Tag Archives: 2016 Election

Donald Cometh, I Goeth

I woke up at 4:30 am this morning when my cousin messaged me to say, “It’s not looking good.”  I had asked him to let me know as soon as the election was called.  I figured I’d feel good and slightly relieved that Hillary was in, then roll over and go back to sleep.  Instead, his message had me wide awake and glued to the BBC for hours.

I won’t get into why I preferred Hillary over Donald.  My political leaning probably won’t come as a shock to you.  I keep thinking about how Minnesota elected as Governor a former “professional” wrestler named Jesse “The Body” Ventura about 10 years ago.  People were sick of lying, do-nothing politicians and he seemed like a refreshing change, representing the Independence Party. It turned out he was thin-skinned, got into fights with the media for doing their jobs, managed to insult every voter group, and accomplished nothing.

I’m still on Malta.  This morning I left the hotel before I knew the final election results but I felt numb and didn’t relish how I would feel once the shock wore off.

My first agenda item was a visit to the immigration office.

There is all sorts of stuff on social media about how we’ll all “just move to Canada.”  I find this rather maddening.  It’s sort of like how most Americans think Downton Abbey is a BBC production when it wasn’t.  We have certain fixed ideas about other countries that just aren’t accurate.

We think Canada is so nice that it would allow in 60 million Americans.  Sixty million depressed, angry Americans!  Canadians are nice, but not that nice.

Here’s the thing: Other countries don’t want foreigners taking their jobs any more than we do.  And you can’t just enter another country and start looking for work; they’ll want to see your work permit.  You may not even be able to cross the border without one.

I moved to the UK in 2005 on a student visa and after it expired I thought I’d just get a “regular” work visa.  I was quickly disappointed to learn that my chances of that were zero because I was applying for, essentially, writing jobs in the country of Shakespeare and Oxford and competing with English citizens and every qualified person from the EU and Commonwealth countries who wanted to move to the UK.

If I had gotten a job with an international company they might have sponsored me, but my career was in the nonprofit sector.  If I was fleeing war, I might have qualified as a refugee but fortunately that’s wasn’t the case.

I checked out moving to Canada about eight years ago and it was the same deal.  Unless you have a PhD in computer science or some other high-skill field, forget it.

The only country I can work in, no problem, is Israel.  That would not be without significant challenges; the politics there would probably drive me just as crazy.  To be honest, my biggest hesitation is that I feel too old to master a new language—one that’s only used in one country.  But it’s an option.

In preparing for this trip, I read that Malta had a “pay your way in” scheme. That is, if you bought a property here and had some amount of money in a Maltese bank account, you could become a citizen and work here.  I was just thinking about it as an adventure or maybe retirement option, but today it seemed more urgent.  Of course my 501K probably lost 5% overnight, so I figured I might have to wait til it rebounded.

So off I went.  I immediately got lost so asked a young man who appeared to be an immigrant if he knew where it was.  He was Ethiopian, and he informed me, “We are afraid of what Donald Trump will do.”  This would be the first of half a dozen times I heard the identical words from non Americans today.

At the Immigration Ministry, the man at the desk informed me, “No more payment scheme.  You want work permit, here are papers.”  Here they are, double sided.  So I’m back to square one.


Feelin’ the Bern

Before I leave the series on Cuba that started here, I have to tell you about the Bernie Sanders rally I attended last week. I was vaguely aware that it was happening, when my cousin called and said her two youngest kids (ages 14 and 18) were begging to go. So they drove the one-hour drive from Wisconsin to see Bernie. We bumped in to another nephew; he’s 18, too. The 18 year olds are looking forward to voting for the first time, mainly because of Bernie.  Vince won’t be able to vote for at least seven years.

The rally was at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul. I was also vaguely aware that Roy Wilkins had been an African American civil rights leader but was wowed when I Googled him later and read his bio: He was a leader with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 40 years, where he succeeded W.E.B. DuBois as editor of Crisis Magazine. He was an advisor to the War Department during World War II and a consultant to the American delegation at the United Nations conference in San Francisco in 1945. He led the fight to end school segregation. Lyndon Johnson awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian honor. When he died, Ronald Reagan ordered all government flags be flown at half-staff.

What a cool guy. And what a perfect venue for Bernie to hold his rally, since he’s way behind Hillary on support from African Americans.

I wondered if many in attendance had ever heard of Roy Wilkins. When I walked in, I must have lowered the average age by about 20 years. Bernie drew a crowd of almost 15,000 people, and my guesstimate is that 90% of them were under the age of 30.

We found seats in the overflow room and watched on a big screen while Bernie was introduced by a young Somali American woman. Then, Bernie himself walked into the overflow room—and the crowd went wild. We were on our feet, chanting, “Ber-nee, Ber-nee Ber-nee!” and “Feel the Bern!” I hadn’t been paying much attention to the race until now and was hesitant to stand up and cheer a candidate I knew next to nothing about, but the enthusiasm was irresistible.

Bernie delivered a brief but fiery speech, even though he was clearly on the verge of laryngitis. Then he headed for the main auditorium to the accompaniment of more stomping and cheering. Back on the big screen, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison was introducing Bernie to the main room. I was surprised. Endorsing Bernie was, in my opinion, a move of conscience, one the Democratic Party will not be happy about. But Ellison, who is the first Muslim member of Congress, seems to be a man of principle. I’ve heard him referred to as the Muslim Paul Wellstone—our beloved, principled Minnesota Senator who died in a plane crash a decade ago.

Like Wellstone (and me), Bernie is a Jewish Atheist. I didn’t think anyone in the crowd would be put off by that, but having Ellison and the Somali woman introduce him can’t hurt with African American and Muslim voters.

Bernie’s message was loud and clear: We need a revolution! We need to stop all the money flowing to Wall Street. College should be free for everyone! The minimum wage should go up to $15 an hour! And so on with a long list of drastic reforms.

As usual, I’m skeptical. Bernie’s ideas tap into a deep anger among many Americans who feel they’re being screwed by the system. I get it. But would he be able to accomplish much, pitted against an oppositional Republican majority in Congress? Also, economics is complicated. You pull a string out of a tangle and you can’t necessarily predict what other strings are going to become more tangled or come loose as a result.

The day after the rally, I read this article about US relations with Cuba which laid bare our opposing systems: the US wants to do business with entrepreneurs and small businesses, while Cuba insists that we deal only with their government. Bernie calls himself a Democratic Socialist. Is that some sort of hybrid system? I need to educate myself more.