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Macedonian police officers armed with riot gear in front of the Macedonian government building during a Colorful Revolution protest commemorating the death of Martin Neskovski. (Credit: Elena Gagovska)

“Actually, the military is investing a lot of money into programs for women’s equality,” said one of the participants in a workshop during the “Bridging Backgrounds” conference for Macedonian high schoolers about tolerance, interethnic understanding and human rights that was organised with funding from the Davis Foundation. I couldn’t help but let out a laugh. Given that I was a volunteer at the conference and a co-facilitator of the workshop, this wasn’t the most appropriate thing to do. .

“Sorry for laughing; that’s just not at all the feminism I subscribe to,” I said — not because I thought that the statement he had made was untrue, but because we clearly had two very different feminist visions.

None of the other participants or my co-facilitator were surprised that my views differed from those of the buff, toxically masculine Macedonian teenager with the inexplicable and annoying American accent – we’ll call him Nikola. Being the son of a Macedonian military official, Nikola loves the military as an institution: the organization of it, the (morally questionable) work they do, their values, everything. But, beyond this, Nikola loves the US military in particular. At one point during the conference, outside of the formal educational activities, Nikola proclaimed that it saddened him that, as a non-US citizen, he can not become a marine. It seemed to me that Nikola thought of himself as an American and had the accent to prove it. I have met Americans who don’t question the actions of their country or military, but this was something else. When I asked Nikola if he approved of all of the actions the US military has taken, he said yes. When I asked “Even Yemen?”, he had no idea what I was talking about, completely oblivious to the US backing of the devastating two-year-long conflict that has left the country in ruins. To Nikola, the US military is not something to be questioned, but worshiped and even seen as a ground for progressive politics of female liberation.

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In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

In 1948 Mr Westhoff was asked if his farm located in Marle could be transformed into a voting station during elections. His son and daughter-in-law continue the tradition up to this day by transforming their living room into the smallest voting station in the Netherlands. (Credit: Rene Lunshof)

A question on the exit polls during the US presidential election was which “presidential quality” mattered most. Interestingly enough, it was not experience, nor good judgment that people deemed the most necessary quality for a president: it was their ability to “bring needed change” (39%). That was also the only quality where Trump, lagging behind Hillary on all others, scored highest, at 82%. Among those who Clinton (in the biggest error of her campaign) described as a “basket of deplorables,” there seemed to be a lot of people who just really wanted change.

After the Dutch election, Europe let out a sigh of relief, with headlines exalting that the tide of populism had turned because far-right politician Geert Wilders hadn’t won. This shouldn’t have been big news, as the polls running up to the election had already indicated that Wilders, leader of the right-wing extremist Freedom Party (PVV), was not going to. Most narratives concluded that populism in the Netherlands was subsiding due to this modest gain of the PVV: an easy conclusion but a questionable causal relation. Equating the electoral result of rightist-extremist parties with the degree of populism in a country is not only faulty: it is dangerous. Still this happens on a regular basis and has been prominent in the reporting done on the Dutch election as well as the upcoming elections in Germany and France.

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New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

New No’s” Poster (Credit: Paul Chan and Badlands Unlimited)

I left New York City for Berlin on the 24th of January. The days before my departure were saturated with a dissociative pain that stemmed from their proximity to the inauguration of President Trump, which took place on January 20th. Mostly I was aware of a void-like sadness. This void enveloped my singular self, everyone I loved, communities experiencing oppressions that I as a cis white woman will never be subject to, and communities that I belong to as a queer person and survivor of sexual violence. The effect was tangible in the city, between and across neighborhoods, a dull reverberation. The fact that this collective mourning was distributed unequally due to the diverse lived experiences and levels of social privilege of those affected complicated the act of articulation. I found myself and my peers falling into spells of isolation, or, conversely, dispersing articles, posts, and personal rants at a frantic pace via the constantly replenishing outlets of social media. Neither of these tactics left me with any feeling of agency or productivity: The nature of voids is that they swallow and calcify anything dynamic, leaving their subjects in a state of vertigo.

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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission.

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

Earlier this week, and in advance of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Andrew Sullivan produced a video for BBC Newsnight, detailing how the election campaign and Trump’s success reminded him of Socrates’ account of the rise of a tyrannical regime in the eighth book of Plato’s Republic. The video has made it into pretty heavy circulation, and as someone who has taught this particular text in part or whole just about every year since the inauguration of President Bush (43, not 41 — I’m not that old yet) I’ve been asked by a more than a few people “How accurate is Sullivan’s presentation?” and “Can we or ought we derive a different lesson from Socrates’s analysis?” This post is my reply to those questions.

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Three of today’s biggest populists: America’s Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen of France and the Hungarian Viktor Orban. (Credit: David Parkins, The Economist.)

Three of today’s biggest populists: America’s Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen of France and the Hungarian Viktor Orban (Credit: David Parkins, The Economist.)

Should populists be demonized? Today especially, after Donald Trump’s latest victory in securing a seat as President of the United States of America, this topic is incredibly relevant. But one might ask: How did he win? Trump’s campaign was largely centered around garnering anti-systemic attention from voters that cited exasperation at their treatment by the current government and its long-standing convoluted bureaucracy. Voters united around a common goal: to elect anybody but Hillary Clinton, the ultimate representation of the so-called system. So, is Donald Trump a populist? Is he a voice for the people? And how do we then categorize Bernie Sanders? Has populism as a phenomenon been demonized all over the world? Are Donald Trump’s election and the entire Brexit campaign examples of the adverse results of populism?

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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission.

View Through Torn Flag (Credit: Karen Axelrad, Flickr)

View Through Torn Flag (Credit: Karen Axelrad, Flickr)

America: we need to talk. And we are not going to like what we hear. But avoiding hearing what we don’t like to hear is what has brought us to a place where nearly the entire political and media establishment agree is a low point in the moral and intellectual character of American politics.

The conversation, it seems to me, we need most to have, and of which we seem least capable of having, is not so much about the election or its results, but rather about what makes it impossible for people who voted differently Tuesday, and all the people who didn’t vote at all (something like 45% of those eligible), to speak with one another about the election and its results.  We need to speak about our shame — and by “our” shame, I mean America’s shame. Not the shame that some of us cast upon others of us, and not the shame that some certain demographic ought to feel before the just and justified “elite” that is moral and intelligent enough to cast blame.

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'IN THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, WHICH CANDIDATE SHOULD THE PEOPLE ELECT? THE BUSINESSMAN FROM THE EMPIRE STATE OR THE "INEVITABLE" CANDIDATE FROM THE LEFT?' (credit: trumporhilary.com)

‘IN THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, WHICH CANDIDATE SHOULD THE PEOPLE ELECT? THE BUSINESSMAN FROM THE EMPIRE STATE OR THE “INEVITABLE” CANDIDATE FROM THE LEFT?’ (credit: trumporhilary.com)

As the 2016 US Presidential election slithers to a close, the world looks on with a mixture of fascination and horror. The race has been a long and arduous battle for all involved, and, with ten days to go before the majority of American voters cast their ballots, a consensus has emerged among the media experts forecasting the election. The majority believe that Hillary Clinton, Democratic nominee for president and heir apparent to incumbent president Barack Obama, will defeat the Republican nominee, television personality and businessman Donald Trump, on 8 November.

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