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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The Baby Diaries 4

‘So live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.’

Will Rogers

American pieI had been a bit confused when I was only prescribed the mid wife (sage femme) and the physiotherapy at the hospital after my son’s birth, but now I’ve discovered my regular GP will be my baby’s doctor. I figured I would get a paediatrician assigned, but it turns out there aren’t many to spare in France.

Adhering to the old wives’ tale that one should not take a newborn out of the cloister of its home till it has been alive for two weeks, I took my son to my GP when he was 15 days old.  The doctor told me that my son’s jaundice is gone, which is good (the time spent in the window like a plant worked!). She also told me that he was not gaining weight at the rate that he should be, necessitating that we monitor this closely. I left the doctor’s office completely freaked out and cried. I don’t want anything to be wrong with my baby and I’m scared because he’s such a defenseless little thing.

Luckily, my brother and my sister-in-law (belle-sœur) arrived from Seattle to help us out. They have two children of their own, now ‘tweens.’ I figure the fact that their kids have survived thus far makes them ‘old hands’. Moreover, it’s wonderful to have my family nearby. It’s hard to be so far from them. It takes 14 hours flying, through 9 time zones, to get to where they live, which prompts my feeling rather isolated on holidays and in vulnerable moments (for any of us). My husband and I drove to Geneva to collect my brother and sister-in-law  – our boy’s first ‘big’ outing – and dined at an outdoor café on the lake. I had been a little nervous about nursing my son in front of my brother, but then realized it’d be stupid to go and secret myself away each time the boy ate, which is every hour. Besides, scarves are immeasurably helpful for discretion (and luckily I carry one always, stuffed into my purse or in a pocket, even before I began nursing!).

I live in an almost perpetual state of embarrassment for being an American in Europe given the antics of American politics, the regular shootings, and the disparate tax rates. But every once in awhile, I am reminded how wonderful we Americans can be. My brother and his wife are full of optimism and earthy pragmatism. They’re open and encourage others to be so. They’re warm and gracious. When I told them that the French doctor had said that my son was not gaining weight as he should be, they assured me the rates of growth are different, particularly in this early stage, and the important thing is that he is not losing weight. When I told them that I didn’t know how to pass the time with the baby, who doesn’t seem to be able to do anything, they didn’t pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they assured me that no one really knows what they’re doing when they have their first child and you simply follow your new-born’s cues: eat when he eats. Sleep when he sleeps. Go outside and take a walk when you’re bored and stir crazy. They advised me to enjoy this initial period of my baby’s new life as though we’re both convalescing (we are!). I admitted that I’m sleeping with the baby on my chest, which ‘everyone’ tells me not to do, but which seems right – I can’t move with the caesarean anyway- and they didn’t judge me. Instead, they went to a local baby store and found a soft, little, slightly slanting bed so the baby’s head is a bit higher than its lower torso, with two detachable soft sides to it to keep the baby from rolling, which the baby can sleep on and which fits right between the pillows that my husband and I sleep on.

I never imagined I’d be so grateful for assistance – even the opportunity to give the boy to another pair of trusted hands in order to de-gas him is appreciated. I don’t think I have needed help as I do now. Perhaps it’s that in the past I was too proud to ask for and accept it, and now that there’s another person involved, I don’t have that same sense of ego?