Trump wins the Presidency

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

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What I’m Reading this Week: 15 September 2016

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So in my haste to return to blogging, I consumed a lot of press this week. Some of it is older, but still important.

Vincennes, France holds a festival about American culture and literature, and has been since 2008. This year’s was held from the 8-11 of September. The festival chatted with 15 authors and Libération posted excerpts from their chat, which centered around the authors’ ideas and impressions of their personal vision of America. Fascinating stuff. Des écrivains racont leur Amérique [Authors talk about their America] — the original article is in French.

Going on at the same time, in Paris, was la fête de l’Humanité [The Humanity Festival], which is the French Communist Party’s annual festival. It still happens, though the party is apparently unpopular. This isn’t an article; it’s a video with a small report attached, but it’s interesting. France : la fête de l’Humanité, entre évènement populaire et vitrine politique [The Humanity Festival: popular event and political display– report and article in French].

Think Progress reports on several scientific studies about the mental health of Black people in the United States, especially battling the daily micro-aggressions and constant onslaught of race-based discrimination. It’s a glancing read, but each study is probably worth a look. Being Black in America is a heavy burden, one that many people are either blind to or deny.

Swinging back out to Europe, Arstechnica reports on Denmark’s move to pay for the leaked documents, in a bid to research Danish tax evasion (‘Panama Papers: Denmark to pay $1.3M-plus for leaked data to probe tax evasion‘). I usually read Arstechnica for technical news, but when tech and government mix, it can only be a good or bad thing. I appreciate Denmark’s willingness to investigate tax dodgers, instead of letting them run for high office.

Speaking of running for high office, two articles about the American presidential campaign, obviously. The Economist discusses the similarities and differences between the war-hawk policies of Clinton and Trump. American foreign policy is unattractive and scary thing to me, but there you go.

And finally, the Washington Post‘s 18 August report about Trump’s not-so-charitable giving is incredibly detailed and incredibly disheartening. I’m so bewildered by Trump’s continued existence. I’m very glad there’s only eight weeks until the election, but I have no idea what’s going to happen then. Nobody does, it feels like.

That’s all from me this week! Until next time. – SDM

photo by David Mark.

#atozchallenge: And the Nominees Are…

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I am writing this blind. The New York primary is Tuesday. New York is one of those states that has been reduced to one place: Manhattan. And Manhattan, like all large, cosmopolitan capitals, is a cosmos to its own. It has its own system, and its own politics, quite removed from the rural upstate.

We have two sons of New York, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, a transplanted New Yorker in Hilary Clinton, and two people who have nothing to do with the state.

New York finds itself in an unenviable position of being important to both parties. I find it hard to believe that we have still come so far and have no idea who our nominees will be. What is happening in America? I understand the anger and frustration on both sides (though I can’t pretend to be sympathetic to the Republican side), but are Americans really so entrenched and embittered?

America lives in its own bubble with regards to politics. Many of my students don’t really know much more than what their parents have told them, but I see glimmers of wanting to know a little bit more about the world around them, and that is the most important thing.

I am not sure which nominee I would be more scared of having, but I am sure that whomever wins in New York will move forward thinking they have the upper hand. I am afraid we shan’t get that until much, much later.

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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 Sergey Klimkin

#atozchallenge: The American Kleptocracy

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The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good.

Gordon Gecko is running for president. You see him every hour on television; his speeches become breaking news, as the media breathlessly waits for his plane to arrive. He is the gilt paint over the rotting wood of our infrastructure. We are allowing him to run, because we believe that politicians are corrupt and that we need new blood, obviously.

But is he not corrupt himself? He has used every avenue to his advantage: tax breaks, imminent domain and lackadaisical  reforms meant to improve our ability to trade and destroy.

We point to kleptocratic states like Pakistan and Russia, as if we don’t have clans of hoarding multi-national companies and military contractors siphoning money from the public coffers. We know who they are: the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Lockheed Martin and Blackwater (now called ACADEMI).

So greed, for America, is good for those who are greedy. We have a dire choice this November: who will be greedy in good ways? Is greed ever good? How will American society get past this greed?

Sometimes greed works. Georgia’s state house and senate recently tried to pass a ‘Freedom from Religious Prosecution’ act, similar to some other states, and businesses pressured Governor Deal to veto it; however, the fact that businesses hold so much sway over our politicians is just the exception that proves the rule.

I have no answers, because I am a pessimist. We are reaping what we have sown, and I believe we deserve this disaster, if only to start anew. There are too many working parts that must fail, but fail we must, so that we learn. We should have learned in 2008, but we did not. And now, eight years later, we shall learn a hard lesson again. – 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 Matej Tomazin

#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

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