Trump: „I’m going to build a wall“ – you already did.

I almost feel sorry for writing this because I myself am completely saturated with news about Trump. And I don’t even live in the states. Yet for the past year, reading things about the US election has become as essential to my daily routine as brushing my teeth. Everyday a new scandal, a new hilariously tragic misstep, a new reason for extensive eye rolling. I don’t think, I can ever use the word tremendous again without cringing. Meanwhile we all surely missed out on politics being made in the shadows of this freak show. There have been two major Romanian elections this year and I, as a Romanian living in Switzerland, can’t tell you a single thing about them. But I sure remember five different jokes Lindsay Graham made about his own party.

As the polls are pointing more and more to Hilary Clinton winning in a landslide, people like me seem to be unclenching. The ridicule which we felt, before we had to take Trump seriously is slowly coming back. Trump is once again returning to the realm of entertainment. He can be grouped once again with Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or some other human we feed on in order to sustain our own egos. They make us feel a bit better and whole lot smarter. They also help us coping with the fact that we’re not rich and famous. But as much as seeing them as stupid feels good, I don’t think either Kim nor Paris actually are. I don’t think you can build a multimillion dollar business on stupidity alone. Or become the Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. Trump tells lies left and right and his proposed policies qualify merely as superficial opinions. But there is nothing he can’t talk about. While third party nominee Gary Johnson struggles with naming a foreign leader, Trump always seems to manage to talk his way around things. His confidence is never faltering. In any case: how he says things seems to be far more important than what he says. Several philosophers/sociologists/people who like to make headlines thus already declared that we live in a post-factual age and they might be just right. But post-factual doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in an age of lies. We rather live in a world in which the emotional evaluation of the individual is put before the traditional scientifically verified concept of truth.

As random and unprepared as Trump’s ramblings might seem, his predictions about his followers so far have been right. Back in January he said at a rally in Iowa: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” This statement sounded insane back then. But seeing the reactions of his voters to the “Grab ‚em by the pussy” video seems to prove just that. He does have a core group of followers who are not deterred by anything he says. Those people seem to have made up their mind about voting for Trump from the very beginning. But the reason why new information about Trump cannot change their minds is not their lack of intelligence, but the fact that they don’t seem to care about Trump himself all that much. What those people had waited for was not Trump, but someone like Trump: someone who is blunt and flawed and deeply human. They don’t identify with Trump the billionaire and celebrity, but with someone who is doing okay despite being fucked up. The broken white families from the south identify with a man who’s children seem alright despite their father’s many divorces. The picture perfect Obama’s might have been a pleasant break from other, scandal-stricken first families, but they offer few possibilities for identification. The inhabitants of the remote Appalachians want to see themselves in their president as much as the intellectual elite who graduated from Ivy League colleges. And yet those are two different sets of humans. Yes, an University education changes you. To those who did not get one, the people with a degree often seem unapproachable and removed from the daily life of the working class. Don’t get me wrong- of course there are people “who haven’t forgotten where they came from” and who can adapt to those around them. But Trump’s success clearly shows that this rift is real and that people do notice it. More than that: it seems to be unbearable to those at the presumed bottom. And so they flock to a man with the vocabulary of a 6th grader.

Unlike people like me, who would never admit it, but do see themselves as intellectually superior, Trump must have known this a while ago. And he used those people and their fears and their insecurities and the desperation that usually comes with poverty for his agenda. As much as I disagree with The Donald, this is the one thing he managed to do better than all of his opponents: he understood the white, impoverished working class. Clinton calling them “basket of deplorables” is symptomatic for how little we all understand this demographic. And also for how little we care to.

But like Paris and Kim, Donald isn’t a genius either. Truth be told, at this point I am not entirely sure what his goals are. Does he really want to become the next president? Or is this an elaborate scheme to sell steaks and whatever else he has his name printed on? Maybe that is for history to decide. What I do believe however is, that he does not have control over the atmosphere he created. Having had someone with authority go as far, as Trump did, has unleashed all the ugly thoughts that used to swarm the back of people’s heads. This can be seen not only in the States but in Europe too, where the Right Wing rhetoric has been taken as permission to voice one’s opinions unrestrained of political correctness- a term which has gotten an un-mistakebly bad connotation.

Trump might very well be defeated next Tuesday, but the wall he promised has already been conjured up by his words. While we all hoped for it to never materialize physically, it has been built up in people’s minds. The bricks for its construction have steadily been provided. Some by far right parties across the globe. Some were given by people who normally would have been unwilling to, but didn’t care enough to prevent it from happening. The only thing missing was a diligent worker, who would put all that material to good use. And in Donald Trump the world has truly found a master craftsman. Trump might very well be defeated next Tuesday, the question is, whether his wall can be defeated too.

 
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defending spaces

self

On tuesday the gentrifying hipsters*  in my neighborhood showed the movie Koyaanisqatsi down on the square under our building. Coming back home from a reading session in the park, I heard the music and decided to go have look at their little festival. I sat down on a bench, a bit off from the small crowd and watched the film by myself. At some point a man and a woman, who had just arrived, recognized each other next to the food truck. As they were greeting each other, all excited, they moved away from the truck and the audience. They stopped about 30cm in front of me. My sandals even touched his sneakers for a second. Looming over me, completely obscuring my view they started chatting. I couldn’t believe it. We almost touched, her dress would flutter against me if there were the slightest bit of wind, yet they seemed utterly oblivious of my presence.

This is not the first time something like this happened to me

And while I might be wrong on this for many reasons (the present is not a good judge), I feel like this phenomenon is especially poignant in Lausanne. Nowhere else have I bumped against so many people on the street. Everyone seems to refuse to budge even a centimeter out of what they perceive to be their lane.  In the shops you will wait in vain, if you hope that the person next to you will step aside anytime soon to let you browse among the things between you. I cannot count how many times I stood still for five minutes in front of a rack, because the lady next to me laid a blouse over a section in order to examine it more closely. Elbows out, straddle-legged like your stereotypical 20-something guy, they will stare at the item of their choice as if the world stopped right there with them. How many times did I need to literally fight my way out of the metro, because the people wanting to get in would stand in front of the door like a stubborn flock of llamas.

No other city requires me to do so many breathing exercises on a  daily basis as Lausanne. And you know, each time I hope myself that it’s just the routine, that it is there in other places too and that if I leave for a while, I just might see everything differently upon my return. But then I do take a vacation, a weekend in Belgium, one week in Scotland, three weeks in Eastern Europe or a month at my parents- it really doesn’t matter how long I am gone. I can count on getting hit in the shoulder the second I step off the train in Lausanne. No matter how happily I skip onto that platform; the assholes are ready. How they do it? It’s beyond me.

When we were in Edinburgh in March a bookstore owner talked to us for the longest time. He switched casually from topic to topic, somewhat intimidating us with his knowledge. At one point he fluffed up when we got to talk about the people we crossed in the city. „People nowadays don’t have self-awareness anymore“, he said with a look out the shop window. And that explanation stayed with me. They (and more and more: me, too) lack self-awareness. Somehow humans are capable of forgetting where the borders of their private space are. And more importantly they forget that, what they protect with so much aggressive pride, is something that everyone has and values for themselves.

Because, yes, I do understand everyone who tries to defend their little space on the bus and being able to relax on their seat and the spot before the spice rack in the supermarket. I really do. I am the queen of spreading all my things on the seat next to me, hoping that it will prevent anyone from wanting to sit down there. (And for the record I do make space if someone decides they want to join my miserable face.) But what I don’t understand is how other people won’t think one step ahead and realize that maybe (just maybe) everyone else would like to have the same thing. Everyone wants the goodies for themselves, but your damn freedom to have those ends, when you cross mine.

I’m tired of this. Today I went out to ask my neighbor not to talk on the phone in the stairway, because I could hear every word through the paper thin walls and the good-for-nothing door. She seemed already agitated on the phone but when she turned to me, you would have thought she wanted to shoot me right there. Long story short she finished by telling me to shut my mouth. I ended up being just as nice to her and we went our ways, loudly ranting about each other. I wasn’t nice on the Tuesday I started with either. With all the irritation my 160cm could muster up, I loudly asked the pair standing in front of me, if they couldn’t have chosen a different place for their conversation. They laughed nervously in much too exaggerated shock, started making apologies, the woman even reached out to pat my shoulder before she took a better look at my face. In any case: they jumped out of the way immediately.

Yet somehow I felt more miserable than after my encounter with my screeching neighbor. Their reaction was all polite, yes. But in a way I find it worse because they had actually been so close to me without seeing me, feeling my presence- quite literally, too. I can’t really believe they didn’t see me. The Portuguese lady on the stairs was at least honest: she knew fully well what she was doing, she just very openly didn’t give a fuck. She doesn’t have much going for herself, but at least her assholery has integrity.

That’s something to build upon, even if it’s kinda the argument Trump supporters would give you for their choice of candidate. But at least that way I could call her connasse and get away with it. Sometimes it’s the small things that make you happy.

 

 

*if anyone wants to complain about me saying that: please explain to me why my flat cost 450.- over market value when we moved in, without the previous renter having contested the price (we did contest it in the end).

 
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