Topsy turvy world

November 23, 2015

von trappOne of the reasons I enjoy fiddling around on this blog is because it helps me work through heavy, gummy thoughts in a logical manner. Writing helps me decide what I think about things. My thoughts remind me a lot of children that are running all helter skelter up there in my skull. Writing gets them under control. It’s me saying to them, ‘Thoughts, listen up. Quieten down and stand next to each other in a line NOW.’

Last Friday night I tinkered away at a blog I’ve been working on for a while. It was about my exasperation with the rampant liberalism in Europe – in politics, in education, in the media, in the workplace, in churches, everywhere.   I saved my rough draft and then I woke up the next morning to news of the Paris massacre. Unbelieveable. How on earth do you defeat and completely eradicate an ideology? It’s new and scary territory.

Fear2Of course, after Friday, Facebook went beserk. People have been sharing videos, articles and opinions with more fervour and hysteria than usual. This past week I’ve tumbled down the internet’s addictive vortex. Being the fearful navel-gazer that I am, it freaks me out. I should lie in a darkened room with a damp cloth on my forehead. Not only have I been lurking on Facebook more than usual, but I’ve impaled myself on the news by reading various iterations of the same stories from multiple sources in both French and English. I think I’m developing a nervous twitch.

I’ve noticed I’m becoming more conservative in my old age. In my twenties I was mostly liberal but, ever since I had children, I feel that this laissez-faire, do-what-you-want-as-long-as-you-love-each-other mantra is not quite for me anymore. In some ways, I’m still liberal and left thinking, like I believe in health care for all and certain social benefits too. In many other areas, I’m tilting more to the right. I reckon there are certain truths in life that are real and absolute (such as, say, your gender). I no longer agree that it is healthy for people to be or do anything they choose as long as they simply avoid hurting anyone in the process.

It is clear to me that Switzerland, like the rest of Europe and probably the world, is tumbling down the moral abyss. I will admit that Switzerland’s fall speed is slower than everywhere else and that is why we are here. Hooray!

Here’s an example. Sometimes, at about 8h30 on Tuesday mornings, the Swiss national radio station interviews a sexologist. Discussions of such a graphic and intimate nature used to be reserved for the midnight slot but now they’re on at prime-time morning rush hour. I miss the age of innocence. Why is it that we need to talk about ways to stimulate “your partner” at that time of day? It’s sad that a three year old like Megan could overhear and pipe up, ‘Mommy, what is a clitoris?’

I’ve noticed that, these days, it is uncool to be conservative. People feel shy to say they prefer old-fashioned, traditional values, principles, rules and boundaries. I am a closet conservative but I’ve decided to come out now.

Here in Europe, if you are not ultra-liberal, you have fascist tendencies. People think that if you are not very liberal, then you must be racist or hateful. That’s what I have learned during this refugee crisis. If you express any concern or reticence about porous borders or opening the doors to unlimited refugees, people think you’re a Nazi and that sure shuts you up. It is socially unacceptable to express any hesitation or caution.

candleDo I believe we should turn away suffering people and chuck them in a gas chamber? Never! In around 1939 a ship carrying fleeing Jews was stranded on the Atlantic for days. No country would accept them. The ship, now known as ‘The Death Ship’, turned back and returned to Germany where most of its passengers were annihilated by the Nazis. How tragic. That must never, ever be allowed to happen again.

People don’t choose where to be born and no one asked to be Syrian, Somalian, Eritrean or from any of the other hell holes on earth. But, does this then mean that nationalism is wrong? I don’t know.

Part of being kind is also being fair and if you accept Syrian refugees, then we must be prepared to accept all other refugees in similar circumstances. Syria is not the only country in a mess. Part of the reason why I favour better border controls is to stem the chaos and create some sort of order out of what seems to be a completely out of control situation.

There are estimated to be 10,000 clandestine, unregistered migrants in the canton in which I live. Surely tighter border controls, where asylum seekers could be properly registered and fairly distributed, would be better for all sides? Or, should Europe keep borders open, let everyone wander in and then consider the implications later? I also don’t think it is fair for Europe to be expected to take in unlimited refugees when other countries, such as the US, are so reticent. I also don’t understand why the rich Gulf states aren’t helping in a big way too.

11248807_1204601602898773_8877072142013241314_nIt’s not like I have the solution, no ways, but I resent being told I’m fascist for expressing some concern. These days I’m finding the liberals rather self-righteous. There doesn’t seem to be space for intelligent, respectful debate – it’s their agenda or you are unloving and inhumane and a bit of right-wing neo-Nazi. When I said I favoured border control, one of my atheist friends sneered and said, ‘Julie, aren’t you a Christian? Aren’t you supposed to love everyone?’   Just because I’m a Christian, does that mean I should lead with the heart and switch off the head? I’m not sure. Just asking. Nothing shuts you up like it being insinuated that you are a crap Christian or the spawn of Hitler.

I’m most annoyed and confused by inconsistencies and double standards. Here’s an example. I bought Jessica’s carseat from a Swedish company. Delivering parcels is Switzerland is a faff so I looked on their website to see what the delivery charges were. They said they deliver to every single country in the world except Israel. That got on my nerves. Every single country in the whole wide world but not Israel? North Korea, Eritrea etc but not Israel? I’ve spent the last couple of months devouring books on the subject and I’m not sure Israel is worthy of that kind of discrimination. The sale and purchase of Israeli goods is a contentious issue in Europe and I know I swim upstream on this one. I thought the whole point of taking in Syrian refugees was to learn from the past and avoid another Holocaust. Europe just needs to be consistent and more specific about the parts of the Holocaust that they are averse to because it is not so much the anti-Semitism aspect that bothers people.

The secularism and progressivism of Europe gets under my skin. A few months ago, we were at the park with a transgender woman and “her” child. It freaked me out. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards. Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner just won a woman of the year award in the US so this kind of thing is becoming the new normal. It’s difficult to have civilised conversations about these sorts of topics because many people see every mention of moral truth as either a personal attack or a statement of superiority.

I attend a moms’ group affiliated to a church.  A few weeks ago they banned singing the tame Christian version of a children’s song because a group of ladies complained and were offended by the religious angle. It is just a stupid song, for goodness sake. Apparently these mothers were concerned we were brainwashing children with Christian themes. Why didn’t the organisers just say, ‘Chill out. No, we are not.’ Instead they pandered to atheist agendas and muted and watered down our faith because it caused slight and irrational offence.   The irony is that, at the same group, Megan created a black Halloween bat but not a soul cried out in indignation at that.

What ticks me off most is that people don’t want to be involved in anything Christian or churchy and they don’t want any sort of moral authority rammed down their throats. BUT, when it comes to the refugee crisis, these same people demand that we embrace the world’s poor because it is the moral, Christian thing to do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I’m just saying it’s ironic!

I find the problem with secularism and progressivism is that it is like a train driving without a track. I like doing life with some sort of track. I operate better with something to lean on that is above and beyond me. I feel safer with guidelines and truths for living that are real and absolute. Lately I haven’t been 100% sure what exactly makes up that track and the boundaries between the right and wrong way to think have been blurry for me. As my non-religious, atheist friends have surprisingly suggested many times during this refugee crisis, perhaps the Bible is a useful yardstick. Wow, the world has seriously gone topsy turvy.

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Fog and other news

November 5, 2015

For the last couple of days, it’s been grey and cloudy. I have weather dependent moods so the cheerless, iron-dull sky doesn’t bode well for me. At first I thought it was genuinely cloudy but we just can’t see the bright sunshine through the thick, soupy layer of fog that covers the lake.

Every year around this time, this fog called La Soupe settles over the Lake Geneva area. It feels cold and dull but if you climb higher up the mountain, you can escape it and then peer down at the grey tablecloth. It’s pretty from above, not below.

As you drive up the mountain, you dip into the layer of mist itself. It hugs your car and reminds me of something out of Wuthering Heights. I imagine Catherine stumbling along damp, misty English moors shouting ‘Heathcliff! Heathcliff!’ You need to creep along inside the cloud before you burst out the other end into blue skies and sunshine.

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Al and I drove in search of sun this weekend and, being the intense navel-gazer that I am, I decided the fog situation is an analogy for life. We humans sit here in the fog on earth and assume that this is all there is.  We plod along without realizing that there is something better – blue sky and sunshine – above and beyond the gloom and greyness in which we live.

Megan schoolThis October has been colder than usual. The colder it is, the less Megan wishes to wear. Her swimming costume from last winter has made a comeback and she wears it almost every day, over warmer clothes after some persuasion.

This morning she appeared at the front door in just the costume, mismatching socks and slippers. This is why, in colder weather, leaving the house becomes a greater rigmarole than usual. When Megan eventually capitulates, she goes all floppy in protest so it is like dressing a jellyfish.

One of the reasons why I can’t let her wander outdoors in her underpants or a swimming costume is because it upsets the Swiss. They often stop me to suggest that Megan needs a jacket or draw my attention to the fact that Jessica has pulled off her shoe and has one bare blue foot. All Swiss babies are wrapped up as if they are about to summit Everest so my more casual approach to cold air stresses them out.

My mom left (boo!) and Al arrived back from his trip to Manila (hooray!). I had some time on my own and I admit that single parenting is hard core.

Meg JunkThe biggest challenge of being on my own is getting the children down at night. It’s herding cats. I know someone with five kids and he said that getting through the bedtime routine can feel like a horror movie. I bribed Megan to stay put in bed by offering Frozen on the iPhone and even then, when Jessica finally withered off to sleep, I came through to find an alert and jaunty Megan sitting in one of her infamous piles of junk in our room – a towel, puzzle pieces, undies, a backpack, books, a handbag etc. I was too knackered to clean up this toy landmine so I just high jumped over it to get into my bed later.

Often I contemplate motherhood and wonder whether I am doing a good enough job. Do I lie on the carpet with my children enough and really play and engage with them at their eye level? I teach Sunday School at church now (what was I thinking!) and I research activities on the internet. Pinterest has pages and pages of arts and craft ideas for parents and I wonder if I should devote more time to designing animals out of household waste or making homemade Christmas decorations.

1992-honey-i-blew-up-the-kid-poster1Part of the reason why this crafty quality time is not possible is because of Jessica’s age. At 14 months, she is enthusiastic and wants to be involved but she gatecrashes everything. She’s like the child in that movie ‘Honey I Blew Up the Kid’. She dips her hand in the glue, she kicks over wooden train tracks, she tumbles into LEGO towers, she rips pages out of books, she sticks playdough peas in her mouth and nibbles crayons when we colour in. She also rolls over and dismantles puzzles and wobbles off with pieces in her mouth or fists. That is why any time we do a puzzle, there are always gaps of missing pieces. Megan gets understandably frustrated and bashes her sister out the way so these fancy bonding, educational activities usually end in tears.

Talking about Jessica, I had an irritating experience at a playgroup on Monday. She pulled a three year old girl’s hair and this child’s mother reprimanded Jessica saying, ‘Look what you’ve done! That wasn’t very nice was it? Look what you’ve done, you’ve made her cry.’ After that scolding, I wanted to cry too. Jessica is a baby. She’s only 14 months, for goodness sake. She yanks hair for a laugh or to show affection. She’s not being malicious in any way. She stands marginally higher than a ruler so why do children shake their tangled heads in her face in the first place? It was not as if she pulled the hair off the skull and sat there gleefully waving fists full of it.

648131-bubbleboySome mothers are royal pains in the ass. I avoid these people. I’ve noticed an interesting trend. Usually these are ultra-protective, anal-retentive older moms who have had their children over the age of 35. They like to constantly watch and referee their child’s play. Often these are IVF moms and after the long emotional journey to have children, I genuinely understand their instinct to wrap their kids in cotton wool. I remember my midwife saying that older moms tended to be her most tearful, stressed out and neurotic clients. The mother that shot to her child’s aid after the hair-pulling incident was an older mom. Life is tough – shouldn’t children should learn to handle minor battles sooner rather than later?

One last thing! Guess what a wand is in French? Baguette magique! A magic baguette! Mwahahahaha, how cool is that?

I’m doing a French course from 20h00 to 22h00 on Wednesday evenings. It’s run by the local supermarket. I’m learning a lot but the hours are gruelling. It ends way past my usual bedtime. By 21h30, I stab my pen into my thighs to keep awake. Last lesson I fell asleep. It was one of those disconcerting, embarrassing experiences where your head lolls forward and you feel as if you’re free falling down a mine shaft before you quickly jerk it back up again. I think I was only gone for about 3 seconds. I’m making progress – you can’t go through life without knowing about magic baguettes – but I will be glad when the course is over in February. I hope my thighs can stand the mutilation until then.