Category Archives: Syrian civil war

#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 in to 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

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