#atozchallenge: Winner Takes All

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When Cameron and the Conservative Party became the majority in the 2015 elections, there was an uproar. How did an unpopular Prime Minister keep his place? Blame was meted out: Ed Miliband was a milquetoast leader with no teeth; the Scottish National Party dominated; the Labour Party had no good ideas. The Conservative Party took 330 seats, an absolute majority.

But then, the numbers came out, and things became curiouser and curiouser. The Conservative Party had actually only won 36.8% of the vote, whilst Labour got 30.5%. And here is where first past the post voting breaks apart: No matter how slim your majority, when you win, you win everything.

If this were a two-party system, this would make sense. But the United Kingdom has multiple parties, with different stakes in the system.  In the United States, we are stuck with two parties because that is how it has always been. (I hope that changes, I honestly do.)

In the UK, one might be better served by the Single Transferable Vote system, whilst the United States might be better served by the Alternative Vote (also called the Instant Run-Off). If we are stuck with the systems we have now, we will see two parties that are dissimilar enough to anger the constituency, but never enough to change. – SDM

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

Photo by Harry Lustig

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#atozchallenge: Politics in the Classroom

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This year’s election cycle is a popular source of conversation with my students. There are lot of big personalities and a lot of bombastic things that show up in social media. So many times, they try and pull me into the conversation. It is not moral or ethically appropriate for me to discuss politics except obviously if someone is saying something bigoted. It is very difficult to walk along that line.

There is also a lot of discussion amongst my students of colour (or non-white students, for those who want to nitpick) about what it means to be “woke”. Being “woke” is being aware of the problems in society and knowing that there is still a struggle in the fight for human and civil rights. I say this without bragging, but all of my non-white students have called me “woke” at one point or another. Often I want to point out that as a woman of colour, I have felt some of their struggles as well. But I just take the compliment and continue on.

One of the most difficult conversations I had this election season has been during the moments before a soccer match. My players, sitting together and chatting, began questioning one student’s choice on supporting Donald Trump. I don’t support Trump, but my students don’t know that–they could probably guess, but I refuse to say one way or another. I had to cut their conversation short because their questions were becoming aggressive and I didn’t feel like it would be a very helpful conversation.

Being a teacher means that you have to model proper behaviour at all times, even when you disagree with what’s happening, unless it is detrimental to the health and welfare of your students. It is so difficult to do so, but I have to say that it’s an important part of one’s job. – 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 Brigitte Werner

#weekendcoffeeshare: Countdown

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I am exhausted this morning, and this tea has never been better. It’s Queen Anne, as always, but only because I’m very much looking forward to finishing my tin and moving on to Wedding Breakfast. I am a stickler for tradition, and on Saturday and Sunday I drink the tea at my tea station to completion. So if were were having coffee/tea, we’d be having Queen Anne and probably some French Roast that I hurriedly bought from Whole Foods.

There are 25 days left of school. My students all know this countdown, as do I. We are all breathless. The days are filled with state-mandated testing and final exams. My senior students are all ready for prom and graduation, and I am ready to explode. Soccer season ended on a win, however, and now I have whole wodges of time to myself. It’s wonderful. If we were having our beverages, I would ask you if you were counting down to anything, and what you are looking forward to?

We have a few more letters left of the A to Zed challenge, in which I am participating. I have been keeping up with quite a few blogs, and I have learnt many amazing things. I am not sure that my blog fits in very well with this challenge (it is not a writing or lifestyle blog) but I have gotten some comments and some interest, so there is that. I would ask if you were participating, and if you’re struggling or if you pre-wrote everything and are coasting easy.

Politically, my students and I enjoyed watching Prime Minister’s Questions from the 13th of April, which brought up so many questions about British culture, life and government. I find myself becoming homesick for a country that is not necessarily mine, but I’ve adopted. If we were having coffee (or tea, of course), we’d be talking about what life means for different cultures.

I hope you are doing well. Until next time! – SDM

NB: Check out the other posts here!

picture taken by author

 

#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

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