Being an American abroad during the 2016 presidential election is a little bit like watching a house go up in flames live on YouTube. You feel like you would be marginally more useful if you were in the house, but in all likelihood, you would be on fire along with everybody else.
I’ve been keeping close tabs on the election for months from wherever I happened to be. The downside of being all the way in Central Europe is that I’m 6 hours ahead of the US. So I constantly woke up bleary-eyed to startling news about locker room talk and emails. I even stayed up an entire night to watch the second debate. I did not make that mistake again.
In preparation for the big night, I bought champagne, because I’m every bit as cynical and jaded as I am absurdly optimistic. No matter what, I was going to enjoy the fuck out of that champagne. I sprang for the good stuff, too (the $6 bottle, instead of the $3 one). Since it is my tendency to worry, though I was expecting a Hillary win, I was also expecting a Purge-like shitstorm caused by people that Trump had already been convincing for weeks that the election was rigged. So I read the analysis and watched news clips (those that are available in my country) and looked at the forecasts.
Then on the eve of November 8, after refreshing Nate Silver’s electoral map close to 1,000 times, I finally fell asleep. I woke up a full 4 hours before most polls opened in the US – the calm before the storm. Mercifully, my favorite modern composer had a concert in Prague last night. What amazing timing to be able to attend something so moving and so calming when I would have otherwise needed a Xanax to get through the last 24 hours. So I spent all day distracted trying to find a ticket to the concert.
With the help of Czech friends who pointed me to their version of Craigslist (Bazos.cz), I got one. As I walked around in the city on the way to get the ticket, I looked around me at the people going about their day. “What is wrong with you people!? Aren’t you worried about being wiped off the face of the planet by a mad man that can’t even be trusted with Twitter?” I thought to myself. Thankfully, they didn’t hear my thoughts while they were out walking their dogs and waiting for the tram.
And that’s perhaps the strangest thing. That while everyone I know back in the US was standing in long lines and watching with bated breath as the future of our nation was decided, people here have only a passing interest in the outcome. Schools weren’t closed, and everyone was working. Because their life is not in the US. And actually, neither is mine at the moment. So as I walked around enjoying the cool breeze and the bright fall colors lit up by the sun, I was able to relax.
I got more Election Day provisions, by which I mean chocolates. I went home and took a long shower, and I stopped refreshing Five-Thirty Eight, because at that point, I might as well just wait for the real results. I had dinner at McDonald’s because I was feeling particularly American. And then I headed to my concert, where I passed the bulk of that really tough evening wait time watching Ludovico Einaudi and his small orchestra fill me with joy and peace. It was a nice reminder on this stressful day that despite everything this election would lead us to believe, there is beauty in this world.
I considered attending some sort of expat watch party afterwards, but I had done the math and by the time the last polls closed on the West Coast, it would be 5 am here. And if previous elections were any indication, I could be having lunch before a winner was announced. Because ultimately, Election Day for me in Europe is the morning of November 9.
And now the sun is rising here in Prague, like it always does, unaware of the darkness that American voters have just plunged us all into. But I’m going to try to remain hopeful, in part because I’m drunk, but also because I’ve thankfully already obtained temporary residency in another country.
But if you happen to be reading this and you’re a Trump supporter, I want to thank you personally.
Because my 401k and the savings I have invested in stocks has plummeted over the course of the last several hours because of how you voted.
Because when I visit home for the holidays, I’m getting tested to determine if those abnormal cells are cervical cancer. And if they are, I likely won’t have health insurance in a couple of months because of my pre-existing condition.
Because if I ever decide to move back to the US and I want to marry a woman (as a proud member of the LGBT community), your future president and especially your vice-president think I should be jailed for attempting to do so.
Because if I were to be sexually assaulted or raped, my assailant would be protected by the policies of a leader who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women’s bodies just because he’s rich.
Because my immigrant family could face legal consequences for attempting to start a better life in the “land of opportunity.”
So thank you for that. And if I know you personally and you voted for Trump, kindly never, ever speak to me again. I do not respect your opinions or your views, because you have no respect for my rights, my well-being, or my safety.
So thank you again and congratulations to your disgusting pig of a candidate. As someone who travels all over the world, this is further evidence of why we are seen as nothing but a bunch of ignorant, intolerant, and arrogant rednecks. This election has shown that that’s exactly what we are. I had dinner last week with a Mexican-born citizen of the Czech Republic who hoped Trump would get elected. He said, “That’s what they deserve. This has been a long time coming for America.” You know what? It’s hard to disagree with that.
I’ll be waiting out the fallout (nuclear or otherwise) from this disaster in my little slice of Czech heaven, with champagne and classical music.