Je suis Bruxelles: On Fear

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My students watched, numb and quiet, as they let the words from France 24 wash over them. After we watched the international reactions, one of my students said idly, ‘What next?’

I said, in as even a tone as possible, ‘When war or terrorism happens, people in general tend to become more “little-c” conservative [to distinguish from Conservative parties] and a little more insular.’ It was as much as I wanted to say. I talked about the 7 July bombings in London, how London reacted, and we talked about assimilation and culture in Europe. I don’t like using tragedy as teachable moments, but it was important for them to begin processing.

After school, chatting with a colleague, I let bitterness and pessimism take over as I said, “Donald Trump will be the next president, and Britain will leave the European Union.” I felt sick as I said it, as if it were a premonition. I feel sick as I think of it now. My even tone in class had fallen away, and I felt angry, as I never had before.

It is not the time to close borders, to hate and to fear. But we will. It has become the first response to this distress. But I choose to celebrate Brussels and the idea of the European Union which was attacked on the 22nd of March.

May there be no next time. – SDM

Photo by Ji-Sun Yoo

#atozchallenge: The A to Zed Reveal!

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I have been interested in politics since I was fourteen. I have done some writing on political things that affect me, but I was inspired by my good friend Megan, a published author, to ‘get off [my] ass and do something’. She is an unrelenting task master. It took me a while, but I set up this blog and have written a few posts. I have been inspired, it seems, by this year’s election.

It has already been a long and weird ride! I have been voting since 2004, and whilst I have been a resolutely Democratic voter in a relentlessly red state, I have never seen a weirder American election cycle. Combine that with the tumultuous European Union political sphere, and you can see why this year was a pretty fantastic year to start an international political blog. I hope I can get this off the ground and get a lot of eyeballs, so I can do fun stuff like start a vlog and/or maybe one day do some actual political reporting.

So as you can probably guess, my A to Z challenge theme shall be: A PASSPORT TO GLOBAL POLITICS. What this means is that each post will obviously be about global political issues that I find important/that have affected me personally or that I feel inspired by. I have taken tiny liberties with the ‘a to zed’ concept, but I’ve italicised the words that match the day’s alphabet.

Here are the topics I will be writing on. I will link them here as they are posted.

A: L’ancien régime
B: Books (about politics) I’ve Always Loved
C: Capitalism Has Failed
D: The American Dystopia
E: Educating without Moralising
F: Am I a Fellow Traveller?
G: Government is not a Curse Word
H: Ain’t I a Human, Too?
I: Injustice, the American Way
J: Justice vs Equality
K: The American Kleptocracy
L: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
M: The Moral Relativism of a Global Citizen
N: And the Nominees Are…
O: The American Oligarchy
P: Politics in the Classroom
Q: Question Time with the Prime Minister
R: Something Rotten in these United States
S: State of the (European) Union
T: Tout et rien: A September 11th Story
U: USA, USA, USA!
V: Vote of No Confidence
W: Winner Takes All
X: Xenophobia – What it Looks Like Around the World
Y: Youth in Action
Z: The American Zeitgeist

My regular posts such as my weekly read and the weekend coffee share will be updated on their regular schedules as well. And of course, I will offer my insights on the big political stories going on at the time. April is looking to be a busy month!

If you’re still interested in signing up, sign-ups will be open until the 4th of April! Please do join our merry band. – SDM

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#weekendcoffeeshare: Abridged

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Come, sit. Are you brave enough to try my batch of Lapsang Souchong, which tastes of fire and smoke? No? Well, I’ll enjoy it for you. Drinking it reminds me a bit of Germany actually, but I’m not sure why.  Were we having our Saturday beverage, I would tell you that I had entirely too much sun yesterday and am very glad for our overcast skies.

I am one of the coaches for the Boys’ varsity soccer team (I am also the head coach of the junior varsity team); we won a match in tournament play during penalty kicks, and it was breathtakingly stressful. We have another match today; I hope we do well. One can never tell. It is exhausting, being a coach, but thankfully I have a short season. If you’re not interested in sports talk, I understand. I only know about soccer and tennis, and I am about as un-athletic as it gets. But if this were England, we would definitely be chatting about Euro League and any plans we might have to go to France to watch some matches. I am tempted to go after my trip to Iceland.

There are two more very long weeks until the spring holidays. I don’t have much planned except a small trip with my mother, but I shall be very glad for the time off. After that, it is a straight slide to the end of the year. One gets used to the scholastic rhythm, and if I get a career in anything else, I will definitely have to try for that same rhythm.

Until next time, then. – SDM

picture by condesign

NB: Check out the other posts here!

#weekendcoffeeshare: Of Rituals

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When I visited my best friend in Cleveland in 2014, I found a tea shop in the 5th Street Arcades on Euclid Avenue. It was a tiny shop in the arcade, and I bought a few ounces of tea. I kept them in tight containers and nursed them carefully, but I was running very, very low. So I left a message on their Facebook page and the admin answered a few minutes later, giving me a number to call to place a phone order. I immediately called them the next day, and yesterday (Friday), I received my package of teas. Four ounces (113g) each French Breakfast,  Rooibos and Wild Cherry and two ounces (56g) of Lapsang Souchong. I am in absolute heaven. The French breakfast smells like all the mornings I spent in France, all three years of them, and instantly sends me back there. I have never had Lapsang Souchong, but it smells like a smoky barbecue pit and I am excited to try it. Wild Cherry has actual dried cherries in it; it smells like a summer’s day. Rooibos is something I first tried in London at a tea shop in Islington, and it has been a favourite of mine ever since. So if were having tea, I would be offering you one of my new teas (well…perhaps not the French Breakfast).

I tend to do the same things at the weekend during the school year: wake up lateish, do some chores and basically be a lazy bum. I have a cleaner (a small luxury), but I do my own laundry and occupy myself with my own bedroom. However, I think often of rituals; not the religious ones, but the ones that we do daily, the habits that make up our life. As a tea drinker, I realise the history of the tea ritual, though my tea routine is very far removed from the Chinese ritual of centuries past. There are small things I do every morning when I get ready for work, like slid a pen into my bun, or take things to my car as my tea is brewing so I don’t have too much to carry. And when I return home, my keys go into the bucket next to the door so I never forget where they are. It’s soccer season so lately I’ve been getting home very late…just enough time to drop the keys where they belong and head to bed. Were we having tea I would ask you about your daily rituals and perhaps what they tell you about your life.

Were we having tea, we’d probably discuss a little about the Donald Trump rally that was cancelled and exploded in Chicago. The word ‘rally’ has always made me nervous: it is not a press conference, it’s not a town hall meeting; hell, it’s not even an interview. It’s a concentrated group of fervent supporters and a speech meant to warm the blood and get you inspired. Trump’s speeches are always full of hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric that make his supporters see red. He makes me so, so anxious, and I wonder why and how he has gotten so far.

On a final note, I downloaded the Chrome extension from a recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight that changes any mention of Donald Trump’s name to Donald Drumpf, the original spelling of his last name. It startles me sometimes and then it makes me smile. It’s a little satirical flourish that reminds me that, for now, this sort of speech is well-protected. Were we having tea, I’d love to hear about your favourite bits of satire, or even if we just chat about civil rights, I’m sure it would be a good conversation.

Until next week, then? – SDM

NB: Read the other #weekendcoffeeshare links here!

Photo by Stefan Schweihofer

What I’m reading this week: 11 March 2016

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I apologise for not updating my weekly reads in a week. Last week was horribly hectic and busy; this week hasn’t been much better, but I have a small collection of reads from the past fortnight.

First up, a little bit of good news from France, in honour of International Womens’ (Workers) Day. François Hollande, president of France, was profiled in the latest issue of Elle France, discussing various ‘feminist’ issues. Le Monde‘s Catherine Mallaval and Virginie Ballet summarise the article and discuss the history of French presidents and their attempts at connecting with women. France in general, in my view, still has an issue with equality amongst the sexes, but Hollande calling himself a feminist is probably better than anything we’ll get out of our male American leaders. [Article is in French.]

It’s not all good news in la belle France, though. Le Monde reports on findings from the European Council on issues of racism there, especially in the rise of harassment towards Muslims and Jews, along with general xenophobia. The council especially notes that France’s concept of la laïcité is taken to extremes very often, by banning outward expressions of religion that are deemed ‘ostentatious’. France is the very definititon of a ‘problematic fave’ as my students would say. [Article is in French.]

Coming back to America, then. The election continues apace, and now we are in an interesting place: the Republicans don’t want their winner to continue to win, and the Democrats are pushing further and further to the left. Danielle Kurtzleben writes about Tuesday’s (9 March) primaries, and what there is to learn.

Veit Medick, the Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel, writes about Donald Trump’s rise and the worry it is bringing people in the Republican party and in intellectual circles in his article Donald Trump und der Super Tuesday: Angst um Amerika. You can see my thoughts on his Super Tuesday win, and Super Tuesday in general, right here.

And finally, Emma Lindsay explains parts of the complicated history of racism tinged with classism and why it’s helping Donald Trump at the Medium. Being white and being poor, she explains, is probably still better than being black and being poor, because:

To summarize, no one wants to occupy the “last” place in society. No one wants to be the most despised. As long as racism remains intact, poor white people are guaranteed not to be “the worst.” If racism is ever truly dismantled, then poor white people will occupy the lowest rung of society, and the shame of occupying this position is very painful. This shame is so painful, that the people at risk of feeling it will vote on it above all other issues.

Whilst this is not a new argument, Lindsay’s essay is well-timed and well-written and a good look at the mindset of poor, white America.

Until next time. – SDM

Photo by Javier Rodriguez

#weekendcoffeeshare: The Politics of Breakfast

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It’s Queen Anne again this week for tea except my milk spoilt and I can’t have cereal as I was planning. A little bit of British complaining there, pardon. It’s cool and sunny here.

If we were having breakfast, I would be telling you about my evening out with friends. It was fascinating seeing my co-workers in a different light. Human lives are so unbelievably strange and varied and beautiful.

We would be sitting in my living room having tea, and I would be musing about daily rituals, and how they’re affected by where we live and how we watched the people around us prepare for the day. I feel sometimes out of tune when I cannot perform part of my ritual, like missing milk in my tea. There are things I must do to feel as though I have succeeded in my day.

And were we having tea, I would be talking about privilege; not in any political sense, just the privilege associated with certain things. When something minor in my life goes wrong that is connected with being in a developed nation with high standards of living, I wryly say that is is a first world problem. I know this is inherently problematic, but the saying has become shorthand. My milk having spoilt is definitely a first world problem, but it tilts my day a little.

My Saturday is booked solid, I would confide in you. It is very strange having plans; I’m very much a loner. Were we having tea, it would actually be quite unusual. I don’t generally have people over!

I would be lamenting the upkeep of this blog. This past week has been incredibly busy, even though there has been so much going on politically it has been difficult to keep up. But, it is early days and I still have time to catch up. Small steps, really. I am looking forward to a small break in April to realign myself, and then the sudden rush to summer hols.

Thank you for dropping by, once more, and I’ll see you next week. – SDM

NB: Check out the other posts here!

Photo by Mira DeShazer

The Ascendancy of Donald Trump

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So, Donald Trump has won in Nevada, and now he has won seven of the eleven Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.. This is not surprising, actually. He has name recognition and he has a lead. There’s been ample evidence that, whilst Americans do love the underdog, it’s just not enough to help them win. Also, when your underdogs are people as personally unlikable as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, you’re honestly choosing between people who are going to be bad and worse for the country.

I unfortunately wasn’t able to watch the Republican debate on the 25th of February, but I’ve read enough to know that we shall not receive any actionable policy from anyone on the Republican side; it will be vitriol upon vitriol. Tonight’s debate will be no different.

What has the Republican party become? It would do no good to compare it to the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln, but to the party of Eisenhower. With each Republican presidency, the mix has become more and more astringent and difficult to swallow: war-obsessed, racist and xenophobic. It is no longer the fringes of the party that holds these ideals; the Republicans have chosen someone in Trump that holds all of these ideals. Despite the many conspiracies surrounding him (he’s a mole for the Democratic party, he’s only running as a commercial ploy, he’s a meme), Trump is winning votes and perhaps it is time to re-examine our American priorities.

Until next time, friends. – SDM

Photo by Thierry Ehrmann