Genre of the Week: You’re the Best Thing About Me, by U2

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The band U2 has been producing some very good hits in the last 40 years, including Where the Streets Have No Name, With or Without You, In the Name of Love, …..

and this genre of the Week!

Released in 2017, this song looks at the best sides of New York and the people the band has met along the way. One could say that when looking at the best sides of the US, even if it is difficult at times, one can come away with the best memories and what America (still) stands for today: freedom, the pursuit of happiness and equality, and the only place where the person is made and remade based on experiences visiting or even living there.

In memory of those who died during the infamous attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September, 2001, this Genre of the Week is for you to watch and think about. More info beyond that would be my criticism which I want to leave open for you to do. 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

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The Art of Forgiveness and Friendship

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I would like to start this journey with a quote by Ritu Ghadourey about forgiving others for hurtful actions: A broken friendship that is mended through forgiveness can be even stronger than it once was. 

As I entered the US for the first time since 2015, I noticed right away how deeply divided the country was (and still is)- more so than when Barack Obama was president. The first impression of this was how the media was involving itself. Once toted as the main source of information to allow us to think about the events, talk about it and even take action, America’s media today  is making the decisions for us, without even allowing us to think of the reasons for the actions taken by President Trump, his members of the Oval Office and the special investigations councillor Robert Mueller, who is trying to dig dirt and undermine the president. With each character coming on screen to muckrake on both sides, one has to wonder if this is just another Hollywood film that is screaming to be booed and jeered. And with each repetitive claim by the president that there was no collusion between him and Russian president Vladimir Putin, how many times will he say it (even when jumping up and down on the trampoline) until we all figure out that he’s indeed a liar and a crook.

We do know however, that despite my detestation of watching Trump and all his cronies on TV while having breakfast, we do have one variant that is working against us: With each action committed on both sides of the aisle, regardless of hate crimes, bashing media outlets, making false statements and the like, we are hurting ourselves and others, to a point where we may never talk to our neighbors, friends and family members ever again. Our belief in the media is deceiving ouselves and not allowing us time to think about the issues at hand.  And our actions towards others is making it difficult for us to come to terms with the people we hurt the most.

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Inspite of this however, I learned most recently that even the most painful actions done onto others can be forgiven, if one is willing to reach out and ask for it. In some cases, it can forge friendships that are better than the last one. I have a couple examples which show that forgiveness can be sought and new friendships created.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from Arizona, named Calvin, was approached by a former high school classmate named Jared after a 20+ year absence. Both of them were playing American football at a high school in Tucson; yet Calvin, who was too skinny to play lineman, was bullied by Jared and several other players, who were three times his size and thought he was gay.  One day, Jared had the cheek to pee in Calvin’s sports locker. Upset that he was being treated unfairly and was not getting enough support by the coaches, Calvin quit the team and eventually changed schools, where he ran in cross country and excelled in fine arts in Casa Grande, graduating with honors and eventually moving onto college at the University of Minnesota and later into teaching in Osnabrück in Germany.  We met while I was an exchange student and we shared some stories of our time playing football in high school. We both hated the sport as we were “bench-warmers,” which was equally as degrading as being bullied. Jared reached out to him one day in May after Calvin wrote of his experiences of being bullied on facebook, in response to an increase of cyberbullying at his former high school in Tucson. Jared was principal there and had to sit a person, who was robbing others of lunch money down, and tell him what he did to Calvin. He looked him up and reconnected. Then after reading his article posted on facebook, Jared wrote a long letter of apology to Calvin explaining that his lack of self-confidence was the catalyst to doing what he did to him. In response to the letter, Calvin forgave him, explaining that what was done was wrong but it’s nothing compared to what is going on in the present. 

In the present means the days of social networking, cyberbullying, grooming, happy-slapping and the like. Let’s put it this way, as much as I was bullied in high school 25 years ago, I was thankful that the internet did not exist in its present-day form. Otherwise, …….

Calvin’s suggestion to Jared was the same as offering a good starting point: “Together, we can set examples for other kids to understand that what is being done to others, even online, is wrong and not tolerated.”  In other words, the willingness to make peace and work together to ensure that no one else gets bullied  were two giant steps to forging a good friendship and they have since been on good terms. 

Yet sometimes people can hurt each other to a point where they basically break off all ties, even if one was unaware of the actions committed. Sometimes such actions can be the result of the “My way is the highway” mentality. Others have to do with cultural and personal differences between the two people. Normally when ties are cut like that, then it is too late and even impossible to make amends.

That is unless one of them reaches out to ask for peace. This happened to another friend in Kiel, a while back and to this day, he’s figuring out the reason why and finding ways to reforge a friendship with this girl. Her name was Karin and she and Nick were attending college in Berlin in 2014. She was a very nice girl, as Nick described her- a deeply devoted Christian, kind but had that magic that got Nick interested. They had been working together on a project when they suddenly “butted heads” during a dance at one of the assembly halls.  How this happened was not explained but attempts to reconcile even online failed, and they broke off all contact after the project was finished, but not before havig hurt each other verbally, resulting in after-effects that were lasting for months after the break-off. Nick was moving on with his life when Karin suddenly re-appeared on his facebook page, offering peace to him. In response, Nick replied that under the conditions that we’d meet and talk about it would that be considered. Two hours of deep conversations brought forth forgiveness and establishing the building blocks for a restart, despite them having partners and full-time jobs.  Yet this example came with a lot of strings attached, which was the fact that she was not ready to be friends just yet; she needed time as the healer though they are still communcating to this day but not on facebook. Nick is hoping that it will happen someday as it would give them a chance to chat online about their jobs and families and just be friends. Let’s hope that their road to friendship is a smooth one there.

But looking at both examples, one has to ask ourselves how much damage has the United States done to its people and ts allies. The country has alienated its long-time allies of Europe and Canada and embraced Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, although with the third example one can agree with re-establishing ties with Kim to a certain degree. The US has alienated its own people while our president is watching families and friends fight over politics, like it was a wrestling match. And even the media outlets are equally bad with each one having their own “Mean” Gene Okerlund and their sets of wrestlers trash-talking to the audience. No wonder why we have a combination of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Spanish Civil War all at once, when American society is conditioned to think one way or another. To sum up the situation, we’re living in a society where the media has control of the lives of Americans, and Americans can choose who to befriend and who to dump, based on which political alliance they are in, thus polarizing ourselves, our friends, family members and our neighboring countries. A sad devlopment and one that could destroy the fabric of democracy should the trend continue.

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Stern Magazine

Yet inspite of all this, I have learned to separate politics from friendships and family to avoid any inner-strife. But most importantly, to forgive others for their mistakes. Yet it will be a difficult drive to make amends with the  people we hurt the most. While some allies like Canada and Great Britain will be ready to forgive right away,  others like France and Germany will be even more difficult because of the damage inflicted already. But the most difficult will be the ability to trust each other and be willing to work together. That includes rebuilding the trust between the government, the media and the people. I guess it is similar to the example with Karin and Nick. If one person offers peace then it is because the other has the characteristics that is liked (and blessed in Christian terms) and that the person wants to reforge a better relationship than before so that they can work out the bigger problems they are facing. And we have more than enough to go around.

After the third day of listening to politics at a hotel in Pittsburgh, I decided to tune it out because it was a waste of time and energy. I decided that if people want to know more about our situation in Europe in comparison with the US that we would be truthful about it, but ensure that we are not enforcing our opinions onto them but to get them to understand the situation from a neutral person’s point of view.  At the same time, however, I’m taking an advice that was based on the stories that I just presented with Jared and Calvin on one end, but also with Nick and Karin on the other. If we hurt the ones that care for us, regardless of difference and opinion, we apologize and forgive. Forgiveness is free and can forge better friendships than in the past.  And this is what is needed in this day and age as we have bigger issues to handle and little time left to get them done.

And with that comes a pair of quotes to end this topic on how to reforge a friendship through forgiveness:

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Forgiveness is the best form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry, yet it takes a stronger person to forgive. 

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

Disclaimer: While these two examples are true stories, for the purpose of protecting their identities, the names of the people mentioned as well as the places where the stories took place have been altered. 

Genre of the Week: Let America be America Again, by Langston Hughes

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There has been the call by Americans and people living outside the country to return America to what it was like when President Obama was in power. Barack Obama was US president from 2009 until 2017 and was touted as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Why?

When he took over after George W. Bush stepped down, he inherited a country in shambles because of the housing crash, combined with high unemployment and issues involving the environment and infrastructure. Over eight years, the president brought the country back to its glory days under Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt, just to name a few. Yet everytime the country seemed to be going in the right direction, the next president decided to bring it down and implement his own policies to his own liking. And as we are seeing with Donald Trump and his cabinet, people are falling for his American First interest, which has indeed become personal interest.

But is this the America we know? Is this cycle very typical of America?

While some scholars and writers have said no because of the bright spots that presidents, politicians, movement leaders and grassroots organizations have created for the interest of Americans and other regions around the globe alike, others, like Langston Hughes (1902-1967)  have claimed that this “Build-it-up-bring-it-down”, dog-eat-dog mentality is the fabric of the American society known to modernity. In this Genre of the Week, this poem looks at the ugly sides of America that we are seeing glaring before our eyes. The only difference is that this poem was written before his death in 1967.

Now why did he write this during the age of the 57 Chevrolet and the Baby Boomer generation? Have a look at the poem and feel free to coment on this. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Source: poet.org

Living in a World they didn’t make, by Janet Jackson

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Our next Genre of the Week focuses on gun violence and takes us back to 1989. It was at that time that one of the members of the Jackson family released a powerful album containing songs that focused on social aspects. Janet Jackson started her career with the rest of her siblings in 1973, yet went solo in 1986 with her first solo album (and third overall), Control.  Her breakthrough came with Rhythm Nation 1814, which was released in 1989 and won six platinums, garnered 12 million Dollars in sales and made it all the way to number 1. on the Bilboard charts in the US. It was the first album where songs reached number 1 in the Top 40 Charts for three straight years, and it was the first where seven songs made it to the Top 100.  It is considered one of the most iconic pop music albums in history, with a mixture of rhythm and dance but also some slow dances. The album focused not only on themes of love and dance, but also social issues, which included drug use, domestic dispute, violence,…..

and guns.

While Janet managed to get seven songs into the Top 100, this song deserves to win the Flensburg Files Genre of the Week, even if the song was produced almost 30 years ago. Entitled Living in the World They Didn’t Make, Janet takes us to a school where memories are left over after a shooting incident that happens on school grounds. Children playing on the playground- gone. Teachers helping other- gone. Neighborhoods and families- shattered. All of these ring a bell to the problem with gun violence and the school shootings that have plagued the US as of late. While some have refused to talk about it, when looking at the March on Washington that happened on 24th of March, the theme of gun laws, school violence and issues that have led to people taking it out with the guns have been brought forward to those who want to see change and will not rest until it happens, regardless of who is representing each state in Congress and is running the country at the White House.

Gun violence was the issue upon the song’s release and is still the issue to this day. Listen to the song and ask yourselves, how can we put an end to this madness without having the teacher march around with a machine gun in the classroom.

This Genre of the Week song is for the kids at Parkland who took courageous steps and brought this up front and personal on Capitol Hill. Keep strong, be stronger. Eventually those who resisted will listen or cave in. You will have it your way soon. ❤ 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Genre of the Week: 18 and Life by Skid Row

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As we’re talking about gun violence and looking at ways to stopping it, we’re also looking at the causes of this rapid increase in violence which has especially hit schools the hardest. I had a chance to listen to a speech made by four survivors of the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as the interviews that followed. The students that survived the bloodbath knew the killer (who is behind bars) and were very angry at how this was not stopped earlier. These four were born the same year as the infamous Columbine massacre that took place on 20 April 1999 and have grown up used to mass shootings, including those in schools.  Here’s a quick preview of the speech:

One of the key issues we’ll need to work on as we look at reforming gun control laws is also the ways to reform the mental health system and make schools and public places safe. But how can we do that if we have people running around irresponsibly waving guns around and firing aimlessly at people, killing some in the process and permanently scarring others in the process, like it happened with Columbine, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Cold Springs and now Parkland?

One way is to look at how parenting has changed over the years. In the past 40 years, we have gone from being strict Puritans who spank and hit children in order for them to behave to being those who allow children anything and everything they want to, even if it means running over teachers, law enforcement officials and the like at the same time. Parents have struggled to find a middle ground in order to allow for controlled growth- meaning growing within their boundaries and knowing what is right and what is wrong. It means taking responsibility for their own actions and accepting the consequences for their wrongdoing. A one-day suspension from school for fighting or showing disrespect is painful but should be a lesson for the future. It’s by teaching children how to respect others and learn the Golden Rule: Do onto others as they would be done onto you. This includes stories and fables to be told regularly but also normal interaction with people and understanding their feelings.  And if parents cannot do their job, have another foster parent or relative take over for a while, someone who can foster the child’s growth and show them the values of life.

This Genre of the Week looks at a scene that is very typical in today’s society today: a teenager who has gone wild because of years of being overly controlled and abused by his father. His recklessness by using alcohol and guns led to his downfall as he lost not only his family and best friend, but his own life. And as alcohol regulations has worked in keeping people away from the booze, gun regulations can do the exact same thing and even more. But even with gun regulations (which can work), we need to look at reforming our society and investing more time and especially money to reforming our society, starting with the health system, then the school system and lastly the family. This way we don’t have any more wild ones like in this song by Skid Row entitled 18 and Life, produced in 1989.

 

 

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Skid Row was formed in 1986 featuring lead singer Sebastian Bach, guitarists Scotti Hill and David Sabo, drummer Rob Affuso and bassist Rachel Bolan. It still produces heavy metal music to this day but with ZP Theart as the lead singer. 18 and Life was produced in 1989 and made it to the Top 4 in the US and Top 12 in the UK. It even won a gold platinum that year. The band is based in New Jersey.

 

Fl Fi USA

Genre of the Week: Time to Talk About It- Slam Poetry on Gun Violence in America

In connection with the Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Florida, which left 17 people dead, dozens injured and scars on the remaining number of students, staff and parents, I found a good slam poem about the problem with America and its obession with guns. As we have seen with the 29 shootings recorded so far in 2018 (18 school-related), many of us have tried aggressively to deflect from the gun issue and focus on other issues that are non-related. The problem is we cannot defer responsibility to other issues. Nor can we just debate about it and take no action. Nor can we consider gun deaths the new norm in American society. As this poet suggests, the time to talk about guns and stricter regulations is right here, right now. I intend to talk about gun laws and ways to change it until we see change that we the people of the United States of America will like; the changes that will make the streets, schools, homes and society safe again.

…..And this even includes changing politicians who favor guns, gun deaths and the NRA.

 

Holiday Genre: Time to Forgive

 

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Another typical German Christmas tradition we usually see during the holiday season are the commercials. Using special themes that connect Christmas with family and love, store chains produce scenes that bring family and friends together, following the events that happened during the year as well as basing some of them on personal experiences of people working there.

Two commercials come to mind that were televised during the holiday season, both of whom focused on the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness of the sins committed against family, friends and even mankind. Forgiveness which means starting over again and mending the ties that were ripped apart because of war and conflict that didn’t need to happen but it did.  Forgiveness which means loving again.

In the first holiday commercial, forgiveness meant reestablishing a bond between a parent and a child. In this one, produced by the German grocery chain Penny, the mother seeks out to her daughter, years after they had a fall-out during the daughter’s pregnancy. The mother’s journey was like a walk in the woods- meeting obstacles that were as painful as it was recalling the memories of the two together. The end result is not what is expected except that they both came home:

 

In the second commercial, the scene took place in the future, where artificial intelligence invaded mankind and chased the humans away into forests and other dugouts. While the three-legged machines looked for other natural life forms- most likely to kill off, one of the robots discovered the holiday the humans had been celebrating after coming across first a poster of a show entitled “Wonderful Christmas” and then a Christmas tree and pieced together how the celebration took shape. While reenacting the scene with manequins didn’t function, the robot sought human life to better understand their life, taking with it, the Christmas star to give to the family that it found. In the end, the grocery chain Edeka offered the viewers a glimpse of how two groups can come together:

While the theme forgiveness was clearly in connection with events that have unfolded since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017- name any conflict, because he had his hand in the apple pie- it showed how conflicts can permanently damage a relationship in ways the parties cannot comprehend until years later, when it is all too late. When Siegmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minster mentioned in an interview that Germany was breaking off ties with the US on foreign policy, it had to do with conflicts between both countries on virtually everything, combined with accusations (mostly were considered fake) and the unwillingness to compromise. The damage has, according to Gabriel, become irreversible that it may be impossible to mend ties, even after Trump leaves office. Other countries have also expressed concern that America will be so isolated that it will become something like in the commercials above. But perhaps this wake-up call is needed in order to come to terms and realize that we need to work together and forget about our egos or even our nostalgia.

Maybe by looking at the commercials we can come to terms and try and forgive, regardless of how long it takes. ❤

 

fLfI WINTER