A Refugee's Story - from Reddit user throwaway387de

Reddit post from a refugee:

"This migrant crisis in Europe has got me thinking a lot about you again. After many years of bittersweet memories and pent up emotions (I can't decide whether it's nostalgia, sadness, or anger) it's time I let them go.

The war started on my first birthday. Four months later I officially came from a country that no longer existed. It was a civil war and things were too messy with neighbours turning on one another, and with my mother being a muslim and my father an orthodox christian we had no other option but to get out (neighbours constantly threatening to behead their children wasn't their cup of tea).
So we somehow fled to Slovenia. But they didn't want us. (Though it would have been perfect since we would've been so close to all the family that we had left behind).

And then we moved on to Austria; where we were taken in by an Austrian family (who already had five kids) and they lived high up in the hills and holy shit they became our second family. We were allowed to stay there for 9 months before Austria told us that it was time to go.

But the war was still raging on back home. Where to actually 'go' was as much of a conundrum as ever. But that's where you come in Germany. You allowed us to cross that border.

And you placed us in a refugee camp for a year (which was amazing because we had a whole bungalow to ourselves!). The town was called Braunlage and it was in this scouting / ski location that you allowed us to call home for a while, and the place was filled with Balkan and Russian refugees where we all actually had a great time and all us kids used to hang out and we'd come home at 2am (including us rebellious post-toddlers!) because the parents were in too debilitated and depressed of a state to actually care.

And then Germany, you tell us that we're allowed to stay for even longer, years even! And we're all ecstatic, and slowly my mother tongue (which was Russian) slowly begins to transform into German, and then an Egyptian landlord contacts us and tells us that he's heard about our situation and how the kids were riddled with PTSD, so they've got an apartment for cheap and it's up north in a town in Braunschweig ready for the taking. So off we went.

That's where we spent the next five years. Where we were given 400 Deutsche Marks every six months to go to C&A and buy ourselves a shitload of clothing, where my best friends were called Lisa, and Werner, and Otto, where our neighbour gifted us a used radio so we could listen to some diaspora recall the dead for the day, where random german strangers would knock on our door and offer us food and hand-me-downs, where the local toys 'r' us fooled me into thinking I had won a competition and handed me over with a gift card, where my nerd of an older sister was refused entry to the best gymnasium (because she was a refugee) but then the whole town rallied against the decision. They were good (occasionally hard) times — but the good definitely surpassed everything.
But then we got a letter in the mail. It was time to go, they were getting rid of all of us. In hindsight, I guess it makes sense. The war had ended, no more excuses. But you never considered that our dangers didn't end at that time (people had done ugly things in that war), where after six years I might've considered you my only home and that it was going to take me some time to comprehend that you no longer wanted me. I remember my mum tucking me into bed as I cried to her, 'why doesn't my country want me anymore' 'this is not going to be your country for much longer' 'which place will?' 'i don't know' 'then where am I from?' and she told me and i cried even harder because I couldn't even pronounce the name of the place let alone speak the damn language.

And I re-read all those newspaper clippings from back then, how we were told that we were detrimental to the economy (which we were), how we provided no benefit to the country, how they wanted us gone, how we were humans they no longer wanted to have responsibility for (and they were right). Didn't mean that we didn't take it hard. So you stripped my parents of their working rights; my engineer of a mum and my professor of a dad became cleaners for the disabled before that too was put to a hold.

Mine and my sister's classrooms came to see us off at the train station. I remember the teachers crying, tissues in their hands as they waved us off. That was that.

We soon (and finally) found home somewhere else. More than fifteen years later and I'm finishing off my postgrad at Oxford Uni when I'm approached by a German professor, there's a bit of talk when he finally says 'why didn't you stay in Germany? We would have loved you and your family there!!', and I think that I just laughed and responded with 'it was too cold!'.

I get that you didn't want me Germany, even though at one stage in my life you were the only thing that I knew (I thought I was you). I get that at the time you saw no worth in me, even though your citizens disagreed with that. But this was a little child's grudge that I couldn't let go off.
But in the end I just want to say thank you, God knows where I would have been without you. I have no idea how many debts I'll have to repay until we're even. Danke danke danke (I'm over it now).
http://i.imgur.com/2lSfN0Q.jpg?1 (me and my Russian pals!)

Edit: Thank you all so much for your kind comments! I just wanted to emphasise that this was not an attack on Germany, instead it was a thank you. I'm old enough now to understand why we had to be expelled (and that their reasons were definitely justified - they took care of us for six years, that's a lot to be thankful for!!!), but I just needed to get rid off a childhood grudge (kids don't really understand the economy and politics)- hence this post. Although I do have to give an apology to Germany; after spending six years in its borders (and being a native German speaker), I completely forgot the language - it's a travesty and something that my sister won't stop poking fun at me for. I'm giving it another try with duolingo though - we'll see how that goes!!


Kevin McGuigan is Dead

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Kevin McGuigan was an IRA assassin.  He was blamed for the killing of Jock Davison, a former IRA leader.  According to the Guardian, his family believes McGuigan's killing was done by the Provisional IRA.  This opinion is shared by bloggers more apt to report word of mouth.

A review of violent terrorists' fates provides a short list of outcomes, in my opinion:
  1. most likely you are killed by your "friends," and this option is first by a long shot,
  2. second-most likely you are killed by similar groups who are in bitter competition with your group, 
  3. third-most likely you are killed by whatever government you oppose, 
  4. fourth-most likely is you become a violent criminal, 
  5. fifth-most likely is you kill yourself,
  6. and lastly, and very rarely, you survive to embrace peace, and become an activist or politician.
So if we were to draw lessons from this list, it would be that choosing to express your political ideas through violence puts you in league with others who do the same.  And, what do you know, they tend to express non-political opinions with violence also.

A paranoid, suspicious group of people, used to betrayal, who kill others to achieve their goals, will naturally turn on one another.

This is not an opinion on who is responsible for Kevin McGuigan's death.  I have no idea.

But in general terms, using violence to achieve goals tosses out the people who do the fighting.  Even if they win, they don't.


Rape, "Social Justice Bullies" and Older White Male Aristotelis Orginos

Aristotelis Orginos writes about "social justice bullies" and "identity politics" by examining the Rolling Stone "rape article" incident.

He points to Millennials as the problem, when the real problem is a character issue not specific to either political beliefs or a generation. Both left and right political stripes have narrow-minded, intolerant believers. In a short-lived blog in DailyKos, I was attacked by liberals for suggesting that Amazon tribesmen should be given the option of getting housing and health care. The belief was that "their way of life" should be left untouched. Fine, if that is what they want. But shouldn't they be given the right to choose? None of my detractors would give up their air conditioning and clean water to return to the practices of 500 years ago. "They live longer, healthier lives" while naked in a dangerous Amazon forest, were the claims - which is patently absurd. Many commenters hadn't even left the U.S., relying on stories of shoeless children in the American south to inform their opinion. Never mind how that relates to the subject. It doesn't.

My DailyKos experience showed me that narrow-minded, irrational thought is not isolated to a generation or political party. It was quite a shock. I will admit to the elitist presumption that such character traits were limited to uneducated, conservative watchers of Fox News. I was wrong.

The rape dialog is separate from Originos' complaints about an entire generation. His reasoning misses the mark. The point of taking identity into account is including an introspection of one's own biases in analysis.

Nowhere in Orginos' remarks does he include his own experiences as someone who knows a person who was raped. It would add to the conversation to know what the culture surrounding accusations of rape when he was young. What does he remember? I want to know how his life has informed his thoughts, analysis, and yes, possible bias.

Because we all have bias. Analysis without acknowledging our own perspective and its limits and strengths is limited. That is the strength of identity politics.

Do you want a discussion of rape, and the presumption of belief? Let's.

Petula Dvorak and Plagarism

A common practice in the print media before the Information Age was:  if you gave anything to a reporter they could put their name on it and say they were the ones who did the work and had the idea.

All that is over now, of course.  Most people get their news from Facebook and Reddit.

But old ideas die hard, it seems.  Reddit user KATSUICHI observed recently that Petula Dvorak is trolling Reddit threads for her column in the Washington Post.  

Accusation aside, reporters who lift information, or quotes, or ideas from Reddit without attribution are plagiarizing.  I know, it is what has always been done.  Power of the pen, and all that.  Words in a newspaper have led to big changes in our world since our country was founded.  A watchdog media is part of our democracy, and any attack on independent media in other countries is seen as a rise in authoritarianism. Not going to argue that point.

But all the while, it really has been "power of the printing press."  Writers, alone their garrets, do not influence government and laws.  People need to be able to read what is written.  They need to be moved by the words.  They need to read them in the first place.  It may be one of the reasons for the squeals of rage from the mainstream media:  loss of power. News organizations were the gatekeepers of what people knew and believed.  

Now everybody has a printing press, and taking ideas from people isn't seamless and invisible.  

Being "qualified" to be a reporter for the Washington Post no longer means accomplished and special.  Petula Dvorak's actions demonstrate that it probably never did.  She "trawls," in the words of KATSUICHI, for ideas, rewrites them, and presents them as her own.  Plagiarism.  It's been going on for over a century.

When I wrote for Georgetown & Country,  a local paper centered on Georgetown happenings in the Nineties, a Washington Post reporter phoned our garden editor and asked that our paper be sent to her each month "because we have such good ideas for stories."  No attempt at hiding a bald intent to steal ideas.  Why would she?  It is how things were done, prior to the Internet.  Our garden editor refused and hung up.

The Washington Post is no stranger to plagiarism scandals.  It's only a suggestion, but now would be the time to update your policies on that, before another kerfluffle forces it.


Karl Marx Won - But Not in the Way He Imagined

For anybody who has read Karl Marx' Das Capital, it is a tough book to read.  Not because it is so complex or deep, but because that jerk is so offensive.  Das Capital provides a thought map to the earliest communists, and damn if I don't just want to hop into a time machine and slap their faces.

My favorite Marx term is "lumpenproletariat."  He means lower class people who he compares to animals, including that they are disposable for his political cause.  Marx rails against the class system, but as sure as an anti-gay politician in a public restroom, he is blind to his own ironies.

But, as the Buddhists say, you can't have flowers without the manure.  Marx did have some valid ideas, and arguments could be made that the manure of his personal attitudes are what fed them.

Karl Marx did win, because he predicted that workers would gain power and organize.  They did.  And despite the fall of union political power, that gain can be seen in other ways right now.

I'm talking about flexible workspaces.

During the '90s, worker power could be seen in relaxed dress codes, flexible work hours, and open space architecture.  Workers needed to be kept happy because they were really needed, since people had more options for making money.  Articles were written about how the U.S. State Department was losing talented young foreign service officers to private companies.  This was a situation that was new and frightening to the established hierarchy there.  Heretofore, young people with an interest in foreign affairs had one option: the State Department.  In that little fishbowl, advancement was doled out to the loyal and obedient.  Enter the modern economy, with much need for energetic people with new ideas.  Suddenly, there were options.  No one had to suck it up and play the game.  Hence, the talent drain.

Of course, here and now unemployment is a serious problem.  The official statistics are lies and have lost credibility - we all know unemployment is widespread.

But one essential truth remains, workers are needed to do work.  So the return of the post-collegiate worker space is a sign of optimism.  Otherwise, why would there be a need to keep workers happy?  No one would bother with it.  Wages are increasing also.  The term "livable wage" has been created and is well-known, even by Marx's lumpenproletariat.

So the worker's paradise isn't looking like Marx expected.  It is clean air, water, a living wage, rest time and health care.  Owning the means of production, as Marx predicted, is done through the marketplace of the stock exchanges and the pension funds that own those stocks.  It is a pleasant office environment that fosters creativity from employees and support their ideas.

It isn't about controlling all the capital at all.  Sorry, Karl.


Sentimental Racism

The wheels of justice are spinning themselves silly for the South Carolina shooter.  The state court can't lock him up and send him away fast enough. The speed at which the justice system is moving suggests an injection of crystal meth.

Media reports say he has already confessed - which indicates no attorney is representing him.  The extradition hearing has been held within 24 hours of the shooter's arrest.  Usually, legal representation is required for an extradition hearing.

They can't get this guy out of the headlines fast enough.

For a longer, more careful process would reveal uncomfortable truths about the racism behind this attack on people praying to G-d.  It would highlight that the Confederate flag really does mean racism, and that honor and respect for racist institutions through street names and court house names has moral weight.

That's a little too much to deal with for the modern South Carolina state.

If the death of praying, upstanding citizens is the price for their sentimental racism, then by G-d those Southern states are willing to pay it.  Because recognizing their passive role in this tragedy is still too much, it seems.


CNN Promotes Terrorism #SCShooter

What's in a name?

So we are horrified once again about another angry white man killing innocent people.  It is finally being called what it is - a terrorist act.

Previous mass shootings have had the media response of glorifying the killer.  Buckets of ink were slobbered in national publications on the life story of the killer, the family of the killer, the educational history of the killer, the childhood friends of the killer, and people who would have been friends with the killer except they lived on the other side of the country and never met him.

The media enters this mastabatory frenzy about the mass killing and its perpetrator.  The killer's face is shown on television and graces the front page of news websites and magazines and newspapers.  The chattering bobbleheads do not stop steering the conversation away from the word "terror" and "institutional racism."

The terrorist's name is repeated and the lobbyists sharpen their swords.  Before the blood dries on the sidewalk, or in the church, the terrorist is labeled "a loner" and "an outcast" so everyone can get the "let's make a change" feeling out of their system.

Putting a mass killer's picture on the front page of your publication promotes what he did.  It's like making the promo photo for a play larger than the bad review.  People will see the photo and not really look at the evaluation.  The mass media will not take responsibility for their unthinking promotion of killing many people at once with guns.  Reporters deflect responsibility for the results of their actions and frame the debate in commercially reasonable ways.

So here we are again.

Finally, this young white man is starting to be termed "a terrorist."  And people who support him are "terrorist sympathizers."  And groups that espouse the killer's methods are "terrorist organizers."  And the media who glorify these mass killers are "terrorist promoters."  I'm looking at you, CNN.


Rachel Dolezal and Racial Identification

Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote in TIME magazine that Rachel Dolezal "can be as black as she wants."  His argument is that she has been an asset to the Afincan American community through teaching classes, advocating, etc.  It's a good point.  I mean I don't care, it doesn't bother me.
My opinion isn't solid, though.  About twenty years ago, two blonde white men standing at a card table called out to me on the street.  The greeted me nicely, were friendly and chatty.  "Don't be an anti-Semite," they said with a smile.  Odd.  It seems these cheerful gentlemen were standing at their temporary table in Foggy Bottom, DC with pamphlets claiming that G-d's "Real Jews" were in the United States Midwest.  Not the Native Americans, mind you.  The Swedish and Norwegian immigrants and their descendants are the "Real Jews" and the people killed by Hitler were "fake Jews."
So how do I feel about this self-identification?  Offended.  Of the two men had claimed to be Jews from one of the lost tribes, I wouldn't believe it, but it wouldn't offend me.  If they claimed to be Jewish and started protesting soldiers' funerals, I would be angry and denounce them as poseurs.
Of course, I am open to the same criticisms myself:  I identify as Jewish - but it was a journey starting at my grandmothers funeral, where the chaplain referenced Grandma's Jewish prayers of her childhood.  My sisters and I were flabbergasted.  We had never heard of this idea, and we were all in our 40s.  We asked, immediately, our father and he just shrugged and said "I'm a Unitarian."  Nothing else.
Since then has been an exploration of my religious identity.  At first, I walked around randomly saying, "I'm Jewish."  "I just found out I am Jewish."  At home, to friends and at work.  It was hard to get my head around.  Added to that were the sparse written records for my Grandmother and her mysterious first eight years in Michigan that no one knows anything about.  And her last name was different than her eleven brothers and sisters.
Of course, Grandma was my father's mother and so only Reformed Judaism  consider me Jewish.  But I wasn't really thinking of that.
Slowly - out of curiousity and with the prompting of a friend - I attended classes and services.  The messages resonated.  Friday rituals were started lighting candles and blessing the cat and the dog.  Eating habits changed to exclude pork, shellfish.  Still a weakness for cheeseburgers, though.
My family's reactions was mixed.  Justin, my husband, was very supportive.  So were other family members.  Nieces and nephews raised their hands in class when asked if anyone had someone Jewish in their family.  That makes me smile.  Other family members were not so supportive, and I get it.  They share my history and don't consider themselves Jewish at all.
The problem with this late awakening is all the information I missed about my heritage.  the average six-year-old in shul knows more about being Jewish than I do.  A synagogue looks different than a church and that homey, comfortable feeling is just missing.  Prior to this, the emotional attachment to architectural styles and décor was not there.
Then there was the whole exploration of faith.  Culturally, the Reformed congregations appealed the most for the openness to all of the community, including gays.  In terms of deep connection to G-d, the Orthodox provided the deepest experience, but the warning to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt was a little off-putting at a minimum.  "You don't have to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt, but you might feel uncomfortable if you don't."  Uh, great.
So far, the experiences that have best suited me are associated with Rabbi Avis Miller and the Sixth & I synagogue.  I like a place that "meets you where you are at" as my friend Lisette says.  Because, quite frankly, I am all over the place.
So going back to identifying as black by Rachel Dolezal it must have started young and taken root strongly.  As Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Report pointed out, "Her parents must hate her."  She must have little fondness for them either if her wholesale rejection of her ethnic heritage encompassed a rejection of them , too.  Later reports of custody fights, homeschooling and Christian fundamentalism fill in the background on that story, and makes it more believable.
So we can agree - there's a whole lot of animosity in that family.  Rachel Dolezal's reaction to it was living life as a black woman.
Maybe the only people who can judge her are black women.  It's not like she was doing something offensive or scandalous.  But then that's just my perspective.


Princess Diana & Beau Biden

I woke my parents up at one a.m., crying and sobbing when it was confirmed that Princess Diana was dead.  And I never phone my parents after 10 p.m.  Ever.

My father listened to the news with taciturn silence, while I went on and on about the tragedy, the injustice, the paparazzi.  Dad is a no-nonsense guy.  He is tough, and raised tough daughters.  He takes pride in that.

In the years prior to Princess Diana's death, he tried to develop his empathetic side.  And it was a visible struggle.  So I took his silence to mean sympathy and agreement.  Wrong.

"It's not like you knew her," he said.

Accurate.  True.  Rational. Reasonable.  But so not helpful.

Mom grabbed the phone at this point and made the appropriate noises to comfort me.

Dad was puzzled enough about my emotional outburst that he asked my sister Trisch about it, and expressed concern that I might be coming unglued.

Of course, strictly speaking, Dad was right.  Princess Diana was someone I never met. But I related to her.  She was everywhere, with media saturation for years.  We all watched her transition from shy and awkward girl who was punked by photographers, to a princess in a fairy tale, to a neglected wife, to a jazzy divorcee.

Her life was photographed and judged by us all.  She is arguably the most photographed woman that ever lived.

So while watching Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks become very emotional about Beau Biden's death, I thought "It's not like you knew him."


Beau Biden survived a tragic car accident that killed his mother and sister.  He dedicated his life after that to public service, only to die before his time from cancer.  Beau Biden had a tragic start to a shortened life.  His father was a U.S. Senator, and then Vice President.  He could have cashed in on those connections, but did not.  He chose to serve.

And that's where I see the real parallel between Beau Biden and Princess Diana.  Both were dealt a rotten hand and chose public service.  Princess Diana was sucked into her royal role while still a teenager as baby-making machine for the royal family. All the attention was turned to holding AIDS babies in hospitals and clearing land mines.

Vice President Biden deserves our sympathy and respect at this sad time, where he chooses to continue to help other people despite his grief and loss.

Sorry you are going through this, Joe.