Strange Times

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

Goethe, Collected Works

Strange times

I truly love the etching I have chosen today to open my weekly rant. It is called “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos) by my favourite Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco de Goya. I apologise that my blog has been sleeping and like in Goya’s imagination it has suffered from nightmares and monsters. One only has to look at the news to realise the world is a dark and strange place.  In my case, I only had to get on the bus last week to experience one of the most bizarre situations I have endured since I moved to the UK. I will tell you what happened, it will help you understand why I am feeling the blues. I was on the bus with my youngest in his pram. I was happily jabbering to him in Spanish and this lovely girl was sitting next to me with her son also in his pram. She looked at me with curiosity and as I smiled back at her she asked me if I was bringing Xabi up in Spanish. Yes, of course, I said. I try to speak only my mother tongue to my kids so they can speak it too. What about you? I asked as I noticed her foreign accent. I am Lithuanian, she replied but I only speak English to him. People look at me funny if they hear me talking in Lithuanian and I do not like it, it makes me feel uncomfortable and even scared sometimes because of Brexit. She sounded really upset. Who wouldn’t be really, but I tried my best to encourage her to speak her language no matter what. It is a great gift we are giving to our children, I said. Suddenly, out of the blue this gentleman steps into the conversation. Do not listen to her, he said to the Lithuanian mum, it is because of people like HER we voted out, we want you out. Coming in here and refusing to integrate! My response was quick, I told him my children were British and that you have no right to speak to us like that. To my surprise he fought back: why are you so proud to be Spanish anyway? He said, a bunch of fascists you lot. Look at the way you are mistreating the Catalans. Being Spanish is nothing to be proud of young lady.  And on that note he got off the bus leaving me shocked and speechless.

Yes, it was a frustrating moment. There is nothing you can do to change the way some people think about immigration. Rejection towards the outsider is a plague extended all over the world. It always has been. This man did not know me and even if he did he will probably still think I am not welcome here with my ways of undermining the British way. Sad yes, Outrageous I think, but unfortunately this is the way some people feel and only with education and patience this simplistic way to see the world will be eradicated.  I must admit this time it felt totally different to me. Not only to be told that I am unwelcome here but I was accused of being a Spanish fascist as well. That is a first. Spain until now was always the perfect starting point for a conversation. I have lost count of the times I have been asked why I am here, coming from there. This change of tide I blame on the press. The coverage of the Catalan situation has been appalling and one sided from all of the British media, including my beloved BBC. Misleading headlines all the time and an extremely superficial approach to the subject. It feels like oh well, we do not really know what is going on but we heard something about a Civil War and a guy called Franco and the Inquisition so let’s mix it all up and portray the Spanish (and that includes the Catalans) as a bunch of abusive fascists still on their donkeys playing the castanets.

I was born in a democracy. My parents saw the death of Franco. It is not the Spanish government dear BBC who are persecuting Mr Puigdemont and his collaborators. It is the Courts of Justice upholding our constitution. We do have a clear separation of powers, the same as you do in this country. Puigdemont is not a martyr. Funny how he speaks out about the atrocious state of Spanish democracy but all these years he has been working and freely expressing himself within the walls of that “oppressive” country. I have read the writ from High Court judge Carmen Lamela where the crimes of the secessionist are described: they played around the law in a very well-planned road map towards independence designed years ago. She is not sending anyone to prison because of their ideas as it has been reported. This is about repeated failure to comply with Constitutional Court rulings against the laws the independence movement have been passing unilaterally and without consent. The independence leaders have stirred up social unrest with the sole intention, as the legal writ states, “of generating political and economic instability to force the [Spanish] state to accept negotiations on separation.” That is why I am so angry because the absurd portrait of my country as an anti-democratic nation is so far from the truth. The lack depth of information is an illness journalism need to address. As we have seen with Brexit and Trump, the media has the ability and power to change the course of events but use that power wrong and all we do is impoverish society.  “Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.” Wrote G.K. Chesterton. See you next time amigos.

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