He said what now?

My reaction to the news this morning…

On the Jewish holiday of Pesach (which commemorates persecution of the Jews!) US press secretary Sean Spicer said the Nazis hadn’t used chemical weapons? What, pray, was Zyklon B? He clarified later that Hitler hadn’t used gas on his own people? What, no German Jews or German gay people or German Nazi opponents or German disabled people were gassed? And they were sent to ‘Holocaust centers’ ? What, for a conference or something? He has apparently apologized for the statement since, but I wonder, did he really learn anything, does he get it?

I don’t give a fuck that it wasn’t his intent to downplay the Holocaust – he did do it! And you only do that when deep down you just don’t get it. It reminded me of this little scene in Hidden Figures when Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian Mitchell says to Octavia Spencer’s Dorothy Vaughn that she never treated Dorothy any different because of the colour of her skin. Dorothy smiles indulgently and says “I know you probably believe that”

I am glad there was a clamour against Spicer’s statement and he did sort of apologize, but did this teach him anything? My visit to Auschwitz for the first time when I was 19 and for two visits afterwards have left a lasting impact on my life. Maybe the White House staff should do the same or at least visit a Holocaust museum, there is one right there in Washington DC…

#MerkelTrump humour

I am not going into a big political argument post here. If you read here, you may have already gathered where my political sympathies lie…

I have been following some of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Donald Trump in the US. I don’t know how the visit has exactly been received in the US, but here it seems to generally have been perceived as Trump embarrassing himself yet again. The internet has feasted on this and I just had to share! After all, the only way I can try to survive this disastrous US presidency is partake in the humour created by others and be grateful that others too keep on seeing the absolute ridiculousness (is that a word?) of this man.

As far as I could tell two events of this visit were singled out in Twitter humour. One is the handshake that didn’t happen in the Oval office. Yes, they did shake hands on other occasions during the visit but on this occasion Trump snubbed her and Merkel gave a little grimace. She does look at him like a mother looks at an over-indulged, spoilt child…

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This one below says “Did you tidy up your room? Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

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And a lewd one…

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Then there was the moment during the press conference when Merkel did a double take and looked at Trump with a WTF expression on her face…

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Yep, comments followed on Twitter…

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I so would have liked to be a fly on the wall of Merkel’s plane home to Germany and hear what she really thought of it all…

Election relief!

So, we had elections here in The Netherlands two days ago. There were real fears that after Brexit won in the UK and Trump won in the US, the Netherlands would move to the right as well! While the election results are still right leaning, at least the right wing anti-islam party PVV (with the horrible Geert Wilders at the helm) did not win the elections. For a long time PVV and the VVD (also right, but a little less so) were tying for first place in the polls. Thankfully my worst fear didn’t become a reality! Here are the election results (taken from The Economist website), from left-wing parties on the left of this graph to the right-wing parties on the right:

Dutch election results 2017 Economist

This election result shows that the Dutch are not interested in a Nexit (Netherlands exiting the EU) and that, although our country too is moving to the right, the Dutch are cautious about an extreme-right agenda. Can you hear my huge sighs of relief as I type this?

Our current PM is called Mark Rutte, he is also leader of the VVD. The past 5 years the VVD formed a government with PvdA (our Labour party) but they lost very big this election. I too was very disappointed in PvdA performance in this past government, so I totally understand that the left has moved to other parties. Now a new coalition government will need to be formed with a total of 76 seats or more in parliament to form a majority. As the VVD remains the largest party, Mark Rutte will probably become PM again. He vowed during the elections he would not rule with the extreme right PVV and I really really hope he keeps that promise! Although PVV didn’t win as much as hoped, they have still grown since the last election. They are the second largest party now and that remains scary.

Anyway, it looks like it will be Mark Rutte again for PM. He’s been PM since 2010…

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I am not a Rutte fan, I’m so not a VVD fan, but it looks like we’re stuck with both for the next 5 years. I’d rather have a new PM… If the VVD rules together with D66 (good party and ruling with them looks like a real possibility), their party leader Alexander Pechtold could also be a PM candidate…

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I really like Pechtold. He’s  a good debater and has been one of the best vocal opposers to the PVV party of Geert Wilders (I refuse to post a picture of Wilders here – look him up on Google if you want to see what he looks like).

If the Green Party becomes part of the coalition, their young leader Jesse Klaver is really good too (also good in opposition to PVV)…

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… but I don’t think he really is PM material just yet.

The coming weeks will be interesting, finding out how the government will be formed. The parties that want to form the government will now have to negotiate with each other on how they want to rule the country. That can be really tricky because each party will have to give and take to come to such a ruling-agreement… It can take up to a few months before a new government can finally be formed. I so very much hope D66 can do better in government than the Labour party has done… Onwards and upwards they say, right?

MTA: I’m not even looking at the Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma for PM, I think I’d rather have Rutte…

Hate, Loss and Love in two days

These are emotional times… what’s happening in the UK and the US politically is deeply affecting me. It’s hitting home because I love so many things about these countries and it’s painful seeing that fear and intolerance are taking over there. I also wonder what that means for my own country which is dealing with some of the same issues and could take it’s cue from the US and the UK. We have elections coming up soon and I am very afraid for the outcome. Today, January 27th,  is Holocaust Remembrance Day and everyone says “oh, we must never forget the lessons of the past!” and yet the Western world seems to have forgotten already! I was reading a piece in ‘The Independent’ newspaper about Holocaust Memorial Day and the rise of antisemitism and xenophobia now and this quote struck me especially:

“The Holocaust didn’t begin in the death camps. It began with words. It displayed the most destructive of human behaviour – indifference, ignorance and greed. The choices made by ordinary people contributed to the deaths of millions.”

I visited Auschwitz this past summer, it’s one of the most sobering and heartbreaking experiences and a very powerful reminder of where hatred against certain groups of people can lead. In the US it’s starting already with immigrants, refugees and Muslims being ostracized officially now by the Trump administration, with a ‘me first’ philosophy prevalent and an attitude of building walls over bridges. I am afraid that it can not be stopped, I am afraid of who else will follow suit and I am afraid where this islamophobia / xenophobia and ‘me first’ philosophy will end… Now is the time to speak up against this, now is the time to try to act against xenophobia, before it is again too late. German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller once said this…

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I have been reading in certain places about people not understanding why opposition to Trump is so fierce right now, of being scared of that fierceness and wanting to give the man a chance first. I, on the other hand, can not understand why people of good will are hesitant to oppose him. After a first week of Trump presidency I am starting to almost be paralyzed with dread for the future by the words I hear coming from the Trump administration; I have not seen a single action I can even remotely support! I just now read the White House’s statement to commemorate this memorial day and part of it reads…

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

and I honestly wonder how this statement rhymes with all the executive orders we have just seen signed in the past week. I see no love or tolerance in any of them! All I see is prejudice, the bottom dollar and ‘me first’. I ask you – which alternative is worse: peaceful yet loud opposition to Trump and his policies or allowing people to be ostracized by Trump and allowing human rights and basic freedoms to be endangered? I can’t allow the latter so I have to choose oppostion… and this is coming from someone who hates conflict…

January 27th is not only Holocaust Memorial Day, it is also the birthday of my father. He would have been 83 years old today, it’s the second birthday without him after he passed away. He dedicated his life to combatting antisemitism and islamophobia and if not for myself I at least owe it to him to oppose this hate mongering in any small way that I can. I still keenly feel the loss of my father but I am so happy he does not have to witness these political times, he’d have been horrified…

Luckily the world is not only filled with hatred… it helps to remind myself that I am blessed with a lot of love in my life! Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of when my husband and I got together.

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The picture on the left was taken when we were a week into our relationship, the other picture was taken yesterday by our daughter. We’re definitely older and larger but we are still very happy together. With all the turmoil in the world, this love is something to hold on to even more closely as we try to stand up to all the harshness out there in the world.

Fight for your rights!

I wasn’t able to make it to a march yesterday but I have been looking at reports about the protests with a great sense of joy and hope. Let me join in the protest here online and share some of the most awesome signs I saw on my Twitter and Instagram timelines…

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Pete Souza, White House photographer, posted this understated message and I have to agree with him..

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And to round it all off, apparently my favourite actor Richard Armitage marched in New York as well yesterday. I am so happy about that!

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These protests give me hope, also for my own country, where there were solidarity marches for the US (and for women’s and human rights) in Amsterdam and Den Haag.

The populist right is also popular here. It’s ironic how several European populist leaders, including our Dutch one Geert Wilders, have recently met each other in Koblenz; European cooperation between populists who are anti-Europe? Interesting… Anyhow, just protesting is nice but it needs to be followed by actions as well and for us here in the Netherlands that also means: go and vote in March!

Oh man, I wish I could stop posting about politics but somehow this feels like the most defining time in history in my lifetime. My core values and democracy and human rights are under threat and I find I just can’t stop myself from writing about some of this stuff…