Monthly Archives: December 2017

Jerusalem

At the onset of this month, Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. I will admit to not being very well-versed in the historical aspects that affect this part of the world, so I visited the CNN newspage and clicked the article that I was sure would solve all my problems. It is entitled “Why declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel is so controversial.”

To summarize, it would first undo nearly a decades worth of diplomatic processes that have slowly nudged the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toward a peaceful solution, as well make foreign embassies a target for violent attacks in response to the news, according to one US State Department official. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for nearly 100 years, and Jerusalem is the most sensitive aspect of this conflict, as both nations declare it as their capital–both with historical justification for doing so. For foreign policy officials, especially during the Obama administration, Jerusalem has always been the ‘final problem,’ and after years of negotiations, all the work has been undone by one rash move by Donald Trump.

Not only is simply declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel problematic for the Palestinians, but moving the US Embassy is an entirely different issue. It could be a simple thing, to move the capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem–especially considering that the US already has a consular outpost there. However, Trump has decided that an entirely new embassy will be built, which of course, is a logistical complication. Moreover, it invited Arabs and Palestinians to protest throughout the entirety of the construction project.

In respect to the international nature of the history of Israel–after all, several countries were party to the original declaration that gave Israel statehood–it is important to note that because of the conflict, no countries have embassies in Jerusalem, while nearly 86 have their embassies situated in Tel Aviv. Were the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem, it would be the only one.

The Israelis, of course, are quite pleased with this agreement–at least officially. The leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are applauding Trump. THe Palestinians, however, consider this declaration, and its potential enactment, a breach of international law, and a huge setback in regards to peaceful and permanent solutions to this dispute.Some Americans believe the the timing of the announcement was suspicious, and have posited that Trump made such an irresponsible decision to draw attention away from Robert Mueller’s investigation into his relationship with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. The rest of the international community has found it concerning, careless and rash, and the United Nations has condemned the decision 14 to 1.

Because this is such a sensitive issue with so many moving parts, it is important to keep an eye on both official and unofficial reactions in the days ahead.

Not All News Is Bad News

Recently, it was announced that Prince Harry of Great Britain’s royal family is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle. For some Americans, it’s like Princess Diaries come to life–well, not exactly, but still very exciting. Some are indifferent to the news–after all, we fought to be a separate country from England, so why should we care? But I can almost assuredly say, that no significant portion of Americans are particularly upset about the upcoming royal wedding.

I, unfortunately, cannot say the same for some Britons. There have been a slew of racist tweets, mostly along the lines of the “dilution of the bloodline” or the “devolution of the Crown.” In general, comments that make no sense and don’t truly bear repeating. After all, I’m sure it’s hard enough to find true love if you’re a part of the royal family. How could you not be paranoid all the time that someone is only after your money, or station? I hope the Prince Harry and Meghan have found the real thing, and I wish them luck in the years ahead.

And of course, there are some who choose to make every event political. While it happens to be a skill of mine to find political implications to every action, I don’t really find it necessary to apply said skill in this case. However, some think that Ivanka Trump’s recent tweet, congratulating the happy couple, was in fact a fishing expedition for an invitation. The thought process behind such a theory is that Obama, who had a great relationship with the Royal family and still does, will be in attendance, and therefore the Trumps cannot bear to be left out. Despite the fact that it is well known that neither I nor the Royal family have much love for the Trump family, I am choosing to believe that this really was a good faith, well-wishing tweet from the First Daughter. If that’s not the case, and it truly was an ill-conceived attempt to wrangle an invitation, I think it’s safe to safe that she tried in vain.

The Royal couple have set their wedding date for May 19, 2018. Prince Harry’s older brother, Prince William, and his wife Kate are expecting their third child next year as well.

I wonder what is the American obsession with England, even after all this time. The culture of both countries have grown so far apart the practically the only thing we share is a language. Even that can be divided into British English (e.g. colour, bins, ‘taken to hospital’) and American English (e.g. color, trash, ‘taken to the hospital’). I think most of the fascination is the fact that England is kind of like America’s ‘parent’ that tried to hold on too tight, and America is like England’s ‘rebellious teenage child’ that was estranged for a while, but now we have a mutual respect and fascination with each other. We find each other’s accents attractive, we watch each other’s television shows. America is obsessed with concept of royalty and nobility–despite the fact that we are vehemently against that sort of thing happening here (at least, in any official capacity). I once had a friend from England who was obsessed with American southern culture, specifically barbecue.

Whatever the reason, it is an impressive relationship that we have sustained. And in that same vein, on behalf of any Americans who care, I wish the Royal family the best.

Libyan Slave Trade

This is by far the most upsetting thing I’ve had to write in 2017. I find myself baffled by the very fact it’s so ostentatious. One thing that I know is an unfortunate truth: the slave trade never truly went anywhere. People have been sold into sex slavery since the dawn of time–in fact, Oklahoma is one of the hotspot for sex trafficking in the United States. But the actual sale of people in ‘old-fashioned’ slavery: what with the chains and the auctioneer and actual bids on human lives, makes it seem like we truly are stepping back into the past.

CNN broke the news of the Libyan slave trade, with horrifying video footage nearly a month ago, and already it’s become old news in mainstream media. The original story broke in November, but it was in October that the CNN news team witnessed the sale of Libyan men, some for as cheap as $400. I find myself wondering–what kind of person knowingly buys another person? Who willfully and intentionally participates in such an antiquated and clearly inhumane practice? Maybe I’m coming from a place of innocence or privilege–after all, slavery, as I previously mentioned, is alive and well in certain parts of the world, such as East Asia, parts of Africa, and even Ukraine. But it’s the familiarity associated with the way in which slavers in Libya are going about it. If anyone has ever seen a slave documentary, or Alex Haley’s television adaptation of Roots, or been to a terrifying ‘interactive slaving’ experience like I have, one would think–or at least hope–that that sort of practice is done.

Of course we cannot ignore the political causes and effects of this sort of news. Many believe it was the destabilization of the region by American interference (namely, the removal of Gaddafi by the Obama administration) that led to people’s desperation for income. This is the sort of oversight that leaders and governments need to fully consider before taking action. The renaissance of the slave trade is a little…unforeseeable…but surely it was known that removing a leader, not matter how corrupt, would have impacts beyond the immediately known.

The Trump administration has also had some effect on this abhorrent practice, and much like everything out of the Trump administration, the news is not great. Trump’s relationship with American media is tumultuous, if one is being kind. He frequently tries to undermine the integrity of any news source that reports on him negatively, including such accredited news stations like CNN. Libyan slave traders are now using President Trump’s quotes wherein he calls CNN ‘fake news’ to cast doubt on the report and continue this corrupt behavior under the guise of journalistic dishonesty. President Trump, as of today, has done nothing to distance himself from the Libyan slave trade. He has neither put out a statement to bolster CNN’s credibility (to the surprise of no one), nor has he publicly condemned the slave trade in Libya. To say I am disappointed in the United States response would be an understatement.

The United Nations, which currently backs the Libyan government, has promised to investigate these claims in conjunction with Libyan officials, who say that it is the rest of the world’s response to Libya’s migration crisis that has allowed smugglers to exploit desperate citizens. To put it mildly, I am underwhelmed with the international response as well.

Preparation

I was preparing to go down to Houston for my Consular Visit. Houston is where the Office of the General of France is, which means that it where I had to go to get my visa approved.

This process was nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing. I only enjoyed the process insofar as I knew that it was just one more hurdle I had to clear until I could go to France. That’s the goal I had to cling to through frantic calls from my parents, frantic calls to my parents, gathering materials, making a list, checking the list, printing so much that I probably have the destruction of an entire forest on my conscience. I hated everything about this process–everything except for the fact that it was going to get me closer to studying abroad.

Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to travel and see everything and everyone there is to see. Maybe if I had travelled outside of the country before, I wouldn’t have been so nervous. But as it is, I have never been outside the United States, though not for lack of trying.

I planned my consular visit to take place during Thanksgiving Break. I took the train to Dallas, my hometown. My mother picked me up, I had a brief moment to say hello to my brother and sister before my dad came home. We were rushing around (and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘me’) trying to find the last few official documents that I’d need for the visit. I had two different versions of a checklist in my hands, and I’d check them and the folder with all my documents in it several times, every few minutes. Even once we had gotten into the car and were already driving down to Houston.

We spent the night in town, five minutes from the consulate, so that we wouldn’t miss my 9:30 appointment. Despite my meticulous checking, we’d forgotten the prepaid envelope which was required for the appointment (I later learned it was to mail all my important documentation back to me, like my passport). So, at the crack of dawn, we drove around looking for a post office and a bank which was open before 9 am, because one of the documents needed to be notarized. We found a post office, but all the banks were still closed, it was too early in the morning. I was nervous, because I am the type of person who just waits for something small to derail something big and important. But my mother had a great idea to see if the French Consulate had a notary that we could use when we got there. We called the consulate, and the secretary assured us that it was no big deal, so long as we had identification for everyone who signed the documents.

I was still a ball of nerves when we parked at the consulate. By the time I walked in and sat down it felt like someone had lit a campfire in my stomach, and every so often my anxiety would force me to involuntarily contract my stomach muscles, like it was trying to put the fire out.

I walked up to the window and she asked for proof of my appointment. I knew I had gotten an email but I didn’t think to print it. All my meticulous planning, printing and list checking and this was the thing that was going to derail everything. But no, she checked my email confirmation and everything went smoothly from there. In fact I had forms and printouts in my folder the man behind the counter just handed back to me.

By the end of it all, I got my visa, valid from January 8 to June 8.I plan to leave on January 14 (since my sister’s birthday is on January 11, and she has insisted I stay for it) and I will return on June 13.Even though this process was and still is nerve-wracking, I am more excited than I am afraid.