This is how I’ll be consciously protesting the Nazi march through the streets of Gothenburg tomorrow
In our lives, it’s often difficult to discern good from evil. Life isn’t black and white, it’s mostly shades of gray. We all know that. However, there are some notable exceptions, and Nazis are one of them. You needn’t be a historian to understand that the genocide of more than six million Jews, Gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses & mentally disabled people was a defining moment for humanity, unparalleled in its industrial approach, its cold-hearted planning and faithful execution by the German Army and the various police forces of the era. It’s evil, pure and simple. The hatred against minorities, be it religious (e.g. Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses), ethnicity (Roma, Africans, Asians) or otherwise (disability, sexuality) is nothing new, and most certainly not a German problem. And the simple method of scapegoating is perpetrated again and again, in every country challenged by today’s complex world.
Gothenburg, my home town. Photo: Daniel Sjöström, CC
Sweden is, sadly, no exception. We’ve long prided ourselves for our open and welcoming society, and in recent decades, much like America has been in times past, we’ve welcomed immigrants to fill the jobs our own refused to do: clean toilets, look after the sick and elderly, janitorial services etc. On the other hand, our educational system is failing, after countless attempts by far too many politicians hellbent to leave a mark and fix a system that was geared toward graduating everyone “because they tried”.
We’ve had three (!) completely different grade systems in the 25 years I’ve lived in this country. Young Swedish males (they are primarily male) who fail school, don’t have much of a life to look forward to, they’ll find it difficult to find partners if they live in rural areas (because young women are more likely to get educated and more likely to move to university cities), jobs, and they often look to explanations outside of themselves. Racism (be it the socialist version we call Nazis or the conservative version that is fascism) provides all the easy answers. If only we didn’t have them, we‘d have plenty of jobs… If only they‘d assimilate, we wouldn’t have to rape to get women… Their sense of reality as warped as it can be.
This Saturday, the most active Nazi group in Sweden, The Nordic Resistance Movement, is going to conduct a march through the streets of Gothenburg, do demonstrate while the Gothenburg Book Fair, Sweden’s largest annual cultural event, takes place. Loads of international media on site, Yom Kippur on Saturday as icing on the cake, and thus plenty of opportunity for great press (according to the motto: “all press is good press!”) They’ve already conducted an impromptu march a couple of weeks ago, taking everybody by surprise, as they hadn’t sought approval for a march. According to Swedish law, you can demonstrate any time, anywhere in public, as long as you don’t disturb the peace. To seek approval only gives you first dibs to a specific time and place. The route of the demonstration is still disputed in courts, and the Nazis have claimed to ignore any official ruling. The Police have built make-shift lock-ups for hundreds of people underneath police HQ, and the extreme left have vouched to bus people to our fair city to stop the Nazis from marching. Violence begging for violence.
Gothenburg, an open, inviting and international city, built by immigrants for free global trade, from day one. Photo: Rob Sinclair, CC
Gothenburg is a vibrant city. Sweden’s second largest was built on clay soil and swamps by primarily Dutch, Scottish and German engineers after King Gustav II Adolf decided he needed a fortified city on the west coast to protect the nation against attacks from primarily neighboring rival Denmark in 1632 (we are now very close to our Danish neighbors, just saying.)
Today, greater Gothenburg is home to some 1.5 million people from over one hundred cultures. Our weather isn’t the fairest, but we have a vibrant cultural scene and my city, which was already once plagued by Nazis in the nineties (see my book Last Winter’s Snow), when even I was once attacked by VAM, raised itself above it all, and will host EuroPride 2018 together with Stockholm. It’s a diverse city, for sure, home to some very large global companies like Volvo Cars, AB Volvo, SKF, SCA, Essity, Mölnlycke Healthcare, AstraZeneca and many others, companies who all rely on experts from around the world, companies who are home in almost every corner of the world.
For weeks, I was determined to stand alongside the march, draped in a Swedish and a Rainbow flag, the symbol of universal love, to show those monsters that there is another story of Sweden, a story of Sweden where color plays no role, where love is universal. I was determined to not sit idly by when the symbol of our nation (our flag) is hijacked by a group of thugs and criminals (the majority of the leaders of NMR are convicted felons according to research by local newspaper GP.) They don’t scare me as an individual group, but I am of course concerned with the wider implications of the rise of “white power” across Europe and the United States. Have we already forgotten the sacrifices of our grandparents?
There are several demonstrations planned against the Nazi march, some by individuals on the extreme left who are just as unpalatable, re “only a dead bourgeois is a good bourgeois…”, “kill those capitalist swines!” No, I would never join any of those groups, but I was looking forward to my silent protest, as scared as I was that it might provoke the Nazis to physically attack me. Despite the largest police contingency planned since the fateful 2001 EU summit, it doesn’t take much to hurt someone. But, as you can see from my use of time, I was going to protest on site. But an article in today’s Metro changed my mind. The authors of that article are spot on: the Nazis want attention, they’re first class attention whores, which is why they’re doing this now, while the world is gathered here for the Book Fair. Instead, the authors propose that we actively turn our backs, not physically in situ, but by staying away from the streets they’ll be marching on. Remember the 1980s peace movement mantra: “what if there was a war but no one showed up?” Kind of the same thing. We should instead actively protest their idiocy by spending time with our families, our children, our friends, do loving things, and suck the oxygen away from those thugs. The city of Gothenburg has also begun to fly the rainbow flag across town, as a strong symbol for love and our city’s diversity. When I dropped off a guest in front of the fair grounds and saw it fly I almost cried. It is a potent symbol for love, universal love.
My grandparents. I miss them very much, and I am proud of their stance and accomplishments during the WWII Nazi plague. Photo: private
Allow me to share an anecdote from my own family. I have German ancestry. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side emigrated from Imperial Germany to Switzerland, where my grandpa was born in 1907. My grandpa was my childhood hero. He was the operator at one of my hometown’s theaters. I loved him and grandma to pieces, spending every childhood summer at their place in St.Gallen. Grandpa was no saint, far from it, but he did one thing right: he refused to join the Wehrmacht (Germany’s army) in 1938 when he was drafted. He and his entire family subsequently lost their citizenship and my mother was born stateless in 1941. My grandpa spent the entire war in camps, as free labor on Swiss farms, far away from his family who suffered enormously of famine and lack of pretty much everything. His brothers all joined the war effort. None returned alive, and there was considerable dissonance between my grandpa and his sisters because of his choice. Personally, I think it’s amazing that my grandpa had the balls to stand up to Hitler and give him the finger. Whether he did if because he was a coward (as some in the family have claimed) is irrelevant today. I have many German friends who live with the stigma of having a grandfather who served in that war and who may have participated in crimes against humanity. How do you deal with that?
He and his entire family subsequently lost their citizenship and my mother was born stateless in 1941. My grandpa spent the entire war in internment camps, providing free labor to Swiss farmers, far away from his family who suffered enormously from famine and lack of pretty much everything. His brothers all joined the war effort. None returned alive, and there was considerable dissonance between my grandpa and his sisters because of his choice. Personally, I think it’s amazing that my grandpa had the balls to stand up to Hitler and give him the finger. Whether he did if because he was a coward (as some in our family have claimed) is irrelevant today. I have many German friends who live with the stigma of having a grandfather who served in that war and who may have (willingly) participated in crimes against humanity. How do you deal with that?
The author of this post in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017. Photo: Alina Oswald.
I have to honor my grandpa for his choice, I have to honor my grandmother who worked tirelessly to shelter, clothe and feed her four children born during the war without any help from her husband, I have to honor my uncle and my aunts who suffered from the long-term effects of malnutrition their entire lives. The tragedy of WWII, and the horrors bestowed upon us by the Nazis linger.
I have a four-year old son. I have a responsibility to make sure that his friends at his international school, Nigerians, Somalis, Iranians, Indians, English etc. all have the same shot at a happy life, regardless of the color of their skin, their creed or who they might eventually end up falling in love with.
This Saturday, Gothenburg has a choice to make when the Nazi march through our city takes place. We let them, because it’s part of our system of free speech and freedom of assembly, but we don’t have to let them do so without showing how pitiful, small and insignificant they are. There are no two sides to this! Will you be with me? Will you stay away from the Nazi march through town, not ogle them, not demonstrate against them, most certainly not use violence against them, but spend time with your loved ones, and demonstrate (as in showing) that Gothenburg and indeed the world, can be a kind place, a loving place, a place where infinite diversity can peacefully co-exist in infinite combinations (to lightly adapt a Vulcan proverb).
Thank you and have a wonderful weekend. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Hans M Hirschi
author, husband & very proud father
I still remember my childhood, reading books
I face fierce competition in my strive to get my son to start reading books. Since the age of nine months, the iPad has been the most popular toy in our house. He’s not unlike other boys though, toys with sirens (particularly fire trucks) are always cool, and I don’t recall how many times we’ve driven by our local fire station just to make him smile. Spiderman is his (and many of his friends in school’s) favorite superhero, and there’s always a train track covering the floor of his bedroom. Plus Lego etc.
At some point we had to limit his iPad consumption, and mind you it’s not violent slasher videos he watches, but Peppa Pig (which Daddy despises with a vengeance), Ben & Holly, the Cat in the hat etc. Good kids entertainment. And for us parents, the iPad is a blessing. He gets up on a Saturday morning, grabs his iPad and crawls back under his covers to watch his cartoons without waking us. Needless to say, Pappa and Daddy are happy for the extra hours of sleep. During meals, between ten am and noon and from one-thirty to four pm, and always after seven pm, the iPad is disabled thanks to an app we have installed. And the great thing is, we can increase that time on the fly, or decrease if needed (long car drives, plane rides etc.)
Remember this? I doubt that very many millennials have seen one of these in real life. I believe this was the most popular program on our channels…
When I was a child, we had a handful of TV channels, and more often then not, in the afternoon or mornings, you’d see the “test screen” on your TV. There was simply no programming. Today, all channels broadcast 24×7 and there are more channels out there than you could ever wish for. At some point, my dad (he’s got a satellite receiver) had over 400 channels in his TV, making it virtually impossible to find anything valuable to watch. We’ve completely abandoned old-TV style watching, unless we want to watch NPR-news when something’s happened. Otherwise, we use our old DVD to watch one of our many hundred discs lying around the house, or it’s Netflix or something directly from Apple on our Apple TV. Books compete with a lot more media today than when I grew up.
But it’s not just more competition for books, it’s also (or so it seems to me) less time. When I was my son’s age, my mom was at home. A home maker she raised us until we “had to” go to pre-school at the age of six. My son began pre-school at the age of one due to both parents working. He’s already in his fourth “academic” year and he’s only four and a half years old. He has long days, starting at 6:30 am and he won’t be home until 4:00 pm today, often later. My school days began later, were shorter, which left me more time to play.
When I was able to read, I also began to read (and write). And while I can’t remember what books I read at what age, I recall the emotional impact of diving into different worlds, whether it was science-fiction with aliens and rockets and star ships, or to be transported across time and space to the old west and Karl May’s many books about cowboys and indians, with the Winnetou trilogy my childhood favorite, along with many others. It was that feeling of instantly being transported to a different place, imagining that place, the characters, living their adventures, following along on whatever track they were pursuing. It was so riveting, so fulfilling.
Reading books is still one of my favorite past times, even though I have less time for it now than ever before. But unlike TV or the big screen, where we get to watch one person’s imagination of whatever it is we’re watching, reading books allows us to fill the blanks ourselves. We get to design costumes, build sets, choose the actors to play the roles, we determine if the sun’s out or not in various scenes, and we get to hop from character to character and live vicariously through them.
My son’s library. (Picture) books from several cultures, some new, some classics. My own childhood books are stored elsewhere. We also read a book a week from my son’s school library.
I really want my son to experience that. I really do. And whenever we read a book together, usually before bedtime, it’s one of our best times together, as we both dive into a story, and you can tell which books excel at enabling children at this journey, and which don’t. My son goes to an amazing school, and every Friday, he brings back a new book from their library to read over the weekend. An amazing program for sure, and we usually send the book back Tuesday or Wednesday. We want to make sure he gets to read it at least twice and our weekends are often bookless, as he gets to stay up late because we’re out or watching a family movie together. But to read with Sascha, kid in my lap, even if we’ve read the same book one hundred times already, is always something special. And he already has a fair collection of books in six different languages: English, Swedish, German, Alemannic, Hindi & Raeto-Romansh.
Children have an almost limitless imagination. Once they reach scholastic age, that imagination is slowly but surely driven from them, until they are mostly grown-up automatons. As an artist, I managed to keep some of that imagination, that ability that allows me to think outside the box (to speak corporate for a second), to challenge status quos, see new ways to do things. I want my son to retain that ability, too, because it’s such a priceless gift. Just as he picks up a stick in the forest to be used as sword or magic wand, he can read books to transport him to strange new worlds or quaint places instantly, to learn and grow as a human being, to walk a mile in the shoes of those less fortunate, those utterly unlike him. And when he’s old enough, I hope he’ll read my books, too, including the one written specifically for him, because I have a hunch that his opinion is one I’ll cherish more than that of a Nobel Prize critic…
How did you get your kids to read? Do you find it hard to compete with TVs, phones and pads? Share your best tips here… If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.
Doctor Who? How a TV show highlights the world’s problem with equality
Do you watch or follow the English Sci-Fi series Doctor Who? I don’t. I’ll be honest. Never seen it, never watched a single episode. But I understand that it’s to the English what Star Trek is to the rest of us (sort of). Like I said, I haven’t seen it. But apparently, they announce new doctors every now and then, and this week, the BBC announced that the thirteenth doctor (anyone superstitious?) would be a woman, for the first time. In a healthy society, this would’ve been met with shrugs all around, because this would only matter to the aficionados. Some would love it (because they like the actor), some would hate it (because they dislike the actress). However, our planet is not a healthy society and before long, the Internet was overflowing with hatred, “too little, too lates” and then some… But it was this article in a Scottish newspaper that had my head spinning. Here was a “feminist” decrying the move as hurtful to equality. He makes some interesting points, which is why it took me a long time to wrap my head around it. Particularly since I don’t watch the show.
Captain Chris Pike and his female Number One (in the pilot of Star Trek) Pike was replaced by Kirk and Number One wasn’t cast again until the Next Generation in the eighties when it was – of course – a guy… The first female captain was seen in the first Star Trek Movie in 1979, in a small role. Source: Tumblr
Here’s the thing. I agree with Mark Smith initial statement: to cast a woman in the lead role of a sci-fi show in 2017 is hardly “edgy”. Had they done it in the 1970ies, yes, but even an “edgy” show like Star Trek couldn’t (wouldn’t? dare not?) cast a woman as First Officer aboard the Enterprise in the sixties. See the interesting pilot with Eugene Roddenberry’s wife as First Officer, aka Number One. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was later cast as a nurse (how female, right?) and as the computer voice. Eventually, in the movies, she advanced to Doctor (1980s). Here’s the problem: women are still universally seen as lesser beings than men. In every aspect of society with the exception of child rearing and ‘care’, where the opposite is the case. Naturally, both views are utterly wrong. Men can be as caring as women and men can be as “worthless” as women are seen.
Yet when a woman replaces a man after twelve instances, people are still either outraged or bored. Let’s assume the opposite. What about Doctor 14? 15? 27? What if the next thirteen doctors were all female? Imagine the outrage! Most major countries in the world have still not had female leaders, and once a woman has had the position, she’s replaced – almost assuredly – by a man. Because “they’ve had their turn, can we return to normalcy now?” NO, we can’t and we shouldn’t. Normalcy won’t be until we don’t even notice what gender, sex or sexuality a person has when it’s equally “normal” aka boring for a superhero to be trans as it is for them to be a man. But for now, we can assume that doctor #14 will be a guy again, that the next English PM is a guy again, that the next German PM is a man again etc. We could, of course, say the same about other countries and “occurrences”. While we applaud the fact that Ireland has a PM who’s gay, you can rest assured this won’t happen again (anytime soon), or that Iceland had a female AND Lesbian PM (her successor was straight, corrupt and yeah, a straight guy). It’s how our society works. For a while (2010-2012), Switzerland had FOUR female ministers in its seven head government (plus a female federal chancellor), a majority, for the first time, ever. Now? We’re down to two. And that’s what most people, even women, consider “normal”.
The “kiss” that rocked the south… Source: Wikipedia
It’s not just gender though, is it? When Star Trek “featured” their first Lesbian kiss it was only acceptable because one of the women was a man in a previous life, and the worms they carry inside their humanoid bodies are basically sexless (gods know how they procreate). And even though there was an outrage when Kirk kissed Uhura in the original show (she was black!) it was under “duress”, not because they wanted to. Imagine if Kirk had been of sound mind, wanting to kiss a black woman! The outrage! The show would never have aired. Even as recently as the 1980s, when Stephen Carrington came out as gay and had an (ex) boyfriend (subsequently murdered (!!!) by the show’s main character and Stephen’s dad), Stephen was almost instantly recast as “bisexual” to soften the blow and later married Sammy Jo. No wonder bisexuals have a bad rap… Bisexuals DO exist, trust me, but bisexuality is not to meant to be a tool to ease heterosexual discomfort… facepalm But yeah, I could go on and on and on, but just stay with Blake Carrington killing his son’s boyfriend and getting away with it, and his son forgiving him for it… Yeah, that’s what my youth looked like! And we complain about a TV show in 2017 casting a woman in the lead… If I have one complaint is that it’s at least fifty years too late (the show first aired in 1963, three years before Star Trek premiered).
Allow me to make it worse, if possible. On Facebook, some of the people I follow, decried the Doctor Who thing as “robbing boys of their last male role models” and it made me wonder: how did girls survive the past millennia with ONLY male role models? Utter rubbish, and utterly sexist, and yes, sadly women are as sexist as men and often step on their own feet of potential advancement. Why, please tell me why, shouldn’t a boy be able to see a girl as a role model? A hero? WHY? Am I missing something? Are girls so much smarter? Because they’ve had no problems seeing Spiderman, Superman, Aquaman, or Batman as role models. But I’m only a gay man, what do I know. We all know that I’m possibly located even lower on the scale than women, just above Lesbians and trans people… frown I do my best to let my son watch the movies/shows he wants, and he loves Elsa as much as he loves Merida or Moana/Vaiana, strong characters, “despite” being girls. And yes, he likes Spiderman, too, or his other cartoon characters in the shapes of trains, little buses, ambulances or what not. Oddly, he is still young enough to not have his mind polluted by the construct of gender. I cherish every moment it stays that way, although I know it’s a battle I’ll lose. Just the other week someone said that Sascha “looked more masculine with his hair short”. Needless to say, I’ll let it grow out again if he wants to. What an insolent comment. As if manliness resides in short hair! But yeah, that’s where we are in real life, in 2017! facepalm
Because in the end, that’s really what matters, right? REAL LIFE. How we educate our kids to be good citizens, respectful of everybody, no matter what, and I for one will do whatever I can so that my son has role models based on their actions, not their gender, sex, sexuality, age, skin color, ethnicity, faith, culture etc.
Notice the representation on this stock image I once bought for my company? Yeah, no blacks and no Asians, but at least we have gender equality…
So how do we move forward? I’m a liberal (in the European, original, sense of the word), I don’t really (want to) believe in quotas or affirmative action, but I’ve also seen how we (in Sweden) have achieved a considerable level of equality, due to quotas. Here it’s a given that approx. half of our parliament is female, that half our government ministers are female. Sweden is far from perfect (re pay gaps), but we constantly talk about it and make slow and constant improvements. The current Canadian government is also a great example of inclusion, but look at how Trump rules in the U.S. and note the not so subtle difference.
So yes, quotas can help. When the Swedish government threatened publicly traded companies with legislation about a 40% female quota on their boards, companies began to look for women for their boards. Sadly, before that, they were mostly complaining about quotas and how they were looking for the right people, not their sex. Suddenly, they found women who were competent. Odd, eh? It’s getting better, slowly, way too slowly. In TV and film, various ratings (e.g. F on IMDB or the Bechdel test) guide viewers to movies with a healthy representation of sexes. And while I can frown upon commercial stock photos with your Asian, your black person, your brown person and a white one, perfect representation of the sexes, I also realize how important it is, and that companies have realized that. Problem is, we’d (as a western society) not accept a commercial with an all black cast or an all Asian cast, as we just wouldn’t see “ourselves” in it, which is problematic at best (I spoke about that with regards to love in my review last week.) This is something we all need to work on, and I believe literature has an important role to play, as our characters don’t have skin colors, don’t have ethnicities unless we give it to them. Why not let them be secrets until after a book is released and then tell people? Yeah, I know, most will assume an all white cast, and that’s at the core of this debate, right? But what if you had a character named Chris who turns out to be a black, Muslim, trans woman? Gotcha! You thought Chris was a straight, white guy… Yeah…
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to this conundrum, but I know one thing: blaming a TV show for being too late won’t help. Instead, make sure they stick with it, not by being representative to the dot, but by being inclusive in all things, and that means not just adequate representation, but seeing beyond all that, to go beyond skin-deep, to the human core of us all, until we get to the point where “what” we are isn’t as important as “who” we are, our character. What’s your take on all this? Do you have any ideas on how to fix this?
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend.
Potty Training or how growing up can sometimes take place in minutes
Last week was a monumental week for our little family. We got to visit the school where our son will be spending the next twelve years (unless we move or whatever). Needless to say, twelve years is a long time, and we had been queueing for a spot for two years and didn’t think we’d get in. But, someone else didn’t take their spot and Sascha was offered a place. The English School in Gothenburg has an amazing reputation and is one of the only schools in town where English is the primary language. In our family we speak five languages on an average family reunion, and English is a must.
When we returned from our visit last Wednesday, we began to read through the information material and were shocked when we read this sentence in the material: “On August 8th, please bring the following items: [long list] potty trained”
Sascha loves his personal potty, his throne. He is the king of the bathroom… Photo: private
Potty Trained? Not sure if you’ve read my post last summer about potty training our son, and our complete failure. Sascha just wasn’t ready. This spring, our current pre-school began potty training during school hours, but Sascha refused. The potty I had bought last year turned out to be too small, and he hated the IKEA toilet adapter. He refused to use the toilet at home. Meanwhile, most girls his age (three) were potty trained and even some of the boys were out of diapers. Not Sascha. We were scared and worried that he may not be able to go to school this fall (and that we’d lost his spot at our current school).
Yes, we’d fully planned to start to potty train him earnestly once vacation begins (this coming weekend), but we also knew that we’d be traveling for most of the time. And traveling, by car, plane for long hours isn’t ideal for potty training. So our self-esteem was low, when we met our current school’s principal last Friday during the school’s open house. She mentioned, not for the first time, that she’d had great success with other kids with a singing potty, a potty that would play a song after every successful pee or poop. I had already suggested to my husband that we take Sascha shopping and that we invest in a new potty, one that our son would choose on his own.
We went to our local baby supply store but didn’t find anything. Yes, they had a pink potty our son liked, but I really wanted the singing potty. Apparently they sold them at Toy-R-Us, so we walked next door and lo and behold, Fisher-Price sells a singing potty. I bought it, not asking Sascha for approval. Back at the house we assembled it (1 minute) and set it up in the bathroom. It looks a little bit like a throne.
Potty-training is made simple. Sascha even empties and cleans his own potty. He insists on it. Photo: private
To show Sascha how it works, I poured some water from a glass into the bowl, and it played a song, ending on a hooray. Naturally, Sascha wanted to try, too. We explained to him that it would always play a song if he went potty, and we tried, right away. Frustratingly, nothing happened, but we decided to remove the diaper anyway, and put on some briefs and shorts. I believe we had three accidents that afternoon, and no success. We even had a big accident (not going into details…)
He went to bed Friday night and drank loads of water, and Saturday morning, it was my turn to get up with him, his diaper was well filled. I helped him out of the diaper and asked if he wanted to try the potty. He did, and you should’ve seen the pride on his face (not to mention the grin on mine) when the potty began to sing. A high five and Sascha had earned a few raisins as a reward. Believe it or not, that was it. From that moment on, we’ve only had two accidents, one on a walk (we’d noticed his telltale sign that he needed to go, an itch to his wee-wee) but standing up and peeing didn’t work for him, and three minutes later we watched the waterfall through his shorts. The second accident came after another short walk. I had noticed he needed to go, but nothing happened when we got home. Two minutes later he didn’t quite make it to the potty and half of it ended up on the floor. But apart from that, he notifies us when he has to run and then he runs, literally. Big or small!
This morning, he went to the potty before going to school, and for the first time, he left the house for a five minute walk to the jetty, a twenty minute boat ride and a ten minute car ride to his pre-school, wearing briefs, no diaper. As he arrived in school, he went to their toilet my husband tells me. Our baby is growing up, in big leaps or strides. I couldn’t be more proud.
So what happened? I think that there are a couple of important factors that contributed:
- He’s linguistically able to process our instructions and explanations. He’s also able to respond. We weren’t there last year.
- His buddies in school have already made the transition, and he’s very much aware of that.
- Being a “big boy” is important to him.
- Choice of potty (comfortable to sit) is critical. It’s going to be interesting to follow his progress, but given this morning’s pee in school, the singing potty isn’t “necessary”, but I think it was critical in helping him take that leap of faith, and to understand the connection between his own “feeling” of a full bladder or colon, and the sense of success. I think the tiny potty and the toilet adapter made things more difficult, mentally, because they were uncomfortable for him. Our stress didn’t help either.
The potty converts into a step, with a toilet adapter. Once the child grows bigger. Potty training with a future! 🙂 Photo: private
Five days ago I was afraid we’d never be able to have Sascha join the English School this fall!. He still gets to wear a diaper at night, for a while longer. We want to make sure he doesn’t have nightly accidents, even though he already wakes up every now and then with an unused diaper. But there’s no rush, and the diapers will come in handy during long flights or car rides. For all else, a small plastic bottle will come in handy for trips.
Why write this post? Well, as a parent, this is one of the biggest moments in our life as a family. We’ve overcome one of the biggest obstacles so far. It’s taken us a year, but in all honesty, it was only a weekend, really. But I also hope that if you’re a parent, and you have a child in Sascha’s age (2-3 years), don’t fret. Don’t go buying books for lots of money. They’ll get there, eventually. As our principal said: there are no five year olds with diapers (at least none without intellectual or physical disabilities). When your child is ready, you’ll get there. But the best tip I can give you is to involve your child. Buy the potty together. Let them be a part of the decision. This is a big step, mentally, and emotionally, to learn to read and interpret the signals from their body, and you want that to be a positive experience, not something that is frustrating (it was for us, every time we failed, and I’m sure that showed and made Sascha self-conscious…)
This post is not sponsored by Fisher-Price, but I’m more than happy to endorse this product (as well as others we’ve bought). We’ll take this potty on our vacation and once Sascha no longer needs it, the seat he’s grown used to and the throne converts to a toilet adapter with step (see photo). Perfect. The potty sells on Amazon for $28, a bargain given how amazing this works!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Have a wonderful week, from a “relieved” dad…
PS: Five days from now, my new book Shorts – Stories from Beneath the Rainbow, is released. Have a look. It’s 25% off on SmashWords right now. Use this code: SSW25
Individual responsibility: we may not even be aware how we influence others
It is of individual responsibility I wish to speak today. I know, as a liberal (in the classic sense of the word, not the crude American version thereof), I highly value individualism, and I’ve always fought for our right, as humans, as individuals, to assert ourselves, to live our lives any way we want (within the bounds of Kennedy’s famous boundary “the right to swing your fist ends where your neighbor’s nose begins”).
However, within the context of society, individualism doesn’t always work, or – at worst – has serious repercussions on others. Allow me two examples of this, from a broad societal point of view, the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, and from a very personal point of view, my son.
Responsibility on the state or government level
A Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East. One of the reasons we’re in the mess we are. No, it’s not all England’s fault, but as the major global power of the era, England carries a big responsibility, and unlike Germany, refuse to axle it. Image: Mideast Cartoon History
I’ll begin with the UK. The decision, made by a rural majority in England has left the Scots reeling, it threatens to upend the very fragile peace in Northern Ireland (just imagine the Catholics in the North being cut off by a closed border from the Republic…), and – even more so, the havoc the decision’s been wreaking on Europe and the rest of the world. My son’s and our savings have lost in value due to the losses on the stock exchanges, my upcoming trip to the UK will be cheaper, but to offset that, my trips to Switzerland and the U.S. will be more expensive, as the Swedish Krona, fell almost as sharply as the Sterling. That’s just the beginning. Nobody knows what the long-term consequences of the so called Brexit will be, if it will happen at all (seems more than one politician is back-pedaling already).
So how could this happened? We could go back a long time, but allow me to just take a quick look at the imperial past of the English, and the meddling in the Middle East. Their very empire building, their very drawing up of maps that for one thing left the Kurds without a nation to call their own, and paid no attention to ancient tribal borders, created the very fertile ground on which dictators and crushed dreams grew for a century. That the same English now wish to leave the EU because they don’t wish to make space for the refugees they helped create a century ago is a prime example of how our actions, as individuals and states, sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a long time after.
But the English (and I specifically don’t use the word “British”, as I don’t believe that term is applicable here, since the Irish and the Scots clearly feel differently about all this, not to mention the fact they were once conquered and forced into submission by the very English that drape themselves as British…) haven’t stopped to be different. How often – when we lived in England – did we hear them speak of “Europe” as if it were some foreign land, and have you forgotten Margaret Thatcher’s handbag thumping to get a one billion Euro discount in the eighties? Again and again have English politicians emphasized their “differentness”, sometimes more subtly, sometimes not so much. David Cameron’s recent “re-negotiation” is just another example of the English feeling they deserve to be treated differently. Imagine Germany trying to get a discount on their EU contributions… Yeah. See?
Why didn’t Nigel Farage speak up when “others” spread the £350M lie? Was it because it suited him, secretly? Or why didn’t he step down as UKIP chair as promised? Lying comes so easily to politicians, despite the huge consequences their words carry.
There are also individual contributions here, from the reactions of say Boris Johnson, who’s been hiding since the results were made public and who suddenly has no hurry whatsoever to implement §50. How come? Or Nigel Farage who know for weeks that the £350 M a week for the NHS was a lie, but never spoke up. Not until the day after! How convenient. Yes, politicians are all liars, and sadly they do not have our (i.e. the citizens) best interests at heart, no matter what they say. Mr. Johnson dreams of the keys to No 10 Downing Street, and Mr Farage, who once threatened to leave the helm of this fascistoid UKIP, well… We know since the last elections what his word is worth: nil. Yet people continue to fall for their sweet talk, their lies. I think the most stunning example of pulling wool over people’s eyes was the claim by some that the absence of European workers could be solved by bringing in Asians. Say again? How would that mitigate the migration problem if you replace one foreigner with another, particularly if the replacement has a drastically different cultural background?
In this instance, we see individual responsibilities abandoned, by politicians, business leaders, but also citizens. I’ve read about so many people who regret their decision. Yes, I agree, this is a difficult question to make up your mind on, but so far, less than a week after the vote, if you’re already having second guesses, while everything still is pretty much unchanged, how can you regret your vote? Did you really think a leave vote would change nothing? I’m not even going to start to discuss the fact that one of the most searched queries on Google from the UK (after the vote) was “what is the EU?” Huh? Now you’re wondering? It is ironic that the rural England, where few migrants live and where the EU has little influence in their daily lives, the majority was against. Reminds me of the recent Swiss vote on immigration. There, too, those who weren’t affected by migration voted against it. Individual responsibility on a larger scale, abandoned.
How we influence on an individual level
Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa’s old bedroom. Even in toys, societal norms are passed on. One female Lego figure for every seven or eight male.
Yet our actions, as individuals, and our individual responsibility, doesn’t just apply to matters of state, or politics. It is much more subtle than that. Allow me to exemplify: my son takes a weekly bath, to wash his hair (like millions of children around the world) As I was watching him play with his rubber ducks today, I noticed that he was calling them “mommy”, “daddy” and “baby duck” in his game. Apparently, my three year old, who has no mother, already knows the natural state of things. Whether it’s from the dreadful thing “Peppa Pig” he watches on YouTube, or the other parents at his day care, I don’t know, but somehow, he’s already internalized the most common form of family. I decided to test him, and asked him “who’s pappa?” and he immediately pointed to one of the two bigger ducks. He calls my husband “pappa”, Swedish for dad. I followed up with “who’s daddy?” and I saw that for a split-second he was confused, before he smiled and pointed to the other big duck and said “this is daddy”, then pointing to the smaller duck and said “that’s Sascha.” He really cracked me up when he also pointed at the little toy sea-plane and said “this is non.” Non is my dad, Sascha’s granddad.
With our actions, we influence the world, ever so subtly, and depending on our role. We may not even know how or even if. But somehow my son’s already picked up on society’s heteronormativity. His preferred pronoun is “he” (and he struggles with she, despite an all female staff at his preschool), he knows that kids have a mom and a dad, and he knows that pilots are men and that the women in planes “make the coffee”. I’m waiting for the day when he realizes that what comes natural to him, to see my husband and I as his parents, will be questioned, in light of what he sees around him. Sometimes it’s the most subtle influences, the most subtle of hints, or the words we choose, will have a profound influence on others. For better or worse. We all, each and every one of us, have an individual responsibility for how we act around us, from our roles as politicians, citizens, or – in my case – as a father and author. I try very hard not to forget that individual responsibility…
What about you?
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Hans M Hirschi
Former – disillusioned – politician, father and author
I’m done restricting my life to ease other people’s discomfort. Why care if you’re going to kill me anyway?
No, I’m not joking. No, I don’t care if you think that Orlando was all about ‘ISIL’ or ‘Islam’ or whatever it is some people would like us to believe. Why? Kevin Swanson (wants to kill all LGBT in the world) or Yishai Shlissel (killed and wounded several Pride marchers in Jerusalem minutes after having been release from prison for a similar crime), to just name one Christian and one Jew, and complete is the Abrahamic triad. Doesn’t make all christians homophobes, or all jews, does it? And I’m sure I could find similar examples from Buddhism, Hinduism etc. Orlando wasn’t about Islam, or any religion for that matter, because homophobia isn’t about religion. Never was. It’s about heteronormativity. It’s about marginalizing people who don’t fit in. Does organized religion make use of that? Of course, and homophobia is one of those rare instances where extremists from all (and none) religions walk hand in hand in harmony.
I have always been different. Ridiculed and bullied from the day I set foot in kindergarten.
In the first days after the attack, some media outlets tried to suppress the fact that this was an attack on the gays (or – alternatively – that we got what we deserved), but an attack on all of America. But this was an attack on LGBT America, not straight America. It was after all at a gay club that all those innocent people were slaughtered. Had the attacker been after all of America, there would’ve been much (!) bigger and more ‘suitable’ targets in Orlando, e.g. the many amusement parks. If people think they make the LGBT community feel better by making this about ‘all of us’, if they want to partake in our pain, then please go ahead, but don’t fool yourself: this isn’t about everybody. Columbine, Denver or 9/11 were ‘all inclusive’ slaughter, indiscriminate shootings against all people, LGBT or otherwise. San Bernardino is another sad example, where muslims, Christians, gays and straight Californians were victims of a vicious attack.
Orlando was about us, my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Queer siblings, the families, loved ones and friends of those we lost or who were wounded. This was a homophobic attack, for once not by WASPs killing a single gay man like Matthew Shepard (et al.), but at the hands of a man, for once a muslim, born and raised in the U.S. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Imagine how all the innocent muslims feel at the misplaced rage aimed at them? We can’t let that happen. As minorities, we can’t afford to hate each other. Love must prevail.
And no, we don’t make this about us in some vain masochistic pursuit, because we ‘enjoy’ being victimized. We do so because we need people to understand, even our allies, friends and families, just how vulnerable we are, still, twelve months after Obergefell vs Hodges (aka marriage equality in the U.S.). Because although my American siblings can get married, they still face this, every day, across much of the country:
- getting fired for being LGBT
- being refused service (hotel, restaurants, shops etc.) for being LGBT
- being refused medical care (!) for being LGBT
- all those “bathroom laws” that deny our trans siblings to use the right bathroom
- children can be forced to undergo bogus ‘conversion’ therapy
- parents can toss their children on the street for being LGBT without repercussions
- you can be discriminated against in many other shapes or forms (apartments, jobs etc) for being LGBT
- and you risk your very life, as it seems, simply for being LGBT, every day, anywhere in the United States (and, sadly around the world)
Imagine all of this happening to you? How would you feel?
When I spoke to a crowd at an LGBT writers convention in Berlin just last Saturday about the fact that LGBT lives are at risk, every day, everywhere, I earned some rather incredulous stares. Eighteen hours later I felt a lot like Cassandra. By trying to denounce the LGBT connection, homophobes belittle us, they try to make us invisible, just as the thousands and thousands of gay men (and others, e.g. Jehovas Witnesses) killed by the Nazis were made invisible for decades after the war, simply because the victors didn’t care about them any more than the Germans had. We don’t relish being in this situation. We hurt, our hearts are broken, and denying that this was a hate crime only makes the pain worse. However, we are all very grateful for all the sympathy and show of love we’ve received from our friends and allies, including President Obama. We greatly appreciate all of the sympathy from the straight community.
Why attack the gays?
We may never know the complete picture of what drove the attacker to do what he did. Pieces of the puzzle are emerging every day, and while they might seem to fit for a while, other pieces might be conflicting. In all honesty, we really don’t know. Was he secretly gay? Like Putin, all those Catholic priests or GOP politicians who can’t seem to stop lashing out at our community, afraid of being outed if they didn’t behave totally ‘straight’, until the day they’re caught with their pants down and their lips around a yummy cock, or better, one up their asses. Who knows, that might fit the picture. Most likely, we’ll never know for sure. Maybe he was bisexual. It’s all connected though. If the people above didn’t have to ‘hide’ who they were, they’d be able to live their lives to their full potential, without all the vile bile coming from their every word and without having to lash out at the people they’re so much alike it scares them so badly. People are discriminated against because of homophobes, and homophobes are, after all, the children of heteronormativity. It’s a vicious, self-replicating, circle.
I’ve had a miserable week. And the only comfort I’ve drawn is from the fact that all of a sudden, out of the blue, the GOP, the Christian right and other homophobes have found themselves on the same side as ISIL and other Islamists they so terribly hate. And maybe that is another piece to the puzzle? Maybe that is why the attacker chose an LGBT club instead of Disney World? The old adage “your enemy is my enemy” suddenly seems so warped. Which is maybe why some so desperately try to deny the ‘gay connection’… They’re obviously afraid that people start to connect the dots:
ISIL is bad. ISIL hates & kills gays. I hate gays. I am ….
Of course there was more than one politically incorrect tweet out of that corner thanking the ‘terrorist’ for finally having chosen a ‘proper’ target, i.e. people who deserved it, or in plain English the ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’ and ‘trannies’ (and their friends) who were shot or killed. What worries me more is the opposite, that the attack was purposely carried out against a minority, to sow dissent in our society, because you could also argue: I am good, I hate gays, ISIL kills gays, therefore ISIL can’t be that bad. That, in my view, is a much more dangerous development, and I’ve seen more than one tweet or comment to that effect. If this continues, it would certainly be problematic, and there are plenty of minorities to focus on: refugees, illegal immigrants, etc.
A comment on my post on Monday showed outrage at the shooter’s father explaining his son’s action with having witnessed ‘two men openly kissing in Miami in front of his 3-year old son’.
One gay kiss = 49 dead, dozens wounded. The price of homophobic discomfort. Ka-Ching!
At the age of twenty, doing my military service, I was out, at least to my parents. But I had to promise them not to tell my grandparents. Grandma knew anyway. And she was one of the first ones to accept me for who I ‘really’ was…
Yes, to call that conclusion outrageous is right. But calling that father’s explanation ‘despicable and absurd’? It’s quite possibly pretty close to the truth, and no, if you think that just because you’re born in the U.S. you’re immune to homophobia, I have a few names for you to consider: aforementioned Kevin Swanson, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee to name but a select few. Born in America, (all?) five would gladly see gays be put to death or at least rounded up in concentration camps. No, not a joke, unfortunately. We can’t deny that homophobia, very much like racism, still is an integral part of American (and foreign) society. Only by facing that uncomfortable truth will we be able to do something about it.
Internalizing other people’s homophobia
I’ll be fifty years old next year, and for all those years, I’ve been doing my utmost to make heteros around me feel comfortable, or at least to minimize the discomfort my sexuality causes them. When I came out, my parents implored me to ‘take it slow’, to ‘not provoke them’, to ‘give them time’ and e.g. not kiss my boyfriend in their house, all the while my brother and his girlfriend sucked on each others faces whenever, wherever, until the day they broke up. Did I mention that my parents paid for my brother’s wedding (and divorce) but barely even attended mine? I have completely and utterly internalized my fear to ostracize anyone. For as open as I may appear, there are so many aspects of me that are adjusted to make sure the homophobes out there don’t feel discomfort. Lucky for me, my parents have slowly adjusted to who I really am. It’s only taken them thirty years, and there are still things that make my dad uncomfortable (mom’s dead), and I’m not just talking about my writing… E.g. some of my friends, just for starters…
When I was young and finally came out, I wanted to kiss my boyfriend of course, just like my het friends kissed their loved ones. Holding his hand seemed such a sweet and – oh so – innocent gesture. I was SO very happy, every time. But (afraid of) being attacked, harassed and ridiculed, I boxed those emotions, hid them neatly, in the very back of my mind, and I convinced myself that I really, really, didn’t like public displays of affection, that holding hands made my own hands warm and clammy, not feeling safe and loved, and that a peck or kiss in public was disgusting, not a simple show of how much you love your better half or how happy you are.
This couple, my bonus parents, opened their home and their hearts for me, when the Mormons evicted me for being gay, and they simply shrugged: unconditional love. I’ll never forget that.
I internalized all of this to the degree that I began to buy my own BS, hook, line and sinker. To this day, I have to push myself to give Alex (my husband!) the most innocent of pecks when one of us comes back from a trip and we pick each other up at the airport. He’s even more afraid than I am. I seriously doubt any straight person ever even ‘thinks’ about that when they kiss their partners.
I may be out and proud, but I’m also afraid, very much so. Every day, every time. Always a watchful eye, body on full alert, mindful of that one homophobe who feels threatened, who decides to lash out at you, with a sneer, verbally, or physically. Always a protective set of eyes on my son, afraid he may have to witness a comment about the absent mother or the two fathers. I’ve had bottles thrown at me, I’ve been beaten, I’ve been threatened to death on more than one occasion, just because of who I love. Picture yourself in that situation. Would that make you uncomfortable?
Every time I meet a straight person, and the need to ‘come out’ arises, I think twice: is it really worth telling this person that I’m gay? That I have a husband? A son? Or that I write ‘gay’ fiction? Or had I better avoid the subject to avoid that person discomfort? These situations come up almost every day, for over thirty years now. I’ve missed promotions, jobs and opportunities because of who I am, and I’m stared and frowned at more often than you care to imagine.
So here are a few choice words for you homophobes out there:
I’m done. For almost fifty years I’ve tried to please you, and you still come after me and shoot me and my kind. I’ve tried to hide in clubs where I thought I was safe, and you came after me and shot me, and now you tell me this isn’t about me? But about you? You know what? I’m done with this bull shit. And I won’t let you get away with it this time. Go ahead, elect the Trumps of this world to be your leaders, try to throw every last muslim out of the country, and the Latinos along with them (who btw. where the majority of the victims in Orlando, just FYI), but you don’t care, do you, because not only were they ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’, they were taking away your job and were probably illegal anyway. Go ahead, vote for Christian extremists to represent you in your councils, houses of representatives or senates, state or Federal, continue to deny us our civil rights and continue to kill us. There is little I can do about that. But there is one thing I CAN do, and that is to live my life to the fullest, to love whoever I choose to love, to love them to the full capacity of my heart and beyond. I will instill the values and virtues of unconditional love in my son. I will teach him to know right from wrong, to distinguish good from evil in people, not faiths, not cultures. I will love and love and love without apology. Until your guns and bullets silence me. I do not care any more. I’m done.
If my love is so terrifying that you must hate me, kill me, then so be it.
The Hirschi family. I would’ve never expected this, but I feel proud of how far we’ve come. But our happiness isn’t guaranteed. Anywhere, not even here, in Sweden.
I read an article the other day from a Swedish pastor on the very Christian right (not all idiots are Americans, plenty of them elsewhere, too) who thinks that the LGBT community shouldn’t be so ‘visible’, so provocative, making hets feel uncomfortable. He said that we should be more demure, using the same shame tactics used on rape victims: ‘you brought this upon yourself’. Why not, victim-shaming has worked so well to oppress women for eons, why not use it on the LGBT community? But they won’t succeed with me. Not any more. I’m done limiting my life to keep others from feeling uncomfortable. Once and for all. No more apologies.
Hans M Hirschi