Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yearly New Year's Roundup: A Good Year For Me, A Bad One For The World

The countdown is on, we have almost made it: 2016 is in its final lap. This horrendous year for the planet is finally nearing an end, and although we will still live on a worse planet on January 1, 2017, than the one we occupied the same day in 2016, I think it comes as a relief to everyone that at least this torturous year is a memory. For me, 2016 was one of the best. The world, however, can't say the same thing. Almost none of the great things we expected happened except Leo DiCaprio finally winning the Oscar. This time last year we had hope for the planet, a female President, a stronger Europe and multicultural, tolerant and modern societies. Well, that hope was shattered with the most brutal force. Not only didn't we get Hillary, we got a lunatic asshole instead. Not only did we not get more tolerance, we got way more terrorists. And instead of a stronger Europe, almost the entire continent is preparing to vote for Nazi-enthusiasts once more next year. What a difference a year makes...

For me personally, the year started with a completely different expectation to what actually happened as well. I was in Moscow, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I was there with a boy, and at the time that was a nice thing. They say you spend the year with whoever is around on New Year's Eve. Instead, the boy I chose for that hooked up with the next chick the minute I left the country five days later (and, so it turned out, had already been doing so). Without telling me, of course. I found out in May when I was already way past caring, which makes writing this easier. What sounds like a sad story is, in fact, a huge contribution to why 2016 was such a success for me: I let go of a 10-year-old question mark that became an exclamation of "Sina, stop wasting your time!". My consequent reconciliation with my ex wasn't a result of that but felt way less forced than all the other reconciliations (there were plenty!) Despite this wonderful silver lining, two years of being in a relationship also came to an end and that, retrospectively, was also the right thing to happen. In the age of truly identifying what I want and need, the solitude made me make the right decision for myself. My relationship in Egypt never failed, but it ended because change was needed... and achieved.

The other biggie, of course, was leaving Egypt. I was sad to be leaving my boyfriend, but I never once doubted that leaving Egypt was the right step, and neither did he. There are few things in life you just feel are right, and when they come along, you still question them. Now, months after, I haven't missed Egypt even once, embracing my life back in Europe in a way I couldn't have had without the experience of living and loathing Cairo. Hearing all this, you may ask yourself why I celebrate a year in which men lost my love because they couldn't keep it in the pants (literally, mere hours both times!) and had to leave my lover behind, and the answer is very simple: it just had to happen. Everything that followed was positive. Duh, getting over a guy who doesn't appreciate you is easy, but actually realizing what you have in those who do appreciate you is a major lesson to learn. Leaving someone you love is harder, but finally accepting the end of something deemed to fall apart is liberating, saves everyone time and heartache and allowed both of us to continue to feel positive about each other.

The only thing I can really criticize about my personal year 2016 was the confusion about my career, and the countless times I was almost chosen to make all my dreams come true, but wasn't. This year, I applied and interviewed with Huffington Post, Politico, Business Insider, Deutsche Welle, CNN, International Business Times and, surprisingly, Ria Novosti. Each time, I lost out in the final round or was made an offer I couldn't accept. Each time, I was a stone throw away from literally everything I worked for these past years, only to realize it wasn't what I thought it would be. In the end, I started opening my horizon to new career ideas and I genuinely landed all jobs I applied for but two. It was evident, that "being a journalist in Germany above everything else" was no longer a smart model for my life, and once this realization made it into my head, I was getting opportunities I didn't know I could have. Here, too, my expectation for the year was not met, but exceeded hugely. On New Year's 2015 I thought I was heading back to school in the States, and now I'm back where it all started, how I had always hoped it would go when I was just a teenager.

Of course, a happy ending of 2016 for me personally does not translate into real life. All together I will never remember 2016 as a good year because the world changed for the worse. No other year I cried so much, but never for myself. I cried weeks for Brexit, then I cried weeks for Trump, and throughout I cried a lot watching and seeing and knowing that Aleppo, and all its people, was burning, and far beyond the confines of what was once a city, or a country. I skipped Christmas due to the incredible heartbreak over the world heading towards doom, by choice, and that I thought that 2016 would be, like all the other years, a year of progress and enhanced cooperation, and not a year in which hate crimes became trendy and being part of a multilateral world view was to be viewed as weakness, or even evil. I started the year being proud of my profession, and finish it knowing the world thinks I'm a liar due to my profession. Everything changed this year, and I, for as long as I live, will remember and say "I was there, I saw it coming!". Hopefully!

And as every year, I ask myself what I learned from the good and the bad, that makes even a bad year a good one in terms of experience. This year, I learned that things can go very well for yourself, and it means nothing if you can't share it. I had a wonderful year, full of great experiences, but it didn't make me happy because they were a result of my privilege that I did not deserve. My happiness does not guarantee me satisfaction, simply because I just don't have a heart that is able to shut the evil in this world out. Just like every other year, 2017 I am expecting huge changes, and unlike most years, they are welcomed because I have realized that they are the way forward. Jumping into the cold water, doing something wild, not thinking before doing, and other really hard to do things people try to avoid, just seem to be my style. I am relocating, I am changing career, and I am over the disappointments of 2016 which means 2017 will have an easy time teaching me new things. And that way, hopefully, 2016 with all its deaths and political catastrophes can hopefully remain a memory as soon as we have cleaned up the mess it made. That won't happen in 2017, but we hopefully have time... 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Why I'm Skipping Christmas In My Heart This Year.

The entire house is full of Christmas song and spirit. I work at the Christmas market, where the holidays are literally business. On top of that, I try to fit all my holiday watch list into my barely existing spare time. Heck, I even went to Disneyland. And yet, this year Christmas has not stood a chance in my heart. Before I continue, I should probably express how Christmas is much more than a holiday to me and that I usually start looking forward to it in August. It's just the time of love, family and peace, where we all remember to be kind, give gifts to those we love, and yes, we love, and then love more. And that is why this year I have now decided to skip Christmas: not in what I do, but in my heart. There will be a tree, but there won't be a celebration. After the year we had it simply doesn't feel right.

I was watching a carol show this morning, and some terrible singer lipsynced a call for "peace on Earth". And that is why I cannot identify with Christmas this year. In my lifetime a situation like Aleppo has not happened: live death on TV, the internet and absolutely nothing done to stop it. This season of peace is anything but. To feel Christmas spirit only means to turn off the TV and close the eyes to the most drastic suffering I have ever witnessed. How some people react to this senseless act of violence also rarely reminds me of what Jesus would have done or wants us to do. As a result, celebrating love, peace and the salvation we acquired by the birth of a man who, according to our belief system, grants us peace even after death but not those who are quite literally dying in front of our eyes as we speak, is wrong. It just doesn't feel right. And sure, our Lord has mercy, and yet I cannot help but overlook the paradox of Christmas and Aleppo happening at the same time.

To me, personally, that means that for the first time in my life I had to ask myself if it is at all tasteful to forget about what is happening and just focus on the good news of Christmas. I have never felt this good news to be threatened more than in 2016, and my subsequent answer was that allowing that Christmas sentiment into my heart would be a disrespect. I usually feel lucky and grateful for my privilege, but right now I am feeling uncomfortable about it. I don't deserve sitting here in the warmth, forgetting about the cruel world out there, pretending that love is what makes this world go around. It has never been more obvious that love does NOT conquer all, and that compassion and kindness are not today's trending topics. If that was true, we wouldn't have a Brexit to prevent immigrants from entering a country, a president-elect who openly hates people and appoints Putin's friends to government positions and, most importantly, war in more countries than currently not at war.

At a carol service earlier today, there they were: the privileged people, sipping their mulled wine while singing about how happy they are about Jesus being born despite not having gone to church in years and going by "atheism" to save taxes. At this point it is absolutely hilarious, or should I say mind-blowing, that quite a few people who are shaking their head about the people of Bethlehem not taking Mary and Joseph in on the night of Jesus' arrival are also suggesting to have a maximum quota on Syrians escaping wars to this country. A Protestant and a Catholic minister had also appeared to tell the Christmas story, tastelessly comparing the suffering of Aleppo to all of our personal battles that we just need to give up to God. As a person who has little time for religion, I struggle to just believe that God's salvation will benefit Aleppo. I think most people agree with me that human action would probably help a lot more.

But, and this is important, action was lacking big time. No American or UN action, or anything to counter Russian action which should never have happened. Gone are the days where this fight was about democracy. Anyone believing in democracy needs to be against Assad, although parties to put support in instead are of course very few in number. But whatever got us there, whoever really is the evil side, this human catastrophe was 100% preventable. I have a lot of very moronic friends who support Assad and still call themselves believers in freedom, undermining everything we see as propaganda. You know, the way almost every dictator in history got their following by simply undermining truths and appealing to emotions. And this year we have had so much of that. It has been easy to emotionalize people in the wake of more than one political failure, and considering that 2016 is possibly just the beginning of this downward spiral that will lead us out of our value system makes me feel anything but all tingly inside. Tingles, sure, but due to nausea.

And of course I am aware that Aleppo isn't the first, or even the worst, catastrophe there ever was around Christmas, but this time we are all watching. It is impossible to miss people posting their last messages to social media on Facebook, and despite Assad turning off the internet or mobile services in Aleppo, of course not everyone died there. On top of that, we also heard about wars before, haven't we? This one isn't any better than all the others we vowed to never allow to happen ever again. Christmas feels wrong all the time. In 2012, after Newtown, Christmas in my heart was a stretch as well. I was also in Israel where many things reminded me of how the world has forgotten about Jesus' legacy. I cannot have Christmas in my heart. There is no room in my heart this year. It is filled with grieve for the numbness, helplessness and negligence I feel about Aleppo. There is no silver lining for people seeking freedom and not getting it because the entire world had interests they wanted to see through. My personal interest is freedom for everyone, and so this is a dark Christmas, because we are heading towards less freedom globally, and 2k16 was likely just the beginning...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Everything about Disneyland is good but *these* things are even better...

After talking about my reoccurring dream of the past decade of being in Disneyland with time running out or attractions closing, and my rather elaborate blog on how I believe that I will fall in love with whoever takes me to Disneyland, I finally went to Disneyland last week. The mere fact I can write this without lying makes me very happy. I love, love, love Disneyland. Prior to the visit, I was prepared by friends that I might be disappointed: Disneyland is a place for children, and last time I went I sorta was one. So last week, for the first time in ten and a half years, I walked onto Main Street, USA in Disneyland and actually did what I had planned for a long time. Spoiler Alert: I was not disappointed. It would have been crazy for me to not love the experience. Yet, I of course managed to acquire some highlights, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share them.

Every single boy I ever dated knew I had this dream of going to Disneyland. Each one of them promised to take me. None of them, for different reasons, followed through. Now that I went with my friends Camille and Tom I only have one thing to say about that: THANK F***! I have many cool places ruined by the fact I went there with the wrong, or at least no longer right, person. My lifelong dream of being in Moscow is now a distinctive memory of just one person, and I don’t enjoy thinking of what happened with him very much. I don’t think I could ever go back to my ex’s hometown in the Highlands without associating the place with him. Therefore, not making memories with the wrong guy in Disneyland is a win, I suppose. No corrupting places anymore! Instead, I now have memories with friends I’ve had for many years and who will, unlike these boys, never exit my life. I won’t ever regret association of Disneyland with Tom and Camille. And to have such friends, even after all those years of not being around each other, made it extra special.


Paradoxically, one of the reasons I love Disneyland so much is the set of memories I have from it which is the opposite of my prior argument. Disneyland Paris is the only place I remember vacationing with my father. I remembered him going on a high-speed, upside down roller coaster with his briefcase and taking a picture with Goofy, his favorite character. Then I remember my last visit in California, where the park shut for the public and allowed high school seniors to enter only. And finally, I remember that it had been a dream of mine to go to Disneyland as a child, and my mother only obliging when I was eleven. Back then, the robots in the Pirates ride were real AF. Now, the internet corrupted us and anything but CGI is a disappointment. The memories of thinking “whoaaaa, what a ride” however, aren’t going anywhere.

Diversity in a place so white even Trump would be shocked

Disneyland is not a very good representation of France these days. The moment I left the train station on my arrival I immediately noticed the diversity. I feel good in diverse places, in fact, I probably enjoy a society more if it features more than one color. Granted, Disneyland is a pretty white place. I consider it the most American place outside the US, and even in France the main audience was white, rich families, at least it seemed that way. However, I saw certain efforts to still illustrate some openness to all those white kids. “It’s a small world”, a boat ride through a room with dolls dancing from all over the world, had dolls of all color. My favorite, however, was the doll wearing niqab, dancing and singing with all the others. AWESOME! Additionally, one of the Elzas in the parade was Asian. FANTASTIC! Reflecting Disney’s worldview in present-day, Fillon-and-LePen-voting France, I suppose, isn’t the easiest feat, but at least they try.

Disneyland vs Reality

Just by fulfilling my dream of finally being back, my day at Disneyland was one of the best ones I had this year. It reminds me of past days, makes me dream of the future, and for a second I quite literally forgot I live in a terrible world because Disneyland is so awesome. People tell me every day how they just don’t watch the news anymore because it upsets them, or they don’t engage with hatred to protect their heart. Well, I’m not capable of that (and also believe that’s a wrong attitude) but on Disneyday, I succeeded in doing just that. Then, at 8pm, as the grand finale, Disneyland put on a laser show at the castle. The castle lit up with pictures of children singing and dancing around the world: in front of the Pyramids, in the Highlands, on the Great Wall of China. Then, suddenly, all lights went off, and the only thing visible was a huge projection of just one word: “Peace”. Since the end of "My Girl" I hadn't cried this much. We had just spent a whole day never once thinking of reality, and that’s ok sometimes, but the reality is out there, and it’s not peaceful. With goosebumps all over my body, this became my highlight of the entire day because Disneyland gave us a break but didn’t allow us to forget.

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Munich trips perfectly reflect everything that's wrong with Germany...

I’ve been to Munich four times in my life, and each time I mad a very similar experience. They say that the South is a friendly place, and I’m pretty sure if I ever got to stay longer that’s the experience I would make. Fact is, I never did stay long. I only ever stayed long enough to realize just how German Munich was. Anyone who’s read this blog before should know fully well what that means: order, efficiency, no surprises. The best part of the last two months I spent acclimatizing to this reality again after chaos, ridiculous inefficiency and nothing ever working out the way it was supposed to in Cairo. Two years of Egypt would make it pretty hard for anyone to accept living somewhere else again, and I chose to make that place Germany. As if it wasn’t underwhelming to me the first few times. It’s funny how each of my visits to Munich underlines exactly that: some sort of culture shock. But let me not tell you everything right away:

Visit #1: Oktoberfest 2006

The one and only time my hometown football club of Alemannia Aachen played the Bundesliga, me and my church friends couldn’t miss the chance to see them play Bayern Munich. Where does Bayern play? That’s right, Munich. So that’s where we went, to watch football, the most German thing anyone could ever do. I was 17 and hugely into Jesus, in fact staying the night at the priest’s residence for lack of any places in Munich to sleep all week because it was Oktoberfest time. What’s more German than football? That’s right, Oktoberfest. So right after the game which we obviously lost we headed to the tents. This was before ISIS in Europe, so it was crowded AF. Everyone was drunk. I hated beer. To set the precedent for my future life in Germany, it was this experience that I realized I had still not become the classic German. I had just returned from a year in the States, and my father had just passed away. And now this alcoholic hell was my life, and I didn’t drink. Oktoberfest looked fun to the person I would become, but back then it just showed me that maybe, Germany is not the right place for me to stay.

Visit # 2: Volleyball Club Trip 2010

Fast forward a few years and I had in fact left Germany again. I was living in the world’s best country in 2010, studying my absolute passion, being happier than I believe I ever was. My Volleyball Club traveled to Munich for a weekend of drinking, and I had become a drinker since my last visit. For the first time I was traveling as a Scottish university student but in my own country. I knew the language and the customs, and being in Munich there could not have been a bigger difference between the traits I had learned to love about the Scots and the complete opposite of that personified in the German people. We had the best time in all of Munich, and I mean it. No German had that much fun. Six years ago, as a completely different person from what I am now, I was ranting and ranting and ranting how boring those Germans are. Later on, I came to learn they’re not boring, they simply just don’t enjoy being like me, or the Scots, or the Americans for that matter. Silver lining: I was right where I was, in Scotland, and happy not to be in Munich.

Visit #3: Weird, weird job interview 2014

After uni and my PhD plans changing, I was applying Germany-wide. I didn’t want to stay in Germany but knew that the job market would probably only get worse if I left Germany. I was unemployed there, so I was going to be unemployed everywhere. What made matters worse was the incredible boredom of not having a job. Coupled with being in Germany, it was genuinely the worst time. I had a job interview at a PR firm in Munich so I thought “what the hell, why not?” and went for it. Within 10 minutes of being there I knew the job was history, however, I was still in Munich and thought my sister and I could have a good time. We couldn’t find decent döner which shouldn’t happen in any place in Germany. I also saw far less foreign people, which is never a good thing. When I then met up with my American friend Lindsey, and she told me how she was having trouble finding friends in Munich, I got an impression of where I was. I myself had met Lindsey one night in Slovenia, and we were friends the next day. How she could struggle was beyond me. But I knew of course what making friends in Germany entails, and so I just figured Munich, with all its rich, white people, probably wouldn’t be different than Aachen where I am from.

Visit #4: Working for Huff Post

This time I came as a completely new person. Nothing was left of those experiences before and my enthusiasm for Germany greatly changed after the four best words a German chancellor ever made: “We can do it”, speaking about the refugee crisis. Ever since, Germany has become a possibility for me to stay, which it never was. So when this opportunity arose it started sounding cool being close to the Alps and having a city job. It was redemption time. On day 1 I left the house at 7.30. A jogger past me as I left the hotel. At the corner I turned, a man with a dog past me. And at the traffic lights a couple was meeting up cheerily. The next day, I left the hotel at 7.30 again. At the exact same place as the day before, the jogger passed me. At the corner, there he was: the man with the dog. And finally the same couple met up at the same place as the day before. Three guesses what happened the day after. Same again! To the second! Nobody late! Everything predictable, after two days. This is the essence of Germany, and it’s hard to cherish after chaos and insanity sometimes worked out really well for me in Cairo. Now I wouldn’t prefer Egypt, but what happened to a healthy balance. Sometimes feeling like Germans aren’t robots would be nice…

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are we heading for "WAR"?

A German talking about a war, that's new. The kind of war I am talking about has, however, actually not been discussed in my country for a long time. I'm talking about war on ideology, disputes of thinking. I am not talking about bombs, explosions and enemies (yet!), but about closing in on a time period of history. When Francis Fukoyama said the "end of history" had been reached after the collapse of the Cold War, I believe, many people thought he was being ridiculous then. I remember reading "The End of History" for the first time in 2010 or 2011, believing then that a notion of liberal democracy having "won" when such a big part of the world hadn't conceded the "fight"yet, was pretty freaking ignorant. As of 2016, he was proven wrong: liberal democracy has definitely not won, but we are about to enter into the next phase of history. Does liberal democracy prevail? I believe we will only know after that fight has settled.

As a student of history, I had module classes divided into years: "Early Modern Europe: 1490 - 1870", Europe in Transition: 1870 - 1918", you get the picture. In the future, I believe modules will start with the year 2016, only the name is to be confirmed. It could be "The End of Liberal Democracy: 2016 - tbc" or "The Rise of Neo-Nationalism: 2016 - tbc". What's clear to me is that we will be talking about ideology for a long time to come. You may think that's not new, but it is. We might have been discussing ideology over a glass of wine and a bite of cheese before, we might have disagreed and then gone home and resumed our lives as if nothing had happened. I think these times are over. I think that soon it is but the only thing we can't ignore. We have already been proven to be unsuccessful in ameliorating our opponents, and the entire globe is en route to be divided by ideological reasoning once more.

Unlike the last times, each country now faces the same struggle to a stronger or lesser extent: the return of nationalism. All countries have had episodes of nationalism, and in most cases, it did not go too well. Because we assume human beings to be smart and logic, learning from history (what else would be the point of historical research otherwise?), we somehow expected that certain things would never again show up on the map. The slogan of ever holocaust memory is "never again", while Remembrance Day carries the words "lest we forget". Those words are under threat of being completely and utterly forgotten, and mistakes have a high potential of being repeated. That is not to say that only nationalism will carry us to doom once more, but many of the threats to the future could be prevented if proper lessons would be learned from the past, and for example Fukoyama's ignorance about having reached the ultimate world view that will never ever change again had been debunked just a bit more in time.

The war we are facing, therefore, is not one fought in battles; it will be in homes, at workplaces and, most importantly, on the internet. Here I am in 2016, thinking it will be impossible that an ethnic cleansing could happen on Western soil because I thought there was dedication to not let that happen again by EVERYONE, and yet there is a Muslim registry about to become part of the law in the country that leads the, now so called, free world. Those who stand up for the conviction that this development is wrong, which in my eyes it clearly is, will face the front even among their friends. The camps we now have are those who believe in the progress of history, the resilience of liberal democracy and a common understanding that we need and want to cooperate, and those who oppose all this, seeking new approaches, albeit not necessarily feasible ones, to solve problems they perceive as being brought on by politicians, journalists or, worst, people simply different from themselves. For the latter camp, the bridge between such a political view and racism and xenophobia is unfortunately not very hard to cross.

There is a war coming between these camps. Just like Capitalists vs Communists in the Cold War, Muslims vs Christians in the Ottoman Empire and the South vs the North during the American Civil War, each side is made a villain that is simply wrong, although there is nothing but a conflict of interests and two different approaches to solving a single problem. Neither capitalists nor communists have won the Cold War since both of these groups still exist in this world, yet they saw each other as an ideological nemesis and just one rose above the other by power. The divide between liberals and conservatives is the same. Each camp accuses the other of the same mistakes, eg. lying, ignorance and abuse of power. The fact that there is such a thing as "the truth" that can support or refute these claims does not seem to matter anymore. And this reality wasn't there last year. We are now fighting our friends and family, and I consider it the right thing considering the racism, bigotry and misogyny coming out of the "opposite" team occasionally.

And that's why I believe the fight the internet has been calling out since last week is in fact coming. A wise, wise man once said "soon we will have to choose between what is right, and what is easy", and in my life time that has never applied. I always wondered who I would have been in 1939 Germany: a passive onlooker, a Jew-hiding ideologist or a Nazi? I always knew I wouldn't have been a Nazi but I questioned if I would have rose up, hell, even be a Sophie Scholl maybe. Today, I know the answer because I will most likely have to make that decision soon. Will I look out for myself, hide in my own life, care about me and my family, or will I stand up and say no to those who are, in my world view, destroying what my forefathers built for me although most likely I will not have any disadvantages personally by any scenario. Germans have not had to ask themselves these questions in a long time. We agreed on liberal democracy. We agreed we got lucky, and we rebuilt what we destroyed. And now, we are going to have to fight those who want to do it again. And because I believe in defending our amazing progress, equality and idealism with as much heart as I have for it, I now know why people, then and today, voluntarily go to war, because I'd do it, too. For all that. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I'm Not Mad At Donald Trump, I'm Mad At America!

Before I dive head first into this post which will no doubt displease many people, including many people I love very much, I need to probably say one thing: Political ideas shouldn't end friendships or incite conflict. And in my opinion, political ideas don't do that at all. I am from the liberal camp, as most of my generation especially outside of the States, but part of that means also being confronted with lots of people who think differently, and it has never been a major problem. The reason it is now a problem is not because "we" are "losing", it's because we thought we were on a path towards a better world, and in our understanding we have just been proven wrong although there was no indication we'd have to realize that. So what I am hoping, for the sake of this divide ever to stop again, is an open mind. I realize I don't need to sway votes. It's too late for that. All I hope to do over the next 4 years is explain to you, the people who aren't terrified just now, why we are!

I mean, how privileged does one have to be to just
not vote at all, considering people died for them to have that right?
I want to start off with just a scenario. For the sake of hypotheticals I am going to assume I understand all of your reasons for voting Trump/ Pence. So the next day, when half of America was in tears, you assumed it was a normal reaction: they lost, you thought, and they are scared of losing the horrible grip they had on the country for 8 years. You then remember the year 2000 when the exact same thing happened: people voted for Gore, but your guy won, and it made people very, very angry. Let me tell you that this time that's very different. So even if all this applies, were you wondering for one second why black people, women, and Muslims, to name a few, were actually terrified? I'm saying scared, not unhappy. Did you think this was an overreaction? The voting statistics show that a very large number of the people I just named had a different preference, and I am just wondering if you, as a Trump voter, who is likely not a disadvantaged minority or haven't experienced your disadvantages fully, asked yourself why an election result would make people question their safety.

By talking to Trump voters for over a year I heard some convincing arguments. Safety is of course a nice one, and to those who voted for him because they feel unsafe in the US I genuinely have nothing nice to say as that is a level of privilege I cannot fathom. But there are more reasons: Not everyone believed Putin is a maniac we should oppose. This might be a good policy decision for peace, but it is definitely not right. Vladimir Putin has no respect for international law and various freedoms mentioned in the US Constitution. Saying that appeasing him would be a good idea is not wrong, but it's the same as accepting authoritarianism for safety: definitely prudent, but just not right. The same goes for the notion of illegal immigration that some people based their vote on. Of course, even liberals can understand the frustration of feeling like jobs go to people with no "right" to be in the country. But then again I would like to ask what people see when they see the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. It is not my intention to make anyone feel bad about their choices, yet I truly believe that citizens who are closing their eyes from needs, even of those who don't share their citizenship, are mocking Thomas Jefferson's ideas.

Historically, of course, there is plenty to say. The USA is a white country, founded by former rebels who came from the whitest place on this planet. Yet, over the last 200 years, the US has become the number one in the world, surpassing the power of their former white original state, by accepting people to be part of it who aren't white. Every American, white or black, female or male, knows that the greatness of America lies in its diversity. The moment a democratic election chooses to acknowledge a man who has openly expressed to those not desperate enough to see it that America does indeed have a preference in race, and even gender and religion, the progress of these last two centuries is taking a step back. Now you might be white, Christian and male, so why would you care, right? Women are definitely not equal in present day America, and women should know that, but sometimes they don't. Black people are not equal and crime rates can prove that. Religious freedom is often compromised for those who have been vilified, most notably Muslims. Yet, many of these minorities saw in a man who has often insulted them the better option, and I wonder how that could happen based on the fact that Donald Trump never did anything to appeal to them, while his opponent did for 30 years.

I don't get it, and I likely won't. The hate for Hillary was stronger than the desire to vote for someone who hasn't insulted minorities, and I'm scratching my head but so be it. Many called it the choice between Pest and Cholera, to which even if I had agreed I always said "you choose cholera, come on, of course you choose cholera!" Especially in this contest I find the analogy rather fitting because cholera knocks you out, really freaking sucks but you survive with a certainty of up to 90%. The pest nearly wiped out all of Europe a few centuries ago. Its highly contagious and means your most certain death, having a survival rate of up to 5%. I am truly hoping that Donald Trump won't kill us all, and I don't think he will, but he is definitely the pest. His rhetoric being rewarded with the presidency now means that it's perfectly okay to speak like that. I heard it being called the end of political correctness, and people seem to like that idea. That political correctness merely saved gay people from openly being called fags and black people the n-word goes without saying. Yeah, well these days are over. To me, this legitimized hatred is truly, genuinely the pest. It makes me sick!

Whoever does that is an asshole, but they now feel like they're
good to go with this behavior since America voted:
being a dick is fine!
So I'm just wondering if people considered this because I have talked to many Republicans, and they usually agreed that this is unacceptable because, you know, Republicans are not shit people. However, when asked how something like these hostile attitudes towards minorities most of us are part of would affect their vote, I usually just got "but I really just hate Hillary!" The media was also quick to be blamed which empirically just cannot be a legitimate reason  since opposition of a candidate on this scale is almost impossible even in dictatorships. I'm sure everyone has heard about populism now, and nobody seems to have looked up what it means. Meanwhile, the same people are now saying "we should give President Trump a chance", and these are the same people who told me as a teenager to not take crap from boys and respect myself. Why should I give a man a chance who has limited me to my appearance, believes I can't do the same job a man does just as well, and suggested that my pussy is something he is entitled to because he is a celebrity. Trust me, I know plenty of these boys (not using "men" here on purpose) and you know what I did? I dumped their ass. I didn't make them my friend, boyfriend or husband, never mind my President. Why is it so easy for his voters to look past that?

My genuine interest lies in trying to understand. The majority of my friends in the States voted Trump, and I still love these people just as much. Since I am seeking the conversation, and have already changed my mind many times on different attitudes, I was hoping to hear answers that matter, but where is the explanation that Mexicans vote for a guy who has called them all, collectively, "rapists" in his first ever speech? Why do women vote for a man who loves the patriarchy? How are people who are not racist or minorities themselves allow for their friends who are to now feel like they are not welcome? I am a woman, so I guess I have some insights into being mocked by the President-Elect, but I find his supporters' attitudes towards black and Muslim people even worse, and that has nothing to do with me. I dislike he is trying to take away the right for women to decide about their bodies because I'm a woman, but I also don't appreciate that the while, male Christian guy DT calls his running mate believes his rights need more protection than a Muslim's. If that's what you believe, you are nose-deep in privilege and Jesus would likely love for you to show some humility.

So I truly couldn't care less about President Trump; it's those people who scare me. I am aware that the vast majority of people who read this and voted for him would agree with me that racism, discrimination and xenophobia are bad attributes, but I don't think all of you have looked deep down if you are definitely not at least a little bit infected with these. I'm talking to Democrats, too. If my candidate would be the subject of black churches burning, Klu Klux Clan celebrations and gay people's cars being smeared, I would, at the very least consider, how this happened? Liberals don't hate Republicans; it's the willingness to close one's eyes from the threats to progresses made towards equality in the last century. I get that baby boomers want the past back, so do I. I'd love the 90s back. I'd love it. But we are talking about an easier time for US, you and me, the privileged people, not the world. If America comes first, that means that everyone else will be second, and that's an attitude you cannot expect anyone to be okay with. President Trump will see this soon enough because I don't think he's an idiot (just an asshole), but it's the voters that need to realize it. They might not have executive power, but they have the power to make our survival here on Earth pleasant, and elevating your problems over those directly and indirectly connected to you is a really freaking crappy quality.

After half a week of watching, reading and trying to understand everything, I found Seth Meyers to have the best words because it's positive, yet not Jimmy Fallon naive or neglectful that something terrible just happened. Most Trump voters would not watch this anymore because they believe this to be part of the establishment (when I'd say "maybe you just want to consider we, the "establishment", actually made a decision at the end of a long, fact-based thinking process") but trust me, my three days of crying were not coming from "losing". In fact, I "lost" in my own country in every election I ever participated in, and I never cried. It's coming from thinking America was more than a place for scared, privileged people. I thought I was finally going to see a woman president, decades after we had one in Europe. And with that, I'd hope you actually consider Seth Meyers' words... 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why #ImWithHer - An Ode To Hillary Clinton

On November 4, 2008, I was in Chicago, watching a black man walk on a stage in Grant Park to accept the US nation’s decision for him to be the 44th President of the United States. No eye remained dry as people knew that what had just happened was extraordinary: no other black man had ever been able to do what Barack Obama did that night! I am not black, and could never attempt to comprehend what that meant for the black community of the US. Then, I knew that a minority had become the most powerful man in the world, and even without belonging to that minority, that fact touched my heart and made me feel like this biased, sometimes cruel world had made a huge step towards progress. This year, on November 8, 2016, I will potentially grasp what that night in 2008 meant to black people: A woman could be up on that stage, again for the first time, and make another of these huge steps for the world possible.

I am not black, but I am a woman. Coming from an all-girls Catholic private school, I didn’t fathom why being a woman would put me in minority status: I was really good at all subjects, especially physical education, and I was getting all the things boys could have, at least as far as I could observe. Only after school it finally dawned on me I had been protected from reality. In that reality, I am not equal, I can do less things physically than a man and I do not always get the same thing boys get, at least at the same price. As much as I can never understand what discrimination against a skin color feels like despite my experiences with reverse racism in Kenya, no man will ever be able to tell me what discrimination against my sex feels like. It doesn’t feel good! It feels unfair and it is unfair. It feels wrong and it is indeed very wrong most of the time. So for a woman to become the most powerful person in the world, whether she’s a crook or not, will be good for women, if only in symbolic terms. Period!

I can make a valid case for Hillary Clinton to become the next US President without even having to mention her catastrophic opponent. In fact, I have been doing just that as I have endorsed Hillary Clinton for the gig since November 5, 2008. Obama was fantastic, and my narrow first choice, the last time around. But for me, it was always going to be Hillary next. One day, not even a long time ago, I watched her defend her choice to oppose gay marriage in the past, and I heard her say “I was wrong!” Just like me, there were days when Hillary did not see the necessity for gay marriage, and through exchange and consideration she had, just like me, changed her mind. To me this character trait was more worth than her past disapproval. Unlike her reputation of being a robot, I felt that Hillary had there and then proved that she was a human being. One who fails sometimes. Unlike many, however, she had the strength to admit it, too.

Throughout the democratic campaign, I was with her. Bernie Sanders caught my attention but, being a political scientist who simply knows that the influence Hillary had been working to gain for 30 plus years would not be challenged by a revolutionary, even in a democratic system, was palpable throughout. Bernie would have been great for the US, but the US President has a big challenge that most people just simply forget: Congress! Unfortunately, being an effective president has nothing, or little, to do with finding out what the people want and making it possible. The moment the election is over it is about Congress, influencing it to think that what you, the individual, wants is what’s best for everybody. Bernie, a fella so far left from almost every single person in Congress, would have hit a freaking wall. Hillary, on the other side, played this game for decades. Sister knows how to influence people, how to maneuver through the Washington elites and who to call when something big needs to happen. Funnily enough, that behavior exactly earned her the villain status.

It’s true: an effective politician usually doesn’t wear a white jacket. Bernie fought many fights I admire way more than I admire any fights fought by Hillary, and certainly her opponent, but Hillary has already proven to make a difference whereas no other candidate running had the platform to show that they actually can do that. Sometimes, her work had quite the negative by taste which certainly applies to her Middle Eastern policy which left much to be desired. But Hillary, unlike any other candidate, was not only part of an actual presidential administration before, she was also married to the President. There is arguably no other person on this planet who knows this job better than Hillary. And yes, in all these years there have been incidents that are not amusing about Hillary, I, myself, have made mistakes in fewer years w
ithout making them up at all. Not all of Hillary’s steps were missteps. Those expecting somebody to do a job for 30 years without failures are, quite frankly, idiots. Now it boils down to a job being up for grabs and there being the choice of somebody who has never done as much as an internship n the role and someone who is the epitome of qualification. That’s the choice this year.

And yet, Hillary’s path to the White House was so damn tough that I could never have done it. Injustice like Midwestern women calling me incapable of being commander-in-chief because I have uncontrollable hormones and my opponent, and former friend, publicly accusing me of only being with my husband, who caused me so much pain but who I just love and sacrificed almost everything for, for political gains only would have broken me. And this lady listens to it, doesn’t blink, and barely ever hit back on the same level. And that despite her emotional, female temperament. I have been a Hillary fan for over a decade now, and even as a young girl of 14 I thought that one day this lady was going to be President even before I actually realized that being a woman one CANNOT do whatever a man can do. Today is this day, and I can’t wait because it will most likely change my life, and that of half the people on this planet: women!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Glenn is Dead and it feels too REAL: An Orbituary

I used to watch Lost, so I have mourned my fair share of TV characters. The whole premise of an actor exiting a show you love sucks, but never, I repeat, never, has it ever felt this bad: Glenn is dead. His skull is no more. He won't even be cameoing as a zombie. Glenn is gone! Again. After I had to go through this last year, I now actually saw his brain hanging from a baseball bat, and so all hope is gone. Last year when Glenn "died", there was hope, now the image of his eyeball popping out of his skull is the only thing I can see in my inner eye since Sunday. One may think that the reality that "The Walking Dead" is simply a TV show, and Glenn is not really dead, is a relief. Sadly, it hasn't been a relief for me.

Glenn was my favorite character next to Rick from Day 1. Duh, he was awesome, and there's almost no characters left from that day, but when Glenn was in danger it was always the worst. Rick can't and won't die (thank GOD), so Glenn running errands made me particularly nervous. I will never forget Noah's death which, if we're honest, should have been Glenn's day, never mind Glenn's heroic survival since arriving in Alexandria, being the subject to an assassination attempt, then watching said assassin kill himself on a dumpster, thus dooming Glenn to die as well. How was Glenn even alive on that fateful day at the pit? Remembering Glenn walk among walkers in his first ever appearance I thought he's be dead before the end of the day. Fortunately he wasn't which made for six seasons of an adorable hero.

Speaking of hero, I'd like to propose an experiment: close your eyes, think of nothing, and tell me in five seconds who, other than Glenn is your favorite Asian-American hero? I'm waiting. 5...4...3...2...1! Nothing? Hiro Nakamura from "Heroes" kinda doesn't count but yeah, good start. An Asian badass being a hero doesn't happen too often. In fact, let's not forget how Asian people in Western entertainment are rarely praised as beautiful. Where was America's Next Top Model of Asian descent? Steven Yeun aka Glenn in real life has recalled feeling ugly as a child because of his ancestry which I find ridiculous given how good-looking he is. "I never had a Glenn on TV", he has said about growing up trying to position himself in American society as an Asian American. Now, once more, there's no Glenn on TV who shows that Asian Americans, too, can be heroes.

That just sucks, doesn't it? The Walking Dead is a pretty diverse show, and features quite a few interracial couples. There was only one perfect one, though. Rick and Michonne? Hell no. Abraham and Rosita? Get out! The crown goes to Glenn and Maggie, a cute little love story in a show about the zombie apocalypse. His last words, after losing his brain to a baseball bat, was directed to his wife when he said he would "find" her. Last time they had been separated, and reunited, Maggie burned his photograph because she was convinced she'd never need it. I remember screaming at her then, now I'm just furious. Maggie, if she survives, now has to give birth to her adorable biracial child and watch it grow up knowing that without baby Glenn his dad might still be alive. But let's not start going down these roads. He's dead. Let's just cry.

Glenn dying was indeed my worst case scenario, and when Abraham was chosen I was, much like everyone else, so so relieved. My first thought was "I can't believe both Glenn and Daryl got out of this one". What a fool I was. Ten minutes later Glenn's also dead and Daryl's gone. Why exactly did Abraham have to die then? Geez, these overambitious writers, I want to sit them down for a talk. Abraham dying could have been an epic episode by himself, especially with that love triangle. What a waste of a major character's death. The only thing consoling me was that Steven Yeun is not dead and my last remaining hope is that he will just become a massive movie star. Please, somebody give him a new show. I want that Korean hero back on TV. I promise I'll watch!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A huge, over-emotional rant on Sexism

Sexism is Dead, They Said... Relax, They Said! Excuse me while I go to the bathroom and vomit. Today, Facebook reminded me, is International Day of the Girl Child, and everybody loves it, I'm sure. But this week, with whatever is going on, I have officially become weary of hearing people denounce sexism, its existence, its profoundness and its complete ongoing significance in every day life. Donald Trump, at least in his head, has a view of women that does not equal the view he has of a man, and we didn't find out about that this week. Him feeling entitled to grab "p***" because he's famous is a new low point in his career I thought was impossible to reach, yet that's not what I'm here to talk about today. Far worse than his disgusting comments, and the reflection it has on his personality, is that so many people, including many women, are excusing it or, even worse, probably agree. Whoever feels like not being called out on sexism today might as well stop reading now.

For me to claim I know what sexism looks like is a nobrainer. Two years in Egypt and one literally knows what being "grabbed by the p***" by an absolute stranger who isn't even a celebrity show host is like. I have thick skin (and a pretty tough fist) so I am fortunate I didn't take away any tremendous emotional scars from having to live like that. Feeling liberated to return to a society where I felt a bigger effort is made to treat women with the same amount of respect men receive I had to realize that political efforts for equality have not yet translated into social equality. Political efforts are equal pay, universal suffrage and a woman's quota; in society, however, I realize I'm a woman almost every day. People regard me as weak, limit me to my appearance and dismiss female qualities as inferior. And this happens every single day, whether people realize it or not.

Donald Trump's remarks are not shocking to me, and anyone who hasn't blatantly excused all of his mishaps in the last year as an effort to stop political correctness knows Donald Trump looks at women, minorities and many, many other people as not equal to his male, white persona. "Actions speak louder than words", they say, and I have to completely disagree. One does not only become a misogynist by raping or assaulting a woman; speaking or thinking about them as an inferior or objectified gender suffices. And that is exactly what that leaked tape shows us. And his interrupting in debates. And his comments on "fat" people Rosie O'Donell and Alicia Machado. Speaking of the latter, people seem to forgive him these comments because these women actually are or became "fat". Is this the world we live in, where women are subject to privileged white men calling them out on their looks without being labeled as crude themselves? Apparently we are.

My opinion on calling out Trump for this behavior appears to me to earn more criticism as the criticism he's getting, at least in my circles. For me to say this, I have many friends telling me to stop being so sensitive, and my consequent freak out over being told that in this context earns me my favorite accusation: "oh what a drama queen!" Awesome! Nothing I love more than people calling me a drama queen for not ignoring bullshit. I get called this by friends, partners and random tweeters for disagreeing so I'm sorry if I can't take it seriously. In this particular example they aren't even wrong; I fight a lot, I debate, I get really angry when challenged and my tolerance for people spreading hate, misogyny or other equally infuriating topics is tiny, yet I do not have to accept people calling me anything behind my back, even if it's true. Not as a woman, not as  human being. If that earns one the "crazy" badge I get why so many people seem to have it. All it is is a ridiculous attempt to bad mouth an emotional reaction by a woman, and I don't appreciate it.

So as soon as a woman disagrees, develops an uncomfortable opinion or simply stops buying bullshit they are labeled "crazy". Oh man, I have witnessed this so much. A guy I once hooked up with, who then ignored me for seven hours the next time I saw him before asking me if I could give him a ride home didn't just call me crazy when I laughed at him and told him he can go suck it, he also proceeded to tell all of his friends what a ridiculous bitch I was for telling him to off without "any reason". I have also been called crazy because I went quiet after I found out that some guy I was seeing had slept with another girl while talking to me. I also didn't find it too decent that a guy was texting me while on holiday with another girl. While these things aren't gender-related, my consequent reactions were made the actions of a "drama queen"; they have earned me criticism while I somehow feel they should have rather earned me an apology. But a strong reaction from a woman, for whatever reason, is better put off as some kind of insane female behavior.

I have had many really good guy friends and I do know their "locker room talk". Contrary to popular belief, I am in fact not very sensitive. My best friend from college who I used to live with would come home from a night out and tell me in detail in which horrendous way he got some sorority chicks to sleep with him. I don't even blame him because these girls were okay with their objectification and could have called him out on it any day, but they didn't. The fact he would tell me though, speak about them like they were just some sort of tool to get pleasure out of, is fundamentally wrong. We were friends, I knew he didn't mean disrespect, and I have equally seen him treat women wonderfully, including me. But this is the reality: this locker room talk is where the issue is expressed, where women are described as something that cannot be regarded as respectful. To assume that these thoughts would find expression in actions is a foregone conclusion. and even if they don't, viewing women like that in one's mind to me is already a proof of a problem.

Only today I was told that men in Egypt weren't nice to me because I was actually nice but because I was blonde and foreign and men there just wanted to sleep with me. Beautiful, they got that one right. Knowing that myself, please tell me why I should have been nice? Yet the vast majority of girls there were pretty happy to accept this kind of interest, and I'm the last one who judges that. Turns out that was the kind of interest that was up for grabs, and other parts of the world aren't different. Funnily enough, more and more of these girls decided to ignore their friends' warnings that certain guys were not in fact genuinely interested, but when they actually got burned being taken advantage of by the guy they liked it wasn't the guys' fault but the other girls who he clearly liked more from day one. I don't know where this lack of self-respect comes from, but I sure know that locker room attitudes don't help. I dare say that said girl probably would have decided otherwise without the willingness of that guy to take advantage of her inability to make the right decision for herself.

Now we live in a world where guys have told me some girls they slept with were "stupid" or "easy", and swimmers get three months in jail for rape while others serve five year sentences for burning an illegal CD. The argument that something is not as equal as it should be is groundless. There can be no argument. Where are the equal workplaces that employ the same amount of women than men? Where is equal pay? And where is the attitude that I am more than a nice hair cut and a moving pair of boobs when I am out? Having people look at my boobs in public is the least of my problems. I have lost out to jobs I was perfect for because I was a woman. I have had to listen to people accusing me of coming to Egypt only to "fuck Egyptians". And worst of all, I have had to watch people roll their eyes when I expressed disappointment over that. Even some people who just read this have done exactly that. Three guesses who these people are...

What's most disappointing is that a large amount of women who have not realized that they are disadvantaged and excuse patriarchal behavior. Do you know how many women believe that a girl "was asking for it" if she dressed promiscuously, shouldn't flip out when a man disrespects her or wasn't really harmed by Donald Trump's comments? Any man talking, thinking or subconsciously acting without ill-intent like a woman is a property, a less respectable human being or inferior and weak is harming me, even if I don't bleed after. In a public fight, I dare you to think that the guy started it, because the girls are usually the ones seeking the drama. A hot, rich, successful chick being married to an average Joe would shock you more than a hot, rich, successful dude doing the same, that's a fact. And that's not the fault of a woman, it's the result of a society who does not believe that this attitude needs revision but the people who call for revision.

When I see what women endure and don't even realize that they are being compromised by a medieval world view, I feel sorry, that's all. Truth is that many women are unaware of their disadvantage, and they will probably not feel too bad about it as a result. Worse even are those who do not identify with feminism because they believe it does not coincide with their traditional values. Many women want to be a housewife, cook and clean for a living, and believe their place is the home. Denouncing feminism, however, has nothing to do with that. We are talking about the option of living such a life as opposed to being expected to live that life. Therefore, every single person, male or female, not identifying as a feminist, namely believing that women and men are created equal, is sexist, or at the very least an idiot or asshole. We need more people to accept than we need people to fight for feminism. But as long as conversations like the one happening on a bus in 2005 are excused as not a problem, we sure do have one... at least if "we" means women!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, Germany: I Love You, but I'm not Proud of You

On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany once more, ending communist rule, a separation of its people by a giant wall and authoritarianism in the German sphere. A wall had separated families, friends and advances in politics, technology and society, and on that day that wall was no more; those people having been separated were walking on the same sides of where it had stood; the Eastern parts of German families found out how the Western parts had lived since the war. Finally, after those Cold War years, but also after a devastating war, 12 years of Nazi reign and another two decades of war followed by economic hardship as a result of it, Germany was finally looking into a bright future. And that future was indeed bright. As a result, today's holiday to celebrate reunification is much more than a reminder of this happy occasion.

I myself never experienced a troublesome Germany. I wasn't even a year old when the Wall came down, and I don't remember watching people climb up it with hammers, taking out pain accumulated during decades of repression out on this endless piece of concrete concealing freedom from the East. My first memory is hearing "Wind of Change" by The Scorpions, unaware of how tremendous its meaning would be for my life. Here in the West, people agree that the East was liberated from authoritarianism, and considering the daily life a citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) it is hard to rationally argue against that notion. That day Francis Fukoyama, I like to think, had a vision he later called the "end of history". He should end up being wrong about that. Although October 3 is probably the most wonderful day in German history, we have much more to remember on this anniversary than the end of a dark time. But not everybody likes to remember.

Since I was too young to know what Germany was like before said day, it is impossible to assess how much really changed. What I can assess though, is where we are today, and put it into historic perspective, since not having been there doesn't mean I don't know. Just because I was never a Nazi who killed Jews and most people who were are dead, the history of my country has not faded. Quite the contrary: I believe in repeatedly remembering what the soil I stand on every day was the stage for not too long ago, and it breaks my heart despite not having been there. Why do we study history at all if we look at it unfavorably, not accepting the lessons it's trying to teach us? Due to my country's horrible history, I have time and time again questioned whether pride of my nation is appropriate. In nine years abroad, in which I have looked at my home country from afar, I have finally come to a conclusion.

Just as much as it's not my fault what Germans have done historically, it has nothing to do with me how well Germany is doing now. To call myself ashamed of the sins of my fathers is probably wrong, and not necessary. However, for me to just look at the present, that I in fact do play a part in, and say it makes me proud to be German is just as wrong then. I didn't make Germany the 4th largest economy in the world. I didn't win the World Cup. I didn't contribute to politics of acceptance and equality. Given we have a huge rise in nationalist sentiments on this entire planet, I struggle to see how any other country is different. Where do they take this massive entitlement from that characterizes them as better than another, just by being born in a certain place? I am a part of Germany today, doing everything I possibly can to corroborate its values of freedom, democracy and equality because I believe in them more than in anything else. None of that, however, will ever come from a place of being "proud to be German".

I love Germany more than most people. Everything I was able to do I owe to this country. It has given me education despite a rather unlikely background for achievement, I receive medical assistance for runny noses and acne and it has day after day proven to be a home for me and so many wonderful people from everywhere on the planet. If there was ever a blessing, it would be being born German. The fact, however, is that I did nothing to deserve it. I was merely born here, and therefore don't feel like I deserve its glory any more than another. To call myself a patriot, therefore, goes against my understanding of what this nation is: we are happy, blessed and thankful to be here, but we are not part of an exclusive club that only allows those who actually share our nationality. At least that's what I'd like to think.

Patriotism isn't nationalism, and I know that. Since I, historically, morally and politically, disagree with nationalism, however, I have decided to no longer call myself a patriot either. Pride is not an asset; gratitude is. In my life in four different countries I have experienced sentiments towards countries I don't want to associate with. And even in Germany we are seeing more and more where the negligence of history and the indulgence in nationalist rhetoric is leading to; it's not a to a good place. In both Egypt and the US I saw nationalism and patriotism respectively I would not like to see in Germany. At home, the term "nationalism" has had a round in history, and it's time to leave it behind. The exclusive society, building on a belief that the place of one's birth gives a person more reason to be proud of their country than another is foreign to me because we were simply not taught. I believe that was a correct decision!

Today, I am proud to be part of a society that has gotten up from a disaster of historic proportions. That means I am proud to be a human being, not proud of being German. I want to do anything I can to make others proud of me and my contribution to this wonderful, reunified country that has done a terrific job, in my eyes, in the past year of trying to put our shameful past into hope for others from afar. The most patriotic day of my life was last summer, when I spent the entire day at a refugee camp in Macedonia, later seeing a certain Eastern German physicist, more widely known as the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, welcoming refugees to our country because she believed "we can do it!" I believe we can do it. I believe this country has nothing to fear from any threat we are facing because we have overcome so many. And not because we are the best, but because we will try and we will succeed. Look where the last challenges took us. That's where I will derive my identity from, not the color of my skin, my hair color, what my passport says or what language I speak. 

Backstreet's Back Alright... and I am Old!

The Backstreet Boys are back, what a time to be alive! Turns out, when they said "as long as there'll be music we'll be coming back again", they weren't kidding. Thank God! Whatever is left of music these days, barely qualifying to be called just that, needs to be revived by whatever was going on there in the 90s. I found myself at a 90s party last weekend where I was definitely the only person who actually remembered these songs coming out, if you know what I'm saying. Now I do admit I'm hugely biased, having had an incredible 90s childhood, so every song from that decade comes with a flash of memories of me standing on the table, dancing, lip-syncing because I didn't speak a word of English, but how do younger or older generations fail to see what the 90s gave us? Let me elaborate...

Well, ehm, I don't think I have to mention the Backstreet Boys again, do I? Oh never mind, why not...? The Backstreet Boys are amazing! They deserve to be called amazing although, let's face it, they didn't do anything. Like Michael Jackson, who I would like to call the most unbelievable thing to come out of any decade, was an absolute force of nature, definitely the best performer ever and sang like there was nothing else he could do. The Backstreet Boys: not so much. They had the hair and nose Michael Jackson was missing, but Howie D and Nick Carter usually didn't amaze with their vocal range. However, just like MJ's, every song of theirs was an instant classic. This sounds ridiculous because these days "Everybody" is obviously a classic, but I remember being six years old and thinking this will be a hit, although I dare say I probably didn't know what a "hit" really was. What a flipping tune. 20 years later I still love it every single time. It just doesn't get old, only I am...

Now that I said "20 years" I actually realize I went to a party for old people. Most of these people were not around when the Backstreet Boys released... well... anything. I was watching Jimmy Fallon the other day (don't ask, I don't even know why myself either?) and he had young Grace Vanderwaal on who just won "America's Got Talent" at 11 years old. Jimmy asked her about the song "Bye Bye Bye" which, oh my God, is such a tune. But quite evidently, young Grace had no effing clue. She had never heard of that song. Being 11, she was born when Justin Timberlake had already kind of retired. And not from the boyband, but his SOLO career, only to be an "actor". There a kids out there who probably know Justin from his appearances in movies more than his music. What a shame! Now if that doesn't make anybody feel the pressure of time on their backs, I don't know what will.

The truth is that I am now old enough to claim a decade. When I was younger, I heard of 70s and 80s parties, and I knew Cyndi Lauper and Boy George from TV, but I didn't know what it actually felt like to dance to "Take on Me" when it first came out, or having a crush on Morten from a-Ha when he was actually a heartthrob. Now, I am old enough to be telling young kids what that was like, only in my own decade. 20 years ago, which is longer than most popstars have been alive, I was getting set in puberty and was rocking out to Techno before it became a hipster music genre. We didn't have phones or computers, and only yesterday I was telling the story of how I recorded Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" on the radio when it charted so I could listen to it over and over again. This doesn't just sound like an anecdote from the past but from an entirely different phase of history.

We can't help but think that our decade was the best, and yet the 90s really were an incredible time. Only later on I found out that the feeling of security and peace one felt during childhood actually had a foundation in the 90s: there was a sense of idealism in world politics after communism fell in Europe and the US had actually started to look for new foreign policy goals (for once) without antagonizing, but assisting world leaders to achieve peace. The 1990s reshaped the planet, and even today I felt like there could have been a better planet if that mentality hadn't gotten lost so dramatically in 2001. Music, however, was definitely just so, so much better back then. The only aspect of life that did not benefit from digital technology was music, hands down. I'd take the Backstreet Boys back over semi-talented DJs from France or Sweden any day. And what's wrong with dancing? Why do boybands these days stand still? Thankfully, starting March 1, the Backstreet Boys are back. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why Hillary Won!

I know, I know, Election season is already coming to an end, and yet yesterday felt like Christmas: when do I ever get the chance to talk about politics and nobody is harassing me about "needing to shut up" and "not start again". Yesterday, we were supposed to talk about politics. All of us. What made it even more like Christmas was how the debate at Hofstra University went. Since this is a personal space, and I have long abandoned impartiality when it comes to the issue Trump vs Clinton, seeing Trump struggle was great. I wish only the best for him on a personal level, find him an interesting, news-worthy character, would love to meet him, but would never be okay with him winning the presidency. Yesterday, for the x time, he showed why: little substance, unprofessional handling of political situations and a whooole bunch of lies. Then again, who expected anything less?

I was in fact surprised DT did as bad as he did. Rationally, I thought he spent days preparing to actually wow us with something pretty much nobody expected: an informed and professional performance. I should have known that rationality is not his forte. With expectations for him as low as they were because, frankly, he has no business standing on that podium, he should have easily impressed. Then I heard his advisers releasing information half an hour before the debate that the D hadn't even conducted a mock debate. He had spent the afternoon with his children and wife in Trump Tower. I have an interview soon and I mock-debated the crap out of that. Why? Because I want the job! You would think running for president is something Donald Trump would consider preparing for. Minutes in it had become clear Trump should have done a test round...

The media, although correct in doing so, is evidently trying a new approach reporting on Trump. Wait, hear me out because this will definitely not be a "Hillary bought them" argument. It's like Trump said that the media was biased so often they actually stop calling out how ill-suited he is in fear of giving him some gunpowder (which he totally would do). The echo beforehand was largely that Hillary has had so much experience and Trump has had none that it was obvious she had a clear advantage. If that isn't a reason to vote for her in itself I don't know what is. Bad enough we have an amateur debater at the podium, never mind in the race. Right after the assessment continued, with even liberal outlets trying to find faults in Hillary's performance. I love that she was actually criticized, called out on the things she did do wrong and the discrepancies in her past decisions. Unfortunately, one cannot expect the same from the Trump camp.

In fact, he celebrated himself as the winner pretty much right after the debate. Retweeting assessments that saw him beating Hillary up to 80-20 (I know, in what world?) and claiming his mic was broken. On purpose, of course! One of his biggest trolls supporter, Rudy Giulliani, also claimed that host Lester Holt had been asking him too many difficult questions. Such an argument makes me cringe for humanity. For starters, they both received the same questions, which is what a debate literally is, and secondly, shouldn't a president even be able to tackle people out to get him? Lester Hold is a smart guy, I find it hard to believe he wasn't laughing inside throughout this ordeal, and yet Hold definitely didn't break away from an essential impartiality. When Trump repeatedly lied and contradicted himself, Holt merely asked him "why [his] judgment is any better than [Hillary's]?" Good question, Lester. Trump obviously couldn't answer.

Which brings me to my favorite theme: lying! How Hillary actually became the lying candidate is unfathomable to me. 30 years of political life means she definitely lied. I am aware she's not a truth-speaking robot. But is it really happening that one of the reasons she is losing votes is because of dishonesty while her opponent takes the stage in front of 100 million domestic viewers and fails a fact-checking contest MISERABLY? Facts are obviously a currency Trump voters are not really interested in trading with so it doesn't really matter that a TREMENDOUS amount of his statements in fact were untrue. All that seems to suffice to the Republican following is Trump shouting "wrong!" over Hillary saying the truth, and I guess in today's world that just makes her wrong. I like the truth, and so him claiming he had a personal fight with Sean Hannity that he opposed the war does not mean his 2002 public claims will disappear. And him claiming the USA to have "Third World" airports or China controlling North Korea is so ridiculously incorrect it's embarrassing. Really!

Then again, how would Donald Trump know all that. I mean, we definitely can't argue he has any sort of experience in office Hillary is lacking, although that case has certainly been made. We live in a world where a woman who has served for 30 years, knowing close to everything there is to be known about the position on offer, has to share a stage with a man who thought "I can do what a woman can do", without anything actually qualifying him to make that assumption. Hillary actually missed a lot of chances illustrating how uneven this playing field really is. There he was saying nuclear weapons are the biggest problem ever, five seconds later calling her out on making the Iranians abandon their nuclear ambitions. What? By the time he claimed she didn't have the stamina to be President he seemed desperate.

Of course, that's not what the Republicans saw. I have often, very often, asked myself if I am blinded by my political conviction. Am I maybe the ignorant one who just wants to see Hillary succeed? I had to conclude it's almost impossible because I don't actually need her to win. I'm not American and I don't even love Hillary. My endorsement comes from fighting her fight of being a woman in a not-yet-equal world and, well, political accuracy of statements. I supported Barrack in both elections he was in, but both Mitt and John McCain had my respect. I spent two hours chatting with my Trump-loving friend yesterday because I don't actually believe political views different from mine make people bad. And yet, the hashtag #Trumpwon trending this morning just means there are at least people out there who cannot look at this rationally. In what rational mind does a man who blatantly lied on stage in front of millions "win" a debate? Often politics come down to opinion, and that's cool, but there really can't be a contest on who won this round... 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why I Want Nothing More Than To Go To Disneyland

Last night, it happened again. I was on a plane this time, sitting front row like I was the captain. I was wondering if, like so many times, I would soar over the skylines of some pretty incredible places, where you don't really know where to look first. And then, as we picked up speed and realized that the plane was finally taking off, I saw the plane would be flying right over the best skyline one can dream of: Disneyland. We were going so fast I was struggling not to get sick. Much like the other aspects of my life, I prefer to get somewhere fast, throwing up, than a slow but steadier approach. The shadows of Space Mountain were taking shape. And then I woke up because the mail arrived. Forced to return to reality rather quickly, I had yet again dreamed of approaching Disneyland but not reaching it. Now if you're me, there is no worse nightmare.

I've been to Disneyland five times. At the age of 9, I received a Cinderella VHS that, if watched past the movie, featured a ten minute Disneyland promo. Being 9, I was sold immediately. Three years I campaigned with my parents with all I had, but it took their separation to make me capitalize on the misfortune. My mom felt so bad we weren't able to go on holiday despite all the hassle at home that she decided to finally make my dream come true. The year after that, my dad felt he had missed out on seeing me that happy, so he took me, TOO! Since my dad died not too long after that, Disneyland is one of very few places I have memories associated with my dad. As if I needed any more reason to love it. The worst time I went was in 2005 when the people I was living with at the time chased me through Disney's California Adventure, told me I was too fat for a corndog and then forgot me there. It seems only natural I'd want to reminisce as well as make new memories.

In most of my many Disneyland dreams I am either in Disneyland, trying to navigate through paradise with a pretty masochistic time restraint, never making it to any attractions, or I'm on the way there and there's either a tornado, a traffic jam or my company screws things up for me. Very clearly, actually being in Disneyland is a treat my subconscious wants to save for my conscious. My subconscious is some actual d*** because there's nothing I'd rather dream than hanging out with my dead father or being in Disneyland carefree, and neither dream has ever been realized in my head. To actually be in Disneyland would be a dream come true, and I can't say all my other dreams are that easy to realize (trust me, I've tried every day for 15 years, I'll need another few years).

I dream of Disneyland at least once a month. Reasons, you ask? There's no place I'd rather go. To me going to Disneyland is much more than a fun day out. I would only go to Disneyland with amazing company. The thought of being in Disneyland with someone I like is literally my idea of heaven: walking around singing with Minnie Mouse, eating in scenic restaurants, riding roller coasters and buying the picture after. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person, but apparently I just really wanna be a kid for a few days. I was robbed of a few years of my childhood, and I love being an adult way too much to ever get tempted by real childhood, but having that much of a desire to be happily ever after in Disneyland is nothing short of childish, which is pretty uncharacteristic for me. Yet, that's quite frankly what my brain wants. And I agree with it.

In dreams, we often dream in symbols, and as much as I actually want to go to Disneyland and think there is no interpretation necessary, it does stand for something. The day I actually go to Disneyland will most likely be the happiest day of my life. Right now, without having achieved my professional quarter-life goals, I'd be hesitant to go. Being happy for a few days, then returning to not being what I'm supposed to be professionally, would be a waste. Never mind, that without my professional goals being en par I could never afford to go. So the day I go I will be celebrating being adult enough to justify going back to childhood for a few days.

Age 14 in Disneyland Paris
Most importantly, however, Disneyland is most likely going to be the place I fall in love. I have told every guy I ever dated I wanted to go there, and they each vowed to take me one day. Every. Single. One. Yet, I haven't been in ten years. Last time I was in Disneyland I was there with a guy I (ten years later) had a little romance with. He then had a girlfriend so it just sounds like a frigging waste right now. After receiving the promise to be taken to Disneyland by those numerous men, I actually vow to fall in love with the first guy to ever follow through. It's like I'd owe him that. There's nothing I want more than go to Disneyland, and there's nothing I'm less willing to do than falling in love, so it would only be fair.

Hence, dreaming of Disneyland and constantly being denied access doesn't seem surprising. I'm just not ready! It is, however, a rather easy dream come true, unlike the ones I have of winning various prizes, hosting my own debate TV show and having a library in my house (never mind owning a house). Transparent as I am, the key to my heart will most likely have the shape of a Disneyland entry ticket, and I have now disclosed that for the world to read. It's been over ten years since I last had the pleasure and I hope I don't have to wait another ten years. All I really need is my life to get a few more steps ahead towards my grown up goals, most specifically a career I feel content with and a decent partner, and my ticket is booked. Others save for world trips, all I want is a weekend getaway to Disneyland Paris. Send some positive thoughts my way... 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Do People Even Still Know What "Freedom" means?

I spent the last two years in Egypt, everyone knows that by now. Right now, I am pretty unpopular there because, unlike the majority of the foreign visitors, I didn't enter Egypt as or became a Putin-loving, America-hating pseudo-tolerant conspiracy theorist that believes that as a visitor in a different country I should forsake my own understandings. For a nation that is yearning for "freedom" but failed at getting it to disagree with me on what freedom actually entails makes total sense: Egyptians feel trapped in their own country, have no legitimate democratic power and, whether they realize it or not, are under constant threat of persecution for things any average European would consider a constraint on human rights. It is, as a European who cherishes the system I grew up in, sad to me I seem to have been born "freer" than an Egyptian, although this definition of course is subject to a biased, one-sided definition: mine!

Speaking of human rights, it's interesting to actually remember what that means because many seem to have forgotten. Our values grant every individual to own clothes, have enough to eat and access to a safe living situation. My patriotism does not stem from Germany or Europe being great at some sports or making good cars but from the reality I am from a society that celebrates these values. Despite our history, I am happy we have found a way to grant human beings some rights I find essential. Of course I only consider them essential because I was raised with them and taught to keep them dear. Other parts of the world are different and might not have the same execution of the rule of law or equality as my own state, however, they are not "worse" countries. Fact is though, that in my understanding the Charter of Human Rights is how I want every single person on this planet to be able to live. And I thought everyone agreed with me on that....

For Egyptians to disagree, as I said, is almost excusable. The majority of Egyptians I know are perpetually criticizing their tyrant and are eager for more freedom, yet have no cultural tolerance for any criticism, especially when it involves religion. The week after Charlie Hebdo I was appalled by how many times I heard someone say that a certain punishment, albeit not murder, was to be expected when someone ridicules the Prophet. Very clearly, President Sisi could give his people all kinds of freedoms tomorrow and they would probably still be offended by me telling them that their country is not free. Sadly for Egyptians, denying such a thing won't make it any less true. To them freedom means being able to wear what they want. They are allowed to do that. It means they can marry inter-racially and belong to whatever religion they might like. They are allowed to do that. If that is freedom, yes, Egyptians are free...

Funny we should speak about religions because not having one isn't that great in Egypt. Sure, we are waiting for government numbers about actual prosecution of atheists, and every half-witted person knows we won't ever get them. When you are faced with the census numbers that claim that among 90 million Egyptians less than 1000, or even 10,000 or 100,000 if it would say that, are atheist, you should realize that the government is not a fan. Not having the government be a fan of yours shouldn't matter in a free state; in Egypt it more often than not means you will encounter a few problems though, one of them potentially being jail. The same, of course, applies to homosexuals. We may want to remember that the UN Charter states freedom of expression as a human right. Hence, to claim Egyptians are free is ridiculous...

For two years I was pretty vocal about how much I cherish the freedom that comes with living in Europe. As an LGBT supporter, for starters, I could not accept Egyptian culture to be "better" than mine, although I'd say expressing any culture to be better than another is essentially wrong. My undeniable opinion, however, is and always has been than equality, at the very least, is a right worth fighting for. This applies to women as well. And there I was telling everyone in Egypt that in Europe, women, men, homosexuals and even felons are all the same human beings, with the same set of rights and the same value in society, at least on paper. Quickly the time had come where I no longer wanted to watch Egyptians demand more freedom, then not being willing to accept equality or secularism, so I left. And then, just before I knew it, I had to watch the French, historically most notable for "liberté et egalité", tell a woman to take off her burka at the beach. Ouch!

Here I was believing that it's actually still a privilege to live in a free society, and then the country that actually came up with the idea of equality in Europe openly expresses how this rule excludes Muslims. And women. Now, I do not consider Europe "not free" anymore because Muslim women are under threat of having a dress code imposed on them (although I won't tell anyone they're wrong if they perceive this as a first move in a downward spiral), but the sheer willingness of people to allow to have this basic detail, clothing, to be determined by no other than the person wearing it is a sheer shock. Fine, so the police thought burka ladies do not belong into "French values", but people actually agree. What part of "freedom of expression" did the burka clash with? I don't like burkas and frankly would love for nobody to wear them, yet for me to decide if someone does or not and continue to call myself a believer in freedom and equality simply can't coincide...

Last time I checked, French values were not a dress code; they were a set of values which allow people to be free. I couldn't care less if people feel threatened by burkas. Many also seem to believe there is an underlying threat that comes mainly from members of this religion, especially men. "Jail them before they can become terrorist", I hear all the time. I mean, cool idea, y'all, but I thought we were supporters of the rule of law. I thought we cannot impede on someone's life unless we have proof it harms another. Today, in the face of fear of terrorism which is irrational to say the very least, we have more and more people actively standing up for giving up these rights that some of our forefathers freaking died for. Sorry, but how am I not supposed to be scratching my head? I was unaware that there are people out there, celebrating our freedoms, exercising their right to vote and being respectable citizens who believe these rights are not for everyone.

Right now, there is way too much of a conversation around a religion. Since France's embarrassing beach incident, it is no longer just about religion; now it's about finding a definition to what French values really are: is it freedom or a bikini? Is it equality or a Baguette? The fact this question exists means we will have nationalist debates because of course we will soon have a laid-out definition by Marine LePen who will, let's face it, do really well next year. The days of defining French values as a belief in "fraternité" is on the back burner. Whoever is different is clearly no longer welcome to be called French, only that by now almost all French people are at least a little bit "different". All this sounds an awful lot like Hitler who, on top of being a megalomaniac mass murderer, started an exclusive idea of who is still entitled to this belief in rights. In the end, nobody still had any. But sure, trying to see how far we can push the border between "right-wing" and "xenophobia" this time sounds like a great idea.... NOT!