It’s supposedly a well known fact that most accidents occur in the home – or what one might call the home environment since I am sure we can agree, Polunsky is not home in the usual sense of the word – and the home is often the most dangerous place in the world, since we are used to it and take everything there for granted. We know our way around, and can almost navigate our main rooms in pitch black, but still this is where we tumble and break bones and generally make a mess of ourselves. Something that we do each and every day suddenly becomes dangerous or, as in your case, throws us completely off balance with painful results. Most times we can laugh about it afterwards, and it is often the case that anyone seeing our predicament will laugh before realising that something is wrong and taking any action to help.
Believe it or not, I see much the same analogy with the present political predicament in the United States: an accident has happened and, since the full extent of the damage caused to the body is not realised, many people are standing around, pointing and laughing. Or, now that various actions have been carried through to the detriment of the nation and its people, and various meetings have taken place on an international level, that is the way it was. I suspect the laughing has stopped now, certainly on an international level, and the process of damage control has begun. I remember seeing he look in Angela Merkel’s eyes as she held a joint press conference with Trump; absolute disbelief at something that he said which, to my way of thinking, was her first realisation – in public at least – that things are not as they should be. Following the G7 meeting damage control has begun: Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated –with a strong handshake – that Trump is not the only one with power in his hands, and Angela Merkel has told her nation, and Europe, that the continent can no longer rely on the United States for support in many areas of politics and world affairs.
How can an intelligent nation – you ask – elect such a man? Well, we all now know what he is capable, or incapable of doing, and we are all aware of the misogynistic attitude he holds towards women – a women’s health conference and commission with only men? – as well as his sexist attitude and the craving for his name, in a purely egocentric but almost paranoid manner, to always be front and centre. These things were all known before, but no one wanted to accept them. There is still the attitude in some parts of the United States, and some countries in Europe, that a successful person must be capable of bringing success in whatever field he (not she) attempts. This is clearly not the case, as a matter of common sense, and certainly not in his case; one only needs to reflect on the manner in which he treats his employees, and the fact that five of his businesses have gone bankrupt.
Again: how could an intelligent nation elect such a person? It depends also on how you rate intelligence, on whether you wish to compare it according to the levels of education across the country, across individual States or even on an ethnic level. You must also remember, and this is particularly so in the United States, the party system is ingrown: once a Republican always a Republican, father to son, regardless of the politics themselves, regardless of the policies being touted. Many Republicans – and Democrats before them – have been surprised that the policies they voted for when electing someone to high office have badly affected them. News stories of Republicans calling for the repeal of Obamacare (a name that I hate since it brings out only the worst in people) who do not care because they are insured under the ACA; and now realising that Obamacare and the ACA are the same thing. Or a woman who voted Trump because of his immigration policies, and was then amazed when her undocumented husband was deported.
Trump, in several European countries as well as parts of the United States, has been compared to Adolf Hitler, something which I disagree with on many levels. His election may be compared, but the man and his policies are worlds apart. Hitler came to a nation suffering from massive unemployment and the effects of peace treaties with the other European nations designed to subdue if not destroy the country. He was elected on the popular vote, democratically, having called for employment, for immigration controls, for many popular and worthy causes too. This can be compared to Trump, although his facts and figures used belie the truth: unemployment was low; manufacturing high; the esteem with which the United States was held overseas was high; immigration acceptable and, in many areas, vital. He played on the fears of the masses, feeding them falsified information, and they accepted it because this is what they wished to believe. A person who loses his job is going to look for someone else to blame first, never himself. Of course, Trump was helped in no small measure by the media and by the growing party-political divide in the United States. Libtards and snowflakes and all the other names thrown about because people do not wish to discuss, do not wish to risk hearing a different version of the story. Many years ago I heard of a New York professor who told everyone – through Facebook – that she would never read The New Yorker because it had a different political opinion to her own, and she is someone who teaches students.
The European press has handled Trump in a completely different manner to the press in the United States. There has been less of the party line, since it doesn’t work quite so well here, and more an exploration of his facts and figures, motives and background. It is fair to say that the bulk of the European press painted Trump in a bad light, based on his history and his attitude during the campaign year(s). Few except the hardest conservatives and right-wing extremists expected him to be elected, and it came as a great shock here too when the election results were given. Of course, under the democratic system in Europe, he would not have been elected as he did not win the popular, majority vote, but the system in the United States runs in a different manner thanks to its history.
By saying that the press is different here, that applies more to foreign countries and their politics or business to the country in which a paper is published. German news media can be just as partisan as the media in the United States, and we’ve recently seen how partisan the British media can be, over the slaughter of European ideals and the decision – thanks to the same fake news and alternate facts Trump used – to leave the European Union. As in the United States, those who supported the winning faction are now being confronted with the hard facts of their decision, and are regretting it. Even so, the party line in the United States remains the main reason why any one person is elected, and not necessarily their policies: you only need to look at the recent debacle with a certain politician standing for election in Montana to see how it works.
I live in a very small town, so there are now international newspapers available in the newsagents, and even in the next major town there are none. If I wish to read a hard copy of a paper or magazine I need to travel into Bremen, Hamburg or Hannover, or, which I once did for periodicals, order them and suffer a delay of up to a week. With periodicals this is not so bad, even though reading The New Yorker a week after it is published, bearing in mind that it is a weekly magazine, isn’t good. Fortunately we have the Internet, and I am a great fan of the many sources made available to keep up with national and international reporting and news. I have a Twitter account with a long list of news sources – both the newspapers themselves, and individual reporters – cover all aspects of the political spectrum and can pick out various versions of the same story – political colouring – at will and as they are published. Unlike some I do not limit myself to my own political arena, but take pleasure in reading both – or all is perhaps better – sides of a political debate, no matter how far-fetched a claim might be. There are some where my head is automatically shaking in disbelief after the first few words, and some where it takes a little longer, but a good mix of ideas and ideals is far better than accepting one side as being the truth and discarding all other possibilities.
To a certain extent I can understand the segregation of Muslim prisoners during Ramadan, but cannot get it through my head that this is a good thing. Admittedly it gives them the chance to practice their religious beliefs without being tempted through Christian actions, without opening themselves up to the possibility that those of another – or no – religion will disturb or upset their devotions. I am not a religious person, never have been. I believe in Faith and the possibility of a Higher Good (all these capital letters!), but not in the dogmatic ways of a set religion. Religion is one of the main causes of pain and suffering in our world, along with the greed of politics, and, to my way of thinking, a waste of time. Why do I need to go to a specific building to ask for guidance from a dogmatic entity when I have been brought up with certain moral and ethical values which should be a far better guide to my life, and my interactions with other people, than those espoused by a commission of intolerant self-elected priests nearly two thousand years ago?
I saw the bathroom law, and I’ve been following it with some interest for a few years now. The solution is so simple, I am amazed that no one can see it, that no one thinks to make it simple for all involved. As to enforcing the bathroom law: there was a case a few years ago of a policeman – or one who thinks he is because he wears a uniform and has a badge – following someone into a bathroom and challenging them. My solution would be to simply create one set of bathroom facilities, and make all of them suitable for nothing other than sitting, with enclosed space and a door than locks. No looking over or under partitions; no spraying your scent across the floor and walls; no interactions amongst parties fulfilling their natural and basic needs aside at the hand-washing stage. Perhaps the long line at football stadiums, only in front of the women’s toilets, would disappear into the history books as a result. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily work at major stadiums and public venues where thousands of people feel the need at the same time, but all other public buildings, with less of a crush, could adapt without too many problems. It would probably also be cheaper than the cost of legislation and subsequent court actions all the way up to the highest instance. However, such things are a matter of (party-political) expediency, and not conscience or the good of the people.
A few years ago a group of Americans – and a few Canadians and some from that small island off France where I was born) – came to visit me in Germany. As part of their tour here – where we split them into groups of men for the official section of the visit and women for the leisure side of things – they were sent off to take a look at the oldest part of Bremen, a small enclave called Schnoor where the houses are so close together in places, you can almost shake hands. They came back delighted from the experience for the most part, having been used to the bigger cities of New York, Baltimore and the like. There was, for one family, one small problem which they couldn’t get their heads around: wedding cake decorations in one of the small artist’s shops. I was taken to one side, since this was clearly not something to be spoken about publicly, and there were children present, and asked how it could be that a shop was offering wedding cake decorations of two men or two women rather than a man and a woman. They were equally shocked when I told them that such decorations are quite normal here, we don’t have businesses refusing to bake a cake for a couple just because they are the same sex, it isn’t even questioned: a cake is a cake, and the appropriate decoration needs to be there too. I think this was the first time they came in contact with a country where Rights and Freedoms mean what they imply, and where civil partnerships have moved on to full blown weddings for those who wish a piece of paper and a contract on a more religious level.
Homosexuals, they also told me, are far louder and more demanding in the United States. That, I told them, is because they need to be: in Europe we have discussions and compromises. In the United States you have to fight to gain what is, theoretically, allowed by law or that which should be allowed. There would be fewer civil rights demonstrations if civil rights were respected. This, of course, was not a discussion point for them, but one to be avoided and so the thoughts and ideas which could have been raised and discussed were left floating in the air.
I think I have only once driven whilst under the influence, and regretted it too; not because I was caught or because there was an accident or anything similar, but because I knew before, during and after how foolish it was. Since then I have also come to appreciate my driver’s licence as a necessity: without it I am stuck with public transport, and getting back home in the middle of the night just does not happen if you don’t have a car. And, of course, you can never guarantee the chance of being able to spend the night anywhere, should you be lucky enough to pair up at all. And I don’t feel any need to be angry with the other driver: he came out of it all with critical injuries, so I was relatively lucky. It’s also something that I cannot change, so far better to concentrate on my own health than waste time and energy lambasting someone for their mistake. I may well not have been at fault, but that doesn’t mean I have to add my voice to those blaming him for such an error of judgement. And he did telephone me – after his lawyer had asked if I would accept it – and apologised, which most people would not even have considered. One day we will meet in court and I will treat him as a normal human who made a mistake in the hope that he can continue with his life without damning regrets, but having learned a lesson from it all.
One final thing before I sign off: one global stamp for an ounce of letter; it’s considerably cheaper!