The featured photo was taken on May 18, 2014, when Bill and I took a last Space A Hop to Germany, ahead of his military retirement. At the time, we didn’t know we’d be coming back to live in Germany just weeks later. We’re still here… and we no longer really want to go back “home” again. It definitely gives me some empathy and a unique perspective toward people who flee other countries for the United States…
Today is the one year anniversary of the death of an old Peace Corps friend of mine. I wrote about Matt last year, a few days after I found out about how he was senselessly killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn, New York. Matt Jensen was a very special person. He had dedicated his life to teaching English as a foreign language, and students of all ages benefited from his natural acumen in the classroom. Matt was born to teach, and he had loads of charisma and a wonderful sense of humor. Although we hadn’t spoken or seen each other in many years, I was genuinely heartbroken when I heard about his sudden death last year. It just seemed so incredibly unfair.
For months, I watched the news to see if anyone would ever be arrested in connection with Matt’s death. Finally, in February, just as I was about to give up on justice, I was inspired to do one last search of the news. Sure enough, that very day, I found out that the police had taken a suspect into custody. I wrote another post about how I felt about that. I didn’t expect a lot of people to get it, since it was one of my more “creative” efforts… but to me, the post I wrote about Matt’s killer’s arrest set to the Police’s 1983 album, Synchronicity, made a lot of sense. When I knew him, Matt bore a resemblance to Sting.
I’m still watching for updates on the case involving Tariq Witherspoon, the 30 year old New York Emergency Medical Technician who is being held responsible for mowing down Matt with a borrowed black Rolls Royce last year. Every time I think about how Matt died, it seems more absurd to me. This was a man who served in the Peace Corps twice. He had devoted his life to helping people, especially those who wanted to learn English and improve their lives. To think that he was taken out by an over-the-top status symbol driven by a man who supposedly devoted his life’s work to saving other people’s lives! It’s completely ridiculous.
Every day, there are more news articles about how absolutely insane the United States has become in recent years. From the relentless attack on women’s rights, to the senseless gun violence at schools, churches, and supermarkets, to the abhorrent racism on every common street corner, I’ve become a lot less impressed with my homeland. Last night, I was reading a sickening story about a nine year old White boy who brought a whip to his Black neighbor’s house. He was captured with a Ring camera, whip in hand, visibly seething with rage as he banged on the neighbors’ door, demanding that their daughter come out. Why? Because they’d had an altercation at school, and he wanted to “finish” it with a fucking whip! Below is a video of the incident, along with follow up footage of the Black girl’s parents confronting the whip wielder’s father. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised that the boy’s father came to the door with a gun in his hand. I can see where this kid’s rage comes from; his father is clearly a toxic and dangerous person.
What is especially sad to me is that this is a nine year old child. He probably has no idea about slavery in America, and how enslaved Black people were whipped, beaten, raped, and murdered so that rich White people could get richer. I hate to think that this child, at just nine years old, has this much hatred for others. I see how angry and violent he already is at age nine. What will he be like at 19? I hope he gets some competent help from a therapist before he winds up arrested on felony charges, as his dad was after he fired a weapon at the Black couple who confronted him about the whip and the damage the boy allegedly did to their car.
Amid stories like the one above, there are so many angry people in the United States. I read another story this morning about how Spain is considering allowing women paid time off when they suffer severe period symptoms. I think the idea is very progressive and humane. While my own periods have mainly just been annoying and inconvenient, I know women who literally get sick every month when they have their periods. I have known women whose cramps were so bad that it hurt to walk, and they spent days vomiting.
What a contrast this policy is, especially in a country as Catholic as Spain is, to the anti-women legislation being considered in the United States right now. I grew up believing that the United States was the epitome of a “free country”. But if the Republicans have their way, abortion will be outlawed, and women could find themselves at risk of being arrested when they have miscarriages. That seems extreme, but consider that Lizelle Herrera, a woman in Texas who miscarried, was actually arrested recently and accused of “murdering” her unborn child. Thankfully, good sense eventually prevailed, and she was released after what was surely a very stressful and horrifying ordeal at the Starr County Jail. I hope the American Civil Liberties Union helps her sue the fuck out of the people who reported her to the authorities and arrested her. What is especially scary about Herrera’s case is that she had gone to a hospital for help, and wound up being accused of “death of an individual by self-induced abortion”. If we don’t do something about the right wing anti-abortion zealots, this is a fate that could affect a lot of women. And it may lead to miscarrying people not getting medical help when they really need it, for fear of being arrested and charged with murder.
Naturally, the comment section for the article about Spain’s proposed legislation included many awful comments from American males, who have NO idea what it’s like to have periods, be pregnant, or deal with the aftermath of childbearing. Having lived in Europe for almost eight years, I’ve admired the family and community focused laws here. No, it’s not perfect, and people here pay a lot of taxes, which I know would not be popular in the United States. But Europeans recognize that children need their parents. Women who have babies in Germany get a very generous paid maternity leave before and after their pregnancies, as well as other benefits. Fathers are also granted time off to bond with their babies.
In the United States, we have people screaming about fetal rights, yet denying citizens the means to give babies and children a healthy start in life. When someone points out this discrepancy, they are sure to receive a snarky, unempathetic reply, usually from a Republican male, who obviously cares more about money than fellow human beings. This is what one typically tone deaf man– a man who claims he’s a doctor, no less— had to say about Spain’s proposed legislation:
Great. How do you prove that you have severe period symptoms compared to moderate ? How can you control for abuse of taking time off and differentiate between authentic cases and fictitious ones?
This was what a woman said in response to the “doctor”, who doesn’t have much regard for women:
Wait, you claim to be a physician? It seems horrible that this would be your level of compassion for a patient. There have been days out of every month for the past 40 YEARS when the pain was so severe I was vomiting and in tears. I spent the time with a heating pad or in a hot bath, trying my best to even prepare a meal for my family or perform the most basic tasks. This began when I was 12 years old. I was never diagnosed with any specific problem, and often told (mostly by male doctors) that it was just like that for some women and to “push through.” How does one prove such a thing?
Lots of people took on this supposed “doctor of misogyny”, as he continually mansplained why this law could be problematic. According to him, there are a lot of women in Spain who are just waiting to game the system and take off work when their period pain doesn’t warrant it (in his opinion, anyway).
I also saw a comment from a man who probably votes for pro-life candidates, but harangued a woman who pointed out how misogynistic the United States is. He told her to “get a new job” and exercise “personal responsibility”. When she came back and told him she was a member of a union and got decent benefits (for the United States, that is), the guy told her to “stop crying”. In his mind, she already had hers and needed to STFU. He couldn’t see why she’d want to advocate for others, who aren’t as fortunate. Does this man have women in his life? Does he care about them? Based on his comments, I’d guess not.
The pervasive self-centeredness and selfishness in the United States is just awful. It really doesn’t make me want to go home, even though I know I’m going to have to at some point. We have some unfinished business that needs to be handled. But do I want to move back there permanently? I have to be honest. I don’t think I want to. The United States has changed noticeably since the Trump years. I think Trump’s presidency has awakened and emboldened some of the worst people in our society. It will be years before the United States is back on track. It hurts to see how awful it is from afar.
Meanwhile, here in my little Hessian village, people are community minded and focused on doing things for the environment. Our local Facebook group shared a new “bee feeding vending machine” that is available now. Someone repurposed an old gumball machine so that it sells “bee bombs”– bee friendly flower seeds that can be planted in gardens to provide bees with fuel. Here in Germany, it’s illegal to kill bees. The government has wisely realized that without bees, we’d have no food. Similar legislation and efforts to save bees in the United States would probably garner nothing but derision from the clueless.
Well, I know it’s inevitable that we’ll go home at some point. Does it mean we’ll stay there for good? More and more, I’m thinking that maybe we won’t. My Italian friend, Vittorio, was right when he told me some years ago that America has a “weird-o-rama” culture. He was spot on. I didn’t see it when I was in the thick of it, but after years in Europe, it’s as plain as day. And it’s truly heartbreaking.