Princess Diana

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t know that Princess Diana died in a horrendous auto accident entering a tunnel near the Pont de l’Alma?  It happened 21 years ago this past August.  Emerging from the Alma-Marceau metro and walking towards the bridge (Pont de l’Alma), you have to pass a large flame that to this day is always covered with flowers and photos of  Princess Di.

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Several times a week, I cross Pont de l’Alma coming from the American Library headed to the metro and home.  I’m often with someone else and I always ask, pointing at the site, “Do you know what that is?”  Usually I get back “A memorial to Princess Diana?” or “I’m not sure, what?”  Having come to Paris many times over the last 50 years, I knew that that monument had been there before Princess Di died.  But I didn’t know what it was.  So I asked someone.

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It is the flame that our Lady of Liberty, given to the US by the French, holds for all peoples, immigrants and others, to see as they enter the Port of New York.  “Erected in 1986, the 12 foot metal fire is a made of copper covered in actual gold leaf. Donated to the city by the International Herald Tribune, the flame officially commemorates not only the paper’s hundredth year of business as well as acting as a token of thanks to France itself for some restorative metalwork which the country had provided to the actual Statue of Liberty. Even with the air of global familiarity emanating from the sculpture like heat from a flame, the site has taken on a grimmer association in recent years.”   AtlasObscura.com

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Princess Dianna had her tragic accident just under the monument and not knowing where to express grief, people began putting flowers, photos and expressions of love at the base of the flame.  The younger generations have no idea why it was originally constructed.IMG_1983.jpg      Almost every day and, certainly on the anniversary of her death, something new is added.  I’ve passed the flame when flowers were six inches deep.  There is always a crowd around the Flame, always there for Diana and not Lady Liberty.  Today, many people think the Flame was built for Diana.IMG_1701 2.jpg

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Thirty-two years after the Flame was built, relations between France and the US are not very good.  President Trump has refused to meet with President Macron when he arrives in France Sunday to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI.  Vigils are being planned for Saturday night and all day Sunday protesting Trump’s behaviour and the lack of liberty in the US at the moment.

The Flame now seems to represent tragedy.  On a smaller scale–that a Princess died underneath on the roads of Paris and on a much grander scale–Liberty being exchanged for Autocratic rule and Dictatorship.  Trite as it sounds, one can only hope that the flame of liberty never goes out and there is always hope.

A bientôt,

Sara

Go out and Vote–Democracy depends on you.

I hope the New York Times will forgive me for posting a part of Saturday’s editorial.  It is too long to put the whole thing here but it is good.

“It’s also true that when more people vote, the electorate becomes more liberal. If Americans voted in proportion to their actual numbers, a majority would most likely support a vision for the country far different from that of Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress. This includes broader access to health care, higher taxes on the wealthy, more aggressive action against climate change and more racial equality in the criminal justice system.

Republicans are aware of this, which is why the party has gone to such lengths to drive down turnout among Democratic-leaning groups. A recent example: In North Dakota, the Republican-led Legislature changed the law to make it harder for Native Americans to cast a ballot.

It comes down to this: Democracy isn’t self-activating. It depends on citizens getting involved and making themselves heard. So if you haven’t yet cast a ballot, get out and do it on Tuesday, or earlier if your state allows early voting. Help your family, friends and neighbors do the same. Help a stranger. Vote as if the future of the country depends on it. Because it does.”    NYTimes Editorial, Nov. 3, 2018

Unknown-3.jpegI have had quite an education in the last two months.  Thanks to my sister, Margaret Somers, University of Michigan; Nancy MacLean Duke University and Malcom Nance a retired Intelligence Officer, my eyes have been opened to what I’m sure many others have seen but I hadn’t.  The rise of market fundamentalism and, perhaps, the end of Democracy as we know it.  Or as Malcolm Nance said when I heard him speak at the American Library “It’s possible that Tuesday will be the end of the American Experiment”

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This isn’t a political blog but tomorrow everyone in the United States has the right to vote.  Many who want to vote are being prevented from doing so.  Many who can vote don’t.  Because they are lazy?  I’m old enough that I remember being taught about women dying  working to get the right to vote.  We were taught that voting is a privilege and not to ever abuse it.  People who don’t vote are actually voting.  The NYTimes says that the more people that vote, the electorate becomes more liberal.  So not voting is a vote for conservative.

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We live in a crazy, crazy world.  France fought off Marine Le Pen.  I heard she was one of the first, along with Donald Trump to congratulate the new President of Brazil.  The papers were asking how could someone like him win when he was so vilified a decade ago?  I think there is an answer.  It means reading and educating ourselves about the Far Right, Extremism and Russia.  It means having to stretch our brain cells to comprehend things that, to me, seem unimaginable.

So go vote tomorrow.  Then read and read some more.  Don’t get distracted by tweets and  stories that rise up and flame away.

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A Bientôt,

Sara

The Washington Decree

Jussi Adler-Olsen, author of The Washington Decree–a stand alone book, has written seven books in the Department Q series ‘starring’ lead detective Carl Morck (in Danish, that o has a line through it!).  I reviewed one of them last Fall.  They are definitely Danish Noir, gripping and full of social commentary.  Often they are laugh out-loud funny which makes them real page turners in spite of the sometimes shocking murders.  If you haven’t read them, I highly encourage you to read them in order but read them!!

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Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Washington Decree is Adler-Olsen’s latest social commentary and he takes on the United States and it’s government.  In fact, it is an American horror story.  Although the way things are going in the US, it sometimes felt too close for comfort.

In the Epilogue, he explains some of his motives for writing the book.  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was created during the Nixon administration primarily to deal with the effects of a nuclear war but also meant to be useful in the event of any natural catastrophe.  When I lost my home in the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, FEMA was the government agency that came in and created different organisations to help us survivors out.  Included were three months of support groups for those that wished to attend. At three months, we were told the money had run out and we were on our own.

According to Adler-Olsen, FEMA  has a huge amount of funds, enough to build underground facilities, internment camps, train personnel to take over duties of elected officials and, it seems, an entire non-elected governing system could be established with a shadow cabinet and a shadow president.

The Washing Decree is Adler-Olsen’s attempt to describe the quick journey from Democracy to Autocrocy should such an event happen.  In this book, the event was the murder of the incoming President’s wife.  If it weren’t for the fact that he describes in detail all that FEMA can do and the Executive Orders at FEMA’s disposal, this book would seem fantastical, thrilling and a wonderful read but fantastical.

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The book opens with a trip to China that brings five very different people together and then-Senator Bruce Jansen. After the murder of Jansen’s wife, the book jumps sixteen years and Jansen is the Democratic contender for President.  All five of the people on the China trip have stayed close and stayed loyal to Jansen. One of them, Doggie Rogers, arranges for Jansen’s victory party to be celebrated at her father’s upscale hotel.  Jansen is re-married to a beautiful and very pregnant wife who has charmed the American public.  During the  party, Jansen’s second wife is murdered.  Doggie’s father is arrested and awaits sentencing.  Shortly thereafter, President Jansen goes on TV and issues a Law and Order Decree that becomes known as the Washington Decree. It takes away civilian rights and installs a police state.  From there, life in America descends into chaos.  The vice-president resigns in protest and the chief-of-staff becomes VP. Militia groups start hoarding guns and ammunition. People in Jansen’s cabinet are being murdered.  With each new event, another executive order is declared.  America shuts down, no one knows who is friend and who is foe.

This is a thriller with a very bad guy.  There is also a love story.  One at a time, the five friends from China start getting suspicious and wonder if Doggie’s father is really guilty and if not him, who?  It is a huge jig-saw puzzle to put together and each one of them starts fearing for his or her life.

I found the book slow going in the beginning.  But this is Jussi Adler-Olsen!  I was very willing to hang in there.  And after the scenes were set, the pace picked up and things moved rapidly as I turned the pages.  And always in the back of mind was the question “Could this really happen with a bad guy in charge?” It is all the more upsetting now that we have an unstable man in charge of the country.

I have looked up several websites to learn when Adler-Olsen began writing this book or if there was a particular purpose or statement he wanted to make.  I couldn’t find anything.   Having read all his Department Q series and one other stand alone, it is no stretch of the imagination to write that Adler-Olsen has a lot to say about the state of affairs in the world today.  I find him an acute observer, an elegant writer and possessed of an amazing ability to make up stories that go right to the heart of what is happening in the world today.  I am already looking forward to his next book.

A bientot,

Sara

Two Books

Two books have come to my attention lately.  Both are about a boy growing up below the poverty line and getting far enough away to write about it.  Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance is his chronicle of being raised by an alcoholic mother and his grandparents in Appalachia. The blurb on the front of the book says it is a ‘must read’ in order to understand Trump’s America.  The End of Eddy (En finir avec Eddy Belleguele) by Edouard Louis is the memoir/novel of a young man growing up gay in Hallencourt, France and “has sparked debate on social inequality, sexuality and violence.” Quote from the back of the English translation.

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My book group chose Hillbilly Elegy as the January book.  I don’t think anyone in the group accused it of being good writing.  However, most of us thought of it as extremely educational.  I, personally, am one of those people who has been going around confused and baffled as to how Trump won the presidency.  Russian collusion aside, what was his appeal?  He was clearly a liar, a womaniser and a supremicist.  Yet, when those who voted for him were asked why, they said “We know he is all of those things but he speaks for us and we are willing to overlook those details”  Vance’s book helped me to understand who those people are and why they hated Obama not to mention liberal white people like me.  Trump’s way of talking and being wasn’t offensive because that is the way most everyone in Appalachia and working class White American talks.

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Reading Hillbilly Elegy was an easy read.  I never felt brought into his world but I got to know the people in his world.  He described it–one in which the violence of his grandmother and the Marines in which he enlisted  between HS and College made a man of him, gave him the strength to leave Kentucky and Ohio and make something of himself.  He loved his violent Grandma.  I cringed when he described incidents with her.

I discovered The End of Eddy because I went to a talk at the Mona Bismarck Centre on Quai New York.  Mr. Louis was interviewed by a Princeton PhD as to who he was/is and how this book came to be written.  Louis is a very appealing young man and a treat to listen to.  His English is excellent–not only his command of words but his ability to express his deeper thoughts.  I wished so much my french was good enough to read this book in French but feel grateful that I can read it in English.

Louis has nothing good to say about his childhood.  The violence he suffered was also supposed to make a man out of him.  But he was gay and effeminate from a very young age.  He was beaten and spat on as a matter of course almost every day of his young life.  His suffering was such that it has become the nugget that his books revolve around.  The writing is so eloquent that the reader suffers with Eddy, feels the spit running down his face and cringes when the father or older brother are near.  Yet, there is no self-pity, no recriminations.  In fact, listening to Louis, I was struck by his generosity of spirit toward everyone.  Although there is no excuse for violence he said, he understands that everyone is suffering.

I’ve never met J.D. Vance.  Maybe he would touch me in the way that Louis did.  But I suspect not.  But that is not his intention for his readers.  He wanted to tell us, the rest of America “This is the America you don’t see and don’t understand.”  In 2016, Vance quit his job as investment banker, moved back to Ohio and is considering a run for Senate as a Republican.  He is quite conservative.  Louis’ intention is to get a conversation going.  We live in such a violent world that we don’t even recognise it.  Talk about it, tell your story, educate yourself.

Vance’s childhood home voted for Trump.  Louis’s town of Hallencourt voted overwhelmingly for Marine Le Pen.  Vance has gone right.  Louis has gone left.  Two boys, two prisons almost impossible to get out of and two very different directions. ‘For Louis, the tide of populism sweeping Europe and the United States is a consequence of what he, citing the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, calls “the principle of the conservation of violence.” “When you’re subjected to endless violence, in every situation, every moment of your life,” Louis told an interviewer, referring to the indignities of poverty, “you end up reproducing it against others, in other situations, by other means.”’  (Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker, May 8, 2017)

Read them both.  Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear what readers are touched by and think of both books.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Edouard Louis:    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/01/the-end-of-eddy-by-edouard-louis-review

JD Vance:  https://www.nbcnews.com/megyn-kelly/video/going-home-best-selling-author-j-d-vance-opens-up-about-his-painful-childhood-and-the-future-ahead-975925827899

L’investiture

I was able to watch the turning over of power from President Hollande to now President Macron on Sunday.  It was remarkable for it’s simplicity and elegance as opposed to the American Inauguration.

At the end, I felt privileged to have watched (albeit on television) and very hopeful for France.

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On route to Arc de Triomphe

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A bientôt,

Sara

 

Jet lag, Macron and Technology

Ok, Macron first.  I’m not going to write about him and how he won the French presidential election.  Everyone else has written about it.  What I can say is that among my friends, mostly American, everyone was holding their collective breath.  The media was saying he would win by a landslide 60% to Le Pen’s 40%.  But we had all heard that before with Brexit and with Trump.  No one wanted to be the one to say it out loud and then be wrong.

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So it was with a huge sign of relief that the French went to bed last Sunday night knowing that their new President would be Emmanuel Macron or, as Le Match is calling him on their front cover, The Kid.  I went to sleep hearing horns honking and voices cheering.   I am in the 17th arrondissement and the victory party was in the 1st at the Louvre.  So there were many happy people that night.

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The hardest is yet to come

The majority of people were happy that Marine Le Pen lost.  No one really knows what a Macron presidency will look like.  Many in France didn’t vote or voted by leaving their ballot blank.  Banker and racist to these people are equal in their sinister meaning.  Macron’s party, Onward (On marche) is one year old.  He now must have members standing for election in the next months and they must win.  He needs the strength of his own party in order to achieve anything.  He is the elite and no one is sure what that means.  But I remind people that FDR and JFK were also the elite and we Americans look back on those two as two of the greatest Presidents in US modern history.  So Onward!

I have been back in Paris for 11 days.  I had probably the worst jet lag I’ve ever had.  Friends were saying I made no sense when I talked and for the first three or four days, I had the affect of being on drugs.  It occurred to me after five days that I was still less than three months from a serious hip operation.  I had been doing so well, walking a number of miles a week, throwing away my cane! and acting as if I was totally recovered.  But I’m not.  The doctor says there is 90-95% recovery in the first three months then it takes an entire year to have 100% recovery.

Standard jet lag lore is that it requires one day of recovery for every time zone one goes through.  I went forward nine time zones coming from Oakland, California to Paris.  I think my body may have gone into a bit of shock with the altitude, the jet lag and the recent surgery.  Sure enough, nine days after landing, I started feeling human again.  I wanted to explore this new neighborhood I’ve landed in while looking for a permanent place to live.  The weather has gotten a bit warmer and is much more inviting.

Something I keep getting reminded of and feel extremely grateful for is the importance of technology for someone like me.  I haven’t had a working french phone until today and the Wifi in my little studio was, at first, nonexistent and then very sketchy while I tried to figure out what was wrong.  On Thursday, I spent 1 hour at the SFR boutique with my not very good french (it’s amazing how much one can forget in four months) and my computer until the young man worked everything out.

I think it’s possible for someone like me to travel because WiFi, the internet, Skype keeps me connected to the world at large.  It’s very hard to feel lonely.  Cut all that off and it’s me in this small studio apartment unable to reach out to communicate.  It’s a blessing I love to read so much – because that is what I did – read 4 books in less than two weeks.

I don’t like reading about the kind of hacking the world experienced yesterday.  I feel grateful for my computer and WIFI every single day and want nothing to ever go wrong. Cyberspace is the Wild, Wild West.

A bientôt,

Sara

Action and more

Thank you to all of you who sent me feedback and ideas from my last blog. I’m including a couple of sites on the Internet to look at if you are interested.    One site is:

http://lrsandbox.com   — Living Room Conversations

“Our vision is a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds work together with respect, and perhaps joy, to realize the vibrant future we all desire.”

Another reader who empathized with my inability to look at The Donald’s hair sent me a site that changes any photo or picture of Trump into kittens!!!                                                              http://www.businessinsider.com/make-america-kittens-again-google-chrome-extension-replaces-donald-trump-with-kittens-2016-12/#when-you-search-make-america-kittens-again-on-the-chrome-web-store-youll-easily-be-able-to-find-the-extension-all-you-have-to-do-is-hit-the-add-button-and-the-extension-will-be-enabled-on-your-browser-1

“When you search “Make America Kittens Again” on the Chrome Web Store, you’ll easily find the extension. All you have to do is hit the “add” button, and the extension will be enabled on your browser.”

Here is another full of advice for protestors so that we can maintain without losing our minds;                                                  https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/how-to-stayoutraged-without-losing-your-mind-fc0c41aa68f3#.g6j2p7vkx

For my part, in a quiet time yesterday (I am a meditator, though not formal meditation), an inspiration came to me.  I am going to sell all my baseball memorabilia and raise money for threatened agencies that up until now have received federal funding.  I have chosen Planned Parenthood and Immigration services formed protect immigrants.

https://www.facebook.com/Memorabilia-for-Great-Causes-Planned-Parenthood-and-Immigration-Help-242909892821412/?pnref=story

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People who have known me a long time have seen me collect memorabilia for many, many years.  I love baseball.  My home team is the Oakland Athletics.  We haven’t suffered as long as Cubs fans but we suffer!!!  Even more than objects from the A’s, I love the history of baseball.  I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame many times.  I saw Rickey Henderson get inducted and then Frank Thomas get inducted.  Those weekends are very exciting for baseball fans as almost every Hall of Fame that is able to travel makes an appearance.

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So I have Good Stuff!!!  My friend, Janet, wrote me to say, “Sara, I love that you’re doing this. What a great combination of downsizing and political action! Kudos to you!!!  Please look at the Facebook page and if you know any baseball fans who might like some memorabilia and help these causes at the same time, please refer them to the Facebook page.16266297_243084889470579_4236391502622134759_n.jpg16265285_243084329470635_8921306945482307247_n.jpg

Most of my stuff is signed.  I’ve waited in long lines to get the autographs.  I’ve made my way on to the field to get autographs, been to baseball shows and made bids at auctions. I can’t authenticate anything.  I’m asking you to take my word for their authenticity.  And remember that you will be giving to some great causes.

I heard Dan Rather say that life in America feels like The Twilight Zone.  That is exactly how I would describe it.  Pulling all my memorabilia together, showing it to people and remembering when I got a certain item signed brings me back to the life I love.

A bientôt,

Sara