Tag Archives: Voting rights

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

EUROPE – The Great War…

…and why you should vote in the elections for the European Parliament

Ninety-nine years and ten months ago, or to state it exactly, on 28 July 1914, the Great War – World War I – broke out. In the long aftermath of World War II, this earlier conflagration takes a backseat in our minds when considering the enormous tragedies that occurred in the twentieth century. For this reason it is well and good that the centenary of the war’s commencement is being highlighted throughout 2014.

Every historian and commentator of note is quoting Christopher Clarke’s monumental work, The Sleepwalkers, in which he documents how the governments and monarchs of the time allowed the continent – and beyond – to slip into a war that would permanently change the landscape of Europe, and in its wake, create the conditions that caused the following war. If there had been no Great War, the second one would not have happened.

Can one ever speak of a good after-effect of war? If so, then we must count the post-World War II efforts on the part of the leaders of France and Germany to develop the trade agreements and cultural exchanges that would gradually lead to the founding of the European Common Market and, its ultimate form, the European Union.

On Sunday, 25 May, European citizens are called upon to vote for the European Parliament. To many, this is a governing body of little interest, a talk-shop of bureaucrats, seemingly possessing only the power to regulate the curvature of the banana or the size of condoms. However, despite its sometimes annoying attempt to  standardize portions of our lives that we didn’t realize needed it, it is also an important element holding the member countries of the European Union together and the only organ of the European organization in which citizens have a direct voice.

Do not give your voice away by not voting or by voting for populist or nationalist parties, who are by nature reactionary. Do we really want a Europe reverting to its 19th century state of individual nations that only understand the world from parochial perspectives? Doing that would mean missing the larger view of a continent that must accept its responsibility as a global player and grasp the opportunities that position presents. The current situation in Ukraine should make us think twice.

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Filed under German History, Politics

Martin Luther King Jr. Had a Dream

Beyond the breaking news that the US is close to intervening in Syria, the country is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, August 28th 1963.  Yesterday a commemorative gathering was held on the Mall, before the Lincoln Memorial, the same location as Dr King chose long ago as center-stage for his campaign of non-violent protest to the plight of black Americans 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation liberated them from their shackles.

JOBS AND FREEDOM

Over 200,000 people – 2/3s of them black, the rest white – arrived in Washington, not to burn down the capital but to set hearts and minds aflame for the just cause of equal rights for all. Jobs and Freedom was their cry, a modest demand in the home of the brave and land of the free. Yet it had still not materialized for the portion of the population who happened to be born with a different shade of skin.

HE HAD A DREAM

Dr Martin Luther King Jr,  a 34 year-old Baptist preacher and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, didn’t hold a speech. No, he preached a sermon that every American needed to hear. I watched a recording of it last night and it gave me goosebumps. He departed from his written speech to hold forth eloquently about his American dream. And that dream was inconceivable in 1963. Here, the relevant portion:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

Fifty years later great progress has been achieved. However, speaking at yesterday’s gathering, the black sports star Bill Russell admonished his audience not to rest on past achievements. He told listeners not to measure progress by how far we’ve come but by how far we still need to go.

There is much truth in that, however, it seems to me so much has been achieved that it must be acknowledged as a major miracle.

RETRACTION

I feel a great need to retract a statement that I made as a reply to a comment on my last (guest) post on Italian politics. I agreed with Alison that we were powerless to have any affect on what’s going on around us on a national or international level; that yes, it probably didn’t matter much whether we knew what’s going on in the world or not.

After revisiting the events of 1963, I must retract those views. If those black and white individuals had not been determined to change their world, blacks would still be living the lives of semi-slaves and whites would be the perpetrators. I am so grateful to those people who had the courage to march and to protest non-violently despite police brutality, who weren’t satisfied to sit on their couches and live with the world as it was. Thank you for changing our perceptions. Thank you for proving that the actions of individuals do count.

Do we not owe it to them – and to ourselves – not to relinquish our responsibilities, not to disenfranchise ourselves? Because if we do not participate on some level in making our society a better place for all, we have little right to damn the Germans in the twenties and thirties for allowing a Hitler to happen.

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Filed under American history, civil rights, Remembering

US ELECTION 2012 – Universal Suffrage for All!

Tomorrow the world will watch as US voters go to the polls. The campaign process, which takes up a good two years of a four-year term of office, has once again driven Americans to distraction with the non-stop ads on TV, press and radio. Millions of dollars have been spent on this process – and I risk changing that verb from “spent” to “wasted” – without the cause of democracy being served. Then there is the time and energy the sitting president had to devote to getting re-elect rather than to surviving the country. What a wast of resources. Wouldn’t it be possible to limit the length of the campaigns?

 In the end the Electoral College will vote for the President and the popular vote will be overridden by this vestige of an 18th century system developed to ensure that an agrarian and illiterate society would not make the wrong choices. In previous elections we have experienced just how unfair that can pan out. Yet there seems to be no movement towards changing or abolishing this outmoded system. Probably because it did manage to serve the guy who made it to the Oval Office without the benefit of winning the popular vote. But that is just one bugaboo I intend to address today.

 The US is a global leader, whether it really likes it or not. Somehow I think it does relish this position although the leaders can find it to be a nuisance. However, the country is so big that many of its citizens barely register that the world beyond their shores exists, much less that it is greatly affected economically and politically by the policies pursued in Washington.

 When visiting the US I am always struck by how little news seeps in about what is going on in the outside world. Yet Europe – and unfortunately I can only speak of my experience in Europe – watches the US carefully, waiting for what it will do next, hoping that the US economy won’t catch a cold or – horror! – come down with something even more grievous and contagious. For every policy implemented in Washington affects the entire global community.

And folks, here it comes, my solution to this untenable situation: voting rights for the US presidency and Congress should be extended to every man and woman across the globe. I can’t help but be reminded of the angry American Colonists in the 1770s when they were taxed by a British king and his Parliament without their having representation in that forum. If I’m not mistaken, it led to a war of independence. And now in the 21st century with globalization being the watchword, we are all dependent on what happens in Washington, without the right to influence it.

 Thus, while the populations of the rest of the world watch the outcome of the US election with bated breath, many Americans stay away from the polls and relinquish their right and their duty to themselves and the rest of humanity. Rather than electing a president who is capable of leading the whole world and not just prepared to serve an elite constituency, the non-voters of America disenfranchise themselves.

So let’s hear it for universal global suffrage! I certainly know who the Germans would elect – hands down – if given the opportunity to vote. And it wouldn’t be the R & R ticket.

 

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