Winter is coming…

It has been three months to the day since my last blog post – the longest gap I’ve ever taken since I started writing it over four years ago. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say – I’ve had PLENTY to say, perhaps too much. And so I’ve been biding my time as I try to form coherent thoughts.

I have been beyond upset and outraged at the dumpster fire that America has become in only three weeks. What Trump has done so far does not affect me personally, but so what? I think that is what saddens me most – the complete lack of empathy from so many people. As long as their precious lives are not impacted, then you know, whatever.

But that’s not how I roll.

I don’t care if it doesn’t directly impact me. If it’s wrong, if people are being oppressed, if rights are being trampled, if laws are being broken, I am sure as hell going to say something. Shake your heads and laugh at me, call me a “snowflake” or a “libtard”, tell me I should get over it all you want – doesn’t matter. I truly don’t understand how so many people can just look the other way right now. Caring about others doesn’t make me a snowflake, it makes me a good person.

I don’t have any kids and I’m not a teacher, yet I worked tirelessly against Betsy DeVos’ confirmation. Because I care about all children and teachers whether I know them or not. And I saw many of my teacher friends get really involved and engaged in the effort to oppose DeVos.

But what about the issues that don’t directly affect your job? Will those same people, for instance, oppose the dismantling of the ACA because without it people like me (a freelancer with pre-existing conditions) will have no options for affordable health insurance. Teachers have health insurance and repealing the ACA won’t have a huge impact on you  – so, will you just sit back and say “not my problem” or will you remain engaged? I fought for you, will you fight for me?  I’ll be very interested to see how that plays out.

I am truly heartened by the expat community here in Europe who are actively engaged, despite the miles between them and their home country. We are speaking up and speaking out. We are making phone calls, and donating money and marching. And even though we do not live in the United States anymore, WE VOTE!

Yesterday, one of my Paris friends added me to newly formed Facebook group called “The Resistance Abroad”. Amazing! Just because we are far away, does not mean that we aren’t ready to fight, that we won’t remain engaged and informed and action-oriented – that we won’t do whatever it takes to make a difference and take our country (yes, it still is our country) back.

Call us snowflakes if you like, but, as I saw in a meme recently, know this:

WINTER IS COMING.

Apocalypse Now…

Okay, maybe “Apocalypse Now” is overstating the situation a bit, but not by much. And also – FUCK!

The thoughts have been swirling around my head at the speed of light since Tuesday night and breaking them down into cohesive, cogent sentences is proving illusive. But “FUCK!” pretty much covers it, I think.

I was going to do a long, detailed post about everything that is wrong about what happened on Tuesday, but I realize, with most of my readers at least, I am preaching to the choir and those facts don’t need to be reiterated here when others have written far more eloquently about them.

But I do still have a few things to say, however incoherently…

First off, I am so effing lucky to be an expat. Later today, I get to fly back to Ireland – a country that has its own problems, sure (repeal the 8th!) but at least they didn’t elect a Cheetoh as leader of the free world.

I also realize that I am witnessing these events from a place of privilege. I’m a straight, highly educated, white, upper middle class woman. Okay, that last one is a tick against me but still, if I am scared what must other, more marginalized folks, be feeling right now? I want to give them all a hug. I want to tell them that it’s all going to be okay – even if I have serious doubts about that.

To quote my BFF-in-my-own-mind Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” So…

Muslims – I love you.

LGBTQ people– I love you.

Immigrants – I love you.

Women – I love you.

People of color – I love you.

Hispanic people – I love you.

Poor people – I love you.

And I will do whatever I can to fight for you during what I fear is going to be a very dark time.

You (we) are the ones who can make America great again.

Not Donald Trump.

The World Turned Upside Down…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the UK has voted to leave the EU. To say I am gutted is an understatement. I am also so angry that I can barely form coherent thoughts.  I therefore want to apologize ahead of time for what will most likely be an inarticulate, curse-laden post. You have been warned.

So, the Brexit. Let me try to summarize how I am feeling:

  • First of all, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m mean seriously – fuck.
  • A majority of people over the age of 65 voted to leave. To which I say, fuck you old people. You’ve just royally screwed the younger generations because you want to return to the good old days. Today’s youth are the ones who are going to have to actually live with the decision you made. The prospects for those grandkids you dote over just got decidedly more dismal. Well done.
  • However, turn-out in areas with a higher percentage of young people was lower than in other areas. So, to those 18-24 year olds who didn’t feel the need to vote – this is what you get. If you didn’t vote, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • We are now seeing all over the TV and internet news people with “bregret” (can we seriously stop with the cutesy names?) – those who didn’t actually realize what a leave vote would mean for them and their country but voted to leave anyway. For fuck’s sake, do your homework people.
  • And then there are the protest voters. Those who voted to leave as a protest because they didn’t think that enough people would vote leave for it to actually win. Seriously?! YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To all those “Bernie or Bust” people out there, please learn from this. A protest vote from you could very well be the reason President Trump gets sworn in next January.
  • The British Pound, not surprisingly, has tanked. I am currently paid in sterling and in the past two days have suffered a €10,000 cut in my salary. Same job, same responsibilities, same hours, A LOT less money. Fuck you very much.
  • The amount of racism and bigotry that I have seen displayed since Thursday is truly astonishing, and scary. This vote was about xenophobia more than anything and that makes me want to weep.
  • I am an immigrant. And to those who say to me “Well, we don’t mean you when we say we want to keep the foreigners out”, I say “Fuck you.”  I am an immigrant. I am a foreigner. If you don’t want “them”, you don’t want me.
  • I once thought I would like to give living in the UK a try. Not anymore. Why would I want to live in a place that is going backwards? Sorry, London – we could have had a beautiful thing, but it’s not going to happen now. I’m holding out hope for Edinburgh though, as the one good thing to come of this debacle could be Scottish independence.
  • Donald Trump and Sarah Palin both rejoiced that the leave vote won. Need I say more?
  • We are now living in a post-factual world. The actual truth doesn’t appear to matter to many people any more. They hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. Seriously, when did FACT become a four letter word.
  • If this can happen in the UK, then Trump can win in the US. Come on, America – now is your chance to show the UK that, despite their fancy accents, you really are the smarter of the two. Don’t blow it.
  • Fuck.

Trump Change…

I arrived in Dublin in November 2012 – the day before the Presidential election to be exact. And I learned very quickly that asking someone who they voted for isn’t considered rude, as it is in America – it’s just making conversation. Not surprisingly, it was definitely a popular topic of conversation as soon as anyone heard my accent. Taxi drivers, hotel clerks, waiters – everyone was very interested in who this American had voted for. And I was happy enough to engage in the conversation. Being a staunch Obama supporter and knowing that the Irish generally feel quite positive about him, I didn’t think I was in danger of getting into any fierce political arguments.

Now another American Presidential election is upon us. And, here in Ireland, both friends and strangers alike are keen to talk to me about it again. But this time, instead of inquiring about who I am supporting they pretty much just want to know – WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?! The election has gone in a direction that no one predicted. The entire world seems to have been blind-sided – and you all know why.

Trump.

In much the same way non-Americans ask me to explain “why” each time there is a mass shooting back home, they now ask me to explain “why” each time Trump opens his stupid mouth and says something that, up until a few months ago, would have been unbelievable. And my answer is the same. I have no effing clue. I can no more explain why a scary number of Americans love Trump than I can explain why those same Americans love guns.

It has been very interesting (in the same way a car wreck is interesting) to watch the rise of Trump from a distance. Even six short months ago, it all seemed like a joke. Sure, Trump was running but there’s no way people could be stupid enough to believe his racist, sexist, mono-syllabic bullshit. Now, he is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee. WTF? This is scary. And not just for America, but for the world.

Because, whether the rest of the world likes it or not, the person who is President of the United States is a matter of importance and significance to everyone, not just Americans.

And Trump as President would be a scary, scary proposition for the entire world. This is the man who promises to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep all the rapists out. This is the man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. This is the man who advocates war crimes. And, oh yeah, he apparently has a big penis.

Please do not ask this expat to explain what is going on in her country because she can’t. I have no words of explanation for this. I cannot begin to understand how this has happened. Or what could happen.

I cannot even fathom an America where Donald Trump is President. I have no idea what that America would be, but it certainly would no longer be my America.

If you leave…

I am writing this post in the lounge at the Manchester airport as I wait for a flight to bring me back to Dublin after being in the UK for business this week. And just last week, I was in London for business as well. As a result I am more aware than usual of the goings-on in the UK.

Something that has been in the British news of late is David Cameron’s fresh-off-his-win promise to hold a referendum by 2017 to let the people vote as to whether they want to stay in the European Union or not. I do not claim to know why the UK would not want to be in the EU anymore. I have no idea about the intricacies of British politics. But since it is something David Cameron supports I suspect the reasons to be rather douche-y.

Even though I do not live in the UK, I am rather worried about this referendum, precisely because someday I may want to live there. Perhaps even someday soon. There is a lot going on in my industry in London and beyond and to have that door closed to me would be rather devastating.

I have mentioned my worries to some UK friends and they seem to think there is no way it will ever happen. I’m not so sure. After all, this was a major point on Cameron’s reelection platform and he won. So, doesn’t that mean, by deduction, that the referendum will have a majority of support as well?

Again, I don’t really understand British politics and, even if I did, it’s not like I have a vote in the referendum. But if it does pass, the Golden Ticket that is my EU passport will indeed lose some of its luster.

Making History…

Friday was a huge day for Ireland, and frankly, for the world, as Ireland became the first country in the world to pass gay marriage rights via a popular vote. The “Yes” campaign did a fantastic job of registering young voters and getting their message of equality for all out there. And in the end, it was a landslide victory. The air in Dublin yesterday as the results from each constituency came in was absolutely electric. And when the referendum was declared officially passed at about 7pm last night, I think nearly all of Ireland united in one big cheer of sheer joy.

And this in a country where homosexuality was a crime until 1993. Utterly amazing. The times they are a changing, indeed.

Now, I am not gay and I am not married, yet as a human being, the results of this referendum were very, very important to me.  I hated that I could not cast a vote. Only Irish citizens in Ireland are allowed to vote. I talked a bit about voting in a previous post, but I’ve learned more about my voting rights since then. As an EU citizen I am able to vote in European elections and in local elections here in Ireland, but not in referenda.

And honestly, though I desperately wanted to vote in the referendum, I understand why I couldn’t. I am not an Irish citizen. I live in Ireland and have for over two years but I do not know how long I will live here, so should I have a right to vote on something that will change the Irish Constitution?  I don’t think so. And so, though it pained me to be on the sidelines, I understand not being able to vote.

As an American citizen and an Italian citizen, I do have the right to vote in both those countries even though I do not live there.  Heck, I have NEVER lived in Italy but I still have a vote. Italy used to have the same rule as Ireland where you had to physically cast your vote in country even if you were living abroad. However, that was changed in 2001 when a law allowing Italian citizens living abroad to vote by postal ballot was instituted. And sure enough, whenever Italy holds an election, I get my ballot via special delivery post. But even though I have the right to vote in Italy I do not always exercise it. Sure, I could just tick a box or two on this ballot written in a language I don’t read or speak, but is that being a responsible citizen? I do not live in Italy.  I do not know that I ever will. But nevertheless, I have been given a vote and I take that very seriously. I only vote in Italian elections in which I am well-informed and on which I have a strong opinion. 

I am also still a registered voter in the US and I will always vote in those elections. As someone who has spent most of her life in the States and whose family is still there, I have a vested interest in the outcome of American elections. So you can bet that I remain an informed and active voter even though I no longer live there. 

A vote is a right, but I also think it is a privilege and something to be taken very seriously. As I witnessed yesterday, something as simple as a vote can change the world. And that is a powerful thing.

Crossing lines?

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh for a wedding. More specifically, I arrived there on Friday, September 19th. One day after the Scottish vote for independence. Not surprisingly, this vote was huge news just about everywhere in Europe. And even those of us who do not live in Scotland and, therefore, didn’t have a vote had definite opinions about how we would vote if given the opportunity.

This got me thinking about the privacy of voting in general and how differently it is regarded here and in the States. My political leanings and affiliations are fairly obvious with just a cursory view of my Facebook page.  One can probably predict with a good degree of accuracy how I have voted in the past few Presidential elections and how I will vote in 2016.

But, what struck me when I moved to Europe was how okay it is for complete strangers to ask you how you are going to vote, or how you voted.  I had been living in Dublin for just days when the 2012 Presidential election took place and, once people heard my accent, their next question to me was who I voted for. Taxi drivers, hotel reception clerks, waiters – just about any stranger I met felt perfectly okay asking me a question that most Americans consider nearly as invasive as asking how much money one makes. I didn’t mind answering – mostly because I knew that most everyone I met probably would have voted the same as me, given the opportunity. I knew I wasn’t going to get into any lengthy, uncomfortable debates about American politics.  I’m not sure a Romney supporter would have faired the same way.

And it isn’t just Ireland that inquires so openly about one’s vote.  Back in November 2000, I was visiting Paris for Thanksgiving with my BFF. Though the election had been held more than two weeks ago, a winner still had not been declared and, of course, this was huge news in Paris (and, I imagine, just about everywhere). We were in line to climb the tower at Notre Dame where a slightly grizzled but still friendly Frenchman was taking tickets. He heard our accents and before letting us proceed asked in heavily accented English – “Bush or Gore?”. Our answer met with his approval and we were allowed into the tower.  But again, being in Europe, we knew that our choice was the popular choice over here – had we answered “Bush” we probably would have had to save the Notre Dame climb for another trip.

I don’t get offended when people over here ask me how I am going to vote, but I’m also not really itching to ask anybody about their vote when I am in the States. In America, who you vote for is a private thing unless you choose to share it. It’s a line you don’t cross unless invited to do so.  And here in Europe, at least in my experience, who you vote for is a perfectly acceptable form of small talk. I don’t think one way is better than the other. It’s just yet another way European and American sensibilities are different.

And it’s another difference that I find quite fascinating.