knowledge of other cultures – namely languages – is a practical benefit, why would one want to eliminate that exposure for your children? (Also, look at the neuroscience regarding bilingual abilities and the positive effect on a child’s brain). Does it make sense to break the bonds with your neighbours in such troubled times?

In my opinion, the finest qualities of the English are their language, their humour, their resourceful stoicism, and their generosity. Would not the best way to ‘fight’ the feeling of losing one’s identity be to uphold these values despite the seemingly fierce opposition to them? Figure out ways to teach foreigners the native language and bring ‘em over to the English POV. Find the ways to solve the real problems of mismanagement, poor bureaucratic processes, and lack of material possibilities and wealth (starting with the NHS, the Inland Revenue, namely tax evaders, and foreign home ownership would be a good start). Dearest England, despite your fears and frustration, act in solidarity for what is essentially a good idea for everyone, including you. The European Union is a positive force, not a negative one. Personally, I fear that I’m going to lose friends over this vote…I might find it hard to look those opposed to the EU in the eye because to me a vote to exit is on par with a vote for Trump (who supports Brexit btw) — it’s yielding to the lowest common denominator in each of us.

A few resources for information on Brexit:

http://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2016/may/31/eu-referendum-brexit-for-non-brits-video-explainer?CMP=share_btn_link

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/comment/what-would-brexit-mean-for-travellers/

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887