Lotzwil, 31 Dec 2018

Dear friends, family, colleagues,

Barbara and I wish you a happy new year with all the trappings. Including our hope to see a lot of you in 2019.

We are doing well – given the circumstances. We continue living between New York City, Berlin and CH-4932 Lotzwil/Switzerland, often together, at times geographically separated. Neither fish nor fowl, keeping our balance while moving, like cyclists who fall only when they stand still.

That’s ok. Herdsmen, theater directors or “consultants” too move from pasture to pasture – not to mention the Vikings who regularly used to shoulder sword and shield and sail southward in the longboat, their minds set on death, rape and latin love, leaving offspring and husbands behind to keep the sheep and hark the barren field. Or vice versa.

We have no longboat at hand nor sheep to tend to, and there is no field to hark. But all in all things are going briskly.

The offspring is coming along. Anna has become a macrobiotic cook and is trying to establish herself as an independent chef in Washington, D.C. She documents her progress on instagram (@anna.rosa.oriat) and gladly accepts working orders. Meret is in the UK, has accomplished a second Master (children’s literature) and would like to stay in London. She keeps afloat by selling watercolors in Covent Garden and is looking for a job.

Barbara hangs on to her choir in Berlin (diplomaticchoirberlin.com) with which she had a great success last April. On the third attempt she raised enough money to perform her “Konzert ohne Grenzen – unter gleichem Himmel” (“concert without borders”), bringing together Christian (Handel), Jewish and Islamic-Arabic music. The openly declared intention was to show that those three cultures and religions can go beyond just tolerating each other and are able join in a common endeavor. The program in the Berlin Dome began with a Muslim call to prayer, merging into the beginning of the “Messiah” and from there into a Jewish song of mourning. The choir sang beautifully in tune, the audience was moved to tears and the Dome immediately issued an invitation to come back next year. So, Barbara spends a lot of time in Berlin, rehearsing and raising funds (yep – you all will get the “crowdfunding” link in due time).

I myself was blessed with childbirth. Thanks to a little Marcie I again could work as a maternity leave replacement at the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York, to be prolonged on a part-time basis until March 2019. I was/am an acting “election officer” (four Swiss campaigns for UN positions – exciting) and media guy. This made for interesting acquaintances – with truly impressive compatriots through the first task and utterly important ones through the second one. Earlier in the year I was asked to write an article on the year 1968 in my hometown of Langenthal, which provided good excuses for shooting plenty of breeze with elderly people, mostly in pubs.

So much for the good news. Regarding the circumstances, they are what they are. Our health is increasingly going its own ways, some erosion and corrosion is noticeable, also phases of “low energy”. Some things become hard for me to understand, at times because I refuse to understanding them, and I just tune out. A case in point is the general obsession with Facebook. After its involvement in the US election foul play became known, I canceled my account. My resolution for 2019 is to write more old- fashioned letters. Some of you might get one. Some of them might be showcased on that blog I might revive (johannaeschlimann.com), of course in a neutral, depersonalized form.

What else? Trump of course. The Trumpery. What happens is no surprise – the bragging, the disregard for all things ecological, the arms buildup, the kowtow before the big money etc. All of this was on the menu and is served as ordered. More surprising is who sits at the table, and readily so. We know a lot of very nice, sympathetic, highly intelligent, real-life, god-fearing, family-oriented people who out themselves as Trumpists. Of course, this is no reason to end personal relationships. But it is cause to asking questions. I must say that convincing answers are harder to come by than seeing the parallels to the 1930s in Europe. Back then, the bourgeois classes and large parts of the working class were opting against “the system” and for the fascist alternatives. In discussions with friends on the right, it is striking to me how widely held the feeling of being exposed to a hostile “system” (“swamp”, “fake news”) proves to be. Like in Europe during the 30es, in today’s America the political revulsion was big enough to bring a crook to power and is deep enough to keep him there. In the percieved emergency, the usually professed norms of “decency”, “respect”, “honesty” and law-abiding (I remember many a living room rant against Bill Clinton) are melting away more rapidly than the Alpine glaciers.

We, the Swiss, have no reason for chest-thumping. Trumpery is spreading in Europe too, with Switzerland in the avantgarde (our own subspecies was in power before Mr. Trump started his second career with “reality”-TV). My low point in this regard was the reaction to the “Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” – an international agreement on common approaches to migratory movements that was negotiated by my boss, the Swiss Ambassador to the UN and his Mexican colleague. This diplomatic masterpiece was sidelined in our country without much reason or reasoning. In an effortless “Anschluss” to a new paneuropean movement, Switzerland, a nation of immigrants and emigrants, lines up with brownish Austrians, fascist Belgians and bewildered Eastern Europeans.

It is quite ok to be elderly. There are no “golden years” in sight. But butcher Soltermann still makes those divine Blood- and Liverwursts we enjoyed last week. And a few days ago, my mother was dancing at her 99th birthday party to our rendition of the Köbeliwalzer. And next week I go skiing, if we finally get some snow.

Johann, with Barbara