Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Emigrant's Manifesto (A romanian girl's reflections upon her own country)

written by Odeena 
This post is from the heart. I don’t usually ramble and rant (not this bad, anyway) but there’s too much pent-up frustration that needs an out and too many things that need to be said. The tl;dr is that I don’t want to live in this country anymore, and my country doesn’t want me either. Here’s why.
PS.: I’m licensing this under Creative Commons. Feel free to share.
I believe in freedom of thought, speech and expression in a country that tells me what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ think, say and do. We may have seen a revolution in 1989, but all we did was swap one dictator for several others. The people’s minds were never really ‘freed’ from communist prejudice. If you go against the grain, you’re out. If you’re smart (and not street-smart, or smecher), you’re out. If you try to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in, they’ll pull you right back down where they think you belong.
The system is so deeply ingrained in people’s minds that one of the first things I learned as an elementary school student was to keep my mouth shut. Romanian living 101: shit sucks, everyone knows it, but you’d better keep it to yourself. Nothing makes the trolls come out of the woodwork like an opportunity to berate someone for telling the truth.
I believe in freedom of religion in a country where atheists and non-Orthodox worshipers of any kind are met with near-pathological hatred by a large part of the eighty-seven percent Orthodox majority. Orthodox religion is taught in schools as a compulsory subject for twelve years. Many people think of atheists, agnostics, non-Orthodox Christians and people of other religions as something less than a man, less than a woman, less than human in some cases.
A label of ‘atheist’ or ‘sectarian’ invalidates all critics of the state Church as a ‘vile, unfounded attack by a non-believer’. And yes, I really did say ‘state Church’, because politics and religion haven’t been separate (in direct violation of our Constitution) since the ’89 Revolution.
Here’s something to put it all in perspective. Some schools lack even the most basic utilities and hospitals are closed off due to lack of funding. Some smaller cities don’t have an ER. Yet the church, bless their hearts, sees fit to build a 400 million Euro cathedral in our capital city and hundreds of smaller churches. And I, along with thousands of other concerned citizens, have absolutely no say in it. Yet with all the tax exempts, lands and titles, hundred-thousand euro cars and golden domes, the Church is posing as a victim when its finances are questioned. Yeah, fuck that.
I believe love has nothing to do with sex or gender in a country where LGBTs are subject to more hatred and bigotry than even in some parts of the United States. LGBTs, even more than atheists or sectarians, are demonized to a sickening extent. A lot of people base their hatred on religion (wasn’t God quoted as saying ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’, though? I don’t remember there being any footnote saying ‘unless he’s a sectarian’ or ‘unless he’s gay’). Others base it on prejudice that has been passed along for generations. When questioned, they don’t even know why they hate gays so much. They just do.
These people fail to see that, aside for their sexual preferences, LGBTs are no fucking different than anyone else: they’re real people with real feelings, friends, families, jobs and dreams. And they just want the hate to stop. Is that too much to ask? In Romania, it is.
And how could it be different when homophobic remarks in public are hardly ever taxed? I remember one of my professors making a series of derogatory statements about gays during her lecture. I remember several outraged students writing to the dean about it. And I remember the professor denying all responsibility and the dean siding with her one hundred percent… and even asking students why they occupied his time with it when he had more pressing matters at hand. It makes me sick.
I am a woman in a profoundly misogynist country. Granted, very few countries are a shining beacon when it comes to women’s rights, but Romania seems to be doing, on average, far worse than other places. Thinly-veiled sexism can be see virtually everywhere. It’s perfectly acceptable to say berating things to or about a woman on national television and get away with it (several members of the Parliament are also notorious misogynists). Rape victims are constantly blamed for having ‘asked for it’ – by the rapist, by the police, even by their families sometimes.
And then there’s the day-to-day sexual harassment: cat-calls, groping, disgustingly graphic remarks, aggressive flirting even after being politely told to fuck off because hey, here’s my fucking wedding ring. ’It’s a man’s duty to try. That’s what men do‘, I’ve been told by a man in a friendly talk on women’s rights (or rather, lack thereof). With so much entitlement going around, how can anyone ever expect things to change?
I’m sick of hearing how women are such bad drivers when I love to drive (and I’m better than some of the men I know, including that one guy with a sports car who has no clue what RPM he should shift gears at). I’m sick of being told that no matter what I do in life, it’s still my ‘duty as a girlfriend or as a wife’ to clean and cook for my man (by women, no less). I’m sick of being treated like some naive little thing whenever I step out of my comfort zone.
I’ve not felt safe since I came back to Romania four years ago. I got attacked by a pack of stray dogs in broad daylight once; the same stray dogs that NGOs are so desperate to protect they’d rather see people get maimed than dogs be put down. Another time, I got chased down by a homeless man for wearing ‘satanic symbols’ (a Legacy of Kain pin). Some guy spit on my car because I ‘splashed mud’ on his while parking on a rainy day, even though I apologized. Another guy, a Gypsy this time, tried to grab my purse and run away with it – and when that didn’t work, he spit on me, too, before he ran off. Out of the many people walking by, only an elderly man stopped, gave me a tissue and asked me if I was all right. Everyone else stared. Free entertainment!
And then, there’s the violence. Regularly, I hear about kids beating up or killing other kids. It tends to happen in or around schools. There’s kids who beat up their teachers, and then there’s teachers who beat up their students. All in all, when I have children, this isn’t the country I want to send them to school in. I can’t even begin to imagine what the parents must be going through. At least those who stayed in the country, because a lot of them are working abroad.
All in all, I’m tired of living in this country, and no amount of money or property can make me stay. Even if I were filthy rich – which I’m not – I’d still have to face Romanian realities every time I went out. My children would still go to school to learn useless crap and pick up shitty habits. I can’t even begin to change things because, on the whole, this country doesn’t want to change. It missed that train twenty-one years ago, when a man who should’ve been tried and executed for crimes against humanity became president. And while it’s not too late to begin now, I don’t want to spend my best years fighting a system where human rights translate as ‘rights of the straight white Orthodox men, and maybe women, too, if we’re feeling generous’.
And so, after I earn my second degree, I’ll get out of here faster than a bat outta Hell. I deserve a better life. My family deserves a better life I want to contribute to the society that’ll be so kind as to take me and my family in, and with my skillset and experience I know I will. I’ll miss my friends and family – those who stayed behind, anyway – but I know the country won’t miss me. Hell, it might even give me the proverbial boot: well, good fucking riddance, we didn’t want you anyway, you unpatriotic English-speaking swine.

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