A Day in the Life of an Expat

I read the news today. Oh boy.

On Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, I awoke in the five o’ clock hour and just lay there in a half-asleep state, my brain still feeling the effects of the sleeping pill I had taken before going to bed. I use them only rarely now, when I know it will be impossible to shut my brain off in order to fall sleep. This was one of those nights. The day before was the 2016 presidential election back in my home country, the USA. In Sweden we are several time zones ahead, so when I finally pulled my groggy ass out of bed at six AM, it was still going on. The polls had closed but they were counting up the votes. I went to sleep the night before feeling relatively confident that Hillary Clinton would win, hopefully with a sizable landslide. Of course she would win. Everybody said she would. They had totally dismissed Donald Trump’s chances and were already talking about her presidency in the present tense. When she wins, they said, the cult of personality started by Donald Trump and its zealous adherents will still be around, and they will be very pissed off and very loud. She will have to figure out how to deal with them and heal the country. This was the constant narrative being repeated during the final weeks leading up to the election.

But then, the totally unexpected happened, was still happening as a matter of fact, as I opened up Facebook fully anticipating the messages of triumph and joy from my American friends. However, those weren’t the messages I saw. Instead, I saw a lot of updates written in full caps, about the shock and despair and horror they were feeling. Wait a minute…

Thus began the Five Stages of Grief.

Denial:

My husband made us coffee as I sat there reading those updates, not fully comprehending what I was seeing. “Uh…so it looks like Trump won,” I reported. The words hit me like a sledgehammer. My heart was pounding in my chest, like I had just finished running a marathon. At first I actually thought this had to be a joke, that my friends were mistaken. Or they were trolling. I mean, there’s no possible way that Donald Trump could be the next president of the United States. Right? That’s just ludicrous.

“Whaaaat?!?” His response was undoubtedly being repeated around the world.

I should have been getting ready for work, but at that moment all I could do was sit there, ignoring my coffee and trying to figure out what had just happened, because it hadn’t really happened.

Bargaining:

After all, they were still counting up the votes and neither candidate had reached the 270 vote threshold in order to win. He was ahead but there was still hope. There was still time. It hadn’t happened yet. Hillary could still win. And she was AHEAD in the popular vote! But Trump had taken North Carolina and Ohio and…Florida. They said that if Trump took Florida then he would win. It was well and truly over.

Depression:

I somehow managed to shower and dress myself and board a train to take me into the city to work. I sat there on the train feeling completely numb. I no longer wanted to look at Facebook. The updates and articles being posted were just too goddamned depressing. I needed to try and focus on the day ahead of me, on my students. I teach Home Economics at an international school in Växjö, Sweden, and I went over the things that needed to be done. The ninth graders would be baking little meat pies and spinach-feta pies and I had to make sure I bought Quorn crumbles for the vegetarian students so they could substitute those for the ground beef in the meat pie. The sixth graders were making candy apples and caramel popcorn, and I was wondering where I put the Popsicle sticks.

I had to switch to a bus when I got to the train station in Växjö. It was a minus four (24 Fahrenheit) freezing cold morning, as November mornings in Sweden typically are. The bus was late, and as I stood there on the totally exposed bus platform, for fifteen minutes, then twenty, and then twenty five minutes, I watched bus after bus which wasn’t my bus drive by. I thought about jumping in front of one of them. I didn’t want to live on this planet anymore. Nothing made sense. Donald Trump had won the election. He had done every single thing wrong, lost all three debates, committeed gaffe after gaffe, and got caught doing and saying things that would have been deal breakers for literally any other candidate. And yet, he won. Hate had won. Sexism had won. Racism had won. Bigotry had won. Islamophobia had won. Xenophobia had won. Anti-Intellectualism had won. Stupidity had won. The Ugly American had won.

By the time the bus finally arrived, I couldn’t feel my toes, so instead of throwing myself under it, I boarded it and felt its delicious warmth surrounding my body.

Anger:

I eventually got to work. Groceries were bought and I welcomed the distraction of lively practical lessons. Every now and then, an American colleague would ask me, “So, are you a proud American?” in a can-you-believe-this-shit-is-happening kind of way. Swedish colleagues would ask me how I felt about the election, and I would tell them that it hadn’t really sunk in yet. Right before my last lesson, there was some kind of minor drama involving two students’ lockers. They both started chattering at me in rapid Swedish and I couldn’t really understand what they were saying. At that moment, I couldn’t have cared less, and I told them so. “I don’t care.” I was fighting back tears at this point. If I get an email from a parent informing me that they didn’t appreciate me telling their kid that I didn’t care about their problem, then I would apologize and tell them that Donald Trump had just been elected president and I was barely holding it together emotionally. And they would totally understand.

There was a staff meeting directly after my last lesson, but I decided to skip it. It was almost miraculous that I managed to show up to work at all. Throughout the day, a various times I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “WHAT IS HAPPENING????” As I sat on the bus on the way home, it finally sunk in. This was reality. And the tears finally came.

Acceptance:

For some reason, my left ankle was killing me all day. I must have taken a bad step and twisted it. I limped through my lessons and when I got home, my husband took a look at it and said it was all swollen and bruised, like it was sprained. I have no idea what happened. I certainly do not remember spraining my ankle. But I must have. Nothing to do now but deal with it.

Dear Deplorables…

…now that you have it, what are you going to do with it?

My parents, some of questionable sanity, instilled a sense of obligation in me at a young age. Confronted at the age of four with anti-Semitism by the family up the street, my father (the sane one), showed me how to manage bigotry in one sentence and a door slam. Both my father and my stepfather taught me that it is my moral obligation as a Jew to ensure all minorities, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other category, are safe from harm.

Throughout my life, I have seen and experienced prejudice, discrimination and overt racism directly and indirectly: at school, at work, during my leisure time, while participating in the most mundane activities or the most critical. It is not dramatic when someone says these experiences can be traumatic and terrifying. When your concept of safe spaces are corrupted, life does become unbearable.

When I speak up, when I interrupt, I fear people hear the words and the voice of a crazed individual ranting on a street corner. Yet, if I don’t, I wonder “who will?” So I do. I do me. As I was raised. As I was inspired by my father, my hero, one of my best friends. And I know I am not alone. I am so fucking blessed to count amazing, brave and bold people as my friends. Men and women who stick their necks out every day to stop injustice and make this hellscape a better place for the benefit of others and not themselves.

As I watch the election returns trickle in, I sit in awe. Of all we have been taught, of all we have learned, the path we are, as a nation, choosing to go down is one of hate and fear. One of intolerance and exclusion. One of complete and total lack of regard for our fellow human beings. As a society, we have committed to dismissing the pain of others. As a society, we have dedicated ourselves to perpetuating stereotypes, false information and lies. And for whose benefit and what cause? To satisfy fear and ignorance. For it is much easier to hide behind the cloak of intolerance than it is to confront our bias, own our weaknesses and grow as people.

Every single man, woman and child in this country, citizen or non, deserves better than what is unfolding right now. This is not the “change we need.” This isn’t the punishment we deserve for our bad behavior, either. This is, simply put, bullshit.

To the deplorables, the leaders and the followers, this is yours now. The responsibility. The accountability. The time for bluster has passed. The time for action has arrived. You must now prove to every single person you are not the bigot you claim you aren’t. You must now prove to every person that you are, indeed, human. You must now earn our respect.

Your margin of victory is small so don’t think of this as a referendum or a free pass. Our black lives still matter. Our safety in public toilets still matters. Our freedom to follow whatever religion (or none at all) is still ours, per The Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled our same sex couples can get married. You don’t have to like or approve of these basic principles but you will still have to accept them. Just as we have been living with your intolerance all of these years.

Show us you can lead by building the bridge to healing. Show us you can lead by being humble and decent. Show us you are anything but the horribly behaved example you demonstrated throughout the election. The ball is in your court. The burden has become yours.

Tim on Tim…

…and The Replacements.

I love politics.  I love music.  This is not a secret.

Imagine my splodey-hearted-and-headed joy when I read that Tim Kaine loves The Replacements.  Imagine my bliss when he quotes “Bastards of The Young.”  Imagine my being unable to function for the rest of the day as I sit at my laptop and draw hearts in the air with one of my eight legs while dreaming of the potential Vice President and Paul Westerberg.  Together.  With Tim playing in the background.  All of the Tims.  All of the time.

There has been nothing redeemable about this shitshow of an election cycle.  My child cannot watch the debates, let alone the news, with me.  I have been called a Skype and an Oven Dodger.  We have heard “Grab ’em by the pussy” for the first time and it’s not Mrs. Slocombe doing the talking.  For someone who finds political theatrics intoxicating, this election has been the equivalent of drinking too much grain punch from a frat house garbage can and puking down the front of your shirt in front of the really adorable guy you had been trying to get with the entire time you were in school; a messy, public humiliation that everyone is talking about.

Until now.  Until Tim Kaine saved the day and restored hope to this bleak hellscape by speaking of the underrated brilliance of The ‘Mats.

Once I’m done coloring in my hearts, I’ll cross my eight legs and hope for a Hillary/Tim victory.  Not just to restore sanity to this frothy cauldron of doom, stupidity and hatred this country has become.  No.  But for an inaugural ball befitting a modern era and featuring The Replacements as they should be – loud and drunk.

La lutte est cruelle…

…Madame Kardashian West

Poor Kim Kardashian West whose pain we can all relate to. I, too, understand the sheer terror of being held at gunpoint in a *Parisian bathtub, losing that which I hold dear and value highly.

As the day wears on and we remain distracted by the news, as we so often are, let us remember all that is important for it is not Syrian refugees. It is not children without food, schools without textbooks or adults without jobs. It’s the fate of a woman whose diamond ring and grill was ripped from her possession. A woman whose sole existence is to promote an unrealistic body type to attain and lifestyle to emulate. A woman whose come-up was a sex tape. A woman who understood and upheld the integrity of marriage…for 72 days.

That is the true tragedy of the day. And a truly awful way to begin the Jewish New Year.

Let us pray.

*Change Paris to Rouen
Change bathtub to bathroom
Add:  stench of cat urine, three bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, two hours of vomiting and not knowing where the wine ended and my insides began
Also:  jetlag

Hillary Clinton…

…and smashing the glass ceiling.

Milkface, being born in 2009, does not understand the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency. In his frame of reference, a person of color could always be president, should always be able to be president. As of tonight, we can add women to the talent pool. Milkface, his friends and many children will be blissfully unaware of the significance of tonight’s event, too.

Regardless of one’s feelings for Hillary Clinton, tonight we should celebrate an event I honestly believed I would never see. And when the celebration is over, we need to resume the hard work of advocating and supporting those who remain unrecognized and overlooked. Our nation has come so far but has much further to go.

I look at Milkface’s friends, my friends’ children, random children and want them to live in a world where opportunities are not limited by gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, economics and geography. The notion “It was that way when I was a kid and I turned out fine” must be rejected.

I’m not saying this as a mother. I’m not saying this as a professional woman who has been sexually harassed at work, paid less than a male peer, denied a job because I was “at the age most girls have children” or invited to make someone a sandwich. I’m not saying this as a woman who has been the victim of sexual assault.

I’m saying this as a human being who happens to be a woman, who recognizes that a single hole in a glass ceiling doesn’t automatically mean there is a ladder for the rest of us to climb. We, still, have to build the ladder.

Tonight, we celebrate.  Tomorrow, we get back to work.

MOAR GUNZ!!!

WE WANT MOAR GUNZ!!!
WE NEED MOAR GUNZ!!!
FUCK YOUR STUPID
REGULASHUNZ!
SHOVE THEM WHERE
THERE IS NO SUNZ!
MOAR GUNZ! FOR ALL
THE THIEVES
AND RAPISTS
MOAR GUNZ! FOR ALL
POTENTIAL TERRORISTS
MOAR GUNZ! FOR ALL
THE KILLERS TOO
MOAR GUNZ! FOR ME
MOAR GUNZ! FOR YOU
MORE GUNS!
IZ FUNZ
FOR EVERYONEZ!

Mr. Tangerine Man

Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, get away from me.
You’re so creepy, and I don’t know where you’re coming from.
Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, get away from me,
With your little sausage fingers you’re so proud of.

Though I know that people love you, and I just don’t understand.
Loyal to your brand.
So blindly follow you, though you’re so creepy.
And your appeal amazes me, grows bigger every day.
Endorsed by the KKK
They’re white supremacists. This doesn’t bother you.

Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, you are scaring me.
I’m uneasy about your fake tan and your hair do.
Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, you are scaring me.
You’re so racist and the people keep on following you.

Right over a cliff, towards the apocalypse.
Their senses have been stripped, as you smirk and purse your lips.
Your hands too small to steer the ship, cannot wait to get a grip,
On the nuclear codes.
But first we gotta keep the Mexicans out, so we’ll build a great big wall.
Over two hundred feet tall, and make them pay for it all.
You promise that will show them.

Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, get away from US.
I entreaty you to leave the United States alone.
Hey! Mr. Tangerine Man, get away from US.
Do not dilly dally, just shut up and just go home.

Just because something is free, it doesn’t mean it has no value.

Okay, so apparently some people think that if Bernie Sanders were elected POTUS, and he was able to make higher education in the United States free, it would make higher education essentially worthless. Their reasoning goes a little something like this:

If college were free then everyone would go to college, right? Universities would have no entrance requirements whatsoever and would accept anyone who applied. And you would certainly not have do any studying at all in order to graduate, so naturally everyone would finish college. Therefore, every single person would have a degree, even the people cleaning public toilets. Everyone would demand a living wage. The impact on the economy would be disastrous.

Do you really want to live in the kind of world where everyone makes a decent living? What about our god-given right to piss and shit all over the poor just because they’re poor? That’s what Jesus would do.

Anyway, if you are one of these people, please keep the following in mind:

The idea that everyone is going to have a degree just because college is free is ridiculous. Here in Sweden, it’s believed that you shouldn’t have to pay an extortionate amount of money or saddle yourself with a huge debt in order to obtain a college education. Therefore, tuition for higher education is free. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone goes to college. Some would rather start working right away, just like in the United States.

Furthermore, the value of a university degree here is not diminished in the slightest just because you weren’t charged any tuition. University degrees are not easy to get and universities are extremely selective, more so than in the United States. After all, they want to make sure they aren’t wasting tax-payer money on someone who isn’t completely qualified and committed. I have two degrees and excellent transcripts from a top liberal arts university in the States. I have tried twice to get into university here and they’ve rejected my application both times. And yes, you still have to study your ass off in order to earn a degree. A four-year bachelor’s degree earned at an American university is worth only three years’ worth of credits here.

It’s totally nonsensical to assume that just because something that is free it has no value.  A “free” university degree here in Sweden is actually worth a hell of a lot more than one you bought and paid for. After all your hard work, you were deemed worthy and granted the enormous privilege of being accepted to a university and earning a degree. And NO ONE takes that lightly.

Naming names…

…or not.

“I will not name the shooter.  I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice.”  John Hanlin, Douglas County Sheriff

And many other peanuts.

There’s a new way to deflect any discussion about gun control after yet another mass shooting.  Rather than actually engage in thoughtful discussion about gun control and, I don’t know, do something about it for once, we’re going to offer up our prayers and tears and recognize those who have fallen, support the families of the victims and deny martyrdom to the criminal who committed the crime.  The mentally ill, white man who shot up this week’s target of choice, a community college in Oregon, shall remain nameless.  So sayeth the sheriff (who did not get shot and certainly not by me who is fundamentally against firearm ownership) and basically everyone else who wants to feel better about themselves but doesn’t want to do much more about the social cancer killing 380 people so far this year and injuring over 1,000.

Nope.  We’re not naming names.

Nope.  We’re not going to change.

Nope.  There is no problem here.

None.  At all.

Except there is.

And we should likely do something about it.

As of today, we have ticked 275 boxes off our calendars.  As of today, there have been 294 mass shootings in the United States.  Is this acceptable?  Can we really sit around and feel comfortable with our ability, as a society, to responsibly manage firearms?

Now, I know those pro-gun types are going to thump their chests and drag out the whole Second Amendment argument.  Very well.  You just won’t ever feel safe in your own homes without your well-regulated militia, will you?  Do you mind if I ask you a very serious question, then?  When is the last time your well-regulated militia assembled to discuss battle strategy?  Are your learning materials coming from Annapolis or West Point?  Who is the General?  Do you have a secret handshake or get to wear a hat like Fred Flintstone’s Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo?  Going bowling with your buddies while secretly wishing you were hanging with The Dude and Donny doesn’t count, either.  I really want to know about your well-regulated militia.  Please leave feedback in the comments below for my edification.  Thank you.

As for the individualists out there looking for an argument – you are not an island.  You are not entirely self-sufficient.  When you drive on the road you built entirely by yourself, live entirely off the grid, rely on no one, then you can moan about your individualistic rights to owning a gun.  Until then, shut your foodholes and accept the fact that you are, indeed, not the sun and Earth does not orbit around you.  You, individualist, may actually have to do something selfless for once in your life.  I know, here’s a hanky.  It’s tough out there for a pimp.  But really, I can empathize.  Shit, I can sympathize.  I used to smoke like a motherfucking chimney and when I had to start huddling under an umbrella in the rain because you didn’t like that my second hand smoke could kill you, I wasn’t upset with you, personally.  I recognized that I had a very dangerous hobby/habit that I needed to surrender.  And I did.  And I’m better for it.  You will be, too.  Trust.

To speak to the naming of the names, the next time there is a mass shooting (because there will be a next time), I think, instead of acting pious and saying “I’m not going to allow the shooter a moment’s glory or let him be a martyr.  Noooooo sirreee, Bob!”  I think we should start naming donors to the NRA.  I think we should start naming the lobbyists.  I think we should start naming the Congressfolk on the take.  If we’re not going to name the perpetrator, let’s name the accomplices, instead.  Maybe, once everyone realizes the blood is on their hands too, they will take a long, hard look in the mirror, man up, put down their inane instruments of death and finally accept the fact that their little toys are dangerously stupid and offer little value to the greater good.

Fear and Loathing Subsides……..

Wow.

It’s June 27th, 2015, ten days after the slaughter in Charleston’s AME church, and a day after Barack Obama delivered a eulogy in that same church, at the funeral of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney.

I have just had to time to watch it in full.

This is a good man. A real man. A man of substance.

I find my thoughts drawn to Hunter S. Thompson. HST was the keenest poltical writer America has ever known, in my opinion. He saw the big picture. Always. In a way it was his curse, and I think what created his cynical, biting edge. But he wasn’t cynical for the sake of cynicism. He was that way because he saw the whole machination at once. Many of us only see the figures that appear out of the cuckoo clock on the hour, but Hunter always saw the wheels behind those doors and understood them. One of his last books was Better Than Sex, an almost grudging tribute to Bill Clinton, whom HST saw as a perfect politician, because of his natural charisma, and his ability to play that machine better than he ever could that saxophone of his.

But HST could not have foreseen Obama. He could not have dared to have hoped that large, except perhaps maybe in his heart of hearts, where only few, if any could see. I think if Hunter were around today, and had not taken himself out (yes, I’m still pissed at him for that, I miss his voice in this world) he would be describing Obama as “the perfect blend”.

Does he know and play the political game? Of course he does. He has to. No one becomes President any other way. But no President in living memory could represent what he stands for, and could have stood in that pulpit, and delivered that eulogy in the way that he did. He did so from his heart, with conviction and passion, and in a way that showed what Christian ideals are when they are understood and lived properly, regardless of the theology. The social side of the church. He did not bow, or hide his faith, nor did he trumpet it as better than any other.  Indeed, he spoke of the church’s actions in fighting actively for change as representing not just Christians, but all Americans.

In a time with so many divisions, Barack Obama is a courageous, tireless, intelligent, passionate, unifying force. Sisyphus with a mission. Sisyphus with a quiet stubborn streak. This man is something we have not seen in leadership in a longtime. He is an inspiration.

I am willing to bet that Hunter would have admired Mr.Obama a great deal. Would he have found some stuff to be cynical about and written about that? Of course he would. But looking at the span of what could have been his lifetime – from Richard Nixon, whom he viewed as the epitome of evil, all the way up to Obama, and the escalation of changes in between, I am convinced he would have seen Obama as just that – the perfect blend, and the person America, and the world, was ready for and needed.

May the remainder of his term give him the leeway to continue the path he is on, and has been on from the beginning, and may his legacy become clear in his lifetime, and even moreso in the history to be written.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/obama-clementa-pinckney-eulogy-charleston