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!