Dolce et Decorum Est…

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 

And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; 

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . 

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 

Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory, 

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 

Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen

Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917  and March, 1918

#repost – Tout et rien: A September 11th story

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11 September 2001: We watch the towers come down in horror from a classroom. I sit in the office at school; my mother is coming to take me home. We are all scared, and there are a million rumors flying about. All we know is that it is definitely a terrorist attack and the last plane, the one that came down in Pennsylvania, is the one that was headed to the White House. I write in my journal:

In praise to our Lord and Lady
Help us see the light through the smoke.
Help us in our quest for justice

For it is JUSTICE, not REVENGE
for which we are searching.

I am for the Operation Enduring Freedom. We are no longer allowed to wait for our friends and family at the boarding gate. My mother tells me that my grandfather was at the opening of the World Trade Centres.

15 March 2005: My very best university friend and I go to New York. We visit Ground Zero; it is a huge gaping wound that we stare at through a chain-link fence. We are both stunned, tears in our eyes. We stand and stare at the hole, and then walk on, shaken, saddened. It greys the rest of our day. (New York City itself was a wonderful experience. I can see why it it is easy to fall in love with the place.)

11 September 2006: I am in Lyon, France for a semester abroad. I am out with friends in an elegant café and there is suddenly a crowd of people demonstrating, waving Palestinian flags and carrying anti-zionist slogans. The year before there had been massive demonstrations in Clichy-sous-Bois, near Paris, and a few months previous there had been demonstrations across France. Both of my parents are nervous but I am twenty and fearless.

The demonstration scares my friends and me, and we nervously head to the subway and to our respective homes. I live in the centre of the city, in the Presque-Île. I call my mother from my bedroom, watching the demonstration from my window. She warns me to stay inside. I don’t even realise the date until the next day.

4 December 2006: I am at a house party in Lyon, sitting on a sofa. The man across from me is drunk, like I am. He keeps asking me questions about Bush, about Iraq, and I am struggling, not just in French, but with my ideology. I feel as though I must defend and explain the American psyche, even though I myself don’t agree with it. I spend a lot of time on the balcony, staring down the beautiful boulevard, confused and dismayed.

11 September 2011: I am in London. It is a beautiful day and I am walking home on the Edgeware Road. There is a police presence, and of course I am curious. There are men with long beards and taqiyahs and hijabi women holding signs that say America is at war with Islam and Muslims and anti-war slogans. I am filled with shame for having supported the strikes in Afghanistan, and I stand and watch the protest.

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Photo taken by the author.

My neighbour tells me that one of the bombs that exploded during the 7 July bombings was the tube station that is directly behind our flats, platform 4, Edgeware Road. It has been a decade for me, but only five painful short years for her. Britain was America’s first ally during Operation Freedom. I do not know anything any more.

Until we meet again. – SDM

This is a repost from my A-to-Z challenge, written in April. 

#weekendcoffeeshare: The Return

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It has been a long time since I have written a blog post. I feel enormously guilty. I feel as though I haven’t had friends over since April, and here we are. I would be shoving delicious treats your way, asking if you needed anything else. I’m still drinking my Wedding Breakfast tea; 250g makes a lot of cups of tea.

So, how have you been? I should give my excuses, but it’s been a mix of depression, lack of motivation and actually a very busy summer. I went to Iceland! I started my second year at the high school at which I currently teach (I finally have a classroom). And I watched the world of politics unfold.

First off, Brexit. What a miserable outcome for this. I’m anxious to see how it will play out. Theresa May as been handed a messy, uncertain mix of things that she must turn out to satisfy the Exit voters, but not alienate the Remainers. Though, honestly, what does she care about the Remainers? They’re probably all Eurotrash™ anyway. (Those last lines were sarcasm, by the way, in case it doesn’t read well through the screen.)

The US elections are just not at all in any shape to be commentated on, and yet, here we are, a little over 8 weeks until the elections, commentating. The era of False Equivalency must end: Hillary Clinton is in no way as bad as Trump, and the fact that her email ‘scandal’ is as bad as anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth. Trump is unfit to be president, and it is disheartening that there is any fight between Clinton and Trump.

I have been itching to write, and I shall go back to my weekly Friday reads and these Weekend Coffee Shares, and I am pleased to be back. So hello again, and my door is open again. I hope you missed me as much as I missed you! – SDM

NB: Read the other WCS posts here!

#weekendcoffeeshare: A Morning with the Prime Minister

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I’m not actually having a morning with the Prime Minister of the UK, but I am currently enjoying my Queen Anne tea and watching the PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). For those of you that don’t think that I am obsessed with politics, know that I’m either watching the PMQs or the Daily Show with Trevor Noah most mornings.

It has been a busy month, and with my Zed post uploaded this morning, I have finished with the A to Zed Challenge for April! Though it was much better than last year’s, I am disappointed by the outcome. I’ll talk about it more in my wrap up post, but it seems like a lot for work for not a lot of gain. I still think it’s probably because of my topic. Next year, I think I’ll be concentrating on my travel blog.

There are only three weeks left of school, the last one being final exam week. I’m very glad of being so close to the end. My first year at a new school has been much better than my first year at any other school I’ve been at, surprisingly. The hardest thing has not having a permanent classroom, and floating about during the day. Next year, I’ve been promised a classroom, though it will be a portable.

For those of you who remember, I applied for a master’s degree in Sweden. I’m currently on the waiting list, but I am not optimistic about my chances. I’ll be applying to another programme in December.

I am seriously booked this weekend, and am lazing about as if I haven’t anything to do. Next week, then? – SDM

NB: Do check out the other #weekendcoffeeshare posts here!

 

 

#atozchallenge: The American Zeitgeist

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So what influence then, shall America have on the future of the Earth? How will America’s past determine the path it takes?

One of my favourite essays in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by AL Franken describes the love he has for America as an “adult” love, whereas some people have a “child-like” love. The adult version is taking the bad with the good, and focussing on bettering America, whilst the child version is insisting that America could do no wrong and how dare one criticise our lovely nation.

As we stand at the beginning of a new election season, where so much is at stake, how should we process the last eight years under an historic presidency? I feel as though President Obama has tried his hardest with the recalcitrant children [aka Congress] in his charge. I won’t pretend that some of his broken promises don’t disappoint me, but I am sure we would be in a much worse place with our other choices. Will this election prove the same? Or will Trump destroy the fragile ecosystem that has been built after President George W Bush’s disastrous time in office? Will Clinton prove as moderate as her husband, overly considerate with conciliatory gestures towards a mean-spirited Republican base?

This election cycle has been the most exciting since 2008. We Americans have an extraordinary chance to create a new country, or engulf it in nationalistic uber-capitalism. It has never been more important to stay informed and ready to vote. I wish us luck.

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Thank you for following me this far! All the posts from this year’s A to Z challenge can be found here.

Photo by unsplash

#atozchallenge: Youth in Action

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When I teach about France, I usually mention their love of strikes. For most Americans, strikes are rare and shocking, and a sign of laziness. Or something. I think strikes are valuable tools against capitalist oppression.

In France (and I believe Denmark) students are allowed to unionise and strike with their professors or teachers. School policies don’t just affect teachers, anyway. I believe that young people supporting an older generation (or even someone in their own) is a way to build solidarity amongst the proletariat.

The state in which I work is a right-to-work state, which is just a political euphemism for ‘right to be fired’. We cannot protest against unfair working conditions. And lest one thinks I am just whinging from my cushy middle-class career of teacher, know that when I can’t protest, nobody can, even those who aren’t seen as whinging.

I applaud the right to strike and protest and stand in solidarity with any young person who strikes to be heard.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Mister Theatre

#atozchallenge – Xenophobia: What it Looks Like Around the World

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America has always been seen as a refuge for the disenfranchised. The Statue of Liberty states:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We should be as welcoming as we promise, but of course we are not. We still struggle with issues of integration and hatred of the unknown. It is not surprising that we have issues with Muslim refugees; though we are loathe to say it, we have been fighting in mostly Muslim regions for a very long time. Mostly, however, America still struggles with race relations: Syrian refugees have the ire of some people now, but it is Black people (and sometimes Latino and Asian people) who have it very difficult.

In Germany, it is the Turkish population that faces daily difficulties with integration. Germany is in the forefront of the current refugee crisis, but its past problems have come back to haunt it. Without better integration, disenfranchised people will turn to the haven of a promised land.

In France, being a person of colour is difficult. Though it is strictly forbidden to ask about race, ethnicity and religion for any national census, France is socially divided by race anyway. I wrote about my issues with France in a previous post.

Personally, I have dealt with discrimination in all three of these countries, but on a much lower scale than recent immigrants. I’m not sure what integration will look like as we continue, especially with the continuing refugee crises from Syria, Eritrea and countries in Northern Africa. However, I hope that we can turn our attentions to the plights of minority without ire. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by David Mark. Poem excerpt from ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus.