Third Time’s A Charm

I would like to take a moment to congratulate France on their election results. After a run-off between the decisevely fascist Marine Le Pen and the pro-EU, pro-immigration independent Emmanuel Macron, Macron is the new President of France after a crushing victory.

Many of us were worried for the future of France given Le Pen’s frightening popularity. The isolationist, ultra-right wing populism streak infecting the western world was ominous for France. However, very fortunately, France did not follow in Britain and the US’s footsteps.

Most of the credit, of course, goes to the French people. However, I think that they were also fortunate when it came to their timing. Had their elections not happened after Brexit and the US’s Presidential campaign, there might have been even more apathy directed towards this run-off, and Le Pen might have had a better shot at winning. Another contributing factor, I think, was the presence of another establishment outsider, another option to vote against the status quo who was not a foaming-at-the-mouth racist.

I think that, more than a streak of racism and bigotry, we are in the midst of a streak of deep frustration with the current ruling parties, the establishment, and the embedded circle-jerk corruption. This anger and resentment is what propelled Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. For this reason, I think that a US Presidential election between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have ended very differently indeed. Sadly, we will never know what would have happened in that case.

Either way, I am glad that France went in a different direction. While Emmanuel Macron is young, inexperienced and had little track record for one to judge him against, his inclusive rhetoric at least makes me confident that he was a better choice compared to Le Pen. I wish him the best of luck, and let’s hope that France will bring forth the positive change that is so desperately needed right now.

This Might Work

I had myself a little pity party over the weekend. Someone vandalized my brand new scooter that I was so very proud of, after exactly one week of being in my possession, I lost my key to work, and a bunch of other minor First World Problems ganged up on me and got me stressing out. In response, let’s have a little political satire, shall we?

 

Has anyone actually thought to try it? It might actually work.

And I Know It Worries You

The recent comments of a Polish politician on women’s rights has been spread far and wide on the internet today. My favorite format, however, is this video which includes a direct response from a Spanish MEP.

 

I like this video because her response is the thing that you have to keep in mind when confronting someone who is so brazenly, unabashedly misogynistic. It is very similar to those who are brazenly, unabashedly xenophobic. They are the ones that feel small, weak and inadequate. They are the ones that, deep down inside, know that they will not make the cut if they are subjected to fair and open competition with women or immigrants. People who are confident in their abilities and their strengths do not bother arguing against opening up the workplace and giving others opportunities to compete, because they do not fear being out-competed. But people, especially men, who deep down know that they don’t match up reject this feeling, lash out, and reassure themselves that at least the virtue of their body parts from birth puts them above other people, and that they will always be superior to someone.

I say especially men not because I think that men are more likely to be assholes, but because men are also victims of a patriarchal society in this case. There is a lot more pressure put on boys to be strong, to show no fear, to become breadwinners. It is for this reason that I think that men are more likely to lash out in the face of their inner feelings of inadequacy. Luckily fewer and fewer boys are being raised in this antiquated mentality, and hopefully people like this will become an old relic of the past. I simply bring it up because it needs to be repeated: men are hurt by patriarchal societies too, just in different ways. Let’s do away with it then, shall we? And those who bleat be damned.

Cultural Differences: Carnival Celebrations

Yesterday was the last day of Carnival, and so Christians around the world are getting over their celebrations and starting their fast for Ash Wednesday. I have lived in 3 different Christian-majority countries in my life, and one thing I noticed is how very differently Carnival is celebrated across the world.

Generally speaking, the purpose of Carnival is twofold: First it’s to get the partying and gluttony out of your system before embarking on the restrictive and pious period of Lent, and the second is to have a period of time in which societal norms are challenged and broken, if only for a short period of time. However, the way that different cultures do this varies dramatically.

In Italy, Carnival is mostly a children’s holiday. Kids dress up, throw colored paper confetti all over the place, and their parents accompany them though they hardly ever dress up themselves. There is also the saying a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale, which means at Carnival any joke goes, making Carnival a time for childish pranks similar to Halloween in the States. Carnival is so much a kid’s holiday that if you are an adult, dressed up and unaccompanied by children, people will look at you like the weird childless man lurking around the jungle gym.

The exception to this is Venice, where Carnival is very much an adult holiday. Originally, Carnival was the day that social stations were voided, as people were not recognized as a person but as a mask. They would address each other as Mister or Lady Mask, and once this suspension of societal norms was acknowledged by the other by responding in the same way, they could proceed to speak to each other in whichever direct or lewd way that they pleased. These days, on the Tuesday before Lent you will see some truly spectacular masks and breathtakingly elegant costumes, though the real parties are the ones that go on behind closed doors. While I have never been invited to a private Venetian Carnival party, the rumors of what goes on in one abound. Rules of prim societal conduct are suspended, children are not around, and everything from bawdy jokes to excessive drinking to cheating on spouses is supposedly tolerated and expected.

In Brazil, Carnival is also an openly sexual holiday. The skimpy Carnival costumes are famous across the world, but many people don’t know that it is also very common for complete strangers to kiss each other in the street. If you walk around Salvador during Carnival, for example, be prepared for people to come up to you and plant a nice smack on the lips. This is not considered cheating or an invitation to come to bed (though many might still take you up on it if you propose it), but rather an open celebration of joy. The sexual connotations of Carnival are also mirrored in Louisiana for Mardi Gras, which is famous for young people getting quite drunk and quite naked.

In Ireland there is no such thing as Carnival, but rather they refer to Mardi Gras as “Pancake Tuesday”, where everyone eats a whole lot of pancakes. The idea is that you use up all of the sweet things in your house by using them as pancake fillers, thus removing temptation from you home during Lent. This was by far the tamest kind of Carnival celebration that I have ever experienced.

In Germany, the situation is different still. While not all areas of Germany really celebrate Carnival, it is certainly a very big deal in Nordrhein Westfalen, and most famously in Cologne. Here, both adults and children dress up and celebrate Carnival, and adults will often even show up to their office jobs dressed as everything and anything, from giant pink bunnies and Disney characters to dictators. I was surprised to find that, when in Cologne for the Carnival Monday, the parade threw candy into the almost exclusively adult crowd, which fought ferociously over the candy scattered amongst them. I discovered that, if you want to keep a single piece of that candy for yourself, be prepared to use your elbows.

The breaking down of societal norms in this part of Germany has much less to do with open sexuality, and far more to do with political commentary. If you are a man in Cologne on the Thursday of Carnival, make sure that you are not wearing a tie, unless you appreciate groups of angry German women brandishing scissors to chase you down and cut it off. Thursday is the Women’s day, as a rebellion against a male-dominated society. On this Thursday many women will take the day off work, hold women-only parades, storm and take over offices of the city hall and yes, cut off men’s ties as a symbol of rebelling against male oppression.

The political tone of German Carnival celebrations is also evident in the floats that are used during the parades. Two such floats in Düsseldorf made headlines around the world, as it was quite a harsh take on the current American political climate.

I would say NSFW… but then again it was shown on the news. Let’s say, NSFW in the States, perhaps.

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I Agree With… Franklin Graham?!

There has been a lot of chatter about the current Trump Administration, the sweeping executive orders that he has signed, including what is or is not considered by many to be a “Muslim ban”. So far I have steered clear of this conversation, partially because I think that no one on this network disagrees that Trump is a loathsome human being, and partially because my recent crazy schedule has made me unable to properly update myself on current events from sources more reliable than facebook statuses.

However, some of the shared articles on the subject cannot help but catch my eye, and one such heavily commented article popped up on my feed yesterday, entitled “Franklin Graham said immigration is not a Bible issue. Here’s what the Bible says“.

I groaned.

The article is an opinion piece from the Washington Post. Despite the right wing leanings that the WP has been taking so far, I still allowed myself a little glimmer of hope that this piece would go on to explain how this argument has no place in politics. So, I clicked on the link, and read on.

Attempting to defend the ban from a religious point of view, evangelist Franklin Graham declared, “That’s not a Bible issue.”

He could not be more wrong.

Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are clear and consistent when it comes to how we are to treat the stranger. Across the books of both testaments, in narrative, law, prophecy, poetry and parable, the Bible consistently spells out that it is the responsibility of the citizen to ensure that the immigrant, the stranger, the refugee, is respected, welcomed and cared for. It is what God wants us to do, but it also recognizes that we too were immigrants — and immigrants we remain. “Like my forebears, I am an alien, resident with you,” says Psalm 39.

The piece gets no better, and I’m going to stop you right there.

This argument is completely moot. I don’t give a flying rat’s fart what the Bible says about this issue. Even if the Bible only contained a whole lot of love and peace, and none of the sticky bits about conquering and enslaving different tribes, I still wouldn’t give a rat’s fart.

Whether or not the immigration ban is consistent with the Bible has no bearing on whether or not it is consistent with the United States Constitution, founding principles, or common human decency. How many times do we have to repeat that the United States Constitution is great because it establishes a secular nation. Religious people can debate amongst themselves about whether or not they like the immigration ban because of what they think the Bible says, but that conversation is appropriate to a religious forum, not the Washington Post. I would also not begrudge nerds worldwide debating whether or not they favor the immigration ban based on the principles of Star Trek, but I would likewise raise an eyebrow if such a discussion was brought up in the New York Times, rather than at a Star Trek convention.

It is precisely this special privilege that the Bible holds that makes this discussion not only moot, but counterproductive. Giving this debate a platform on one of the most established newspapers in the United States simply reinforces the idea that conflating religion and government is perfectly legitimate in the United States. We’re now arguing over whether or not the Bible condones Trump’s immigration ban, instead of focusing on whether or not the immigration ban is consistent with what the United States is and should be about, regardless of what the Bible says about the issue. If the Bible said “There will come a Trump and the faithful should oppose every executive order he ever signs” I still wouldn’t care, because the US is not Vatican City, or Saudi Arabia, no matter how much the religious right want it to be.

So thank you Washington Post. In a bizarre and extremely ironic twist, you’ve made me agree with the loathsome Franklin Graham. The immigration ban is not “a Bible issue”. It is an issue of politics, legality, human rights, and Constitutional principles. Now, please, let’s bring the argument back to a place of common sense, and let’s stop allowing the Christian right to normalize the conflation of religion and government by allowing this nonsense debate to continue any further.

Italy Just Threw Its Hat In The Ring

2016, you’re just all-round sucking. First, we had Brexit. Then, we had Trump being elected. Now, Italy has just voted No for a constitutional referendum, causing Matteo Renzi to step down.

While I am not surprised, I am incredibly pissed.

Usually, the Italian people are quite politically savvy. When I say that, I don’t mean that they make the right choices (never forget our own brand of Trump: Silvio Berlusconi), but rather I mean that many more people are politically informed, and vote, than you will find in many countries. While, for instance, you will find many more Americans being somewhat informed and/or invested in the stock market than you would find in other countries, you will also find the average Italian engaged in political debates not just about their own country, but having a rudimentary knowledge about the political processes of others as well.

Not this time. This time, the misinformation reeked.

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They Said It Far Better

I don’t really want to post endlessly about the US elections, they are over and done and we all need to accept the fact that Trump is President. A few days ago, I also posted about how annoyed I’ve been at the finger pointing and bickering in the wake of the US elections, putting forward my thoughts as to who this whole mess actually happened. Today I’ve watched a few back episodes of TYT and, I realized, I should have just posted one of their videos instead, as they are the professionals and they’ve explained what I was thinking far, far better than I.

 

If you don’t have 17 minutes to dedicate to political analysis, this parody video also sums up one of the core reasons Hillary lost in just a few seconds.

Let’s Play the Blame Game

America’s been shot through the heart. And who’s to blame?

OK enough of that.

Yesterday, I posted about how the people of various nationalities reacted to the news that Donald Trump is now the President. As of yesterday the sheer magnitude of that fact had not sunken in yet, as I proclaimed 2016 to be the most bizarre year of my lifetime, thus far. Today, as I take to Facebook and see how my American friends who live in the States are reacting, I can’t help but get slightly annoyed at the whole lot of them.

After the initial and completely understandable cries of shock, there immediately followed a squabbling of the sort barely fit for a second grade schoolyard.

Deport the Bernie Sanders supporters! It’s all their fault that people don’t like Hillary!

Those of you who voted third party are no longer my friends! Fuck you this is all your fault!

No, it’s the people who didn’t vote! It’s their fault! How could you not vote in such an important election!

It’s all old people’s fault! Young people voted Blue! Fuck old people!

No, it’s young people’s fault, for not having voted more!

How dare you care about principles? Being principled is being privileged! It’s the hipsters’ fault!

Stop talking about Bernie Sanders! Us moderate Republicans who never wanted Trump in the first place are going to rally to him now if all you talk about is a Commie who promises free stuff for everyone!

People. Enough.

Yes, Trump being President is a scary reality that few people anywhere thought could ever have been possible. But now it is a reality, and this squabbling will get us nowhere. Do you know what else is a reality? There is a giant portion of the country which is outraged, and wants to make sure that Trump is not able to enact his vile, hateful policies and campaign promises, destroying the world economy in the process. That is also a reality, and squabbling over whose fault it is, raising hackles and alienating every single person who shares your goal of opposing Trump, but did not decide to vote exactly the way that you did, will get you precisely dick.

There are a million reasons why Trump won. For decades, the US has had one of the lowest voter turnout of the developed world, due in large part to the fact that it is an incredibly complicated voting system, as well as intentional measures to suppress voter turnout, exacerbated by the repeal of key parts of the Civil Rights Voting Act. Meekly letting that skate by, and accepting it as a fact of life, does not then give you the right to turn around and scream at people who didn’t vote in this particular election. Maybe, instead, acknowledge that the voting system is at best flawed and at worst designed to have as few people as possible voting, and make fixing it a cornerstone of your platform going forward.

Do not condescend to progressives who didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Some voted for her, some voted third party, and some didn’t vote at all, but they are adults who made their own adult decision. The American political system allows for third parties and for people to decide whether to vote their conscience, or vote for the lesser of two evils. Do not pretend to love democracy, and then scream at adults who choose to not employ their democratic vote the way you see fit. Maybe, instead, acknowledge that the United States was founded to get away from monarchies and aristocracies, and that in this election people finally had enough of it. Enough Bushs, Clintons and Kennedys. Enough telling us that it is this person’s “turn”, as if anyone has a fundamental right to the Presidency. Acknowledge that it is time to return to actual representatives, who represent the people, and listen to those people when they have concerns, instead of telling them to shut up, heel, be a good dog and vote no matter how poorly represented, or how ignored you feel.

I do not think that the majority of the country actually wants Trump to be President. I think that Trump (accidentally) capitalized on this fragmentation, and bickering, and squabbling, and rode a wave of extreme right wingers who came out to vote for the very first time and tipped him straight into the White House. If you actually want to prevent him from enacting his loathsome policies, continuing the very squabbling that won him the Presidency is most likely not going to do it.

Putting aside left vs right policies for one second. Can we all agree that it should be easy for every eligible voter to vote, across the entire country? Can we agree that it should be no more difficult than buying a cup of coffee? If my pathetically organized home country of Italy can make it that easy, the US certainly can, if they have a mind to.

Can we all agree that allowing giant corporations to buy elections is the antithesis of democracy?

Can we all agree that people actually want to be heard, and represented, rather than insulted, and condescended to?

There is a unique opportunity here to unite rather than to fragment further. Regardless of how differently you would have acted if you were in another’s shoes, I beg you to not let that stand in the way of uniting with those people under a common goal. This has happened, there is no going back, so maybe you can use this as a lesson and an inspiration to fix a broken system. You can find so many allies and together, stronger, you can fight for a political system in which people participate, and feel included, and feel represented. United, you can put enormous pressure on your representatives, whether they have an R or a D next to their name, to not allow Trump to run roughshod over the country.

Or you can keep pointing fingers at each other and bitching until you’re blue in the face, while Trump skips along unawares doing whatever he wants in the face of a fragmented thus nonexistent opposition. There’s that too.

The Foreign Reaction

As the news of a Donald Trump Presidency sinks in, I am watching my family, friends and colleagues react to the news. The first reaction was just a blanket shock all-round. No one actually believed it would happen. They joked about it, the could-you-imagined about it, they you-never-knowed about it, but no one actually truly thought it would happen. I was the one that gave the possibility of a Trump Presidency the most credence and even I didn’t think it was going to happen, I was playing more of a Devil’s Advocate than anything else. Then it did. There was a general nervous laughter, and then the true reactions started to come out.

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WTF Just Happened

I did not follow the US election very closely over the past few months. I was sick of hearing about it, everyone including FiveThirtyEight was quite sure Hillary Clinton would win, I went to bed knowing that I could check the results in the morning. “Remember Brexit”, I told people last night, “She’ll probably win, but you never know!”. I didn’t really believe what I said, but my training keeps me from making definite claims about anything that is not definite.

So this morning, I did not rush to my computer, but eventually got around to it, thinking I would know what I would find. I didn’t.

The President of the United States, for the first time in history, is a Bright Orange Cheeto. Bright orange cheetos everywhere are rejoicing at their historic representation, I’m sure, but the rest of the world is shocked.

I posted before about the concept of protest voting and why a progressive might want to allow a Trump Presidency to happen. Admittedly, I wrote that very early on, before half of the shit on Trump came out. Either way it doesn’t matter, he is President now, so all I can do is hope desperately that the silver lining appears, and that his election will throw gas on the progressive fire that was lit by Bernie Sanders so that next time, in four years, a true progressive is elected, and real change happens.

Here’s hoping.