“On the profound laziness of standing on escalators”

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Come on, guys, it’s not that hard.

Alexander Pitts 

I have now lived in Europe for over a year, and previously spent a month here followed by another two weeks. People often ask me what qualities of Europe I’ve found strange or different, what’s shocked me the most. I always have trouble answering – I’m still in developed countries, usually Western, so I’ve just adjusted to the small cultural and infrastructural differences as they’ve arisen. Truthfully, there is only one thing that never ceases to shock me:

Europeans stand still on escalators. Continue reading ““On the profound laziness of standing on escalators””

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Trump to UN: You’re Welcome

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Flags at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Photo by Aotearoa

Alexander Pitts 

Since the beginning of 2017, the world has been adjusting to the idea of “America first.” The United States’ shift towards isolationism and protectionism came as no shock under the incoming president, but – lest there be any mistake – he’s been very clear on the matter from the get-go.

Europe has rolled with that punch, responding with resolute determination to stand on its own and fill any potential gap left by America’s retreat from the front lines of the international forum. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Europe cannot only rely on the US to solve problems, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently proposed further globalization, integration, and a stronger EU presence on the world stage. This is good, and necessary, because President Trump hasn’t changed his tone.

In his address to the UN General Assembly on September 19, 2017, the US president reiterated his America-first stance, and, perhaps in an attempt to make the idea more palatable, insisted that every country should take the same approach (he used the word “sovereign” 21 times in 42 minutes). The thing is, a lot of countries don’t want to. The leaders of the European Union, save for one notable exception, believe that they are stronger together. Continue reading “Trump to UN: You’re Welcome”

Fixing America’s Two-Party System

 

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An illustration of the recent election. Graphic by USA Vector.

Alexander Pitts

Well before the next President of the United States was elected, fatigue with the two-party system plagued most Americans. This year may have been the breaking point. While the “lesser of two evils” problem with the American system is not a new one, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been the best examples of this dilemma in recent history by far. They were the most divisive candidates in recent memory, leading many voters to either reluctantly pick one, turn to a third party, or refrain from voting altogether – the latter option outperforming the others, with a whopping estimated 41.5% of eligible voters abstaining. But what if that 41.5% had been required to vote?

At current figures, Trump has 26.8% of the vote, and Clinton has 27.6%. About 1% went to Jill Stein with the Green Party and 3.2% to Libertarian Gary Johnson. Again: 41.5% of eligible voters didn’t vote. This is the lowest turnout in 20 years. Historically, in the past few decades, turnout hasn’t been much better. Clearly, many Americans forced to choose between two equally unpalatable candidates simply stay home instead. With only two viable options every four years, and third party candidates unable to make a sizable dent, it’s easy to get cynical. The system is self-perpetuating: about half of Americans vote either Democrat or Republican, a small percentage vote third party, and the rest abstain, leaving only Democrats and Republicans in the race. However, if voting in the United States were compulsory, perhaps that could change. Continue reading “Fixing America’s Two-Party System”

The Trump Presidency: The Importance of Staying Rational

Alexander Pitts

It was Election Night at the Groninger Forum: a USA-themed event featuring music, lectures, workshops, and live coverage of the results. I had been looking forward to it since I first heard about it. An American-themed party in Europe? Awesome! Getting to follow the election with friends, instead of staying up all night in my room, biting my nails and staring at my laptop screen? Wouldn’t miss it. It was supposed to be fun.

I’ve probably discussed American politics more since I moved to Europe than I did at home. Everyone is very curious. I completely understand – I’ve been baffled by this whole thing too. But I have a tendency to joke about things that make me feel negative emotions – anger, fear, sadness – which led to a very flippant take on the election. Any time someone asked me if I was scared or nervous, I would say, “No! I’m excited! I can’t wait to see what happens.” When people asked me if I thought Trump could really win, I would say, “No, but I’ve been wrong before, and at this point, nothing can surprise me.” That was a stupid thing to say. Continue reading “The Trump Presidency: The Importance of Staying Rational”