Vocabulary

US Election 2020: The Stakes are High

The election of our lifetime

It is soon time for US citizens to vote – not just for who will lead the country for the next 4 years as President and Vice President but those responsible in Congress.   In fact, there are 33 out of 100 senators seeking re-election for another 6-year term. The Senate, the upper house of Congress, is currently controlled by the Republican Party by a close margin.  

It may feel like eons ago but can you remember? Trump had been convicted on impeachment charges passed by the lower house: the House of Representatives, led by a majority of Democrats. There was plenty of powerful evidence of his abuse of power and the Republicans didn’t deny it in the end. Yet they continued to back Trump to keep a united front. In their point of view, Democrats represented the enemy.  Not the Russians.  Not corrupt politicians.  Not Donald Trump.  So they acquitted him.

When will enough be enough?

And then came the mismanagement of the pandemic, the authoritarian use of power during the racial protests ignited by George Floyd’s broadcasted murder.  Along with the unresponsiveness of politicians to seize the moment to pass a law banning the choke hold used by police officers.  It could have been a positive step forward in fighting police brutality, which could have satisfied the emboldened protestors.  But it didn’t happen. And let’s not forget, the tictoc debacle and Trump’s humiliating drop in the polls.  

You would think you were asking Yankee fans to root for the Red Sox in the final inning of a World Series!  But treating political parties like rival sport teams is very dangerous, indeed. It’s really okay to switch sides.  From sports we should keep in mind: “It’s not winning or losing but how you play the game that counts”.  

Small cracks, which had begun forming prior to all those events, have been growing much larger within the Republican party itself: between Republican conservatives and right-wing Trump supporters. So large in fact that lifelong Republicans are stating publicly and on social media that they will vote Democrat for the first time in their lives. 

But will it be enough?  The stakes are so very high.  And it’s not just all about Trump.  It’s about the average American – Democrats and Republicans, who have drawn a line in the sand, who refuse to speak to their neighbor because they side with “the other team”. 

Will Americans reconcile with each other?

Reconciliation between parties not only has to happen between elected officials but between the people they represent. Family members, neighbors and co-workers have to do their part. Can Americans, who have been trolling and throwing ugly insults at each other for years now, finally say “enough is enough”? Can those who refuse to speak to one another pick up the phone and start with a clean slate?

Whether Trump wins or loses this coming election, there will still be a need for Americans themselves to change their tone and make every effort to unite.   If Trump convinces “his base” that the Democrats cheated to win or the Democrats have proof that Trump abused he helped rig the election, who will believe whom?  

Will there be a peaceful transfer of power in America? 

This is what everyone fears to say out loud but we’re all thinking it. But basically, unless people stop blaming Trump, the Clintons, the supposed Deep State, the FBI, CIA, the US Postal Office or whatever other institute: real or made up, the problems that plague the country will continue to mount.  The promise of a more united union will be harder to deliver on if regular everyday people don’t start to have real conversations with each other. 

Freedom vs. liberty – there is a difference

Will it be Americans desire for individual freedom to not wear a mask, eat as much junk food as they please and buy as many guns as they wish that will trump all? Individual freedom to do whatever you want could win over a deeper sense of duty to one another as a country whose Constitution values liberty and justice for all. What kind of lessons will children be learning from that?

If there is no sense of duty to do right for one’s neighbor – whether they love them or not, then it looks like after all these years, the Communists will be proven right.  The USA may be on its way to becoming yet another country ruled by a large authoritarian figure head and not “for the people, by the people”, after all. 

Ironically, the Republicans call Democrats often “Socialists”.  Yet, it will be the acts of the Republicans that may turn the USA into a country run by a dictator: by Donald Trump, who may never leave office.  Or perhaps spur on a second civil war.

America these days seem to be addicted to drama.  But let’s hope they still are seeking a “they lived happily ever after” ending, too. One not just for the cameras but in real life.  Their own lives.

 

A Personal Story during Lockdown

This article is written for the B1-B2 level student. The hyperlinks lead to English-German translations. After clicking on the links, you can easily change the language to French or another language from within the online translator used: linguee.com.
A PERSONAL STORY DURING LOCKDOWN TIME
Introduction

How are all of you doing?  Are you starting to get used to the lockdown? I feel very fortunate.  Losing over 80% of expected income for the year within a few days was swiftly and effectively counterbalanced by the meaningful financial support the Swiss government and banks provided.  I think for the first time ever during an economic crisis, interest free loans and unemployment benefits in the form of short-time working insurance have been granted to self-employed business owners like me.  So thanks to the Swiss government authorities, I am able to remain calm and focused during these uncertain times!

But I’d like to back up a little and share a personal story with you. Let me tell you how it started…

It was early March and I was feeling pretty good.  I had just recovered from a month-long flu.  Who knows?  Maybe from “the virus” and I started feeling a natural urge to reach out to family and friends that I had lost touch with.   My best friend from home, Ellen, had been on my mind recently.  The last we spoke was about 13 years ago.  

This crisis woke me up by perhaps instilling fear of an unknown future.  The thought of loved ones coming down with the virus was working away at me.  So I began reaching out and in a way that felt easy and natural.  Ellen’s birthday was in March and so I sent a happy birthday message to her. 

I was so delighted to receive a response.  We started sending simple texts back and forth.  Being a bit nervous about talking over the phone, I had asked her in my first message if it would be okay if we kept to writing first. Her answer to me?  “Time is on our side.”

Then Easter time came.  I had hesitated to respond to her last message as it had innocently stirred up some painful times that she wasn’t aware of.  I got stuck.  I wanted to explain why it took me so long to answer without going into too much detail.  On Good Friday, I finally sent a vague message to her. I thought to myself how silly it was that I hadn’t called her yet.  I agreed to myself that it exactly what I needed to do upon receiving her next reply.

And then it happened.

PART 2

Being connected to her niece via facebook, I received an announcement that Ellen had gotten into a serious car accident with a friend on Friday and had been rushed to the hospital with multiple broken bones.  Ellen had been driving.

In a split second, not only had Ellen’s life changed, it seemed mine had, too.  No longer was I basking in the warm feelings of having gotten back in touch or the feeling of relief  or the grateful feeling that I would not be experiencing financial distress any time soon.  All of that went out the window and meant absolutely nothing. 

Instead feelings of fear, guilt and regret consumed me.  Why hadn’t I just called Ellen from the start? Why did I take so long to get back in touch with her in the first place?  So much time wasted. 

Ellen was brought to a reputable hospital in Boston and I even managed to get through to speaking to her nurse.  I’m not even sure she found out about that.  I didn’t feel I had the right to suddenly get all involved.  She had a life that I wasn’t a part of any more and wanted to respect that. 

I found out she was in great pain. Nothing more.  Later, I wrote to her niece who explained that her mom and Ellen’s older sister had created a facebook group to communicate with friends and family about how things were proceeding.  Pam accepted me into the group quickly and so felt grateful.

In the next few days, I was to learn that Ellen had a broken, dislocated neck.  She decided to risk an operation.  She made the right decision.  Afterwards, she could feel her hands and feet again. And by the way, more good news: she had tested negative for COVID-19.  Then, a double surgery came next.  Two surgical teams worked at the same time: one to put in a metal plate by her broken cervical bone (collarbone) and the other to place another metal plate to stabilize her broken wrist.

I had no idea if more surgeries awaited her.  Thankfully, the medical team had finally found the right way to relieve her pain.  I can’t imagine what she must have gone through for nearly a week without proper pain relief.  It was an Easter story that seemed very close to the original one.  

PART 3

In the meantime, I continued to write short questions to Ellen’s niece and sister via facebook.  I was excited to find out about a blog Ellen and Pam started in early 2019.  It is dedicated to telling memorable stories of their past to honor their family history.  It brings to life those family members and good friends they miss who have sadly passed away.  At the same time, it is a gift for future generations who may be curious to learn more about their ancestors.  It’s a family record created in a personal, unique way.

Both of them are great storytellers.  It is something in their blood.  Ellen has always liked to read and keep a diary.  And I can remember Pam telling some really hysterical stories after coming home from work.  I can’t tell you how reading their newsletter and watching their videos caused many sentimental tears to fall.  I laughed out loud reminiscing over the childhood stories they shared.  Most of the stories were new to me but I could vividly imagine them playing out in my mind since I not only knew the people and places so well but also because I, too, hold them so dear.

The feeling of relief for Ellen would be finally come when she had the courage to share a smiling face of herself in her neck brace.  Phew! There she was. She was alive and somehow she looked so calm.  The expression she conveyed to the nearly 200 people worried about her was: I got this!  That was the first night that I could finally sleep. 

After the two surgeries, things began to move quickly.  Within about 2 days or so, she could stand up and the decision to transport her to a rehabilitation clinic was made.  She was on her way.  She had passed the first painful stage and now she was going to the next.  It’s certainly not over yet.  Not by far.  It’s just the beginning.  But I do hope to be back in her life in a big way now so I can accompany and support her along the way.

In honor of Ellen and her family, I would like to share the” Leaving a Life Legacy” blog with you.  I find it very relevant in these times.  Not all of us may be lucky enough to survive this pandemic unscathed.  Writing or sharing our stories may be the key to helping us through any losses we may experience now or in the future. I hope you may be inspired by their stories to do your own thing.  Warning: it could awaken strong feelings in you!

ENDING

Finally, I have to say Ellen has always been able to bring out the sentimental side in me.  I miss that very much.  I haven’t found many people like that lately. With so many shared childhood experiences, she can do it the best!  So in honor of her poetic sentimentality, and my hidden one, I’d like to leave you with this important message that she gave to me as a gift many moons ago.  I still have it today and it remains in my living room to this day.  It’s the picture of the cushion you see at the top of this post. “A friend is a gift you give yourself”. As I now look forward to renewing my friendship with Ellen, a woman that helped shaped me as a person, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.  Give yourself the gift of friendship. And remember everyone: Time may not always be on our side. So, let’s make the most of it.

For those who may have been inspired to write their own personal lockdown story or reminiscent story of days gone by, I would be so pleased to read them. 

Writing about emotions taps into a completely different writing style from business letters.  But it is when we share emotions in another language that the language truly becomes our own. That I know from my own experience.

I’ve got to go now.  It’s time for me to call Ellen!  Wishing you all well.  Keep safe, strong and hope if there’s a story in you, you find time to write it!

 

Humble and Kind

While googling, I found an interesting website, called spinditty, with a blog titled called “79 Best Songs that Give Life Advice”.  On it, I found “Humble and Kind” written by Lori McKenna in 2016 and performed by Tim McGraw, which really stood out for me.

I hadn’t heard it before but thought it would be a great song to use as a listening exercise. The music video touched me as this song seemed very American and international all at the same time. 

Lori was inspired to write this song as a way to give advice to her children during these modern times: She wanted a way to pass on words of wisdom from days gone past.  How many of them sound familiar to you?
 

Here’s the music video and below the lyrics to the song.

Humble And Kind
 
You know there’s a lot that goes by the front door.
Don’t forget the keys under the mat.
Childhood stars shine.
Always stay humble and kind.
Go to church ’cause your momma says to.
Visit grandpa every chance that you can.
It won’t be a waste of time.
Always stay humble and kind.
 
Hold the door say please say thank you.
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie.
I know you got moutains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind.
 
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you,
When the work you put in is realized,
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind.
 
Don’t expect a free ride from no one.
Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why.
Bitterness keeps you from flying.
Always stay humble and kind.
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love.
“I love you” ain’t no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind.
 
 
Use deepl.com to translate it into your own language!
 
Gregg's Sausage Rolls

The Brits are not just tea lovers!

British Culture Revealed

An insight into British everyday culture. 

Americans have their hot dogs, Germans love their “currywurst”, but what have the Brits got?

Well, if you don’t know yet, there have been two top consecutive number one Christmas hits on the UK charts written by Mark Ian Hoyle, an English social media blogger, known by his Internet pseudonym, LadBaby.

He and his wife, Roxanne (or Rox, as her husband calls her), sing and perform a comedic parody that will definitely drive the message home. This feat of two back-to-back Christmas number ones hasn’t been achieved since the Spice Girls back in the 90’s!

Ladbaby, cleverly uses the melodies of two very well-known songs, “We Built this City on Rock n’ Roll and “I love Rock n’ Roll”, and change the words “rock n’ roll” into their beloved treat and voila – you’ve got “We’ve Built this City on Sausage Rolls” and “I love Sausage Rolls”.

By watching these music videos, as Brits, I hope you’ll enjoy it if you haven’t already seen it hundreds of times. As a British ex-pat – the song most likely will make you feel a bit nostalgic and homesick.

For me, as an (American) teacher – it’s a fun, way to bring some humour into a classroom online for students learning English.

But these songs are more than just funny. They also reveal a deep-seeded core value of the British people. What do I mean?

Well, it’s just one great example of how personally involved they can become in raising money for charities and do so in such clever, creative ways!

Check out this video, to see if you agree with me. Here’s the link to their first hit “We’ve built this city on sausage rolls”.

Before watching it, see if you can choose the right word to fill in the blank (You’ve got a 50/50 chance). And then listen to check your answers.

There is also a second exercise with 6 trivia questions (+ bonus question) that could just win you a pub quiz, too!

Last but not least, here’s a link to the charity they’re supporting, in case, you too, want to get into the donating spirit!

Are you ready now to dive into the British culture and language exercise? 

Click the sausage roll to watch the video

Play Video

Choose the Right Word

Watch this very playful music video and enjoy!  Then, choose the right word to complete the lyrics of the song.

Hint: Many times you are given the choice between an American and British term.  Most of the times, the answer is the British one!  See if you know which is which.                 

              

English Pub Quiz

You may need to watch the video several times to get some of these questions right. 

See how you do!

         

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“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein