An American Voter Abroad

I wore a tank top three weeks ago, to a party and then to the bar. I’m a 34DD, though, so it’s not “allowed.” A man I recognized, but have never talked to, threatened to grab my tits. A friend and I argued with him, back and forth. He kept running his mouth until I shouted for a male friend to come over. I asked the aspiring-assailant if he would grab this dude by the balls. The presence of another man killed his joy, and he walked away, but not before shouting about grabbing me by the pussy.

I went home and drunk-ordered a t-shirt from Etsy (now sadly a place where you can search for “grab pussy t-shirt” and get loads of results). I ordered one with an angry cat’s face that says, “NOV. 8 THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK.” Then we went on vacation, and now we’re back, the election is over, the worst has happened, and my t-shirt still hasn’t arrived.

I don’t know anyone here who said they were voting for Trump. I know one guy who seems like he would, but he made a point of telling us he was with Clinton. Of course, people can lie, but the point is that I’m in an environment where at least politically, we all seem to be on the same page when it comes to immigrants, freedom of religion, race, abortion, sexism, etc. We’re liberal and open-minded. We don’t want our freedom and happiness at the expense of anyone else’s. We travel, we like meeting new people, we hold personal happiness very high and respect and expect that in others.

J and I didn’t realize until we were on holiday that we’d be traveling on election day. I went to bed late on Tuesday night in Vietnam after watching all the CNN I could handle. I woke up as polls were closing and watched for an hour, but the suspense, the minute-by-minute fluctuations, the incessant chattering–were too much for me. I went to the cafe for my last cup; when J and I got in the cab; he told me it was looking very like Trump would win.

We sat at our gate at the Ton Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City with a bunch of Russians. I got on the wifi and buried my face in Twitter; people were saying it was over already, already pointing fingers, already sharing fears. I tried to ignore the lounging Russians, but I had visions of Trump matryoshka dolls dancing through my head. I moved to a seat where I was looking at the airplanes taking off and landing instead of five white people taking up four seats each.

When we got off the plane in Kuala Lumpur, I got online. I refreshed my browser. “Donald Trump won the election.” I felt like I might faint, but we were in line at the security gate, so I had to put my stuff into the appropriate baskets and move through the line like I wasn’t coming to terms with what feels like the beginning of the global apocalypse.

Now what? Maybe nothing changes for me. We file our taxes every year. We have federally-subsidized healthcare here in Taiwan, so that’s covered. But I just watched my country rip itself in two along racial lines. We just witnessed people–white people, men and women–who hate women, who don’t think women should have autonomy over their bodies and reproductive capabilities, people who think it’s an alpha-male’s right to grab women by their genitals without their consent, vote into the highest office in the land (and then all the Congress, and eventually the Supreme Court) a monstrous manifestation of their worse impulses and instincts.

My Taiwanese boss told me that if he were American, he would vote for Trump. I told him voting for Trump was like voting for Hitler. I’m glad we got back on Wednesday night, not Tuesday night, because I teach him and my coworkers in an adult class on Wednesday mornings. I can’t imagine having to make myself available as the voice of America just as I was learning the bad news. Now at least I have a week to get over the initial shock that we’ve elected Pennywise to the presidency. If my shirt arrives, I’ll wear it to class.

Lots of people have threatened to leave the country if their candidate didn’t get elected. Lots of people who are afraid of a Trump presidency and a Republican government that was elected on a platform of hate, exclusion, white entitlement, and American special-snowflake syndrome are talking about finding safer places to raise their kids. That’s heartbreaking. Who can tell them to stay, it’ll be fine? Because we don’t know that it’s gonna be okay. We do know that just under 50% of the country doesn’t give a shit if we feel safe or not, though.

For me, leaving the country hasn’t meant leaving behind all these problems. If anything, I’m more engaged politically as the years go by, and social media makes it easy to stay informed and enmeshed. And the fact is, I love living in the U.S., especially as an adult. I love the seasons, the holidays, the open highways, ham salad, NPR in the car, god, the list is so long. I love travelling, too, though, and the life I have with my husband, but I want to retire in the U.S. in a house with a porch and a couple of dogs. I want my family and friends to be safe. I want my nieces and my friends’ sons and daughters to grow up in a world where women can be president of the United States, people of color are valued as 100% human, and being of a different religion doesn’t mean we can’t break bread together. Electing Trump on his amorphous platform of exclusion, entitlement, and exceptionalism is a giant step further away from the American ideals that we’ve never yet fully realized. This race wasn’t even about platforms, though–it was about personalities, and nearly half of American voters said that they wanted a geriatric frat-boy representative of the 1% to lead the country as Commander-in-Chief.

When we got back to our apartment, we watched CNN for a few hours. I physically can’t stand to look at Trump’s face or hear him speak, but we listened to Clinton’s concession speech, then Obama’s remarks. I vacillated between crying and shouting at the television, picking fights on Twitter. J and I talked about how we both felt numb with shock, deeply disappointed in our compatriots, and worried about the future.

Part of me wants to rush back to the U.S. and…what? Mourn, and then what? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Donate to charity? I don’t know what my going back would mean. I don’t know what my staying means, either.

If anyone wants information of teaching English in Taiwan, give me a shout…I don’t know what else to tell you.

1 thought on “An American Voter Abroad”

  1. A British Observer…

    To take the stance of the arrogant Brit, we often find ourselves looking across the pond wondering what the hell you guys are up to…
    “oh no they’re shooting each other again…Have you seen how openly racist the American police seem to be?? Did she just say it’s her god given right to own a gun?! Err…why are they losing their shit over an exposed nipple on television? Of all the things to cause moral panic, this is what they focus on??”

    But earlier this year, it was your turn to look at us sideways. Brexit. We chose to leave a progressive and peaceful union and take the path of isolation. What were we thinking. I assumed that you guys, along with the rest of the world, would be looking on, bemused. I never could have imagined that America would be jealous.

    Trump sold America their very own opportunity to become a more insular and xenophobic nation. He even invited the Brexit troll and leader of the UK Independence party, Nigel ‘bloody’ Farage, to campaign along side him. We had “let’s take our country back”, you had “let’s make America great again”. It’s the same rhetoric, we know what you really mean.

    It’s been a rough year for liberals on both sides of the pond. How is it possible that so many people are against freedom and equality? How is there such a lack empathy? I feel like the progression to get to where we are today with women’s rights, LGBT rights, racial equality, is slowly unravelling. We’ve taken a huge step backwards.

    As for Trump as a president, I think many people here are terrified. A commenter on my newsfeed pointed out that there are far worse things going on in the world, and I’ve never even stepped foot inside America, so why should I be so upset? My concern is not so much for Americans, although of course I am sad for those who will suffer. My concern is about how much Trump will exacerbate those already terrible situations around the world. Bush was unpopular here, but Trump is a whole new level. How could you America? How could you elect this man with no political experience, no flair for diplomacy, no intention of building good relationships with foreign governments (except with Putin apparently) and genrally no fucking clue?? This man is now commander in chief of the US army and has access to the nuclear codes. God help us all. How could you be so irresponsible?

    Yesterday I was upset and in denial. I don’t want to condone murder, but maybe someone will shoot him. Come on, we all had that thought. Today I am trying to accept what is. I thought maybe he won’t be so bad. Perhaps he will just be a puppet for people in the background who are more capable of making some informed decisions. Perhaps he didn’t even mean all those terrible things he said, perhaps he just said it to get elected. But wait, why would that even work? What kind of people would vote for someone spouting such hatred?! And the anger begins to rise again….

    It helps to remind myself that Hillary won the popular vote. That the majority of Americans did not vote for this. I can even understand that maybe Trump’s supporters were desperate. They were tricked. They are the losers of the current system and feel betrayed by their own government. They voted for change, and they voted for Trump IN SPITE of those terrible things he said, and not because of them. I can only hope that this is the case. I find it hard to fully accept that Brexit and Trumpgate are the result of an anti-establishment movement, and not the result of xenophobia, racism and misogyny. But it’s the only way I can reconcile the fact that I don’t understand my own country, I don’t understand America, and they don’t understand me.

    I love to travel, and the experience I have had of meeting American people abroad is overwhelmingly different to the caricature of Americans I have painted here. They are open minded, friendly, smart, interesting people who I’m sure are having as much trouble coming to terms with a Trump president as I am. I’m upset that my country seems to be so divided, as does yours, but I hold onto the fact that we can still find solidarity between our boarders as well as within.

    Now let’s hope we all make it through the next 4 years. Maybe a Trump presidency won’t be as apocalyptic as we fear. Fingers crossed.

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