Victoria Jelinek


XII: Fighting Despair

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Martin Luther King

Birch treesEven as I write this I know that I must continue to maintain hope for the sake of my young son and all that I know is excellent, beautiful, and good in this world. Intellectually I know there is so much. But emotionally it’s getting harder to believe this. I increasingly feel more impotent, discouraged, and disdainful with humanity and its actions. Not just what I read in various news outlets, but what I observe around me every time I leave the house. My sense of humor is failing me. I’ve noticed in recent months that I don’t laugh my big, open-mouthed laugh any more. This is stupid, too, ‘cause losing one’s sense of humor only makes matters worse. I’m not sure how to maintain strength, hope, and humor when all of the things that give me hope and joy (tolerance, kindness, intelligence, collectivism, excellence and the magnificent natural world) seem to be diminishing. I write this today in the hope that it will serve as a catharsis. In the hope that I’m not alone in my thinking.

So, here is the litany of global events that have happened in the last two years that, in my opinion, reflect societal values and are consequently undermining my belief that this world is fundamentally a righteous place:

Syria, with the aid of Russia, prompts a mass migration of immigrants to the EU, which in turn emboldens racist, xenophobic, & nationalistic ideology throughout Europe, threatening the basis and formation of the European Union.

England & Wales, as a result of a misinformation campaign (Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Nigel Farage) withdraws from the European Union and takes Scotland and Ireland with it.

With the aid of the Electoral College, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Russian interference, Donald Trump takes the USA White House.

Emmanuel Macron narrowly beats the right-wing Front National (since ‘rebranded’ and going stronger than ever in time for the European Elections in a couple of weeks, aided by the Yellow Vest movement).

Jair Bolsonaro is elected in Brazil and vows to ‘open up’ more of the Amazon to industrial interests.

A fascist right-wing party is elected to lead Italy. With Viktor Orban of Hungary, they call for leaders to be elected in the upcoming EU elections who will reduce immigration (wolf whistle for ideology that defies EU principles).

Germany has representatives in their parliament from the far right for the first time since the Third Reich.

Spain has representatives in their parliament from the far right for the first time since Franco.

Sweden narrowly maintains a Socialist government, as does the Netherlands, in relatively recent elections.

There are mass shootings in the USA almost weekly. There is encouragement to shoot immigrants by Trump. Immigrants looking for shelter stateside are separated from their families, caged, and “lost.” The meat and water that the populace eats and drinks are contaminated due to decreased FDA and EPA protections, as well as the loosening of controls on industrial practices. The American administration is attempting a coup in Venezuela, and alienating democratic countries that the USA has had global alliances with for a hundred years.

Public education around the world is under siege. Teachers work for noble reasons or they don’t know what else to do. Students and their parents increasingly value education as a means to get into a ‘good’ university in order to get a ‘good job,’ in order to earn a lot of money, rather than for learning in-and-of-itself. Arts and humanities are being cut throughout the world, even as they define civilizations.

The wealthy elude taxes that keep infrastructure present for everyone. Multi national corporations elude taxes. The poor resent taxes. Income inequality grows more disparate, and this in turn affects our collective gene pool (subsequent lifestyle habits, healthcare resources, educational opportunities, etc.).

And climate calamity is on the horizon.

What is the global response? It’s open season on wolves and bears – necessary creatures for healthy ecosystems. Trophy hunting laws and endangered animal protections are eased. The hyper rich want their wildlife pets to signify status. The Chinese still think rhino horns are medicinal. Poaching is rampant. Nature reserves are under attack. Japan has re-introduced commercial whaling. The Faroe Islands continue to have an annual ‘ceremonial’ whale slaughter. The Arctic melts but short-sighted people just want jobs on oilrigs and fishing tankers. Habitat destruction and deforestation are destroying animals and insects essential to life itself, as well as plants that make medicines that keep humans living longer than ever before.

Industrial and corporate interests dominate governments and cultures. Governments throughout the world continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industries, which in turn continue to spend millions of dollars each year to lobby against clean energy and to keep consumers addicted to their goods. Pollution is literally choking humanity, making our children sick, and killing our natural protections against this.

Today, despite the rest of Europe – France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands – fighting for 95% reduction of emissions by 2050, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Germany rejected the motion. Reducing pollution and promoting sustainability is not in the interests of the powers that control many countries and their societies. And without governmental laws to MAKE people change their habits, there will be no real change.

And it’s not histrionic to say that if this doesn’t change, it means that we humans will then die after much suffering. We will face water scarcity, food shortage, illness, and war over resources…droughts, storms, fires, earthquakes will render populations homeless…animals, insects, and natural landscapes will be eliminated. But the planet will live on. Yes, we humans will take many of the current animal and natural species with us to our extinction, but eventually there will be new ones, and new forests, and new life. But it won’t include our children or us. Certainly not our children’s children.

What do we do? We continue to consume more than we need and to waste too much. We continue to have a lot of children. To eat a lot of meat that requires a great deal of land to harvest (not to mention what happens to the poor animals). To order things online that are shipped across the world because they’re ‘cheaper’. To buy disposable clothes, toys, plastic, goods of all kinds because we simply want them, they’re cheap, we don’t care what’s happening to the earth or to others, and because the measure of ‘success’ is material. We continue to drive huge, petrol/diesel guzzling cars. And fast, despite signs asking us to slow down ’cause speed effects emissions. We fly more than ever before in human history ‘cause we can. Finally, led by anger and fear stoked in mainstream media, we vote with our manufactured feelings rather than our reason. We vote for our own individual interests. Or we don’t vote at all.

This diatribe has, indeed, worked as a catharsis.

Even as I withdraw more these days and my humor is limited, I know that hope is not lost. The fight is not foregone. Feelings have not completely overridden reason. There are righteous folks fighting for all of us every day. Yes, Putin and his ilk are ruthlessly greedy for domination. Political leaders and would-be political leaders will exploit the anger and ignorance of the masses to their own end, creating backwards, unproductive societies for a generation or two. Most people will avoid their taxes unless they’re punished. Humans won’t want to reduce their creature comforts or to look directly into the face of their destructive habits. And humans without material goods will continue to want them. I don’t have any real power to affect the world on a macro level (if only – boy would I be good at being Queen of the world! Obviously modest).

What I CAN do is to focus my energies personally and politically:

  • Personal life appreciated and a moderate lifestyle maintained – mostly ‘tick,’ though this can always be improved upon.
  • A rewarding profession that helps the world in some way – mostly ‘tick.’
  • Living according to my values – exalting beauty, excellence, intelligence; modeling curiosity, kindness, and tolerance; cherishing socialism, liberalism, and conservation – not quite a tick because I’ve been wallowing in anger and resentment towards humanity in general for awhile – but I am working on it.
  • Voting for candidates who I believe will address at least a portion of the aforementioned injustices – tick.
  • Supporting causes and action that will fight for conservation of the natural world (as well as humanity in general) – tick.

 

 

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XI: A Moment of Silence…

Posted today on Twitter. I think it says it all…Brave American Children



December 12, 2018 V – Time’s Person of the Year

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” Mark Twain

Media photoJamal Ahmad Khashoggi is being declared Time magazine’s person of the year. Ostensibly, the magazine claims to be celebrating journalists as the “Guardians of Truth.”

I believe with all of my heart in a free press as a fundamental component of a democracy. * In this piece, I’m not saying that there are not great and absolutely necessary journalists in the USA who continue to find and chronicle the ‘truth’ in an effort to inform the public and contribute to judicious thinking. I’m not questioning these journalists who do investigative work and are critical of injustice and hypocrisy. Of course they exist and thank the gods for that. However, I question whether the modern press, particularly stateside, is, indeed “free” and are generally “guardians of the truth.”

And I encourage readers to ask themselves the following questions:

With the exception of a few US press companies, don’t corporate interests primarily own all the news outlets? In fact, aren’t there only a few conglomerates that own the majority of all the news outlets throughout the country? (Be it print, radio, or broadcast). Does that make them profit-making enterprises? Is the primary objective of most media outlets to capture readers/viewers or to inform? In essence, are the respective narratives within new stories inclusive of bias, left or right, or do they simply inform? Could this be related to ‘click bait,’ fear mongering, and competitive reportage of the same stories at the same time with only slight variations in how they’re told? Do these media corporations make campaign contributions that might effect the choices of the respective news outlets, such as what the public is informed about, how they are informed about it? (Bias, tone). How many investigative journalists do respective news outlets have on staff as opposed to anchors, editors, and assistants, publicists, etc.?

Did the US press continually deride Hilary Rodham Clinton for two years leading up to the 2016 elections? Did the US press publish and report Comey’s ‘findings’ on HRC’s emails ad infinitum just before the actual voting day in 2016? Did this effect voter choice? Does Trump lead each day’s news cycles? In other words, does the US press report tales of Trump’s antics every day on the front page or in the first few minutes of a broadcast? Does it seem as though a previous week’s relentless (story) focus is dropped and another one taken up almost immediately? By perpetually covering the words and actions of Trump and his administration, does this legitimize this administration’s behavior by allowing them to set the news cycles and to receive the attention Trump so desires? Are the stories told simply in the classical journalistic formula of “five w’s and an h” without the respective reporter’s interpretation of the information included? Does a reporter’s personal analysis of the news contribute to a sense of anxiety or scepticism in you? Does the twenty-four hour news cycles contribute to a general malaise that society is facing? If so, how?

Some people think that the modern age is akin to Orwell’s “1984.” I don’t agree. I think the modern age is more like Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where there is such an inundation of information that the public is desensitized to everything. And, lamentably, this style of reporting has undermined the credibility of all journalists, effectively and irresponsibly giving ammunition to Trump’s perpetual claim of “Fake News.”

*Please check out the 2018 free press ranking throughout the world via the link, below. Where does the USA rank? Considering the countries at the top ten of the list, what kind of societies are these? (How are the governed, financed, taxed, run?)

https://rsf.org/en/ranking



December 10, 2018 II – The Yellow Vest Movement

“I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French.” Charles de Gaulle

Macron as a traitor on the vestI once said to a French doctor during a visit to her office that I’m so grateful for the French healthcare system. Like England, where I had lived for thirteen years, there is universal healthcare. Unlike England, one must be a resident of France, pay your taxes, and while the state covers 70% of your healthcare (100% for your children), you must have private insurance to cover the rest. A visit to a general practitioner will cost you about 23 euros and to a specialist, about 60 euros (of which 70% will be returned to you). Similar to the USA, and unlike England, in France you can choose your general practitioner and they will refer you to specialists of your choice. Moreover, the French have effectively integrated methods based on medicine, or ‘hard’ science, with non- traditional methods, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, and nutritionists.

Back to the visit with the doctor and my compliment to the French healthcare system. She, in turn, was grateful for my appreciation. She told me that on an average visit, about a half-hour in duration per patient, she earns 10euros, with the rest being reimbursed or going to fund the collective ‘mechanisms.’ She didn’t have a problem with this, telling me she wanted to be a doctor to help people and she is. However, she said it’s frustrating because the French patients are never satisfied with the system. For example, when the Carte Vitale* machine doesn’t work and she must consequently give the patient a brown form+, they complain about having to cover the expense of an envelope and stamp in order to send the form and get reimbursed for their visit.

My point? While the French argue that they are collectively oriented, in general, they are not. They do not seem to care that their participation is necessary to maintain the heavily subsidized welfare state – public schools, universities, extracurricular activities++, school lunches+++, CAF** and housing subsidies, healthcare, retirement, etc. To sustain these services means paying a modest fee for them, as well as paying taxes, in order to support the whole system and the vulnerable within society. Many here begrudge paying anything even as they feel it’s their right to receive these benefits, which they complain are too little, and many people actively work to undermine the system. While a large part of me appreciates the French cynicism, and I agree that the super rich seem to avoid all fees, the average French knee-jerk cynicism also frustrates me. Having originated from a country where the cost of an emergency medical service without good health coverage could mean that you and your family lose your home due to the expense of it, or you have to take two mortgages out to fund your child’s university education, I’m grateful for the services in France. So, I consequently pay my taxes and all fees without question, even as I’m lucky that I do not use most of the services on offer. This does not mean that I don’t see that it is ‘apples and oranges’ to compare France – a noble, socialist state – with USA – a staunchly Capitalist one – and the subsequent services available in each.

However, France, like the rest of the world, is polluted due to fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, consumerism and waste. Where I live, many children have chronic coughs that the doctor’s dismiss with a sad shrug, saying “C’est comme ca…” On higher particle days, the kids aren’t allowed outside to play. Originating from France is the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to collectively reduce carbon emissions. In response to this, Macron’s administration put a nominal tax (literally a few cents) on diesel and petrol in an effort to curb its use. Many in France are very poor, earning an average income as teachers and police officers, of 1200euros per month. In rural areas of France, driving is necessary and these extra pennies mean a lot. However, in France, there is a 10,000-euro rebate when you convert your existing diesel car to an electric or hybrid car. Most don’t know this, and when they do, they argue that the cost of electric and hybrid cars is still too expensive. That’s true when you’re earning 1200 euros a month and have a family, even with CAF and governmental subsidies, but it’s a substantial offer. Arguably, all new technology is the bastion of the middle class and the rich, but as with all new technology, it will become more affordable, and we must begin the process somewhere of conserving our environment and our collective existence. Perhaps Macron’s administration should have begun with taxing the manufactures of the vehicles, yes, but there is an argument that by doing this, these manufacturers would withdraw a lot of manufacturing from France, which would also create a problem with a loss of jobs and income. Perhaps France should have built efficient public transit that uses clean energy that the people could use in order to discourage the use of their cars? But where would the money come from? Perhaps the taxes should have been placed on the fossil fuel companies, and the EU should enforce this collectively?

But I encourage people to ask themselves several questions: Is it not suspicious that many involved in the Yellow Vest movement are from middle class families? Is it not suspicious that at the same time that the Yellow Vest’s are claiming to be for the everyman, they are destroying the property of those working and having businesses? Is it not suspicious that what began as a protest about the increase on the cost of diesel and petrol, is now about wages, taxes, housing, retirement benefits, cost of living, etc.? Is it not suspicious that the average person involved with this movement is calling for the ‘head’ of Macron, a “banker,” rather than also seeing him as the Classicist, a man who spent more time studying the Humanities – literature, history, economics, philosophy? Also, a man they voted for. Is it not suspicious that the Yellow Vests have thus far refused to speak to the prime minister unless the meeting is filmed? Is it not suspicious that by reducing the speed limit on the highways, thereby limiting nasty emissions that prompt climate change, which the government has done, is not adhered to by the people themselves? Isn’t the nasty transport of goods by trucks perpetuated by our ordering goods online in order to avoid paying more for these same products?

I understand that many in France voted for Macron as opposition to the Front National, and that many view him as unforgivably arrogant (an irony, given that the French are stereotyped as arrogant). I also understand that people are frustrated and poor. That there is abhorrent global economic inequality. I agree with the suspicion that corporations and a superrich class of people are dictating global politics and laws, perpetually squeezing public services and the working class for their own increased profits and the perpetuation of their lavish lifestyles. I respect to some extent that my compatriots are noting this and protesting. However, the Yellow Vests are a fragmented and violent movement that is being manipulated into a frenzy by the same powers the participants are protesting. Macron is not the enemy. Nor are foreigners or refugees. Big business and tax evaders are the enemies. Macron is pro European, actively building bridges between member states, which is important because a united Europe is much stronger than a divided one, despite the rhetoric that cynically opposes the union and capitalizes on people’s fears and anger by creating scapegoats. While he may have been a banker briefly, he’s a truly cultured man and that means he understands context and the long game. He’s a man who has benefitted France as its president by increasing the profile of France through his efforts and his charisma, making it once again a power to be reckoned with (which happily coincided with the World Cup 2018 win). He has openly criticized Trump, rising xenophobia, and nationalism disguised as patriotism. He is actively arguing the need for climate action, even as arguably it is not nearly enough. These are great things socially and practically. He has served as the opposition to rising ignorance. His presidency has increased tourism to France and consequently bolstered the economy, and it has brought France back to the forefront of negotiating tables throughout the world. And now he is being undermined in these efforts, which will not benefit France or the European Union collectively. Is it not suspicious that this undermining occurs after the USA has officially dismissed climate change and Brexit has destablized the EU?

Yes, there is much more to be done about economic inequality, strife, and the environment. There is credence to the argument that letting even ‘little things’ go is a ‘slippery slope’ to creating an individualistic, capitalistic society like the USA. Yes, Macron is from the privileged class, and there is rising and unforgiveable economic inequality, but wouldn’t it be more helpful to stop condoning those culprits activities? Focus one’s efforts? Demand that companies such as Amazon and Google, for example, pay their fair share of taxes to operate in Europe. Demand that the taxes on the super rich in France (and the rest of the EU) are enforced. Demand that campaign financing is absolutely transparent so that there is not a conflict of interests. Tax the hell out of fossil fuel companies throughout Europe. Pay your own taxes so that your kids can continue to have benefits when they need them. Stop buying products online and support local businesses rather than these same ‘dark forces.’ Stop buying services or products from international companies that are contributing to economic inequality by creating monopolies and not paying their fair share in the societies they operate in. Stop driving so much. Stop eating so much beef, and buy it locally when you do eat it in order to undermine the big business agriculture has become. Use the subsidies and loans available to convert your homes to clean energy and your cars to clean energy.

I hope that Macron is able to face down the agitation and keep a steady hand on the tiller of the country. We shall see what he says tonight when he makes an address after the fourth weekend of riots in Paris. As it is, the Rassemblement National (Marine Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, as they have rebranded themselves since their defeat to Macron) is on par with Macron’s En Marche to represent France in the European elections in May. May the gods help us all and may reason and concerted effort prevail.

*A Carte Vitale is given to residents who pay their taxes or need special assistance. It is swiped through a machine at a doctor’s office so that reimbursement to the patient is immediate.

+A brown form is a sheet that is dated and signed by the doctor that the patient must fill in with their name and health number, and then send to the state’s Assurance Maladie (Health Insurance) for reimbursement.

**CAF supports childcare on a sliding scale, from 20c an hour up to 4euros an hour for baby and children’s day care and after school support. They also provide subsidies for families to take holidays around France each year. They also enable a mother to take three years off when their child is born, by giving her a monthly allowance. They also give a family a one-time fee upon the birth of a child that ranges in size, to a monthly stipend for each child to a certain age. The assistance the CAF provides is seemingly endless.

++Extracurricular activities in my village include taking the kids regularly to do a week of alpine skiing with instructors, as well as Nordic skiing, swimming lessons, museum visits, all subsidized by the commune.

+++School lunches for the elementary school children are three course events – salad, meal, cheese or desert – that are usually locally sourced and bio. And, thanks to Nicholas Hulot’s response to a petition, they are now serving a vegetarian meal once a week in order to ‘put the subject on the table’ about the correlation between meat eating and climate change.

 



December 10, 2018 – Intention
December 10, 2018, 12:33 pm
Filed under: In Vino Veritas, In Aqua Sanitas | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Since the days of Greece and Rome, when the word ‘citizen’ was a title of honor, we have often seen more emphasis put on the rights of citizenship than on its responsibilities.” Robert Kennedy

Cascadia flagIt’s very hard to see the willful ignorance globally. I’m so impatient and sad that most people aren’t ‘connecting the dots’ between what is happening in one part of the world (politically, socially, philosophically, and practically) with another. It seems many aren’t noting the similarities between politicians, actions, ideas, and media coverage across the planet. Despite differences in nationality, culture, creed, religion, it’s all shared global phenomena. For example, it amazes me that the British news media continues to give airtime and credibility to hardline Brexiters like Boris Johnson who has been utterly discredited, allowing the ignorant millions who voted Leave to persist in their delusions, thereby preventing British society as a whole to face the facts and move forward. Likewise, the American media continues to lead the news cycles with coverage of Trump’s erratic behavior and lines straight from his mouth, consequently reiterating and perpetuating the nonsense that comes out of it and is so destructive for the USA and the world as a whole. Similarly, the French media, historically skeptical of the president’s office, are covering the Yellow Vests in France ad infinitum in a sensationalistic manner. Subsequently, those backing them, including Trump, don’t understand the context of the situation even as they’re jumping on the bandwagon of the movement. It’s all so confusing, divisive and horrible that it does my head in.

If I were queen of the world, I’d eliminate tax free havens, I’d tax the hell out of fossil fuel enterprises to fund clean energy incentives, I’d enforce tax laws and funnel the money to bolstering public education and social services, and I’d eliminate ‘dark money’ from all campaigns globally so that corporations and the super rich could not effect public policy.

However, as this won’t happen, and in an effort not to become more depressed by the madness that I’m seeing everywhere, on social media, in the newspapers, in television reports, and then perpetuated by those around me, I’m going to chronicle what I see. Short observations on a variety of subjects that, I hope, reflect aspects of this ‘brave new world’. I’ve decided to title all the entries “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas,” or “In wine there is truth, in water there is health,” not out of pretention, but because it suits. I drink wine most days, and the Latin expression seems to be a good ‘umbrella’ philosophy for how I envision the series. The idea, from the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, is that if something was decided during a council while drunk, then it must be reconsidered when sober. These cultures believed that no one could lie effectively when drunk. I like the complete phrase that incorporates the later portion, “in water there is health,” because, ultimately, I think that politics today, and, arguably, since the beginning of time, is full of hubris and the ‘only’ thing that ultimately matters is the natural world, hence the allusion to clean water.

Who am I? A native Oregonian. An American citizen and also a French citizen, who has lived in Europe for the last twenty years by choice and through great effort. A woman who has traveled the globe, living, working, studying in countries such as Scotland, Zimbabwe, Germany, Mexico, England, and France, as well as the American states California, Washington and New York (and obviously Oregon). I’ve been married three times, to an Iranian man, a German man, and now a Danish man, respectively. This doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person, just a bad Catholic. I’m certainly not great at conventional relationships, though I’m making an effort now. I’m not a dilettante, though I’m well read. I worked my way through all of my university degrees and travels, as a waitress during my undergraduate degree, and then in the film industry and as a content writer during my graduate degrees. Now, I’m a schoolteacher and mother to a seven-year-old son. I live in France with him, my Danish husband, my border collie, and a ginger cat that adopted us several years back. I’m a flawed individual, of course, with constructs that sometimes defy logic, and, my observations, here, will likely be focused on the Northern hemisphere, which isn’t complete. But I’m also bright, sensitive, passionate, and, obviously, modest.

Here goes…



Homage to the USA

Patriotism is supporting your country all of the time, and your government when it deserves it. Mark Twain

USA flag_Jasper Johns.jpgI was born in Oregon and spent most of my childhood there. We fished for crawdads in mountain creeks during the summer, took inner-tubes down small rapids, climbed the trestles for the Great Western Pacific trains, biked everywhere through the fields and pastoral lands, with the gentle mountains in the distance. We ‘drag raced’ down Main Street on the weekends, saved money for the state fair and Turkey Rama, picked magic mushrooms in the forests, and went to Friday night football at the high school – not necessarily because of interest in the game, but because it was a community social event. My family regularly camped and hiked at Neskowin, Canon Beach, and Newport City, and ate clam chowder at “Mo’s.” I remember that my bright red feet from the cold of the Pacific Ocean would not deter me from playing in it. We grew up skiing on Mount Hood, and dining at a pizza barn near Government Camp, as well as hiking at Multnomah Falls and through the Cascades. Family holidays involved traveling in our VW van with a styrofoam mattress laid out in the back for we children, staying in Motel 6’s or KOA campsites. I remember that hanging our washing out to dry made it smell even lovelier after a rain, and lying on my back in order to look up at the leaves of the many ancient oak and maple trees on my family’s property (though raking them in the autumn was an onerous task). Badminton and croquet over a bumpy, rooty lawn. Trading candy with my siblings after the Halloween haul on the floor of our den. Thanksgiving as the only time my father would cook things simply.

Typical to a small town girl, I moved away as soon as I graduated from high school: first to Portland, then Seattle, then London, then New York, then Los Angeles, then Berlin, then back to London, then to France. I’ve now lived in Europe for a third of my life, and half of my adult life. I’m formally naturalizing as a French citizen on Thanksgiving this year (not through my own design, but because that’s what the Minister of Interior set as the date). I’ve always maintained that one place is not “better” than another place – they simply represent our different needs and desires at a given time in our life. The inherent values in Europe, of a safety net for the public, even as there are capitalistic markets, align with my personal values: healthcare for all, housing subsidies for those in need, mandatory WEEKS off of holiday, paid, per year, plus personal days, and free (or almost free) university education. Additionally, the pace of life is slower in Europe, and I appreciate this because I believe the frenetic pace of American life is debilitating and anxiety provoking for the populace.

Visiting the USA each year, keeping in close touch with my family, and assiduously reading the global news each day, means I have watched all the negative elements of my native society become exaggerated: workers not taking the minimal days off they have ‘cause they can’t afford to, or they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs; the employment figures being misrepresented, as many people have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet; there is no time for most Americans to simply rest, ‘cause they are always working, and stores and restaurants are always open, implicitly encouraging the people to consume more than they need; the cost of an emergency or a long term illness fells a person or a family who does not have adequate healthcare coverage; even as the USA has the most highly trained teachers in the world, they are paid the least and the public school system receives substantially less each year in federal funds than the penal system does; diets for most Americans are evidence of a cultural polarity – there are those that are hyper ‘healthy’ with diet and exercise, and those that are obese. Suffice to say, that the milieu that I want to live in is one in which there is a social safety net for those that pay their taxes (however nominal), and people are encouraged to have time to eat, think, and spend time with their families and friends.

That is NOT to say that I am not also in love with my native land, the USA. I love it and it hurts me personally when people criticize it, even as I may agree with them intellectually. For me, I think of my interesting, liberal childhood, the gorgeous and diverse nature of the land itself, its film, its music, its ingenuity in all things, and my heart fills with nostalgia, pride, and gratefulness. Even as I have lived abroad in tough times – the Reagan/Thatcher reign, the GATT Talks 1994, Bush Jr’s reign, to name a few – I have always been proud to be American ‘cause I believe there’s a certain ‘energy’ to us, both good and bad. But now, to see my beloved country so divided within itself, and so alienated from the rest of the world, truly breaks my heart and makes me feel ashamed of what it happening there.

The intolerance and loathing from both sides of the aisle – the fact that there ARE just two choices in American politics – is shockingly fierce and illiberal. To observe cynical, self-serving politicians capitalize on the American people’s personal fears and anxieties, encouraging tribalism, so that the people will be too busy infighting and creating scapegoats, that they will not notice what is happening to their land and their laws, is starkly shocking and sad. It’s as though all the goodness of the USA – its receptivity to new ideas, its consequent ingenuity, its warmth, its diverse and gorgeous cities, natural landscapes and wildlife – are succumbing entirely to its underside – blind ambition, greed, racism, anger, violence, and ignorance. My defense of my native land in conversation here usually goes along the lines of explaining the context for the current situation (the electoral college, the Southern Strategy, Super PACs, Fox News, and an effective smear campaign against Socialism as “commie” interests, the vast swaths of land effecting perspectives), but this falls deaf on European ears. Ironically, they seem to believe MORE in the idea of personal responsibility for one’s destiny socially and politically than Americans generally do, even as we are professed individualists. Even so, they will politely listen to my contextual explanations if the wine keeps flowing, then they predict that it’s simply a repetition of historical dominance of given countries, the fall of the Roman Empire, so to speak, and if there is any fear here, it’s that it will effect the world order ‘cause there will be no one to lead in global policies that monitor corruption, extortion, human rights infringements, and the need for clean energy. Lamentably, the USA and its leaders cannot be quarantined.

For the first time in history, Europeans know what a midterm election in the USA is and are paying attention. I’m pensive and worried today ‘cause I really don’t know what tomorrow’s vote will bring. I’m skeptical that despite all the noise, voters will NOT turn out in the droves that they need to in order to offset the gerrymandering and voter repression. I worry Trump, enabled by sociopathic ideologues like Pence, McConnell, and Ryan, will declare the results – IF they indicate congress will have a Democratic majority – as false and refuse to adhere to the vote of the citizens. My Danish husband says, “That’s impossible! That would be breaking the law, no?” I don’t know what to say to that. A president who has been accused of sexual harassment repeatedly, found fraudulent in his financial declarations and business endeavors, who has never revealed his tax returns publicly, who has been ‘caught’ telling as many as 200 lies in a single week publicly, whose administration has altered law and protocol to put two justices on the Supreme Court and push through over 50 more judges on the lower courts, and who has turned back clean air and clean water protections, food protections, and undermined national parks borders, caged children in privately profiting detention centers that refuse elected officials entry into them, and now has used the US military as an election gimmick to capitalize on his bases’ fears and racism (ostensibly declaring martial law)…well, it’s not inconceivable that he and the sitting GOP’s will just refuse to budge, no? What will the world do then? Perhaps it will be just the excuse to invade and topple this regime. But who could do it? China, Russia and Saudi Arabia have, together, the military might to take on the USA, but why would they do that when they have so much invested in the country? Alas…

Despite my worry and misgivings, I will try to believe that America will re assert itself as a land of hope for all. As the Marquis de Lafayette wrote about the USA after the French helped the Americans to overthrow the tyranny of the English: “Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.”

 

 

 

 



It Can Happen Here
July 13, 2018, 8:37 am
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , ,

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…