Posted in opinion, politics

how to survive in the age of Trump: Broadway vs. off Broadway

I’m an American in Vienna. Austria for those of you who don’t know. But I will assume you do. It’s in Europe. Let me jog your memory about Austria: Hitler was born here. And Austria became the Ostmark in 1938 when Hitler and Nazi Germany marched into Austria on the 12th of March, 1938 (yep, exactly 80 years ago today. And I can tell you, it makes me shudder). The Austrian Broadcast Network ORF has been showing footage from that dark dark time in history. “The Gates of hell opened this day” said one witness. So, while some want to see Austria as a victim of Nazi Germany’s expansion to the East, Austria was part of the problem ie was happy to help. Not all. There were some notable resisters.

When Austria shook off some of the mief, in 1955, when it became a republic, it was stipulated in the constitution the Wiederbetätigungsverbot, Nazi Symbols etc. against the law. While the US government can get away with a racist president, a white supremacist advisor and a shitload of politicians with varying degrees of explicit racism, the USA’s special friendship with Israel (to the tune of billions in economic help which does seem to soften the sting of racism -it’s mostly against Brown people anyways, right? So Israel doesn’t care about those racists) Austria cannot. And should not. The above mentioned reasons. And 6 million more. It’s the law engrained in the constitution.

And now to my personal dilemma: not only do I as an American Citizen and staunch believer in social justice, health care for all, equality for all, Bernie Sanders fan ( but not a fan girl and did and do vote democratic) and proud member of the #resistance #impeachTrump hashtag movement, relentless Trump denouncer, have to deal with that wretch Trump back home, now, in my current place of residence, I have to deal with neo nazis as part of the coalition government here. It’s totally unfair and really pisses me off. And I’m being mean here, but they all look like nazis. Stupid nazis. I hate them. Here, the right wing party is called the freedom party of Austria. You know if a political movement has freedom in its name it’s code for we hate all non-white people. If the freedom part isn’t a dead giveaway, the fact that the FPÖ (its official acronym) was founded in 1955 by an Austrian guy named Anton Reinthaller, a former SS Brigadenführer, who spent time in prison for his role in the Holocaust, this latter tidbit seals the deal: it’s a party of racists.

To use a metaphor for what’s going on there and here: the Trump show is bright, gaudy, loud, expensive, lavish – not unlike a big Broadway production. In Austria, it’s the same script (fake news, the meanies on the left calling out right wing fraternity members who like singing songs that celebrate exterminating another one million Jews. It’s a conspiracy! ) except the production value is comparable to off off Broadway: lousy, small theater, uncomfortable seating, rotten production design, no private jets to fly around in, no citizens united, no billionaire donors. Just stupid wanna be nazis pinning after the good old days when you could get away with mass genocide.

According to research, 28% of Austrians are anti-semitic. Within the EU, the average is 24%, worldwide 26%, according to a NYT poll. So, always a little higher and a little more pervasive than most places. Which I totally don’t get. Some of the most famous Austrians were Jewish: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, Bruno Kreisky, although now, they’ve added another facet to their playbook: Islamophobia. You know, immigrants, refugees. That’s the right wing freedom party’s favorite bogey man. The average anti Semite (out of tradition)/Islamophobe (out of ignorance and the stupid) can be rallied by headlining immigrant owns smartphone. Don’t worry about corrupt politicians and greedy business people evading taxes by parking billions offshore. They don’t see them on the bus or tram. So who cares, right? The same rhetoric you get via tweets from Trump, you get here via some newspapers: all immigrants are criminals.

So, it’s stressful having to deal with horrible politicians both sides of the pond. I have to take days off not looking at my Twitter feed because it’s gets obsessive. Not good. Instead, I read. I read books and have subscribed to physical newspapers. There’s something soothing about the crackle of paper. And instead of watching the talking heads on MSNBC or CNN, I listen to podcasts. Or Beethoven. His symphonies in particular remind me there is wonderful genius possible in this world not only nightmarish awfulness. You forget sometimes.

recommended podcasts:

The New Yorker Radio Hour (because it’s not only politics)

The Daily from the NYT (because it’s not only about Trump)

Pod Save America (because I can rant vicariously through these guys)

Stay Tuned with Preet (because it’s the closest you can get inside a fellow prosecutor’s head ie Mueller)

Trump Inc, WNYC Studios (because they shine the light on The Trump crime family’s shady business dealings)

Posted in Uncategorized

Sophie Scholl and the face of resistance: an anniversary

February 22, 1943: today marks the 75th anniversary of the execution by beheading in Stadelheim Prison Munich of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and Christoph Probst, members of a student movement called the White Rose, resistance against Hitler’s National Socialist regime.. She was arrested on Feb 18th for distributing pamphlets at her university. She was executed three days later. She is remarkable for her courage, and especially prescient today in light of the #NeverAgain movement started by the students of MRD High School. 
I realize going against the Nazi Regime vs protesting in the here and now  – in this case, in the USA, going up against the NRA – has some crucial differences. No mass deportations into concentration camps for the sole purpose of annihilating a people, a culture. But there are  parallels: brave students from MSD High standing up in the face of oppressive injustice (inexplicable greed in the face of tragedy induced by the millions in donations by the NRA; strongarming congress to play dead) enduring slander and falsehoods, having the courage to face these corporate fiends can be paralleled to the past. 

What I am trying to say is that courage is courage no matter what and standing up against injustice will be heard. 
Sophie Scholl made a difference after she gave her life for what she believed in. The pamphlets were smuggled out of Germany to Sweden; were subsequently published and she became the symbol for German resistance. The kids of #NeverAgain will make a difference. 

Recommending reading: 
Das kurze Leben der Sophie Scholl by Hermann Vinke.The author was able to speak to one of Sophie’s surviving sisters, Inge Scholl, and incorporated her remembrances into the book. 

Die Weisse Rose by Miriam GebhardtHere, the author asks the question: what upbringing, what factors, turns an ordinary citizen into a hero? A resistance fighter? 

Both books here are in German but you’ll find a few in English too. 

Keep the #resistance against injustice of any kind.