Category Archives: Disasters

#NEVERMYPRESIDENT

 

This is the winter of my discontent.

This is the winter of my discontent.

 

Just two weeks ago, the cosmic cycle, at least as we Earthlings see it, reached its end and immediately began its course anew. Our sun rises and sets. And the planets orbit that sun, oblivious to the species that dominates Planet Earth and continues the self-eviscerating process of destroying its own living, breathing environment, as well as slaughtering other species, even its own. Why do we do this? For wealth, for power? I suppose they are one and the same.

The above probably would not seem a promising start to a holiday letter. But it was what I spontaneously wrote as I contemplated our annual missive to friends and relatives.

Fortunately, I thought better of using it and attempted a more upbeat version.

Unfortunately, it reflects the writer’s state of mind this winter.

With massacres in Syria and the countless other atrocities that are causing the refugee floods from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere; with Europe weakened by Brexit, populist movements and insufficient leadership; with the new tenant moving into the White House, chosen by less than 25% of the electorate, having won (or actually LOST by 3 million popular votes) on a message of hate and division – no, sorry, neither my brain nor my heart can muster a message of optimism for the New Year 2017.

I have read that clinical depression is diagnosed when a person finds him/herself depressed for no apparent reason. So I can breathe a sigh of relief and begin the year with the certainty that I am definitely not clinically depressed.

No, for much, if not all my pessimism, can be explained by one huge event that will be sending shock waves through the planet for the foreseeable future: the election of Donald J. Trump to the American presidency. As most of my readers know, I don’t live in the US but in Germany. This year, for the first time since 2000 (when another Democratic candidate was cheated out of this post), I was in the US in November and experienced the circus firsthand. I became addicted to watching quality news broadcasting and following incredulously little t’s path to the Oval Office. I must say, any belief I had in the democratic election process has been thoroughly shaken, if not completely destroyed.

Now back home, I am still following as best I can, the way the US and the rest of the world have reacted to t’s alleged election victory. Since then, I’ve been participating enthusiastically in the fireworks ceaselessly exploding on Facebook, sharing articles that reflect my opinions – and it would seem, the opinions of many. It isn’t easy, but I try to stay away from name-calling FB users with views contrary to mine. (Many of them do not reciprocate the courtesy.) But I do not spare little t. He deserves any name that anyone calls him, except President.

It is true, I have not listened to the news on Fox nor read Breitbart online to discover if I have somehow missed little t’s good side: his presidential demeanor and diplomatic prowess, his magnanimous spirit, revelations of his much-touted “secret plans”. However, to this day – three days prior to his inauguration – the content of those secret plans to fix the Affordable Care Act or to end the war in Syria, have remained just that: secret. Why, even the Republicans who hold sway in both Houses of Congress are not that big on content either. In regard to repealing Obama Care, what are they going to replace it with?  They have no idea; they just know, it has to go! Who cares if millions of Americans lose their health care coverage!

I must confess that, rather than tuning into Fox or Breitbart, I have relied solely on listening to t’s very own voice on TV, expounding his great, fantastic, big ideas, plans, programs, etc. Unfortunately, so far there is still no discernable content. Or to reprise an earlier presidential campaign: Where’s the beef? Gee, back then, voters actually asked that question. Now, it would seem many were satisfied with any empty hamburger roll.

Of course, it’s been hard to avoid the charming Kelly Anne Conway and her attempts to interpret the “World According to DJT” to the real world – what did little t actually mean when he said X, Y, Z? She has told us that we shouldn’t listen to his words but see what is in his heart.

This is about the time when I find myself gagging.

In fact, this is when we can change the station. We needn’t bother listening to her blather, for when she is done, we are none the wiser.

The biggest – in reality, the only hurdle to returning to normality is DONALD J TRUMP. With every Tweet he alienates anyone who voted against him. He widens the abyss and digs it deeper. No, you don’t have to watch CNN or MSNBC to become afraid of what t will do to the US, Europe, NATO or the UN. Not to mention the damage he will do in relations with Russia*(!!!), China and North Korea. All you need to do is read or listen to the unfiltered, unedited pronouncements emanating from his own mouth.

IMHO we have a right to worry.

So what lies ahead for 2017? Impeachment? Constitutional crises? Only the stars know.

*That’s a kettle of fish I’m going to leave the lid on right now. Can’t wait to find out what’s really in the pot. But one thing is for sure: it will stink.

The winter sun sets on my discontent.

The winter sun sets on my discontent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Disasters, Donald Trump, Europe, Politics, Syrian civil war, US Election 2016

WHERE’S THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT GONE THIS YEAR?

The Trump has stolen Christmas!

It’s down to the wire with sending those Christmas cards, shopping for presents and decorating the tree. But why can’t I get into the seasonal spirit this year?

Never fear, I do intend to tell you why.

For the first time since 2000, I was in the US for the election. Back then it was bad enough. I was relieved to hear, as my plane lifted off for Germany, that the winner of the popular vote, Al Gore, had been declared president. Upon arrival in Frankfurt, George W. Bush was suddenly president. We all know how well those eight years went.

This time round, I was, during the course of the primaries and the election campaign, so appalled by DJ Trump’s campaign that I took a step unprecedented for me. I registered to vote in my home state of New York, a place I hadn’t lived since 1972. Over my adult lifetime in Germany, I have never felt a need to vote in US elections. The issues were mainly American; I did not know about them, I lived in a place beyond their relevance and was content to leave the choices up to the locals.

But as this election cycle progressed,  I was reminded of the undeniable fact that US foreign policy runs the world – even though American election campaigns cannot be won on foreign affairs issues! It seem to me that a good deal of at least the Western world should have a vote in a choice far too significant to be limited to the US populace. Alas, that will never happen. So I took up the gauntlet to play the minuscule role allotted me and voted for Hillary Clinton.

Again, as the campaign rolled on, it became increasingly evident that Trump did not possess the personality, judgement or even the interest in doing the job that would qualify him to govern a county that loves to call itself the greatest on earth. The thought of his winning was just too ridiculous to seriously believe it could happen.

But happen it did. And in N Jersey I witnessed up close all the coverage following it, all the flabbergasted pundits who said it couldn’t/wouldn’t and above all shouldn’t happen. It was addicting, keeping up with the latest news on T’s atrocious appointments and nominations, on his Tweets that revealed a wild-west gun-slinger shooting from the hip with nary a thought of consequences. It was a heady feeling seeing protests across the country of Americans  peacefully (in the main), declaring that T was #NOT MY PRESIDENT.

BUT this was the man the country had chosen. Well, at least the 56 % who went to the polls. Well, of them 46.1 % who voted for him. Pitted against the 48.2 % who voted for Hillary Clinton (also-rans clocked in with 5.7 %). Clinton’s lead in the popular vote continues to rise. And now as it is almost final, she has 2.86 million more votes than he does. Doesn’t that work out to be somewhat less than a quarter of the population voting for him? Doesn’t it make you wonder what would happen if everybody voted? (BTW in Australia voting is a legal requirement. You will be fined if you don’t do your patriotic duty.)

Who knew that it really takes this long to count all the ballots. Who knew that the 50 States each has its own version of outdated polling equipment leaving them wide open for rigging the count.

Not to mention the restrictions put on the Right to Vote Act that barred millions of willing voters from casting their ballots.

T keeps calling his win a historic landslide. Hmm, lots of adjectives come to mind to describe his “win”, but not that.

With far too many anomalies to be classified as an election as usual, it is impossible to return to the routine order of the day. We now know that the Russians, led by their top KGB agent Vladimir Putin, interfered with the process via cyper-hacking. Of course, the FBI did their best to stir up the idiotic email issue – again – a few days before the election – which turned out to be unfounded as well as completely politically motivated.

I could go on till Hell freezes over about what stinks in this election. And most of you reading my post will know this already. But please bear with me while I make a few modest suggestions:

  1. Something must be done about the electoral college system. Either get rid of it or give the states the number of electors that truly represents their population. Go to http://www.nationalpopularvote.com to find out about what is already afoot to circumvent the necessity of a constitutional amendment to neutralize the college.
  2. Update your polling stations with machines that work, cannot be manipulated and can actually be examined for correct results.
  3. Improve the teaching of social studies, history and ethics in the schools so that children can learn how to be good citizens, how to respect the rights of others with disabilities and different skin colors, religions and sexual orientations. Make sure you have teachers capable of fulfilling this extremely important mission! If I recall correctly, in the US the separation of Church and State is still anchored in the constitution. Schools are not a venue for teaching creationism or white supremacy.
  4. Political correctness has had some really bad press. Rethink why this sometimes awkward principle is so vital in today’s United States and in the world as a whole. It’s all about:

    RESPECTING THE DIFFERENCES OF OTHERS!

Which brings me back to our President-Elect who shows very little regard for anyone other than Number 1. He mocks people who are different; he is actively supporting racism by his choice of staff and cabinet, elevating unqualified people who bring with them from the get-go plenty of their very own conflicts of interests. His, of course, he dismisses as his divine right.

(BTW the US President is not a deity, unlike Roman Emperors of yore.)

It would be too much to hope that tomorrow the Electoral College will be self-confident enough to stop Trump’s march to the Oval Office. That being so, I see many rocky roads before us. And I see the time, effort and resources that should be used to solve the nation’s urgent problems, being wasted in the next couple of years to impeach this travesty of a president.

He is not my President and never will be. I am ashamed to have to admit that I am an American citizen.

With all of these thoughts in my head, I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas this year.

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Filed under civil rights, Disasters, Gender Questions, human rights, Politics, US Election 2016

GUILTY PLEASURE

A time-out from the cares of the world?

Monday morning I headed out to Frankfurt for an appointment made a couple of months previously. Thank God for my sat-nav which would guide me to the location in a city where I rarely drive. But even with that support, I felt up-tight about the trip which was actually to take me to a place to relax.

The moment the car was parked I sighed with relief. And the closer I got to the 18th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel, I began to feel more at ease. Entering the Heaven Spa, I found the place empty but awash in the kind of all-world piano / flute music that sounds vaguely oriental and is meant to relax you immediately. It was working.

I don’t often allow myself this kind of decadent pleasure, but I’d received a gift certificate from my son D for my birthday. Or was it Christmas? Hard to say since they happen on the same day. At any rate, I had to take advantage of it before it expired and there I was, in a deserted spa, as if I were their only customer and they were only there to meet my needs.

I can’t deny finding that idea attractive. And yet, out in the world around me, hell had broken loose. Weeks before, Britain had decided to leave the EU for all the wrong reasons and was struggling to find a path forwards. The USA was in the grip of a divisive presidential election campaign that was pitting one megalomaniac against the first woman candidate who, unfortunately, has more than her fair share of detractors.

Not to mention that all over the place people were being murdered in the name of Allah, or by individuals feeling at odds with their world. Bullets were flying, bombs were going off, throats being slit, and trucks driven into crowds celebrating liberté, egalité and fraternité. How could I just let myself be pampered while across Europe people mourned their loved ones and faced shattered lives?

Good question. Nevertheless,  on that Monday morning I found myself in that enviable situation. The music started having its way with me and lured me into a separate place where a talented masseuse massaged away the cares of the world. Or tried to. And to an extent she succeeded. My eyelids closed, my limbs relaxed, my thoughts were set free for a blissful one and a half hours to think more pleasant thoughts than those I’d brought with me.

I started mentally composing a blog post – for me, that passes as relaxation. I pondered how I could write about the massage, of the physical release I feel when warm hands stretch and knead muscles. About what an ephemeral experience it was. The relaxation, I knew, would be fleeting. If I were lucky, I would benefit from it the rest of the day, until gradually all the nasty news bytes would catch up with me again. And heaven forbid, another tragedy could flash up as breaking news. After all, what right do I have to let the sorrows of the world go by without taking at least some notice?

Not that my thoughts will bring anyone back to life or ease the pain of those left behind. Nor will my single vote ensure that the American people do not destroy themselves in this election. However, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite poems and feel that in these perilous times, I mustn’t forget this message. Amazing, how timely it is.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne, 1624

An excerpt from Meditation 17

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Filed under BREXIT, Disasters, Europe, Great Britain, Poetry, Terror

Frans Timmermanns’ View of Brexit

 

I would like to share Frans Timmermanns’ Facebook article, elaborating his view, and indeed his sorrow, at Britain’s choice of leaving the EU.

Timmermanns is the Vice-President of the European Commission, and as we read in this piece, we recognize a true European in education and outlook.

Some of the comments/reactions to his words are also quite illuminating. I have not commented on his page, but as you may well assume, my sharing this is my way of agreeing with his views.

https://m.facebook.com/notes/frans-timmermans/when-in-rome-learning-to-understand-the-english/1132734193416105

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Filed under BREXIT, Disasters, Europe, Great Britain, Migration, Politics

MASS MIGRATION & THE NEXT PROXY WAR


After several months of silence, caused to a great extent by my inability to fathom the goings-on of our world, this blogger finally returns to cyberspace, with no solutions at all. But it is time to share my feeling of helplessness about all the current crises on our planet. Who knows, you may well also be suffering from the same syndrome and appreciate reflecting on it. Here I make a start by broaching the crisis that has Europe reeling.

 
It all started (or at least reached a new high) when, last summer, the floodgates opened. A rush of human beings, driven from their homes by lunatic IS jihadists or by the bombs their own governments were chucking, suddenly stood at the borders of the EU, seeking refuge and solace, seeking a safe haven from the hell their homelands had become. And it wasn’t even “just” Syrians, but also folk from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and many other African countries that set off on a desperate exodus by land and sea in the hope of reaching EU shores.

 
I needn’t recap the events since then, for you are all literate. To have missed what’s been happening, you would have needed to have been on an extended vacation on a distant planet. But just to get us on the same page, and braving the risk of oversimplifying the situation, reactions to these developments have been mixed.

 
As I live in Germany, one of the countries that has been more welcoming than most, I have been reading daily of the ups and downs of dealing with this human inundation. We’ve experienced the rise of certain organizations, mainly in the east of Germany, that reject this migration out of hand as a dilution of their culture and a threat to life as they know it. Is it the fear that they will have less if these people receive help?

 
These groups hover on the verge of fascism; at best they are populists exploiting the situation. The number of attacks on refugee housing in the form of arson has risen greatly, but not just in the east. The only reason refugees have not been killed by these attacks is that they have been carried out on still-empty locations.

 
Is it only a matter of time before the perpetrators become murderous enough to burn down a building full of foreign families?

 
The only good news – but this is a biggie – is that in many, many areas of the country, private support for refugees flourishes. Local authorities have been overwhelmed with the task at hand but are doing what they can as fast as they can. Volunteers in every city and small town (yes, also in the east), who donate their time and efforts to helping these people, have taken up the slack and extended the limited reach of government. Refugees arrive with their world and their families destroyed; the personal involvement of locals like you and me puts a human face on the help offered. When communities open their arms, then there is hope.

 
MEANWHILE…

Russia joined the fray in September, unfortunately on the side of Bashar al Assad, and this has proven to be a game-changer. The bombing sanctioned by our dear and erstwhile best new friend, President Vladimir Putin, has augmented the torrent of migration to Europe. I can just see this character sitting in his office, rubbing his hands with glee at the chaos he has caused within the European Union.

 

And that Union is being sorely tested in its unity by this Völkerwanderung. With several former Soviet satellite states reacting with xenophobic zeal and NIMBY mentally, I can only guess that their exposure to the West has not yet been sufficient. That said, there are enough states in Western Europe that are not exactly opening their arms to the needy!

 
After World War II when Germany lay in ruins, 14 million German refugees from formerly German territories in the east inundated what was left of the country. Those in the west who had survived the war with their houses intact were forced to take refugees into their own homes, and that was the situation for years until more housing was built and people found work. This was not necessarily done cheerfully, according to local stories I’ve heard, but somehow the country was rebuilt, and by the 1950s, Germany found itself in the midst of an unprecedented economic wonder that is the foundation of today’s affluence.

 

The challenge now facing Germany – and any other European nation that takes up the refugee gauntlet – is far easier in some ways than it was in 1945. Even the least economically successful EU countries are in rather better shape than in the aftermath of WWII. Demographic concerns about ageing populations are actually eased by the prospects of an influx of young workers who could be trained and soon be paying into the social security coffers to pay the pensions of us oldies.

 

On the downside, these people come with cultures, languages and religious traditions foreign to most of us.

Is this a risk to society as we know it? YES. We are, indeed, at risk of expanding our horizons, of seeing beyond our own borders, of enriching our society with a fresh injection of vitamin C(ulture).
And those migrants? They, too, will have to learn our languages, learn about our customs and our religious traditions; they will have to accept the role of women in modern western society. Above all, BOTH SIDES will have to learn to live and let live, to respect each other’s differences, to even rejoice in the recognition that we are not all alike.

 
By the way, I obviously have a migration background, too. After 40 years in Germany, I still feel just a tick more comfortable speaking and writing in English, not to mention watching Hollywood and Brit movies in the original. We have plenty of German friends, but we also have a circle of English-speaking friends with whom we enjoy cavorting.

 
In other words, we shouldn’t expect newbies from wherever to renounce their heritage and forsake their customs. We should strive for a kind of integration that will build communities across the boundaries of nationalities and religion, integration that will tear down walls and build bridges. (Ah, bridges, a favorite theme of mine.)

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Filed under Disasters, Europe, Migration, Syrian civil war, Traditions

ANOTHER SHOOTING IN THE US – a Never-Ending Tragedy

Now it’s in Oregon, the next massacre of innocents – young college students with their lives ahead of them, slaughtered by a crazy person with a gun.

I watched President Obama on the news last night, making his statement on this episode in a never-ending saga. His tone of quiet indignation and frustration was spot-on. No other advanced nation on this planet allows such carnage, such insanity.

At the root of this problem is paranoia, mental illness armed to the teeth with modern weaponry. And no one is doing anything about it.

How can members of Congress and Senators – of both parties – sleep at night? When will they finally put a stop to it? When will it end?

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Filed under American history, Disasters, Gun Control, US Shooting Disasters