If I were to dive into a discussion of how America is currently viewed from an international perspective, this post would never end, and you and I would both grow old together as the words would stretch into novels.
Instead–if I could be so bold–I’m going to treat you to a little bit of perspective.
I wrote a post before the election, on Monday night the 7th of November. It was originally titled, “My Favorite Thing About Trump”, but those words flush my mouth with sourness when reading them together. So I’ll just label it a blanket….”Perspective”. Maybe a more aptly titled post of, “Denial” or “Compensation”:
It’s Monday night, the 7th of November. I write this at approximately 18:00, sipping Earl Grey from my London mug as I am whisked alongside the Austrian Alps on a train from Salzburg back to Graz.
Guess what tomorrow is?
For those Americans reading this, yeah. You’re hyper aware.
Hillary. Trump. Not quite sure why we don’t refer to them both by surnames.
2016 is a momentous year.
I was talking with one of my international buddies from Spain about my feelings over the impending American doom when he asked, “Ahh, mein Gott. I don’t understand this American dilemma. It appears to me quite obvious; is there any good that comes from Trump?!”.
My reply threw him off guard: “Well, there is one thing”.
As Europeans recognize my American accent when I’m traveling, many flock to ask my opinion on the masochistic Trump. He’s such an unbelievable deliverer of hatred, such an international joke to pin on such a global power, on such a worldwide-influential United States of America; non-Americans are just as baffled as we are.**
**”just as baffled as we are” when it comes to the actual results of the election is a bit of an understatement.
It takes two hands to count the amount of late-night pub discussions I’ve had with my international buddies on the topic of Trump and politics. I’ve discussed American politics with locals while hiking up mountains in Slovenia. I’ve given my opinion while hitchhiking around Lake Garda in Italy. Trump and politics were the forefront of a conversation I had in a pub-hostel in rainy London with a Scot and a Brit. An Aussie chick I met in a hostel and I pillow-talked over American politics late one night in Salzburg. I’ve met many-an-Austrian on the bus to Uni with this topic.
Don’t get me wrong; if I wanted to only talk about American politics I would go back to America, it’s not my all-time favorite subject. But it’s such a great launchpad for other conversations. Talking about politics–and especially this…Trump–has launched into stories of “one time I was involved in a Madrid city protest over government reform that ended in the militia getting called” and “my grandfather was one of the troops who liberated Auschwitz” and “in my country, it is legal to burn effigies of political leaders as long as those effigies are wearing capes”.
My Austrian classes this week have centered on the topic of American politics, as most conversations seem to be doing lately. There were some suggestions of, “I don’t think my country would have even considered electing such a masochist”, which drove me to a level of cultural unappreciation, but more often than not were the comments centered on…love. And peace. And charity. And compassion.
If I say that I love the way that America has elected its leader, I could easily convince non-Americans that that’s the typical American view. The girl who made the claim that of the superiority of her country’s politics (which is just as messed up as the rest of the world’s politics, I would have you know) does not actually represent the that entire country’s view. She’s just one person.
That’s what happens when you go abroad: suddenly, you become your country. Your opinions are applied to the masses of where you come from. You think that puppies should be allowed to go to University? Suddenly Austrians or Slovakians will think, “Whoa. Americans are so obsessed with dogs that they want them to be educated”. But it’s actually just one person’s opinion.
Back to the comments of love and peace and charity and compassion.
Reading through Facebook and seeing what my American pals have posted has been good, but primarily it has been centered on hate. It has been re-tweets of instances of minority-abuse or sexism. It has been professions of disbelief on the screwed up system that is the American electoral college. It has been utterances of losing faith in America. In humanity in general.
These discussions with Austrians, Italians, Brits, Slovenians, Turks, Aussies, Bosnians, Germans…yeah, there’s been disbelief. And denial. And some anger, because this doesn’t just affect America. But there’s been a whole lot of compassion.
How are you doing? Are you okay?
I bet people are going to start voting from the ground up, voting for better representatives and better senators.
I wonder how people are going to exercise their right for a voice. I wonder if people are going to be bonded together like never before in this unified outrage.
Will this mean other countries are going to do a better at offering humanitarian aid to make up for the withdrawal of American federal empathy?
We know peace, joy, love, compassion because we know chaos, depression, hatred, apathy. Beauty exists in this juxtaposition. In our furious grappling of individualism, we have forgotten how much we need each other.
I think that this is going to remind us.
There are going to be some massive changes. Environmental progress is going to disintegrate. People who have worked for years to install changes against how blindly we are raping the Earth we live on are now placed in a corner and forced to watch their long-awaited progress be ripped to shreds by capitalist instant gratification.
I think the influx of so much…negativity, to put it lightly…is going to incite compassion. Not from everyone, but from people who are going to matter.
This is going to allot for opportunities to support each other. To love each other. To stand up for each other.
So; within my first post, I expressed my gratitude for how Trump has allowed me to meet so many people easily. But to add a second thought; I welcome the opportunities to extend compassion and extend empathy. To love. To give peace. To be a juxtaposition against hatred and against sexism and against racism.
The international students that I have met view the condition of America with great amounts of sadness; but none of them think that’s the embodiment of American. Just because Donald Trump has been elected leader of America, doesn’t mean that I am Trump’s America. Perhaps the greatest gift my international friends could bestow upon me is the acceptance and reinforcement of this.
Peace & Blessings,