Travel. Culture. Karma.

What is Russia's thinking in their influencing of the U.S. Election, perhaps even aiding Trump to become President of the United States? 

In order to better understand Russia's thinking we have to go back to World War I when Russians and particularly, a lawyer named Vladimir Lenin rose to power under the ideals of Marxism. It was a time when Russia was transforming into the Soviet Union and Karl Marx's ideology of modern communism would give rise to America's Red Scare. “Hysteria provoked by a mounting fear and anxiety that a Bolshevik revolution in America was imminent — a revolution that would change church, home, marriage, civility, and the American way of life."
"Out of this spark will come a conflagration”
-Iskra, 12/1900, (Co founded by Vladimir Lenin)

Marx's Das Kapital laid a framework for cultural and economic change that would eventually spread to over a third of the world (now a quarter), marking one of the fastest and widespread growths of power in the history of mankind. Western dissent would eventually label the ideology the Gospel of Marx because of its prerequisite for moral superiority, call for civilizing (missionary) action and the belief in a core principle that communism is "the real movement which abolishes the present state of things".

These beliefs became embedded in to Russian society and culture. They have become part of its national identity. Putin, like many Russians believes that it is inevitable that the United States of America, like the Greeks and the Romans, will fall. Is it just a Russian fairy tale and an empty threat? The truth is we don't know. Many Russians believe the future is inevitable (much like 19th century Americans believed in Manifest Destiny) and that Russia will return to its former glory (which explains the annexation of Crimea). Arguably, there is considerable evidence to suggest America is exhibiting the warning signs that it is at a tipping point. In Putin's mind America is at its liminal threshold for change, and that he only needs to give Lady Liberty a little bit of a push to send us over the edge and into a paradigm shift.

 Factors like the Collapse Gap, which measures the downfall of a civilization, suggests America is exponentially more likely to fall than that of previous empires at their peak. In the last decade the U.S. has seen rampant unemployment, a housing market in distress and the stock market on the verge of a double-dip collapse. Then it all got a little bit better for a short time but that's completely normal according to Marx who believes that capitalism must pass through a period of socialism.

Many have argued that the social programs, under President Obama, like the Affordable Care Act, fulfill this obligation. This causes those whom earned their wealth under capitalism to fear the loss of their economic power and aid a dictator to come to power through violence. A revolution, that may begin as simply as a congressman yelling “baby killer”, “you lie” or Republican candidates calling the President “buckwheat”.

“A Richmond police spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that a bullet was fired at the congressman's office. “
-CNN March 25th 2010
The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "right wing extremist activity,"
-Washington Post, April 14th 2009
If we can get across to the other side that they are within inches of provoking a civil war in this country, then that's a good thing.
-Michael B. Vanderboegh 
In the end, this dictator comes forward and offers to fix the problems. He offers to over throw the government. In other words, much like a campaign promise, perhaps he'd offer to "Make America Great Again".

Putin sees Trump as the dictator born from of a violent revolution as protests, border walls and deportations continue to be global news. He's taken Marx's allegorical criticisms of capitalism and is now using it as a Russian playbook against America.

A few years ago at a international conference on war, a strategic forecast was generated in front of the delegates based on scientific data collected by Dr. Panarin. Panarin was a former adviser to Boris Yeltsin who worked at the Russian equivalency to the NSA and who holds a PhD in U.S. economics and political science. On the screen was a map of the United States and as Dr. Panarin pressed the button on his computer the delegates "cried out in surprise" as "the United States disintegrated".

There's no question that Russia believes the end of America's dominance is near. There's little doubt to suggest that they're willing to aid in the materialization of Marx's narrative, regardless of how fictional Marx's intentions were or not. Only time will tell if America will surrender to the ideas it once feared and if Marx's master-plan is inevitable. However, one cannot doubt that if capitalism falls, America as we know it ceases to be the country we believe in today. One could argue that's already the case.

You're a kind good working person who cares for others. You struggle to get by but live your life with honesty, integrity and common sense values. These are what many people, including those who voted for Trump (I did not), might see as the pillars that make up American culture. However, ask many foreigners what their perception is of American culture, from outside the paradigm, and you'll quickly find confusion. Even for some of us within the bubble, indeed, it's still perplexing. Why wouldn't everyone deserve health-care, the freedom of buying international goods and the opportunity for greater interconnectedness? We're a country that loves to insist on high ideals but find many of the structures that bind our culture and society today to be paradoxical to that fact. I'm reminded of Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Price winning playwright, an Occupy Wall Street activist and playwright who penned "Ruined", a play about Congolese women who are brutally raped and tortured by men during the African civil war.

Nottage literally saw "the communal spirit of Africans" at work, as opposed to the American individualism that decrees it's every man for himself. 

For myself, I've witnessed the American Parental Countdown to Freedom here in the south as accidental parents count the calendar days till their children are eighteen and therefore legally, no longer their responsibility. An expiration date that might as well be tattooed on the baby's bottom limiting the liability of those who forget when they're ovulating. Sex education and condoms are too taboo but "sure as shit" (an expression we love to use around here), after the mobile home is-done-a-rocking and the Marlboros are smoked, there will be a miraculous blessing, a child. A child born into a world they didn't ask for, shackled to the socio-economic status of their parents and who statistically is unlikely to escape it. Meanwhile my counterparts in Europe often live at home far into adulthood until obtaining a foothold on life. Everyday I see the tragedy of commons play out in the rural community I live. A highly un-educated part of North Carolina where back-stabbing is common and neighbors commit to personally involving themselves in your affairs if they think the imbalance is in your favor. (The cliche: everybody knows everybody, in these parts.) Standing in the grocery store you'll hear people get upset at others who buy food on social assistance. "I don't get to eat [fill in the blank] and I work.", they'll say. Car registration past due? My neighbors will be happy to call the police on you. Is there a sale in town? Shhh.... don't tell anyone else. Buy it all, even if you don't need it. Altruism is not an American value.

There are, of course, exceptions.

Growing up I was told that if I worked hard that I could be and accomplish anything. Last July I completed a master's degree with high marks from what is practically an ivy league U.K. university. I did so because of my passion and love for the globalized world and it was this love for idealism that drove me to follow my dreams. However, after it was all done and I began looking for a job back in the U.S. I quickly became aware of my mistake in assuming that other Americans would perceive my ambitions positively. Au contraire, ma soeur. After numerous interviews, it became apparent via feedback, that despite all my hard-work, a "European" degree was considered substandard despite the university being globally ranked as one of the best. While my counterparts in Europe and Asia were eagerly hired, a sense of resentment could be heard over the phone as I didn't embrace that standard pathway for American entitlement. I was coloring outside the lines and that's never good in America. I see friends from Asia and Europe moving from country to country while job prospects that are merely out of my state, I'm told by the interviewers, are too far for anyone to possibly relocate to. Then there's that job I may have been offered in Canada by a U.K. company. A friend woke me up one morning with urgency to apply and I quickly did. For a brief moment I felt almost human. Call me an emotional sob but one does wonder what's wrong with them after a few thousand rejection letters. I was ecstatically (and prematurely) hopeful knowing I had NAFTA on my side. After all, it should be a cinch since the agreement was styled after the Eurozone free-movement provisions that make Europe so alluring. Of course, a Labour Impact Study accompanies almost any job in Canada and was described to be a "legal nightmare" by the recruiter.

Stupidly, I never took up any of my marriage offers while living overseas. Option one, was a tall handsome man from Columbia, who would have fit most women's ideals of sexy conquistador. Then there was the Greek girl, a good friend, who was so supportive of my wish to live out my dream (and needed a roommate in London) that she was willing to fake a marriage so that I didn't have to depart the shores of Britain. While in hindsight, perhaps I should have taken advantage of these loopholes, I undoubtedly chose the honorable pathway and returned Stateside in hopes that a proper path to freedom, my liberation, would be found.

Then November came and Trump was elected president. I saw my world closing in on me. I slowly watched American freedoms being stripped of myself and those around me. Toilet police for the transgendered, our president-elect is on the national news talking about groping women, Planned Parenthood is to be defunded and abortion made practically illegal. I watched the KKK march across a nearby town in support of white supremacy and I, like many minorities, now live in an ever growing fear of what's next. I live in a state that has rejected the Affordable Health Care Act, which puts me in the special margin of individuals who no longer have health insurance. A fearful prospect as just weeks earlier I fell from the roof of our home, breaking a rib and my wrist.

I have little recollection of the fall as to how it happened. I woke up in a hospital with a concussion that I can only describe as a metaphor for coming back to the U.S. this last year: painful. I'm told that I kept telling everyone I just wanted to go home during my unconsciousness. That home, was not in Kansas if you're wondering. There are days I see no way out, no safe passage home. I imagine whatever your dream is, the next four years under this Republican dystopia will beckon both you and I to return to that roof to finish the job.

A leap of faith is how it all began but hope is what keeps many of us going. I've heard that "We're going to make America great again!", when I thought, at least according to my critics in the past, "America's the best country on Earth... Goddamnit." How do you even argue with that? My response was to run to my room and to dig out my great grand-parents birth certificates to prove German Right-of-Blood. One problem, they chose to nationalize before having my grandmother which in some metaphysical irony severed German citizenship for any descendant thereafter. I've now drafted the majority of my ancestral lineage and despite having grown up with a great grandmother who spoke German, a Welsh surname and emphatic disposition that I don't belong here, I am undeniably imprisoned by the country whose claim to fame is freedom.

Recently, I found out one of my family members is unable to travel because they owe too much money and the IRS has revoked their passport. The individual, a second generation Mexican American can no longer leave the country that now threatens to erect the modern incarnation of the Berlin Wall between him and his extended family.

At one point I completely gave up. I accepted my life here in the U.S. and searched for months on end to find that American job to fall into line with and dutifully payback the $80,000 in student loans that I had accrued during my moment of weakness (going to university). A time when I thought I could find my way out and anything seemed possible. At least, that's how it was sold. However, in the U.S., student loans are never forgiven. There is no bankruptcy and many have associated such practices as indentured slavery. By contrast, in Belgium, my European "sister" from a home-stay during study abroad was paying about 500 Euros per semester for her graduate degree. One could argue such a comparison is a hyperbole and admittedly, I'm deeply grateful to have lived in a country that's allowed me the opportunity for education. However, if the system never actually provides the freedoms associated with such education, if the mouse realizes they're in a maze where there is an entire world that they're never permitted to participate in it, isn't that torture? Living in a literal Plato's cave, am I doomed to remain a shadow, mentally imprisoned in the inescapable cycle of socio-economic poverty?

I hope not. (cringe)

This last July I walked the Camino de Santiago from France to Spain. I met a lot of different people, ended up in the hospital and eventually ended up in a series of airports trying to get back to the U.S. This is that story...

See Part 1: How to Find Happiness: A Summer on the Camino de Santiago
See Part 2: Maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.
See Part 3: It's a sign that we've all gone inside.
See Part 4: God wants you dead

I had arrived at the airport in Santiago, which was a sense of relief and fear. I've recovered quite well these last few days in Santiago but continue to have a sense of exhaustion from the fleeting infection leaving my body. Tonight I will sleep on a bench in the terminal in a foreign country. I'm ready to leave Spain but I'm not sure I'm ready to return to the U.S. It's paradoxical. On one hand, I'm ready to go Stateside and eat a spicy burrito, hug my family and fall into the arms of my lover. Yet, I know I'm likely romanticizing all this. I know that after a week or two of being home, whatever fairy tale I've manufactured for myself will turn to my own sentiments of failure.

Five weeks ago I climbed the Pyrenees from France to Spain. I remember sitting at the communal dinner with everyone at Refuge Orisson.  There, there were people from all around the world with smiles on their faces and dreams in their heads for what the next few days of their adventure may bring. We ate and drank like fat pigs. We laughed, we felt uncomfortable and grew familiar with each other in the hours of that meal. After dinner, we went around and introduced ourselves and where we were from. I hate these questions because, while yes, I'm from the U.S., I identify less with this label more and more these days. Why am I here? "I really don't know." What do I do? "I'm sort of in between at the moment."

Even when I think I know myself (or don't) at the end of the night, we said goodnight to our hosts. A little tipsy, I innocently hugged the rather attractive bar tender a bit too long and may have confusingly asked if I'd see him in the morning. Me, the socially awkward lesbian. While my female roommates decidedly cheered me on, on our way back to the room, in my head I was asking myself "Who the hell are you Liv?"

Yesterday in Santiago after what it had seemed like weeks since I've spoken English to anyone, I met Joely. She's 19, from Nottingham and we instantly hit it off and began verbally downloading each others lives. As usual, we found our problems aren't so much different. At this point I've met hundreds of people, heard thousands of stories and do you know what the common theme is among almost every pilgrim? Love. Love is confusing, it makes us do irrational things. Relationships are hard and everyone I've met here just wants someone in their life that makes them feel special, someone who loves them for who they are both in success and failure. We want someone to see beauty in us where we do not see it in ourselves. Someone to standby us before anyone and anything. Joely tells me, "they should be your biggest fan, your greatest accomplice to all of your crimes and your savior when you can't save yourself." It's about happiness and that's in short supply these days we concede. We forget what really matters. That you cannot truly love someone else unless you're willing to be both loved and the giver of such love. You must be both the hero of your own story and theirs. There are high standards out here among women, many of whom have walked the 800 KM alone. Their expectations of themselves often contrasting traditional stereotypes. So, I implore you to consider this simple fact: they're writing their own story unbounded by intimidation or jealousy. Joely advises, "I want someone to love me for my story".

A photo posted by Liv Jones (@liv_adara) on

The next day, I landed in Madrid. Standing in the line at the ticket counter I see couples holding hands and stealing kisses. The guy lays his hand on his lover's thigh. Eventually, I decide to go grab a cup of coffee outside a bar in the airport. Airports are an interesting place to observe the behavior of others. I watch these two women at a table inside the pub, their legs touching each other. Some strange hallmark of tension existed between them that made me curious. I cautiously peered over my magazine and took a sip of coffee like some James Bond spy. They sat with several other people who seemed unaware of this dance being performed below the table's surface.  Eventually, the woman placed her hand on the other woman's leg and her hand stayed there. I could tell that they were both enjoying the warmth of that touch and the secrecy of casually intimacy that could easily be explained as misrepresentation should they be caught in the act. Eventually, it's time for their flight and the group gets up and says their goodbyes.  The two women hug as it's clear they're not going in the same direction. They begin to walk away in opposite directions. Eventually, the group has turned the corner out of sight  and the other woman pauses, looks back over her shoulder and begins to cry. A few moments later struggling to walk away, she manages to move forward sobbing to the point of being out of breath. This is when I realize I've been fake reading my US Weekly magazine upside down for the last twenty minutes. My heart was heavy having witnessed what I had. My cynical disposition transformed in the final minutes of Spain. My walk, my stay in the hospital, nothing had prepared me for what I felt in that moment. Suddenly, I wasn't ready to give up, but to go on. Even when you think you can't move forward, you do.

The truth is this and it applies to everyone. You can't dwell on those matters that change our direction in life. You can't go and back and you can't hold onto your idealism because surely it will destroy you. It all comes down to this. When it all changes, you must change. Let go of those plans for the future, your expectations and start again from where ever you are. We've all known people who refuse to forge a new path when they become lost in the mountains. They continue onward as the terrain grows rocky and the clear distinctions of the paved road fades into nothingness. We observe these people knowing that one tiny change of direction could pull their lives together but they refuse to because it's not the life they've planned. And that's just it, no one gets the life they've planned for. They get the life they live. I now laugh at those who make those five year plans, taught as an academic exercise in forward thinking. If your life comes out how you expect it in five years then you're living life wrong.

As I took my seat on the plane to Copenhagen, I looked over to see the same woman in that bar sitting in the row opposite of me. She's texting on her phone, still crying. I wonder if she's trying to say goodbye. Is she trying to say something in these last few minutes that she could never say in public? In the middle of the text, the phone rings and she answers it. They talk, she begins crying even more. "I've got to go now, we're leaving", she says. "One last thing... I'll miss you." - In that moment, I could tell something was said that made her smirk and tear up even more. As the engines spooled and we ascended away from Spain I wonder if she ever got the confirmation of what she needed to hear that day? I could see it in her eyes. I still wonder to this day if she ever heard the words she was looking for. Words beyond a casual goodbye.

For myself, I've learned to never say goodbye. It's a horrible word that should be eradicated from the vocabulary. I never thought I'd find myself back on the Camino but here I was. I've met so many wonderful people these last few years from all around the world. Some you know you have to say goodbye to, others you know who have scarred your heart and will walk with you the rest of your life. To those who have touched me in that way, I refuse to say goodbye to. Instead, I'll simply suggest that, "I'll be seeing you when I see you".
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