Election Eve 2016

I voted. By mail, a few weeks ago.

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And tomorrow the rest of the country votes. I, like many others out there, will be so happy when this election cycle is over and we can stop hearing and seeing Trump all over the news day in and day out. Because he’ll go away now, right? He won’t win, right? It’s terrifying. The opinion polls that show him neck and neck with Clinton. What? I knew there was a lot of asshattery in the US, but this much? This loud? This widespread? This unabashed? It’s disheartening. No, it’s more than that. It’s… I can’t think of any word that’s not an understatement.

So I’m predicting that Hillary Clinton will win. Because I can’t stand the thought of the other front-runner winning. (He’s a front-runner? What? Bizarro World.) I’m plugging my ears and yelling lalalalala and deciding that she’ll win.

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No matter how much I’ve heard about it in the media, seeing this list of names on the actual ballot is still Surreal. But there ARE three women running for President, see that, THREE!

I don’t like Clinton as a candidate. Not because she’s a woman and I’m playing to the sexist propaganda against her. No, because of her foreign policy and corporate backers. Supposedly Bernie Sanders’ campaign was going to pull her towards a more progressive platform, but I can’t see that effect in the things she says. She is business as usual, part of the same old gang we’ve always had in charge, and her warhawk stance on foreign policy scares me.

I mean, I know it’s a big deal that we’re getting our first female US President. I remember the way people said “Maybe one day a WOMAN will be President!” back when I was a kid. Sort of the way they said “Maybe one day we’ll have flying cars!”, like they didn’t actually believe it would happen in our lifetime and weren’t really sure it’d be a good idea if it did happen. Like how would that actually work? Levitating street signs? Flying cars zipping this way and that, willy nilly? It’d be chaos! Flying cars, a female President? Chaos and calamity!

So it’s cool, we’re getting our first female President (Because we are. Come on, please?). But did it have to be like this?

Against Trump? What kind of a triumph is that.
No matter what, if you like Hillary Clinton or not, the fact that she was elected with Trump as her opponent  takes the triumph down a notch.
When she’s praised we’ll hear, “Yeah of course she won. Trump was the other choice.”
And when she’s criticized it’ll be, “Yeah, but would you rather have Trump as President?” He’ll still be there, shadowing her throughout this Presidency and giving people the chance to always ask, “Would she have won against a normal candidate?”.

And isn’t it “funny” that when the US is finally getting a female president (Because we are. Please Bizarro People, Please), her opponent is the embodiment of male chauvinistic schoolyard bully fratboy rape culture behavior? They’re like perfect archetypes for these duelling paradigms in American culture. Almost like you couldn’t have set it up better if it were all scripted and staged. Huh. But I’m afraid it’s not. I’m afraid all the hate and anger that’s been unleashed during this election cycle is all too real.

Personally I’d love to see a third party get 5% this time and therefore be eligible for public funding in the next election cycle. To break the country out of the Democrat-Republican rut would be awesome. But first I want to see Trump not become President.

The ironic thing, for me personally, is that if I voted based on the main issue that impacts me directly* I’d vote for Trump. (*well, other than war. War impacts all of us on the planet, obviously) Not many people are aware of this, or even really care much when made aware of it, but the US is one of the only countries in the world with Citizenship Based Taxation. The other country that has it is Eritrea. And maybe North Korea according to some sources. All other countries in the world have Residence Based Taxation. This is a huge hassle to people living outside the US and has become even more horrendous due to the new reporting requirements called FBAR and FATCA. See, I can just feel people’s eyes glazing over and wandering around the screen as I type this. It’s boring stuff to read about, and even more boring to have to do it. Yet there are ridiculous fines threatened (10,000 US dollars per account reported incorrectly, ridiculous things like that!) and it’s an awful onus to live under. People (Americans living in certain countries like Germany and France) are getting kicked out of their banks, getting their mortgages cancelled, their retirement plans cancelled or taxed away to nothing. These reporting requirements were supposedly set up to catch tax evaders hiding money offshore but the result is that it’s making life miserable for a bunch of little fish like me living their lawful normal lives offshore. Uh, I mean, abroad. Oh wait, it’s the same thing. This has nothing to do with tax evasion, and everything to do with not wanting to live under threat of draconian fines and punishments because of an ever-increasingly complex tax system. So even if this isn’t a hot button issue it’s a big deal to those of us who live abroad, and Trump (or at least the Republican platform) is the only one who’s saying he’d make changes to these things.

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(Pic source: spv.no) The offshore bank where I hide all my money. Or, put another way, the local bank where I put my money so my family can use it. FATCA go away.

But that’s not happening. Voting for Trump I mean. Not for one iota of a second would I consider it seriously. Even if one thing he says makes sense, the rest makes none. Or some of it makes an awful kind of sense. A racist, misogynistic, xenophobic kind of sense. Which is not something one just ignores as background noise. No, one hears it and starts to MAKE some noise. Bring it, we’re not letting this become our voice. He is not our voice, America. Right? Come on!

So now we all hunker down and wait through tomorrow. And then hunker down and wait through whatever comes after that. I’ll be here, fingers crossed, rocking in the corner, humming a quiet hippy hymn under my breath. Peace, love, and light. Good luck America. Good luck World.

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Pic source: Brutally Honest Voting Stickers

 

One parent, whatever language works!

One parent, whatever language works!

-Remember yesterday when we were on the shop?

-Batman are my favorite!

-Today at school we had a try. (a test)

My son’s English is charming. He has creative grammar and makes lots of mistakes. He superimposes English words onto Norwegian grammar, or translates directly to English from Norwegian. My kids are bilingual with Norwegian and English as their mother tongues, but Norwegian has become the dominant language in our house. They hear English from me, when I remember to speak it to them, and when we’re in social situations where switching to English every time we addressed each other wouldn’t be weird or rude, and of course from tv and movies. Other than that they hear Norwegian. They understand English but speak with Norwegian accents and make mistakes here and there. Many a fellow expat has let me know this is all my fault, as I’ve failed at holding the One Parent One Language rule. When raising bilingual children what language you use when you talk to your kids is just one more checkmark on the list of Things You Can and Probably Will Do Wrong.

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My kids in a Norwegian hardware store being Norwegian

There are so many rules and expectations about this. I’m not supposed to speak to them in Norwegian because I’ll teach them my bad accent and grammar. And I’m supposed to always speak to them in English (my mother tongue) to give them a full heart language in the language of their mother. (The guilt! My children don’t share a heart language with me, if that’s not a mama failure I don’t know what is.)  According to some I’m supposed to go so far as to refuse to answer them if they speak to me in Norwegian, waiting in stoic silence until they say it in English. (Can you imagine this approach with an overtired three-year old? What joy this would add to our family life!) On the other hand I’m supposed to help them in their daily life at the Norwegian school and Norwegian activities with their Norwegian coaches and parent-teacher meetings with their Norwegian teachers, and model normal polite behavior out in society (Norwegian), and have normal social interactions with all the children and adults in our neighborhood and community who are, you guessed it, Norwegian. Plus integrate into the society myself, you know, to be a happy, normal, social-functioning adult which helps me model happy, normal social behavior to them. And I’m supposed to do all this whilst never speaking Norwegian directly to my own children. Does Not Compute.

But I hear this again and again. Expats worried and upset at the fact that their children who grow up here don’t speak English perfectly, or (gasp) have a Norwegian accent when they speak it. I just can’t relate. It doesn’t bother me that my children have Norwegian accents when they speak English. I think it’s fine that Norwegian is essentially their first language. I can’t get worked up about this “problem” because having Norwegian as one’s first language is actually in fact not a problem at all. And one-size-fits-all rules about how we should be interacting annoy me.

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Happy kids with Norwegian accents

Kids, my kids at least, are efficient. Not in the sense that they focus on a task and jump to it when I say they should do something (I wish!), but in the sense that they don’t use brain space to force things which aren’t necessary. When we’re around people who don’t speak Norwegian (family from the US visiting, for example) they suddenly produce English, with varying degrees of charmingness, but as soon as they know everyone around them speaks Norwegian that’s the language they use. But the English is in there, they understand it perfectly, so if in the future we travel more and it’s useful for them to produce English more often, I’m confident it will come. In our daily life though they know I speak Norwegian, and I’m not into forcing them to artificially switch to English every time they turn to me.

And it’s not wrong for me to speak Norwegian to my kids either, even if I have an American accent. Give me a break, kids are smarter than that, my American accent rolls right off the language-processing-duck-feathers in their young flexible brains and they go right on their merry way speaking Norwegian like the rest of the native speakers around them.

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My son hanging out with some Norwegians at the mall.

Growing up we used to say what a shame it was that our grandparents didn’t hold on to Italian and keep it going in the family, so that we’d be able to speak it too. They were more focused on integrating and becoming American than holding on to Italian culture. Which I now understand better, because even if the circumstances are different here I am doing the same thing again in a new direction. It’s complex, isn’t it? And to be clear, I’m not saying integration should mean giving up one’s native language. Absolutely not. Language diversity and language preservation and keeping minority languages alive are crucial human rights issues. But on the personal, familial level language use shifts and evolves and flows. People move from this side of the globe to that and their language use shifts and changes along with them. For me personally, integrating and interacting with my kids as they grow up here has meant letting go of my language to a certain degree and accepting the fact that for us, in our situation, the societal language has become dominant.

And of course having English as our second language is a special situation, because English is a special language. Exceptionalismly imperialistically media-istically special. My kids, and all Norwegian kids, get lots of exposure to English all the time. It’s all over the place in tv and movies and youtube and it’s a regular subject on the school curriculum starting in first grade. Scandinavians in general are very good at English. So I’m not worried about my kids losing their English skills. It would be a different situation if their “non-dominant mother tongue” was Latvian or Sinhalese. Then I’m sure I’d feel like I needed to make more conscious effort to help them retain knowledge and use of it. Bilingual families come in all shapes and sizes. Some expat families know their stay abroad is temporary so it’s very important for them to keep their kids fluent in the home language they’ll move back to. Other immigrant families (I identify more with the word immigrant than expat, personally) have moved to a new country permanently and language integration is more of a priority to them. Some people learn languages quickly, others slowly. Some families have two immigrant parents, some have one, and the kids’ needs for exposure to the language in the society around them will vary accordingly. In my kids’ case we have one native Norwegian speaker parent and one immigrant English speaker. And they’ve grown up 100% in Norway and we have no plans of moving anywhere else.

What it comes down to is that language is about communication. If I make sounds and my kids understand them, we’re doing great. If the sounds help us create a connection from our thoughts and feelings to the physical world and to each other, then we’re doing even better. Our connection isn’t defined by which language we choose to speak. I don’t know where in the world they’ll end up living one day (except they’ll all be my next-door neighbors, right?), but I know they’ll adapt and use the language that works best for them wherever they are.

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My heart, in any language

 

Do you have two or more languages in your household? How does that play out for you?