Between Spain and Me: Crónica del desamor

El frío norte

Let me tell you about a little anecdote that happened on one of my last flights to Madrid, about two years ago, I guess. I was on the plane from Zurich to Madrid, way in the back, and behind me was a Spanish gentleman, in his early sixties, I’d say. He had apparently flown into Zurich from somewhere else, and he had left something on his earlier plane. He pleaded with the flight attendant – who spoke Spanish, because in Switzerland, we speak languages – to allow him off this plane and back on the other to retrieve his item. Now, anyone who’s ever had to deal with airport security in any way knows that neither thing is gonna happen. Our flying still happens in a headspace of absolute paranoia, and regulations are tighter than Barack Obama is with Joe Biden. The man was told he could file a missing items report, and staff at the airport would do the rest.

The gentleman was not pleased. He lamented the lack of understanding in his interlocutor and lambasted the condition of both our country and our hearts. He felt that in Spain, people would have gone out of their way to accommodate him, but here, „en el frío norte“, in the cold north, we were too stuck on rules and regulations to help out a soul in need. I laughed a little, when I heard him speak about the cold north. He inversed the order of words – in Spanish, the adjective goes after the noun – to make his plight more poetic and dramatic. But my laughter also held no small amount of bitterness, because not only was the flight attendant already indulging this guy above and beyond the call of duty, Spain was and is the country where I have found the most abysmal customer service to date. I have never had the misfortune to speak to less helpful people than the employees of a particular mobile phone operator there; certainly NO ONE has ever gone out of their way to be accomodating, not even with shit that was entirely of their own making. There. In the warm south.

That bitterness, it tells me everything about my relationship to Spain, 25 years later. It is the bitterness of a broken heart. Because, you see, I once loved Spain, with the vigor and temperament of youth. But yeah, as they say, love is blind. Because, clearly, I loved the idea of Spain before I knew the reality of it.

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2017

The new year is upon us, and as is customary, I want to examine my feelings regarding the year gone by.

I Literally Cannot Even

When the Electoral College of the US chose Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States of America, I dare say, a large part of the world was in shock. There has, in the history of humanity, never been a person less qualified for the job. This statement takes into account and includes Emperor Nero, Josef Stalin, and Adolf Hitler. What differentiates them from Trump is that they knew what they were doing. They were evil, of course, but they knew the system, the people, the tools, and the limits of their power (to an extent…). They knew exactly what they were doing. Granted, they all happened before Twitter, but odds are – being the micromanaging psychos they were – they would have demonstrated better impulse-control than The Orange One. My cats are more qualified to hold that office. Hell, every single object in this room would make a better President than Donald J. Trump. Also, did he just brag about the size of his… button?

White text on black background: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good ment to do nothing. - Edmund BurkeOne unpleasant truth we must face, though, is that a shift to the political right is happening everywhere right now. The forces of Capitalism continue to pit the working class against the poor, and we keep falling for it. The result is Fascism. I am always perturbed when people wonder out loud how Nazi Germany could have possibly happened, all the while missing the signs right in front of their eyes. We are on the same track, some of us more than others. Switzerland is facing a direct attack on one of its most fundamental public services, and the fear of the outcome chills me to the bottom of my soul; meanwhile, I even have friends who don’t get it. If there are people in my own inner circle who are willing to trade a central tenet of democracy for money, then what can I hope for from the rest of the population? It is hard not to despair.

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Dear Americans: Enough is Enough

It’s been roughly a year since I last addressed you as a collective. Like most people here, I’ve watched on in disbelief, but I have given you the benefit of the doubt. Not that I, personally, had a lot of doubt to begin with. Because there was very, very little question of what kind of president Donald Trump was going to be. Now, it turns out, he is the kind of president that closely resembles the type of person he is (surprise!), commonly described as „human excrement“.

We – Western Europe, pretty much – have been having a good laugh at your expense (not you, United Kingdom). I’ve never, ever, in my 40+ years of existence, seen news anchors on boring German public TV stations use words like „ridiculous“ for any elected official, let alone the President of the United States of America. There is no shortage of candidates (Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Erdogan), but no one else has ever made them lose their cool. Sometimes you can tell they’re trying not to giggle. As a collective, we are caught somewhere between dumbfounded incredulity and morbid fascination, looking at the train wreck that is the current US administration. We gave you the benefit of the doubt, and it’s actually worse than we thought it was going to be.

Yes, it has been as shit-show from the start. He can’t hire people for shit, and when he does, he unerringly chooses the most ludicrously inappropriate person alive to fill a position. It’s the Little Cabinet of Horrors. I don’t have to talk about Betsy deVos here, as her complete lack of qualification precedes her. Kellyanne Conway single-handedly invoked every dystopian vision ever by giving us „alternative facts“. Sean Spicer, in retrospect, sounded almost competent (given what he had to work with) when compared to Anthony „The Mooch“ Scaramucci, who, I’ll give you that, was at least hella entertaining. And let’s not even go into his hiring his friggin‘ family as „advisors“ and whatnot. I’m still waiting for #45 to appoint Bill Cosby as Secretary for Women’s Rights.

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Dear Americans: Be Sensible

Dear US-American friends

I need you all to be rational now. I know you were very, very excited, and now you’re very, very disappointed. Bernie Sanders is amazing. He is what you never thought a politician could be. He is genuine, radical, passionate, and above all things, good. As in, an actually good person. Trustworthy. All those things that Hillary apparently isn’t. The movement, as witnessed from over here, is amazing. Many of us cheer for Bernie. We would elect him, here in Zurich. I know, because we have elected people just like him. Hell, we would get him elected on a national level, because we have had Chancellors just like him. Genuine, passionate, trustworthy. Who fought for their ideals, and made a real difference.

I get it. You’re terribly disappointed, because he lost those weird primaries you have. And yes, there was a bias in the DNC. You are, therefore, also furious. And you have every right to be disappointed and furious. I’ve been there. Actually, as a Swiss person, I have an opportunity to be absolutely devastated while simultaneously seething with rage every three to four months. That’s how often we’re being called upon to exercise our democratic privilege to vote. We don’t just elect governments, we also vote on issues. As do you, it’s just a matter of frequency. So, every three to four months, EVERYTHING hangs in the balance. Remember the disastrous outcome of the Immigration Reform in February 2014? Of course you don’t. The far right won with 50,4% vs. our 49,6%. Disastrous decision, far reaching results, AND SO DAMN CLOSE. Rage, I tell you. For days, my blood was boiling. But what is a body to do? Leave the country? Move to Scandinavia, because, as everybody knows, that’s where paradise is. So, in short, I was throwing a little tantrum. Kinda like you are, right now.

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